the WAFFLE page

March 31, 2014. When I used to make my own pizza using Lebanese bread as a base, I took great care to distribute the toppings evenly. But L&S didn't care much for pizza so I crossed it off the menu. Then I used to share a weekly pizza with Averil and order take away on Cheap Tuesday (works better if you pronounce Tuesday Chewsday like we do) from Eagle Boys and get a supreme with double everything in the hope that the topping would cover the entire pizza instead of leaving bare patches. It worked. 

Which brings me to FL Josh's tale of pizza woe: Speaking of haves and have nots and posh homes, this past Thursday I got a craving for pizza and instead of a Digiorno's from my trusty grocery store ("It's not delivery. . . it's Digiorno's."), I splurged and went online and ordered a Papa Johns Pizza with the works to be delivered.  When it arrived, the first thing I spotted was it looked like they forgot to cut part of it.  I then discovered they didn't, it was just that when they ran the cutter across it, they did it so sloppily that some of the slices were twice the size of others.  I also noticed that they put the toppings on so sloppily that some slices had none of a certain topping whereas the slice next to it had a little pile of the topping.  The amount of pepperoni was pitiful and what there was of it was sliced so thin, I could see through it.
Papa Johns was started in 1984 by "Papa" John Schnatter.  He is now 52, still owns the company, serves as its CEO, and is the company's chief spokesman in their ads, and the ads are very effective.
But when I went to find where to call or write to complain about my pizza, I found they keep that information well hidden because they do not want feedback or comments from customers.  But I did find that Papa John is worth $600 million now, and has a HUGE home, with a guest home that is HUGE, and he was a major supporter of Mitt Romney in the last election and is very outspoken against Obamacare.  He is a major "have."
The fact that he is such an admirer of Mitt Romney told me that Papa John is out to make as much money as possible, keep costs as low as possible, and forget about quality.  In your ads, just hype the pizzas as quality without backing that up with a quality product, which sadly is the "American way" now.  This is clearly John's business plan and of course, he knows it since he controls the show, so for me to think by contacting him, I would be letting him know one of his stores is dropping the ball, is foolhearted for all I would be doing is letting him know the store that made my pizza is following his business plan exactly as instructed.

Yep, there's nothing as infuriating as a pizza with the mushies on one side but not the other, or a large crater where there's no pepperoni. Perhaps Schnatter has discovered that most recipients of pizza delivered couldn't give a toss about neatness. There's a program called Checkout on ABC TV here that (among other things) exposes the difference between the content of a TV commercial or image displayed on a product's packaging, and the actual article itself. The other night they showed a can of strawberries with a label depicting plump red strawbs alongside the actual contents on a plate which revealed limp gray blobs in a pale liquid. ABC TV is funded by public subscription and government so doesn't have any commercial content. The show also deals with consumer rights.

In my experience, I have rarely seen a product that matches the image on its packaging, especially in relation to processed food. While on the subject of food, I bought American style peanut butter the other day, which according to the label has a robust sweet and salty flavor made with long roasted peanuts. Tastes pretty good (I use it in smoothies). It's also darker and less oily than Oz style. Furthermore.... I'd always thought baked beans had been around forever but no, not in Oz. It was during WWII when American troops were stationed in Oz that we discovered part of their standard issue was baked beans. A few enterprising farmers started planting navy beans but it took them a while to figure out how to harvest them - they tended to lay flat on the ground. So they developed a variety that stood upright, which meant it could be harvested by the same machines used for wheat, etc. Most of the world's navy beans are grown in the US and Canada. Oz is a very small player, but we do love our Baked Beans and tamaaaaata sauce.

Francois sent a couple of vintage pics yesterday - a bicycle built for three, and a dentist plying his trade back in the old days:

Makes you wonder if future generations will think we look as ridiculous as we think previous generations did. In other words, are we already ridiculous without realizing it?

As it turned out, I did have to go to the Nut and Bolt shop - the screw bolts supplied with the telly weren't the right kind for the wall bracket. The old bloke at the N&B place didn't have spacers to suit so he made an alternative with 4 screw bolts, 4 nuts (which act as spacers) and 4 washers. He charged me one dollar for the items, nothing for the advice, and they work just fine. His old mate asked me about PJ and said he has a similar one in which he's toured Tasmania and the Northern Territory. He reckons slide-ons are a great idea.

From the Beeb: The impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible", a major report by the UN has warned. Scientists and officials meeting in Japan say the document is the comprehensive assessment to date of the impacts of climate change on the world. Members of the UN's climate panel say it provides overwhelming evidence of the scale of these effects. Yet the skeptics remain unconvinced.

In pictures: German photographer Frank Herfort has spent several years travelling across the former Soviet Union, taking pictures of the grand buildings constructed since the fall of Communism

US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced no breakthrough on Ukraine, following four hours of "frank" talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Mr Kerry said he told Mr Lavrov that the US still considered Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region to be "illegal and illegitimate". He said he had stressed that no decision on Ukraine's future could be made without Kiev's involvement.

Alistair Cooke: Long-lost letters from 1970s America. An interesting peek at the past.

And now it's goodbye to the last day of March! Has my situation progressed so far this year? Yes and no. I could have done without the awning accident hehe. But the doc in Sydney says things are improving so I suppose that's something. Gary

March 30, 2014. I often hope to link photos posted on the forum by GNs here on this page but most of them are pointers and shooters. However, there are exceptions like John who knows a thing or two about what makes an image special. Click on the thumbnails. Can you imagine those places being home for a few days or a week?

The other day, Mieke posted a pic on Red Bubble of a rock face in West Oz that kept deepening its color as the sun set. She mentioned counting the seconds for a time exposure in her head and that she really needed to get a stop watch, so I asked if it was a case of trial and error in determining the correct exposure. It was. She tried 60 seconds at first but it was too dark. Then she tried 120 seconds at f22, ASA100. I would have been in a tizz buggerizing around with manual settings as the light rapidly disappeared hehe. But she got it

BTW, if you haven't seen my favorites for a while, click here. RB has some awesome clickers.

So who wrote "Animal Farm"? JimM says: ah gary, methinks Josh tumbled down the wrong (Or)well, as in George Orwell authored Animal Farm. And NC Art says: To quibble a bit, Orson Welles did not write Animal Farm. That was George Orwell.

To be fair to Josh, I think George is what he meant to say but suffered a 'senior moment'. He also wrote a mammoth tome in response to the equality question which is waaaaaay too long to paste here. However, he did summarize with: I have come up with a system for categorizing people, putting everyone into one of three categories.  There are those who produce more than they take from life and they keep things going.  Without them, society would collapse.  There are others who sort of tread water, taking from society about the same as they produce.  They don't help but they don't hurt either.  Then there are those who suck more from society than they contribute and they are a drag on society and hold it back.  Haves and have nots can be in any of the categories.  You have "haves" who gain their wealth by burdening society with the excess profits they bleed from it, and so they take more than they contribute.  And you have "have nots" like Mother Teresa, who contribute far more to society than they take.

To my mind, the question of equality is like the short bloke who spends his entire life trying to prove he's the equal of the tall bloke while the tall bloke couldn't give a rat's ass. 

I'm getting pretty damn good at making these trifles ya know. Actually, I make two in identical containers so that I use the whole pack of jelly crystals, the whole pack of jam rolls and almost all of the double thick custard. I don't overdo the sherry either... there's only so much the cake will absorb before becoming soggy.

From the Beeb: US Secretary of State John Kerry has diverted his homebound flight at the last minute, for hastily arranged talks on the Ukraine crisis with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The decision came after President Vladimir Putin spoke to President Barack Obama by phone late on Friday

A Chinese and an Australian ship have failed to identify remains from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight after their first day in a new search area. The two ships retrieved objects from the Indian Ocean but none was confirmed to be from missing flight MH370, Australia's maritime authority said.

An official photograph of Prince George with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has been released ahead of their tour of Australia and New Zealand. The eight-month-old is pictured in his mother's arms while Prince William holds their dog, Lupo. In the image, taken by royal christening photographer Jason Bell, the family is looking through an open window at their Kensington Palace home. Nice informal shot.

By the way, interest in Australia becoming a republic has waned, especially with regard to younger people. The analysts say it's all because of the popularity of William and Kate. You can bet they'll attract plenty of attention when they arrive Down Under. Our new Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove automatically became a knight when he was sworn in the other day. Later, as he was about to enter his official new residence, Government House in Canberra, he nodded at a TV camera and said, "Nice digs." But Sir Pete also has a second official residence... Admiralty House at Kirribilli in Sydney. 'Nice digs' is an understatement.

I saved a fortune today by checking stuff on eBay and not buying anything hehe.  Matter of fact, I advertised my stereo and CD collection for sale - for a pittance, I might add. I tried to auction it once before hoping for maybe $200 with no takers. This time I'm asking $85 or best offer. When it comes right down to it, it'll either be sold or trashed. It sure as hell ain't coming with me. Meanwhile, I'm not short of stereos - there's one in the car, one in PJ and I have my MP3 player. All the music CDs are on flash drive.

So that's it for Sundee, dear Breth. Gary

March 29, 2014. On the subject of equality, FL Josh writes: Your comment as to how you treated L&S that, "In some cases even more equal," reminded me of Orsen Wells' classic book, "Animal Farm," and the commandment the pigs running the farm came up with, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

The fact is people are not equal and because of that, they can be classified as to their differences and that means we cannot have a classless society. And whenever you have a situation of haves and have nots, there will be a battle, the have nots arguing that the haves just got ahead because of lucky breaks and the haves not wanting the fruits of their labor going to support the lazy have nots.

Ah, well there ya go. So why is it that some people are lazy while others are fulla beans? I know, Josh, that you are successful because you work hard and are ambitious. Is that because you choose to be? Or is it because you're busy by nature? Wouldn't you rather be lazy and sit around all day doing nothing? Of course not. It would drive you balmy. Similarly, does a lazy person choose to be lazy? Or is it their nature?

If laziness or industriousness are not matters of choice but matters determined by genes that also determine differences such as color, height and intelligence - none of which affects a person's right to equality - then why is it that the rich are considered superior to the poor? 

Did Einstein choose to be a genius? No. However, the benefits of his discoveries are shared by all humanity, and rightly so. Does it therefore follow that the rich have a responsibility to share their wealth with the poor? Did the boarding house manager have a right to profit from vulnerable psychiatric patients by giving them substandard accommodation and food in return for 90% of their pensions? Do professions such as law and specialist medicine have the right to charge unaffordable fees for the dispensation of justice and health to the masses? 

Questions, questions, questions, and I'm not sure I could be bothered figuring out the answers. Some would argue that the lion is more equal than the antelope; that all predators are more equal than their prey. But Nature strikes a balance so that all things co-exist. In Nature it's not a matter of equality but of balance. It seems to me that in human society, the balance between equality and inequality, between the haves and have-nots, has never been successfully or equitably struck.

I know that I'm servile by nature, and always have been. When I managed and promoted my band I worked much harder for them than I ever did for myself after going solo. The reason I created Aussie Odyssey was to provide myself with a stage and hopefully an audience. An audience needs to be entertained which drives me to perform as a writer/photographer. Otherwise why bother?

Well, after that little pep talk, I did a couple of jobs on PJ, made two lots of raspberry jelly for trifle, two evening meals, a vege juice and a smoothie.

William Bullimore is back on Red Bubble. Judging by this shot he posted today, he's been snooping around the opal diggings at Coober Pedy and meeting the local characters. Now there's a bloke who's king of his castle and master of his own destiny - Brian the Fossicker - surrounded by his prized possessions. I'm looking forward to meeting characters like Brian one of these days.

From the Beeb: Russia's Vladimir Putin has telephoned President Barack Obama to discuss the US proposal for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Mr Obama suggested that Russia put a concrete response in writing, the White House said in a statement. According to the Kremlin, Mr Putin suggested examining how the situation could be stabilised. Sounds encouraging.

Brutal beatings, sexual abuse, and electric shocks are being carried out on detainees, including teenage children, in Egypt, according to testimonies gathered by the BBC. As many 20,000 people are estimated to have been held since last July in a sweeping clampdown on dissent. A growing number are now emerging from police stations and prisons with serious allegations of torture

For the first time same-sex couples are now legally allowed to get married in England and Wales. Politicians from the main parties have hailed the change in the law. David Cameron said the move sent a message that people were now equal "whether gay or straight", but some religious groups remain opposed

Italy's government is selling off hundreds of executive cars used by government officials, in an online auction on eBay. A list of 151 car makes and models for sale has been posted - among them are dozens of BMWs, Alfa Romeos, and Lancias. There are also nine high-powered Maseratis owned by the Defence Ministry, and a couple of Jaguars. Alan Johnston reports.

And that's it for the last Satdee in March. Hooroo. Gary

March 28, 2013. FL Josh wrote: The fact that you do not believe in a class system must be a comfort to Lindsay, because it means you consider him your equal.

Yes, it's a sobering thought, Josh... even those we barely tolerate are equals. In some cases even more equal. Lindsay has the master bedroom and the entire living room while I have the former dining room and sleepout. It's my fault because when we first arrived here I wanted to make this a nice home environment for Lindsay and Sue. I donated all my furniture and appliances for our mutual benefit (they had none, and still don't) and I even bought an extra fridge because mine wasn't big enough for all of us. I also bought a washing machine. Sue was under my care but not Lindsay, nonetheless I included him in all the meals I cooked (7 days a week), shopping and general housekeeping chores. Matter of fact, they didn't have a bean to bless themselves with when we were evicted from our flat in Petersham which left me to pay all the moving costs, hire car, fuel, lease bond, etc, (on my credit card) to establish ourselves in Taree. So you see, Josh, I could be accused of treating L&S as even more than equals.

And now, at the risk of boring you...

The reason L&S didn't have any money when I first met them was because their carer was also the manager of the boarding house where they lived as psychiatric outpatients. Actually, they lived next door, but in a flat paid for by the boarding house manager. I lived in the same block. Their carer took almost their whole pensions for accomodation and meals leaving them with a pittance to spend on personal stuff. When the block of flats was sold for renovation, all tenants were evicted. Lindsay found a nearby house and asked me if I wanted to share it. After all, I had furniture and appliances and they didn't, which suited L&S as well as the boarding house manager. Two years later, the boarding house was closed by some government department on the grounds it was unsuitable for the wellbeing of the outpatients, the manager was no longer L&S's carer, so I took over the job of caring for Sue because I was unemployed and desperate. Shortly after that, we were evicted again because the property was sold, and I used the internet to find this house in Taree.

As far as L&S were concerned, I replaced the boarding house. They had every right to expect me to provide not only care but also furniture and appliances. That was their mentality. The only money I took from them was their share of rent, power and groceries. Suddenly, they had access to their pensions. They were rich! In return, I was paid a carer's pension by the government so I cost them nothing. They had never had it so good - a comfortable, large furnished house, a 7-day cook, and all the shopping and maintenance taken care of. They had never seen rump steak or T-bones at the boarding house but they regularly did here, as well as roast chicken, fresh seafood, etc., all the things enjoyed by "normal" people.

Come to think of it, the boarding house manager never treated L&S as equals. They were always frightened of him and never dared question his authority. But then I came along, treated them as equals and have been taken for granted ever since.

Wet, wet, wet is the way it's been here for about a week. Bleh. But from tomorrow the clouds will have cleared and it'll be sunny for the following week with temps in the mid to late 20s... almost summery. Perfect for a mini Odyssey, yes? Only one prob... I'm skint after paying all those insurance bills, plus $500 for the new radiator and $300 for Andrew, with the $650 insurance excess for the awning incident still to come. Never mind, once the smoke clears, I'll be back on track to start saving again... provided those pesky power poles stay outta my way.

But back to the wet for a tick, farmers in the eastern states of Oz are thrilled about all the rain they've had recently, which has improved livestock prices at saleyards and turned parched fields into lush green pastures. It's also radically improved the prospects of winter crop plantings. Not all drought areas were fortunate to get rain but that's how it is on the land. Some get lucky and some don't. But their turn will come eventually.

From the Beeb: New satellite images from Japan have shown about 10 objects that could be debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Japanese officials quoted by Kyodo news agency said the objects were in an area of the southern Indian Ocean close to previous sightings of possible debris.

The UN General Assembly has approved a resolution describing the Moscow-backed referendum that led to Russia's annexation of Crimea as illegal. It comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a loan deal with Ukraine worth $14-18bn.

President Barack Obama says six million people have signed up for health insurance through his signature healthcare overhaul programme. Mr Obama announced the figure in a conference call with supporters days before the end of the sign-up period for new enrolees. The figure falls short of the White House's initial goal of seven million.

Well, despite the fiscal cupboard being a bit bare, I popped into Sanity while I was at the Mall shopping and started my DVD collection with Great Gatsby, Behind the Candelabra, Avatar and Gladiator. Four movies for $50 which ain't bad. And somewhere down the track I can either sell or swap them. There are a stack of movies I would never watch in a fit so I'd rather buy this way than bulk on eBay where you never quite know what you're getting. Back at home I found out the hard way that you can't copy them to flash drive hehe, but this comp and the 18" TV have DVD players. 

And that's it for today, Ls & Gs... time for a little telly. Gary

March 27, 2014. There ya go, through the magic of the internet, my compulsory third party vehicle insurance is paid and PJ is registered for another 12 months... all on line. Too easy. Trouble is, Lindsay has discovered the ease and convenience of having his share of the rent and power transferred from his bank account to mine automatically, which means I don't have a brass razoo on me to pay Stan the Lawn Man. He likes the old cash-in-hand routine.

I know that tipping in the US is widespread and, in certain establishments like bars, it's the only way some workers get paid. So how does electronic payment affect people who rely on tips? Back in the days when I regularly frequented restaurants, paying by credit card involved "the bill", an itemized account to which you added your tip, signature and card for collection by the waiter. I gather that's all changed with the introduction of scanners and PINs. Anyway, bugger tipping. I'm a poor pensioner these days.

From the Beeb: Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has announced that he has resigned as Egypt's military chief in order to stand for the presidency. In a widely expected announcement, he said on state TV he was appearing "in my military uniform for the last time". Field Marshal Sisi led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July after mass opposition protests. Correspondents say he is likely to win the presidency, given his popularity and the lack of any serious rivals. Thank god I'm an Aussie!

The US and EU are discussing "deeper sanctions" against Russia if there are "further incursions into Ukraine". US President Barack Obama said "energy is obviously a central focus of our efforts", acknowledging it "will have some impact on the global economy". He was speaking after talks in Brussels with EU leaders. In a keynote speech later, he said Russians "will recognise that they cannot achieve security, prosperity and status... through brute force".

European aviation giant Airbus has signed a deal to supply 70 jets, worth more than $10bn (£6bn), to China's state-owned purchasing agency. The deal had been on hold because of a row between the EU and outside countries over carbon emissions tax on flights. The breakthrough came during a state visit to France by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. Now that's what I call a big ticket item.

Male university students in North Korea are now required to get the same haircut as their leader Kim Jong-un, it is reported. The state-sanctioned guideline was introduced in the capital Pyongyang about two weeks ago, Radio Free Asia reports. It is now being rolled out across the country - although some people have expressed reservations about getting the look. I don't blame them. What a nerd.

Speaking of nerds, or those accused of being thus, our Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reintroduced damehoods and knighthoods to the Australian honors list. Critics, including those who favor Australia becoming a republic, say Abbott is turning back the clock. It doesn't really bother me one way or the other because titles don't mean much to me. Coming from a rogue Irish background I would never curtsey to Betty or refer to her as your royal highness or majesty. Nor would I ever call a judge your honor or worship. Sir or madam is about as far as I'll go and I'm even reluctant to do that. I have nothing against Betty or judges - it's just that I don't believe in a class system. Here's a link to the story.

Good thing I never served in the military. I would have been permanently in the brig.

And here we are, at the end of a shortie. Back tomorrow with.... who knows? Gary

March 26, 2014. FL Josh researched "homely": I noticed the article on Chrysler talked about changes to the Chrysler Sebring aimed at "minimizing the fundamental homeliness" of the model, which I took that to mean the fundamental ugliness of the model.  I found online dictionary definitions supporting my understanding of the words homely meaning "not pretty or handsome : plain or unattractive" and homey meaning "comfortable or familiar like home" but then I Googled for a British definition, and looking for British definitions of "English" words gets tricky online because in the great swallow of the internet, those terms are to most, synonymous, but I finally found one saying that when homely is used to refer to a person, to the British, it means "warm and domesticated in manner or appearance" whereas to those in the US and Canada, it means "plain or ugly."  I personally have never heard the word used to mean anything other than unattractive.

There ya go. As Winston Churchill said in a speech at Harvard; "The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language."

NC Art also commented: Homely and homey still give trouble, eh. When my daughter was I high school, we hosted an exchange student from England who got off on the wrong foot by pronouncing as “homely” the bedroom we had carefully furnished for her. My wife’s eyes turned to steel until I recalled the term from my war years in that tight little island. Language misinforms and misleads as well as it communicates meaning.

Then there is a phrase spoken rapid-fire in a thick Cockney dialect which threw me for a loop one fine evening. While trying to navigate a call from a public telephone box, the operator threw this at me: Presbutnaye! After a round of huhs and whatsays I finally discovered that I was supposed to press button A. I mumbled “sorry” and got her reply quite clearly: “I should think you would be!” So much for us dumbass Yanks.

Josh went on to say that a potted plant is what I meant when I said pot plant. True. He also suggests that the portable antenna sitting on a pole outside might require adjustment. GNs check the position of the nearest transmitter on the internet and point their antennas accordingly. Mine's a multi-directional as well. Or is that omni? And Netflix? Netflix is not in Oz but there are Australian alternatives. The problem with downloading movies or watching them streaming live is the ISP cost of downloading/uploading data. It's prohibitive. Ditto using a plug-in USB television receiver. As to books, I don't have the patience - my mind keeps wandering. I have a hyperactive brain. Busier than a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad. The only way I can get the damn thing to stay focused on one project is to be either physically engaged in that project or writing about it.

Soooooooo, when camped at a place where there's no TV or internet signal (rarely I would think), and it's raining cats and dogs, and I'm bored to tears, the best option to amuse myself is to have a collection of DVDs. I can build a collection over time by spending $20 a week. When I have a decent assortment, I can swap with other GNs from time to time to keep it fresh. Yeah?

Another way of relieving the boredom is to take an umbrella on a photo shoot. Rain shots can be very effective and interesting. It's not something one would normally do on a wet day but "out there" in adventureland anything goes. Actually, it's raining now. I keep looking out the window and thinking 'will I or won't I? Nah. Nuttin' around here I ain't seen before. It's all boring.' But "out there", that won't be the case - or an excuse. 

From the Beeb: The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has resumed after weather conditions in the southern Indian Ocean improved. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) says 12 aircraft are taking part in Wednesday's operations. Some relatives of the passengers are refusing to accept their deaths, saying no wreckage has been found. There were angry scenes after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said analysis of satellite data showed the plane had almost certainly ended its journey in the southern Indian Ocean.

In Pictures: Mini enthusiasts gather at Brooklands. Ah, yes, the wonderful little Mini. I owned only one in the mid '70s but it was impressive and fun.

How's this for luck? The other day I bought ten $2 lottery tickets in sequential order. Yeah? And yesterday I won a prize... a free ticket for being one off a prize winning number. Hello? Ten consecutive numbers and I win a one off? Sheesh. At least my tale of woe is not as bad as Lindsay's. He's not at the "office" today so I assume he's blown his nestegg on the slots... Sue's $8000 and his own couple of grand. He's done it before - once back in the early 2000s when as Sue's carer I had to get the bank to deny him access to Sue's account. He'd blown the lot. But then, a few years later, the bank issued him with a debit card (to replace his passpook) and asked if he'd like it linked to both his and his wife's accounts. Dumb teller. That was about the time of my cancer op so I was no longer Sue's carer.

How did I know the card was linked to both his and Sue's accounts? Because he was paying Sue's half of the rent and power without having to ask her to sign a withdrawal form. Ditto medical bills, etc. He thinks I don't notice these things but I notice EVERYTHING. However, I refrain from commenting. I don't want him to know that I know what he thinks I don't.

So what's it gonna be like being free of dickheads? It was back in '89 when my ex-biz partner talked me into financing a production team to develop a TV program which ultimately cost me my house and put me on the professional slippery-slope. Since then, 25 years ago, I've been surrounded by dickheads. Is it me? Is there something about me that attracts crooks and loopies? I dunno. But as soon as I can munch on a pizza, I'm outta here - free as a bird with not a single soul to bother me. For the first time in a quarter of a century, my life will be my own to live as I please. Imagine that.

The Odyssey will be about a number of things including discovering who I am. One of my clients when I ran my own copywriting biz said, "Gary, you're so self-effacing." I had no idea what he was talking about until he explained. "You're a very talented advertising writer and yet you arrive here at the agency on your bicycle and come into my office wearing your yellow helmet as if that were the norm." He drove a V12 Jaguar coupe. Hehe.

Well, to me it was the norm. One time I was all ready to collect a famous Australian golfer from Sydney airport in my VW camper when my ex-biz partner insisted on hiring a Hertz BMW. He sat in the back and asked me to drive. When the golfer got into the car, I turned on the ignition and the radio blared. Do you think I could find the volume button? "It's all about image," my ex used to say. Yeah, right. Image schmimage. He was fulla shit.

So, PJ, in all her humble and self-effacing glory, is an integral part of the Odyssey, just as my bicycle and yellow helmet were an integral part of my copywriting business. No airs, no graces, no bullshit. How refreshing! 

One time, the director on a shoot for the TV program I was involved with yelled, "Where's the script?" We were shooting a golf match that day with Greg Norman and 3 other people, another golfer and two fishermen. "How are you supposed to script a golf match?" I asked. And that's the way the Odyssey will be. No script. Each adventure will unfold as the sun rises on a new day, and I'll never know quite what to expect. But I'll be there with my cameras and keyboard at the ready.

So who is Gary Kelly? You'll have to wait a while for the answer to that question. I reckon Gary Kelly hasn't blossomed yet hehe. Ask me again in five or ten years.

It's exciting really. Most geezers my age are writing their memoirs and reminiscing about their careers. I'm a late starter. Gary

March 25, 2014. Andrew was a good find. He not only takes care of all the auto electrics but also jobs like TV antenna installation and a wall bracket. He should be here shortly.

Speaking of TVs, FL Josh wrote: Back to your comment, "a telly adds a touch of homeliness to PJ.???"   Could it be that you meant to say "a telly adds a touch of homeyness to PJ.???"  I could understand a TV making PJ more homey but if it is making PJ more homely, that must be one ugly TV.

Come to think of it, I have heard American references to homely as it relates to looks, as in a girl's appearance. But I don't think it's used here in Oz. "Odd" is another word that has a different meaning here. We often use "odd" to mean occasional, as in going to the cinema to watch the odd movie, or the pub to have the odd beer.

Meanwhile, Steve W feels that my reference to "tenting" yesterday needs clarification: just wondering if the use of the ruler under the bed clothes was actually pretending ……that were you making “a tent” anyway? I remember in my teenage years I constantly had “a tent”, no make that “big top”, going on.

Ah yes, I remember now - Cody often mentioned tent when he spoke of Speedos. Seems I'm back to my innocent self now that Code's no longer with us. Or maybe it's just age catching up with me.

Well, there ya go... my antenna and pole fit nicely into the storage bin and all the wiring/leads are done, as is the wall bracket. The pole comes in three detachable sections with the antenna permanently fixed to the top section. The bottom of the pole is open-ended so I'll get a large plastic tent peg to hammer into the ground and then place the pole over top. Too easy. Yep, a portable pole is much better than a permanent fixture that affects PJ's height and wind resistance. Also there are no drilled holes or waterproofing to worry about.

Now all I gotta do is get the nod from NRMA insurance about having the new awning installed and I'll be sweet.

From the Beeb: When we think of the US Declaration of Independence, the signature of the founding father John Hancock often comes to mind. More than two centuries after its signing, his handwriting is instantly recognisable and his name has even become slang to describe any signature. A new exhibition at the National Archives in Washington explores the stories behind the famous and little known signatures that have made their mark on history. But electronic methods of communicating - email, Twitter, Facebook - have more or less replaced the need for pen and ink. Most of us today don't even sign cheques, and legal documents are just as valid online as they are in print. So what will history make of our email sign-offs? Can a text from a cell phone reveal anything about the sender? The BBC's Jane O'Brien finds out.

Authorities in the US state of Washington have found six more bodies after Saturday's huge landslide, bringing the number known to have been killed to 14, say police. Officials now say as many as 176 people may remain unaccounted for after the 177ft (54m) wall of mud hit near the town of Oso, north of Seattle. Search crews have worked day and night, using helicopters and laser imaging. But officials admit they have little hope of finding survivors in the muck.

When a formerly top-shelf athlete is demoted to the minor leagues, there are two options. One, fight like Hades to get back to the bigs. Two, acknowledge with grace and humility – or with tantrums and finger-wagging – that you’re slouching toward the twilight. Chrysler has wisely opted for option one. The brand launched its fully redesigned 200 mid-size sedan at Louisville Slugger Field in the US state of Kentucky, home of the minor league affiliate to the Cincinnati Reds baseball club. And whaddaya know, the article uses the word 'homeliness'.

The wall bracket for the TV is a fairly heavy duty one able to carry 35kgs but my 18" LCD is more like 2 or 3kgs. As a consequence, the bolts supplied with the bracket are way too big for the back of the TV. Which brings me to the Nuts and Bolts shop in Taree. It's been there forever in the industrial part of town - a drab brick warehouse with a well-worn track across the lawn to the narrow front door. Inside on the concrete floor are scores of metal cabinets with open shelves stocked with thousands of nuts and bolts and washers and whatever of all sizes and descriptions. Behind the counter are a couple of old blokes who know all there is to know about nuts and bolts. I heard about it a few years ago from a chemist who said her handyman father often goes there, sometimes just for a look around. So, that's where I'll sort out my bracket bolts and washers. Incidentally, you can buy what you need, even if it's only 4 bolts and 4 washers hehe.

Hang on a tick. Why doesn't a bloke check the box the TV came in to see if there are any screws/bolts already supplied for a wall mount? Hello? Guess what? Yeah... forget I mentioned the Nuts and Bolts place.

God knows what time it is in Florida but it's after 4pm here and Josh just emailed his concern about my my intended purchase of a "pet": You mentioned the idea of a pot plant in PJ.  Is that legal in Oz?  Here in the States, that would send you off on an entirely different odyssey!!!

Har-de-har as Wingnut used to say with added embellishment. I wonder what Billeeeeeee does about that? He's a self-confessed pot-head. But, no, my pot plant will be a far less controversial species - more your ordinary backyard garden variety - perhaps a flowering cactus. I know the states have border issues with fruit and vegetables (because of fruit fly and certain diseases) but I think a plant will be okay.

Andrew commented today, "PJ must be just about ready?" Yes, it is but I reminded him about my gum problem, then added that mini Odysseys were still on the cards - short camps around the Mid North Coast, and there's no shortage of those, including one about 15 minutes from his house. He says he sees campers there all the time. He lives at Moorland about half an hour up the highway on the western side. I've been up around that way (2007) and it's very pretty country.

Thanks for dropping in to Waffle, folks. See you again tomorrow. Gary

March 24, 2014. Is everything really bigger and better in Texas? TX Greg says: Seems it wasn't that long ago I was telling you about the huge overhead TV at the Cowboys Stadium (now called AT&T Stadium). Well if that wasn't big enough our Texas Motor Speedway just finish, for the moment, the world's largest HD screen at 215 feet wide and 95 feet tall... Last week they were testing that thing at night which made for some really spooky glow in the clouds.

Speaking of TV (but not quite as big), I spotted something worth recording this morning... at 11am there's a 2-hour doco, The Story of Mercedes Benz which should be interesting. After that, there's a movie with Nicole Kidman, The Invasion.

And still on the topic of TV, FL Josh wrote: "a telly adds a touch of homeliness to PJ.???" Yeah, like a doormat or curtains or a kitchen sink. Just the look of a TV on the wall helps to turn a camper into a home. I'm even toying with the idea of a small pot plant if I can figure a way to keep the thing from becoming a missile during transit... something living that flowers often. It'll be my pet.

Last night I saw a Hindu Indian standing in his undies in the Ganges. Just before he plunged himself into the water he shouted "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!" The progam was about two Aussie families of Indian origin that travelled to India for the "Holy Dip", the annual Hindu festival that attracts about 30 million people to a single town on the banks of the holy river. 

And STILL on the topic of TV, Andrew just phoned to say he'll be here tomorrow morning to work on the antenna pole and fittings.

Remember when I bagged that GN's shot of the rising full moon the other day? His nick on the forum was Rowdy Rabbit, and he died shortly afterwards. Oh, dear. Now I feel terrible. But I guess that's pretty much par for the course on a forum frequented by oldies - they keep falling off the perch more regularly than forums for younger peeps. I'm not sure what the average age on the GN forum is but most of the members seem to be in their 60s or 70s.

Yes, home sweet home. Gotta have a place that "feels" like home, even if it's on the back of a truck. As a kid, I used my school ruler as a pole under the bed covers to prop them up like a tent hehe, and pretend I was camped somewhere. When people visited my little house in Glebe, I'd wait till they were gone and then sit in the various chairs they occupied during their visit to see the place from their perspective. More often than not, I'd be tempted to rearrange things to improve the look and feel of the room. I was forever rearranging that joint trying to get it "right". Anyway, that's how I feel about PJ. When I return from a photo shoot or a bush walk or whatever, I want to experience that "good to be home" feeling... a sense of belonging no matter where I am.

Travellers who stay in motels and hotels and live out of a suitcase are different. Obviously they don't mind being in unfamiliar territory 24/7, surrounded by things to which they have no sentimental attachment. I'm sure I'd feel totally lost in those circumstances.

From the Beeb: Turkish forces have shot down a Syrian military jet they say was violating their airspace despite warnings. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned such action by Syria merited a "heavy response". But Syria accused Turkey of "blatant aggression", saying the plane had been over Syrian territory at the time. The incident reportedly occurred in an area where Syrian rebels and government forces have been fighting for control of a border crossing. Turkey and Syria - once allies - share more than 500 miles (800km) of border.

Nato's military commander in Europe has issued a warning about the build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine's border. Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen Philip Breedlove said Nato was in particular concerned about the threat to Moldova's Trans-Dniester region. "The problem with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is that he doesn't want to talk to - not only to the Ukrainian government - but also to the Western leaders," Mr Deshchytsia told the BBC.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is Elton John's best-selling and most enduring album. Over a two-week recording binge, it grew from a single to a double album, its 17 tracks including hits such as Bennie and the Jets and Candle In The Wind. Its release came at an exciting period in the star's career. His previous record, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, released just nine months earlier, had become his first UK number one. Using a combination of new and archive interviews, here is the story of the album by the people who made it.

Well, so much for recording movies on free to air commercial networks. The movie is broken up into several files. The first one plays for about 10 minutes and that's it. The other files don't play at all. Oh well, back to the drawing board. 

There's a bit of discussion on the GN forum about grammar and spelling. This is a comment from Dorian who (I think) has a deliciously dry wit: My biggest annoyance is the pretentious old farts who write in SMS-ese like their vacuous adolescent grandchildren. I don't understand this silly affectation, but I did get an insight into the adolescent brain when one of them wrote something like the following:

im having a problem with a hard drive model number abc123 (the model number is in uppercase) ...

Apparently there really is a stigma surrounding the use of the Shift (or Caps Lock) keys. Perhaps would-be nonconformists are terrified of being ostracised by their peers.

To me, it seems that illiteracy has now become kewl. Perhaps it's a bit like trying to disguise your baldness by shaving your head.

And that's it from me, dear Breth. Gary

March 23, 2014. TX Greg responded to Barnacle Bill's question about touring the US: Now Gary think about it, what have you been saying all these years about paying rent there on that house?

You didn't say how long Bill planned on touring here. I take it he is planning on a few months at least if not longer in which case it would be better to purchase an older used RV. Then he still would have something to sell instead of flushing all that rent down the loo, right?

Yep, makes sense to me. I know a bloke here in Taree who planned a 12 month trip around Oz and decided to buy a new motorhome for about $100K. He figured he could sell the MH for about $20K less than he paid, which is pretty cheap for 12 months accommodation and transport. Cheap for him, that is... he's worth a few bob.

There's also a GN on the forum who free camps in his MH and is always buying new things for his rig. He's on a pension and uses the money he saves on rent. I've been messaging him privately lately with basic tips on photography so he just bought himself a refurbished Canon Powershot SX40.

It'll be interesting after being on the road for a year or so to see just how much better off I am financially with no rent or power bills other than gas and petrol.

From the Beeb: Two Chinese military planes have arrived in Perth in Australia to join international search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet. Crews are scouring vast areas of the southern Indian Ocean for a fourth day. Two sets of satellite images showing floating objects in the area have raised hopes that the jet may be there. Fancy that! Chinese military planes in Oz

Russian troops have stormed a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea throwing stun grenades and firing automatic weapons in the air. Reports say at least one person was injured during the assault on Belbek base, near Sevastopol. The base is now said to be under Russian control. Earlier, several hundred unarmed protesters seized a Ukrainian naval base at Novofedorivka, western Crimea. Russia formally annexed the Ukrainian region on Friday

In an emotionally-charged speech to both houses of parliament at the Kremlin on 18 March, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a fierce defence of his country's treaty to absorb Crimea. Crimean officials say the peninsula voted overwhelmingly in favour of the move in a referendum. But Kiev and the West have said the vote was illegal and that Moscow's actions amount to a land grab. Here, BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall analyses key moments from Mr Putin's historic speech.

Five people on a skydiving trip have been killed after their light plane crashed at an airfield in Queensland, eastern Australia. The Cessna 206 hit the ground and burst into flames shortly after take-off on Saturday at Caboolture Airport, north of Brisbane. The pilot, two skydiving instructors and two skydiving customers were killed, police said.

Major League Baseball is currently being played in Sydney at the converted Sydney Cricket Ground, with the LA Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks touring here - real Americans who look just like real people. Bloody amazing. I'm not a fan of baseball (or cricket for that matter) so the only reason the TV is on is because The Train Robbers with John Wayne and Ann Margret was scheduled at 4pm. I was gonna record it to flash drive but the baseball is running overtime! Drat! It's 4.30 now and there's no way the movie is gonna make it. Double drat!

I checked one of the movie sites on the internet the other day and read the terms and conditions. Yep, as I suspected, NO RECORDING! It's the same with Lindsay's Austar (pay TV). But it's different with free to air telly. FTA doesn't broadcast many movies but there are a few - oldies but goodies - so I'll just check the TV program each day. I bought a 32GB flash drive the other day. If I can fill it with movies it'll be handy on the Odyssey when I'm out in the sticks with no signal.

Telly-watching is not something I associate with travelling Oz - I suspect there'll be far more interesting things to occupy my time - but it'll be useful to have available, and I do like to keep up with news and current events. Besides, a telly adds a touch of homeliness to PJ.

Photography will be numero uno on the Odyssey with the journal a close second. I was rummaging around in my bag of tricks today and discovered things I'd forgotten like a set of lens filters, and two screw-on attachments: wide-angle and telephoto. The wide-angle stretches my 18mm zoom down to about 10 or 12 (like a fisheye) and the tele increases my 200mm zoom to about 500. I don't think the quality is high but they're made in Japan so I guess they're not too bad.

Anyway, time to beetle as Code used to say. Gary

March 22, 2014. Here's a goodie on the GN forum... understanding engineers.

BTW, Barnacle Bill is selling his Magnetic Island property and fishing charter biz and thinking of touring the US in an RV. His question is, does he rent an RV or buy one over there. Any suggestions or comments?

Yesterday, I was mystified as to where Google search disappeared to, so TX Greg wrote: Well the Google search box is working this morning on both the main index and the waffle index, so either you already fixed it or it fixed itself. Ah, well there ya go. Definitely the latter - I'm too dumb to know anything about fixing it.

And what a delightful Satdee morning it is! Sunny and bright and not too hot. Lindsay is off to the office (pub and slots) and I daresay Sue's $8000 legacy is dwindling rapidly. But that's his business.

Here I go with my Popeye and Bugs Bunny juice again. I cheat a little now with bottled apple juice which I add to the freshly squeezed leafy green and carrot. And it doesn't taste too bad despite looking a little scary. Eeeek! I also discovered something about soup. Canned soups are boring... usually too watery and lacking in substance. So one day I happened to see a can of Harvest braised steak and onions on spesh for a dollar, so I bought it without thinking too much about it. The other day I pureed it and used some with noodles but it turned into glop. Then I used the rest as a soup and whaddaya know? It was great! Thick, tasty and filling as well as nutritious. So that'll be my "soup" two or three times a week. I haven't been eating any meat lately so the braised steak and onions will rectify that.

From the Beeb: The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has now entered its third week, with rescue teams scouring remote seas in the Indian Ocean. Satellites detected debris two days ago 2,500 km (1,550 miles) south-west of Perth in Australia, but planes have so far failed to track down the objects. The search in the Indian Ocean is being led by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa).

Pope Francis has launched a stinging attack on the mafia, warning gangsters that they will go to hell unless they repent and stop doing evil. "Blood-stained money, blood-stained power, you can't bring it with you to your next life. Repent," he said. He was speaking at a prayer vigil for relatives of those killed by the mafia. "There's still time to not end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path." Hopefully they'll believe it.

A US federal judge has struck down a ban on gay marriage in the state of Michigan. Two Detroit-area nurses successfully argued that the ban violated their rights under the US constitution. One local official said she would start issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples from Monday, but the state is planning to lodge an appeal.

US First Lady Michelle Obama's week-long visit to China which began on Thursday has generated mixed reaction in the media. Xinhua hails her trip as "a stroke of 'gentle diplomacy' on the part of Washington" , while the Chinese edition of the Global Times says that it could help dispel mistrust between China and the US. It explains that "pure friendly interactions" could prove to be more effective that "any other measures" when it comes to building trust between the two countries. Other media take a different view of Michelle Obama's visit.

Here it is late afternoon and I've been naughty, just buggerizing around and being lazy. So it was a good thing FL Josh wrote: Here is a collection of overlooked pictures from right after WW II. I spent quite a while being transfixed by those photos. Definitely worth a look!

And then, Josh wrote again with this: Here are 24 of the winners of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards. Goes to show that photography is not just a matter of pointing and shooting - although some of the prize winners were exactly that (albeit by an experienced shooter).

So I guess you could say that today's blog is more of a Joshle than a Waffle hehe. Thanks, Josh. All good stuff. Gary

March 21, 2014. Easy come, easy go. Not surprisingly, the email sent to me yesterday saying I was the beneficiary of $2M was too good to be true as TX Greg wrote: It is a scam. Just Googled "tom crist scam" and got over 100,000 results

Just glad to hear the new cam works great :) Me too!

FL Josh was also on the trail: Okay, I'll bite. . . what's a TAB?

Totalizator Betting. The Tote was an on-course government operated betting facility at race meetings where you could choose to bet with private bookmakers or the Tote. Usually, you got better odds with the bookies. Then I think it was about the '70s that the government established betting shops in cities and towns called the TAB to counteract the proliferation of illegal betting shops and individual bookies operating from home. The TAB was eventually sold to private enterprise as was State Lotteries but the governmecnt still rakes in the taxes. There was an illegal SP (starting price) bookie in our street when I was a kid. He had a brand new Holden while the rest of the neighbors struggled with old bombs.

And as for you being chosen to receive funds from Tom Crist, gimmee a break.  Did the email contain personal information to show you how he learned about your predicament, (no) and how he had seen your website, (no) and how he wants to help you travel around Oz and take pictures? (No). The email didn't ask any details about myself or provide a clickable link apart from the news item about Crist.

Did you try Googling "Tom Crist email scam"? (No. Can I go now?).

BTW, Josh also wrote yesterday: Here is a link to a very inspiring person, double amputee Amy Purdy.  Talk about making lemonade when the world gives you lemons. . . A remarkable lady indeed!

Also yesterday, I received a snail-mail letter from the insurance company acting for one of the owners of the cars damaged by my awning spill the other week. They wanted my quote number and details about my insurance company, so they're obviously not in any great hurry. Today is 2 weeks since the accident and nothing's happened so far regarding repairs. Bleh.

Remember my moon shoot? I had to postpone it because of PJ's radiator repair. But a GN camping at Green's Lake took a photo. That's MY moon he shot, and he didn't even do it properly. Nonetheless, other GNs commented on how great the shot is. Great, my ass. It's overexposed and out of focus, likely caused by pressing the shutter without pausing half way to allow the camera to set exposure and shutter speed. AND it's badly composed. Check it out. See what happens when people don't know what they're doing?

Next full moon is April 15 with the moonrise at 5.30pm. Daylight saving ends at the end of this month so it should be dark when the moon rises in April. Hopefully, the weather and all other variables will be cooperative for my moon shoot. I have a dental appointment the following morning so I'll do the shoot locally, just down the road on the bank of the Manning. Come to think of it, I'll check out the scene the day before to see exactly where the moon rises.

One of my ab fab cars is the '48 Ford, like the one in Karate Kid, so this vid is of particular interest to me. Josh sent the link along with this note: I received an email today of the death of Frank Hagerty, founder of Hagerty Insurance for antique and collector cars, 79.  I have my '63 Valiant insured through them. Here is a video in memory of Frank and his quest to locate one of the nine original 1948 Fords that became Sleeping Bear Dunesmobiles, and which he got a job driving when he was a teen, until they found out he did not have the required chauffeur's license as he was too young to get one.

From the Beeb: An international search of the southern Indian Ocean has resumed for a second day as authorities try to locate a missing Malaysian airliner. Four military planes, including two Orions belonging to the Royal Australian Air Force, are taking part in the search, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) said in a statement.

On 23 March 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, promising quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans. Four years later, a survey from the Pew Research Center found that the majority of Americans still don't support the law. But as the deadline to sign up for coverage looms on 31 March, the number enrolled in healthcare has now passed five million. If Oz didn't have Medicare I'd be as dead as a doornail.

An Indian comedian aiming to skewer India's skin lightening culture has filmed a satirical advert for an intimate skin lightening cream - especially for men. Its creators say they want to highlight "the absurdity of the trend" in which lighter skin is considered more desirable. The video has been viewed more than 200,000 times since it was posted on YouTube on Friday. The rest of the Beeb story is here.

The former leader of a US church that was widely known for its inflammatory anti-gay protests has died, his family has said. The Reverend Fred Phelps Sr, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, died on Wednesday evening at 84. The church, made up mostly of his family, rose to international notoriety with its practice of picketing funerals of fallen US troops. It claimed their deaths were punishment for America's tolerance of gays. The Reverend? Not in my book.

Grubs like Phelps are nothing more than low-life advocates of hatred and discrimination who use the Bible to support their claims. The Bible is useful in that respect; it can be used by just about anyone to support any cause, good or evil, depending on how it's interpreted... rather like a gun. Might is right, and there's no one mightier than the Almighty? Righty?

Just back from a little shopping, including a small bottle of Mylanta antacid. Been getting a lotta reflux lately for some reason. The trip was also my first drive since the new rearview cam was installed and it's great, with a good, clear view - better clarity than the old cam even with a smaller screen. 

And now it's time for me to say hooroo kangaroo, zippety do Woolloomooloo wallaby stew! Hang on a tick! Where the hell did the Google search engine disappear to on AO? How strange! Gary

March 20, 2014. Andrew, Andrew, wherefore art thou? We've had a few showers this morning so I hope it fines up for Andrew's arrival.

Meanwhile, yesterday I got a bit adventurous and made two trifles, this time with lime jelly, lamingtons (sponge cake with chocolate and desiccated coconut), sherry and custard hehe. Lindsay has his doubts about the lime and chocolate. But what the hell, you only live once.

Steve W responded to yesterday's mention of the Thai elephants and sent a couple of pics: An elephant joins us for breakfast...

And here's one emerging from a clump of bamboo...

Big fellas, aren't they? Good thing they don't jump all over you like dogs do. Down, boy! Down, boy!

It's raining pretty heavily now, but that's okay. Andrew's been and gone. The new rearview cam works really well, with a crystal clear image on the monitor and an extra wide view. The monitor is better situated too on the dash. I cut a slit in the dash mat so it pokes through no worries. So as far as I'm concerned, this is TX Greg's prezzie. As to the old one, well that's all part of the learning curve, and it's not the first or last mistake I'll ever make. All's well that ends well, I reckon, and that's all that really matters.

Before it began to rain again, Andrew showed me a short roof-mounted pole for the antenna. However, after discussing how it would be fixed to the roof with screws and waterproofing, etc, and how it would affect the height of the van as well as wind-resistance (sitting up there in a 100 km/h breeze) he suggested I might prefer a portable setup - a pole I can stab into the ground at a camp site, onto which I can mount the antenna and connect the cable. Yeah? Sounds like the way to go, folks! He would have all the cabling and everything organized so that it's inside the storage bin with the pole, AGM battery and inverter. A portable pole setup would also mean I can move the antenna around and use the rabbit ears. So that's settled, and he's gonna look around for a suitable pole. BTW, the antenna is about the size of a small kite, 15" x 13" x 1", easy to stow and light as a feather.

You know those emails you get from someone who says you're a beneficiary of a large amount of money? Well, I've had a few over the years, mainly from African states, but the one I received today is a bit different. It's supposedly from this guy, Tom Crist, who won a Canadian lottery and is giving all the money away to charity, namely cancer charities. In the email, it says to contact his barrister Morgan Martins via email. The email addy has a New Zealand address. That seems a bit suspicious, right? A Canadian with a barrister in New Zealand? Well, except for a report on the globalnews item that says Tom Crist is travelling South East Asia. Hmmm. 

So it occurred to me that maybe - maybe - Tom read about my battle with cancer on this web site and thought I deserved a bit of a break after all the crap I've been through, and also read about my plans to tour Oz on the smell of an oily rag. Yeah? Possible - maybe. Then I Googled Morgan Martins barrister from New Zealand and couldn't find a match. Hmmm again. Lastly I sent TX Greg the email addy to check it out and see if he can find something odd about it.

What a bummer to think there's a chance this might be genuine but in all probability is not, and is nothing but a dirty rotten scam. Dammit. How to ruin a bloke's day.

From the Beeb: Two objects have been seen that could possibly relate to the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, Australian PM Tony Abbott has announced. Australian vessels have been searching in the southern Indian Ocean for the aircraft, which disappeared on 8 March with 239 people on board. Mr Abbott said the objects had been identified on satellite imagery

The death of fashion designer L'Wren Scott has been ruled suicide by hanging, New York City authorities say. The cause of death was announced by the office of the medical examiner after Scott's body was discovered in her flat by her assistant on Monday. Police earlier said there was no sign of foul play and no note was found. So many questions, so few answers. Poor Mick.

Should we worry about natural resources running out? As Rachel Nuwer discovers, that’s the wrong way of looking at a far more complex problem. Of all the world’s materials, which one will “run out” first? The more we consume as a society, the more we hear about how vital ores and minerals are dwindling, so it seems logical to assume that a few may be about to disappear.

Meanwhile, the TAB gave me a $10 voucher to use as a bet on any horse/dog race I choose, so I checked out the races in QLD and chose a nag called Gangsta for a place bet. If it runs a place (1st, 2nd or 3rd) the TAB takes its $10 back and I get to keep what's left. If it doesn't run a place, the TAB loses its $10 and it costs me nothing.

And that's my story for today,,, rear view cam, a philanthropist's beneficiary, a TAB freebie, a technicolor trifle and elephants. That's quite a mix! Gary

March 19, 2014. And there goes another irrigation - and I'm not even a farmer. Speaking of strange terms, FL Josh wrote: In paragraph 3 of the Waffle for the 18th, you say, "Back from the elephants."  What does that mean.  Is it an Australian colloquialism?

It is if you're talking about being drunk. If you're "elephants" (elephant's trunk), you've had too much to drink. But in Steve's case, he spent a month after Christmas in Thailand with a group of people dedicated to saving elephants. This is what he wrote back in November: In Asia, in particular Thailand, the plight of the elephants is different, but no less stressful and unfortunately the result, much the same (as in Africa) - they are used and abused. Can I point your readers to and there are some links as to how we can all help - every bit counts, even if it is simply awareness.

Andrew just called. He'll be here tomorrow about 10 to tackle the reversing cam and then see how he goes for time regarding the other jobs. So that's good - nothing wrong with a bit of progress.

I've been thinking about the kinds of places I'll visit on the Odyssey, and how such places are normally frequented by day trippers and holiday makers. They go there for the day, or occasionally for a week or two. And then they return home. Bummer! I find it hard to get my head around the fact that my visits won't have a time limit, and that home will be wherever I happen to hang my hat. I still have strong memories of various places I visited as a kid with my parents on weekends or school vacations - magical places far removed from the daily humdrum of suburbia - scenes of beaches, rivers and bushland settings - barefoot people in straw hats and sunnies with nothing better to do than relax and enjoy the outdoors. But the reason those memories have always been special to me is because they were out of the ordinary events that contrasted strikingly with everday life. And that's precisely what I find hard to get my head around... how could such special times possibly become an everyday occurrence?

I strongly suspect that the only way to truly appreciate the nomad lifestyle is to actually live it.

From the Beeb: Ukraine's military says an officer has been killed in an attack on a base in Crimea, the first such death since pro-Russia forces took control in February. Ukraine has now authorised its troops to fire in self-defence. The attack came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Crimea signed a bill to absorb the peninsula into Russia.

The Rolling Stones have postponed their Australia and New Zealand tour after the death of Sir Mick Jagger's girlfriend L'Wren Scott. The celebrated US fashion designer was found dead in her New York flat on Monday in an apparent suicide. Sir Mick earlier said he failed "to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way".

Three decades after David Bowie's worldwide hit Let's Dance, the remote Australian community where the video was shot is hoping its link with a pop icon will save it from extinction. A great read and insight into the harshness of the Aussie Outback.

Hmmm, well that's a shortie! Never mind. Seeya tomorrow. Gary

March 18, 2014. Mid Coast Ford (under the Big Oyster) is a pretty large set-up, with another branch half an hour away at Forster-Tuncurry. And speaking of big, the bloke who drove me home (same bloke who came to the rescue when PJ's awning spilled out the other week) pointed to a Ford Ranger parked in the service area and said, "That's the replacement for your Courier, Gary." My Courier looks like a baby by comparison. He has a '99 turbo diesel 4WD model, the one after mine, which is also bigger but not as big as the new Ranger. He uses his for fishing (towing the boat) and taking stuff to the local dump. 

Anyway, my little bus will have a new radiator installed later today and I'm pretty chuffed about that. I hope to get many miles out of that old girl before we part company.

Back from the elephants, Steve W wrote: I appreciate your frustration at the delay of you heading off. It also frustrates me! You will get there mate……..I just hope I’m still around to see it!

Hey, gimme a break, it won't be that long before I hit the road! 

I’m sure you have mentioned which Nikon you have but cannot recall. I have always been an Olympus man but just acquired a second hand Nikon D200 and the difference in “the feel” of the Nikon is amazing. Also what do use for post production? Have just bought Lightroom and whilst still playing, I find it amazing. Its a whole new world. Can’t wait for you to go out and capture it for us all.

I had an Olympus OM1 for years - great camera. The Nikon is a D3100 which is the entry level model for DSLR photography. Nonetheless, it's pretty sophisticated. As to post production, most of my shots are straight from the camera. I do very little post, and when I do I use a freebie called Photoscape for the basics. The pic below is straight from the camera except for cropping.

Lightroom is often mentioned on Red Bubble by serious photographers, but I wouldn't have a clue what it's all about. Yesterday, I experimented with selective focus which I rather fancy for certain situations.

TX Greg wrote this response to my comment yesterday about needing to get "out there"... "I need stimulation!" HAHAHA ... and sent this pic:

Texans are like that ya know. Subtle they ain't.

But back to photography, yes, it's a winderful hobby if you can learn to think outside the square and open your mind to all sorts of creative possibilities. The trick, according to many successful photographers, is to understand how the camera sees the world as opposed to the way our eyes do. Once you appreciate the differences, you can take advantage of them.

From the Beeb: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree recognising Crimea as a sovereign state, paving the way for it to be absorbed into Russia. The decree said it had taken into account Sunday's referendum in Crimea, in which officials said 97% of voters backed breaking away from Ukraine. The EU and US said the referendum was illegal and imposed sanctions on 21 officials from Russia and Ukraine. Crimea was taken over by pro-Russian gunmen in late February.

Sir Mick Jagger is "completely shocked and devastated" by the apparent suicide of his girlfriend, fashion designer L'Wren Scott, a spokesman says. Scott, 49, was found at 10:00 local time (14:00 GMT) on Monday by her assistant in her New York City flat. Police are understood to be treating it as a suicide, though the medical examiner has yet to determine an official cause of death.

Scientists say they have extraordinary new evidence to support a Big Bang Theory for the origin of the Universe. Researchers believe they have found the signal left in the sky by the super-rapid expansion of space that must have occurred just fractions of a second after everything came into being. It takes the form of a distinctive twist in the oldest light detectable with telescopes.

Well, PJ's ready for collection and someone is on the way to give me a ride! How cool! Will I take a pic of my new radiator? Nah. That would be silly. Besides, you can't really see much of it. Since arriving back home, I note that I still have my old cap, old fan, old hoses, etc. What's new is the casing and core. Anyway, it's a good feeling to know I can drive for as long and as far as I want without worrying about overheating.

With a bit of luck, Andrew will turn up later this week or Saturday to do the TV wall bracket, digital antenna and reversing cam. Then I'll fix the rego and insurances, and PJ will be sweet for another 12 months. Oh yeah... the new awning. Not sure when that'll happen but I guess there's no hurry. Sooner rather than later would be good though. :)

And now it's time for me to call it a wrap. Bye for now! Gary

March 17, 2014. St Patrick's Day! I'll wear one of Sean's Ts... it's olive green so that'll do. According to Shane Leslie on today's calendar, "Every St Patrick's Day, every Irishman goes out to find another Irishman to make a speech to."

Back from the dentist and another irrigation - in and out in less than 10 minutes. I'm part of the furniture now so they're taking me for granted. They squeeze me in between regular appointments cos it's a freebie on account of Nancy's mistake to begin with. But now that Nancy is in Darwin, I don't get the royal treatment any more.

New radiator tomorrow which will be nice - one more 'to-do' crossed off the list. A few more to-dos, a bit of fancy fiscal shuffling, and then I can get back to normal - and steer clear of power poles.

Funny how things can change in an instant. Everything's bowling along nicely and then whammo... a sudden and unexpected change of plan. I noted this morning the expression "ill-fated" as it pertained to Scott's expedition to the Antarctic. Does that mean it was doomed to fail? How can anyone know what is doomed or what is not? It's only in retrospect that events are revealed. To my mind, fate and destiny can only exist if the future exists, which it doesn't. Nor does the past exist. A fossil is not a thing of the past, it's a thing of the present. All it does is reveal what happened at a certain point in time, but it belongs to the here and now. And I'm here to tell you that no one has ever found a fossil from the future hehe.

Gorgeous day today, 10 degrees cooler than yesterday but it's still warm cos yesterday was bloody hot! And, yes, I've got the guilts about being here instead of "out there". My Odyssey has to be the longest countdown in history which is just as embarrasing as it is frustrating. And every day like today is another day wasted.

One of the things I'm looking forward to is having the Nikon almost permanently around my neck. Every new place I visit will be a treasure trove of photographic opportunities and the more photos I take, the more I'll learn about techniques. Half an hour ago I was out in the yard experimenting with a few shots, but opportunities are pretty limited around here. I need inspiration! I need stimulation! 

Yep, imagine stepping through the door and into the vastness of the outback, or a lush green valley ringed by mountains, or a beach that stretches for miles... all at your doorstep, accessible 24 hours a day so that photos can be taken when the light is at its optimum. Talk about kids and candy stores. Seventh heaven!

The difficulty with photography, of course, is trying to get images - especially of iconic subjects - that are different. There are thousands of shots of Uluru, for example, that are pretty much the same. It's just a big rock in the desert. But how big? Here's a shot that demonstrates how big by including a chopper in the picture. It's also been taken at either sunrise or sunset to give it extraordinary luminescence.

I probably won't have the opportunity to shoot an aerial of Uluru (or of anything else for that matter) so I'll have to look for other ways to make my shots different. But that's my aim - to end up with a collection of pics of Oz that stand out from the crowd. Otherwise what's the point?

The Sydney Harbor Bridge is another icon that's been photographed countless times. However, here's a good shot. The photographer has omitted the northern pylon but included the Opera House. Looks like the pic was taken from the Luna Park wharf on the western side with a long exposure to smooth the harbor water. Very noice.

From the Beeb: Some 95.5% of voters in Crimea have supported joining Russia, officials say, after half the votes have been counted in a disputed referendum. Crimea's leader says he will apply to join Russia on Monday. Russia's Vladimir Putin has said he will respect the Crimean people's wishes. Many Crimeans loyal to Kiev boycotted the referendum, and the EU and US condemned it as illegal.

Some 25 countries are now involved in a vast search operation for the missing airliner that disappeared over a week ago, Malaysian officials say. The search area - from central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean - takes in large tracts of land and sea. An already complex search operation has become even more difficult, Malaysia's acting transport minister says. Crew, passengers and ground staff are being investigated after it was confirmed the jet was commandeered.

Do you log in or log on? Do you log off or log out? I see all versions so I guess they're all correct.

Time for my Popeye drink. Bleh. Actually, it looks worse than it tastes (if you're not particularly partial to lawn clippings).

And that's it said the button battery in my clock. No warning, no nuttin - just seeya later. But I had a spare didn't I? A couple of spares, in fact. However, it's also time for me to say that's it... for today that is.  Gary

March 16, 2014. Homophobia... one of the great speeches of all time, in my opinion. Not to mention a tribute to the eloquence of the Irish.

Did I say my name is Gary Patrick Thomas Francis O'Dooley Kelly? There ya go.

What a lovely morning, sunny and bright with ne'er a breath of wind. Autumn is wonderful because we get cooler mornings and evenings with summer daytimes. No autumn colors here in the sub tropics though - that's the preserve of cooler climes like Canberra which is famous for its thousands of deciduous trees planted throughout the city.

FL Josh sent a link to a bunch of historic photos that have been colorized, giving them a magical quality that eerily brings them into the present. A most impressive collection. Thanks, Josh.

Just got a call from the owner of the second car damaged by PJ's awning. The cops told him I was just out of hospital so he thought he'd wait a couple of weeks. The cops were right about a second car, dammit. Good thing I had comprehensive insurance on the vehicle - repairs to even minor damage these days is horrendously expensive. The bloke's name is Warren, same as my younger bro, with an uncanny likeness in his voice as if my bro had done a Lazarus. Spooky!

As I suspected, Lindsay did the no, no, no trick when I asked him if he could record a movie or two for me on USB. He automatically sprang to the conclusion that it was all too complicated - until I explained that I plug a USB stick into the TV and he simply presses record at the start and end of the movie. If he's sitting there watching pay TV, it's no big deal to press a button and record direct to USB. So then he relaxed and said there are a couple of good movies coming up soon and he'll happily oblige. I'm not sure pay TV channels encrypt movies during broadcast so that they can't be recorded or won't replay in another device like a TV or computer from a USB stick. Do you know if that's the case or not?

One of the great things about owning a ute, is that there's only half a car to wash... especially on a hot day like today with the sun threatening to turn roads into rivers of lava. For some reason the camper doesn't seem to attract dirt - maybe it's that grooved siding that directs the wind in a particular way so that it blows the dirt off. However, I suspect two hours on a dirt road might put paid to that theory.

NC art wrote to say he's had experience with scammers: Scamnation! Yeh, the scammers will getcha if you don’t watch out … and even when you do. Awhile back while merrily Googling away, a pesky window popped up and while trying to get rid of the thing I clicked a misleading option. A week later I got a cheap watch in the mail and a charge of $95.00. While battling the buzzards about that, a second watch arrived. That was too much. A call to their California office and a promise that they would hear next from the attorney general of North Carolina got their immediate attention. I also advised that the watches were in the dust bin in case they wanted to pick them up.

Next day my account was cleared of all charges. They don’t like the FBI on their tail I suppose. The language of these scammers is hard to decipher and easy to bollix up trying to get them out of one’s hair.

Yep, they place a big X in the corner of the window to make you think that's the way to get rid of it, but clicking it does exactly the opposite. Those crooks are not even subtle!

From the Beeb: Crimea is set to vote on whether to re-join Russia or stay with Ukraine - a referendum condemned as "illegal" by Kiev and the West but backed by Moscow. Russian troops have taken de facto control of the majority ethnic-Russian region, and voters are expected to support leaving Ukraine. Crimean Tatars are boycotting the vote, pledging their allegiance to Kiev.

My guess is that in ten years from now, after Ukraine has enjoyed the benefits of being part of the EU, Ukraine will be prosperous while Crimea languishes economically and regrets its decision to re-join Russia. Something akin to the way it was with Russian occupied East Berlin.

The communications systems of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were deliberately disabled, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak has said. According to satellite and radar evidence, he said, the plane then changed course and could have continued flying for a further seven hours. He said the "movements are consistent with the deliberate action of someone on the plane".

Richard Branson left school at the age of 16 and set up Student Magazine with one of his friends. He went on to start Virgin Records in the 1970s and is the founder of the Virgin Group. In the 1980s he formed Virgin Atlantic airline and the 1990s saw the arrival of Virgin Mobile and Virgin Trains. He is one of the most successful businessmen in the UK and an icon of entrepreneurship. His latest project is Virgin Galactic, which he hopes will one day become a space tourism company. Here are his Top Ten Tips for success:

It was pretty wild and wet in Taree for about 10 or 15 minutes mid afternoon as an electrical storm passed over. Lindsay arrived home with the news that a few large trees had blown over uptown. The power was also down, and closed a lot of businesses. It's only just come back on and it's after 5pm now.

So that means I better skedaddle for another day. Gary

March 15, 2014. The mash spud and tuna didn't work. Well, it did but I don't have the saliva to help it along its merry way. Which brings me to FL Josh: I was talking with a friend yesterday and he told me his father has been diagnosed with cancer, it being located on his chin.  He said another relative of his had cancer of the mouth about five years ago, and after all the radiation and other treatments, lost much of his ability to make saliva but over the years, it returned.  Maybe you will have the same outcome.

It's not as bad as it was last year so it's improving slowly. Peeps with normal saliva don't realize just how important it is to swallowing and digestion.

Lately, I've been pestered by some Chinese bloke who wants my domain name and says he'll get it whether I like it or not. So I forwarded his reply to my response to TX Greg: It's total scam trying to trick you Gary. I Googled the first line part "Our company based in chinese office, our company has submitted the" and got hundreds of results. And be careful as some of these are even including contact info that seems to appear as even more real.

Thanks, Greg. They're out there - criminals and assholes - innocent little babes in their mother's arms at one stage. I guess it's just the way it is, and something up with which the rest of us must put. Makes you wonder about people like Brett Cowan, serial pedophile who's just been convicted of the rape and murder of 13 y/o Daniel Morcombe on the Sunshine Coast in QLD. A TV station found a clip of Cowan being interviewed in the street by a roving reporter some 20 years ago (he was a serial offender even back then) and he came across as a very pleasant young man, a reformed druggie who was now a committed Christian and all-round nice guy. What a monster that charming persona was hiding! He's now 44, father of 3 children and, according to media reports, has shown no remorse.

It's interesting how we study mug shots of criminals in an attempt to find an indication of the evil that lurks within. But it's often not apparent, which makes the rest of us all the more vulnerable.

From the Beeb: Russia and the US have "no common vision" on the crisis in Ukraine, Russia's foreign minister has said, after talks with his US counterpart. However Sergei Lavrov called his London meeting with John Kerry "constructive". Mr Kerry said the US was "deeply concerned" about Russia sending troops to the Ukraine border and in Crimea.

Australia has announced it will buy unmanned surveillance drones from the US to protect its borders and commercial interests. The fleet, to be based in Adelaide, would provide the defence force "with unprecedented maritime surveillance capabilities", PM Tony Abbott said. The drones would also be used to protect energy resources, he added. The drones, which are still being tested by the US navy, can remain airborne for up to 33 hours.

Week in pictures: 8-14 March 2014.

And here I am after a bit of inner shedness drinking a glass of repulsive-looking green stuff. The things a bloke has to do to get healthy! Why didn't god put vitamins and minerals in Coke? Why is all the good stuff bad for you?

A classic period of automotive styling for Britain was during the 1950s, and no British mark exemplifies the art better than Jaguar. Here's a collection of images copied from newsgroups over time. These days, of course, most new cars look like they were spat out of the same wind tunnel.

If you've ever had an accident opening a can, you'll appreciate this.

And there goes another slow day... but after all the drama of the last week or two, I'm not complaining. However, I am looking forward to all the PJ jobs being done soon so that I can plan another mini Odyssey. Summer's gone and winter's only a few months away! Gary

March 14, 2014. TX wrote: Well I'm sorry the cam prezzie took a crap. How odd what you described about revving the engine and it would come on. Perhaps maybe it was bad solder joint inside on the circuit board. Just sad how cheap things are built today.

Yep, a real bummer! That occurred to me too Greg but I reserved comment until I was aware of your feelings. Of all the things that went bung it had to be your prezzie. According to Andrew, it's the monitor as well as something to do with the transmitter. It died slowly, at first responding to revving the engine but then later faded away completely. The new one has a smaller monitor (3.5") which sits on the dash rather than hang from the rear view mirror. I was thinking maybe Andrew can re-use some of the wiring he's already installed.

As I checked prices on eBay, I noticed that very few reversing cams are now available without wireless operation. Hopefully, this new one from SuperCheap is less complicated and more robust, with less to go wrong.

As to the digital antenna, Barnacle Bill's got the same one and he says it works a treat, although it's a little fragile for bush-bashing and being walloped by overhanging branches. Hehe. He tends to venture where no man dares in his quest for good fishing spots.

If I could just bore you with Andrew's assessment of the best place for the TV wall mount. The rear wall near the door doesn't have the strength to carry the load so he's gone for the wardrobe, which was my original choice. But he's figured out a way to brace the interior of the wardrobe with timber to support the weight of the mount as well as the telly. It's the better spot really cos it's on the same side as the inverter and power board. So it's all good.

Stan the Lawn man was mowing when he saw me yesterday carrying the TV to the camper and said, "Are you gonna instal a TV? What do you want a TV for?" I ignored him cos I figured he was gonna say something about watching TV when you're on holiday. So who's going on holiday? Not me. This will be my permanent home. Does he have a TV at home? Of course he does. Stick to the day job, Stan.

Here are a couple of pics I saw on a newsgroup this morning showing "the good old days" before main streets were paved and motorists got bogged. In a second incident, a helping hand from another motorist saved the day by towing a stricken car out of the mud using reverse gear.

Imagine a scene from a Hollywood western with the street swept clean of horse manure, while ladies in long dresses with parasols crossed from one side to the other. Yeah, right. It must never have rained in the old west.

From the Beeb: Russia's ambassador to the United Nations has told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that Moscow "does not want war" with Ukraine. Vitaly Churkin was responding to a direct question from Ukraine's interim PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk. But Mr Churkin gave an impassioned defence of Crimea's right to hold a referendum on whether to join Russia.

Police have arrested a man suspected of driving through a pedestrian area at the South by Southwest festival, killing two and injuring 23. Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, will be charged with two counts of murder and 23 of assault, Austin officials said. Police said the driver fled as they tried to stop him for drink driving and driving through a barricade.

More than 150 people were evacuated from a US Airways flight after a Florida-bound plane's front landing gear collapsed on a runway. Flights were halted at Philadelphia International Airport as those on board exited the plane via inflatable ramps. Hannah Udren was one of the passengers on the plane, she filmed the scene on the runway.

I think it's about time people with smart phones were taught the basics of how to shoot video. Grrrrrr.

Drama-free today. Nice and quiet. Even Lindsay hasn't farted all that much or complained about anything. Did a bit of shopping which was uneventful except for the checkout chick asking how I was. Why can't they just leave it at g'day? It's much less complicated and requires no thought. PJ's radiator needed a top up but not all that much. Can't wait for that to be fixed and out of my hair. I quite like the old bus ya know. Nothing fancy but does the job, and she rolls along pretty well for a 2-tonne rig pushed by a 2.6 liter donk.

I bought a couple of larger spuds to experiment with something. I'll boil and mash one spud with butter and milk, add a small can of tuna with tomato and basil, dried onion flakes and two handfuls of grated cheese and mix it all together. It's kinda like the recipe for a fish cake but not fried. Frying creates a crispy coating which I have a prob with, so I'll try it this way. Yeah? Sounds okay but ya never really know until it's in the gob and destined for the screech. Pity I can't have chips with it. DON'T MENTION CHIPS.

NC Art sent this today. I put it on the GN forum so you can read the comments as well. The Top Ten Country & Western Songs.

And that's it from me until the morrow! Gary

March 13, 2014. The government was nice to me again today and put some more money in my account. Isn't that nice of them? They obviously reailze I have a few bills pending.

Today should be interesting with Andrew coming to fix the rear view camera and install a couple of things. TX Greg wrote: I'm confused by your comment "My insurance covers $2000 worth of claim"  I'm hoping you mean the $2,000 is the policy amount for add-ons like the awnings and NOT the entire camper. PJ should have a total value insured of at least $10,000 if not more. 

Yep, $2000 is for the awning(s). The camper is insured for $3200 cos that's all they reckon it's worth, and the contents for $5000. A total of $10,200. The truck is insured separately but only for $2400. I paid $2500 for the Courier plus extras like helper springs, bull bar and now the radiator. Considering what else is out there, and the kinda money other people pay for their rigs, I think I've done okay. Just gotta keep the thing out of harm's way.

Despite inopportune timing, the new radiator is a blessing. It's something I won't have to worry about "out there" for quite a few years, depending on how long I keep the truck. As far as I can tell, she's in pretty good nick. Those old buses do 3 or 4 hundred thousand clicks no worries if they're serviced regularly, and this one has done about 160K.

Stan the Lawn Man is here so I filled him in on events lately. He's still laughing! Yeah, right... hilarious. One of his customers lives in the street where my awning spilled out and told him all about it. "I heard about it," Stan said to me, "but I didn't know it was you!" Yeah, well, I get around ya know.

Andrew's here trying to figure out what's wrong with the rear view camera. Better you than I, Gunga Din. Things attached to lots of wires ain't my forte.

Well, mid afternoon now and Andrew didn't fix or instal anything. He says the reversing cam monitor is stuffed - all the other bits are fine, and there's nothing wrong with the wiring. While he was here he sorted out the mounting strategy for the telly wall bracket, and also took a look at the digital antenna. That will need to be mounted on a pole so he's gonna sort that out. He left me to shop around for a new reversing cam which I did, and bought locally at SuperCheap Auto for $120. Not all that cheap but they say it's $80 off RRP. It's also not wireless (which Andrew recommended). Reversing cams don't sell like they used to cos in-car GPS devices have them built-in. SuperCheap only had two models in stock, mine and a wireless one.

From the Beeb: Satellite images of possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been released on a Chinese government website. The three images show what appear to be large, floating objects in the South China Sea. Previous sightings of possible debris have proved fruitless. Vietnam and Malaysia have sent planes to the area to investigate.

US President Barack Obama has welcomed Ukraine's interim prime minister to the White House and pledged to "stand with Ukraine" in its dispute with Russia. He warned Russian President Vladimir Putin the international community "will be forced to apply costs" if Russia does not remove its troops from Crimea. Earlier, leaders of the G7 group of nations issued a similar threat.

US police have caught a man in Colorado after a dramatic car chase involving multiple stolen cars. A news helicopter captured footage of the incident as the man, named by police as Ryan Stone, fled from police and carjacked two vehicles.

The northern Australian city of Darwin has been hit by a major power failure, shutting down schools and businesses. The power cut - which was caused by a tripped circuit at a sub-station - affected the entire city, as well as towns up to 300km (185 miles) away.

So there goes a day that promised a lot but delivered very little, on the home front at least. Actually, that's not quite true... Andrew had the opportunity to check a few things out before tackling the new jobs sometime next week, so he's all the wiser for that as well as prepared. So everything's organized... radiator, awning, reversing cam, telly mount and digital antenna, as well as rego and insurance. And the money? I'll manage. Hehe. Only just, but I'll manage. Then, hopefully, the gods will leave me alone for a while so I can build up a buffer between me and poverty. Gary

March 12, 2014. Well, rather than risk a trip to Nabiac with a dud radiator, I sent an email to the caravan repairer with attached photos of the awning damage and asked for a quote. If he doesn't like that idea, there's no time limit on getting an insurance quote according to the NRMA so I can make the trip next week.

The wall bracket for the telly arrived this morning so Andrew can check that out tomorrow when he fiddles with the rear view camera. He thinks the camera's prob is likely to be the wireless transmitter.

Meanwhile, the fitting of the new radiator next week at Ford means I have to cancel the moon shoot the night before, dangit. I was looking forward to that.

NC Art wrote: That telly program about Earth getting where it is didn’t tell much about where all the water came from. Seems that for a long long time there were clouds forming around the ball. A critical mass ensued and triggered electrical activity … lightning … which triggered condensate from the cooling gaseous cloud resulting in rain. Not just afternoon showers but RAIN as in frog stranglers that lasted for a few million years. If that theory doesn’t work it still makes a good story.

Yep, I wanted to keep it simple. But it's interesting to note just how long it took and how co-incidental it all was. Makes me wonder how anyone can believe in creation. The sheer size of space is another thing, with Earth being no more than a microscopic speck.

Sheesh, these insurance repairers are pretty cheeky. Just got the quote for awning. Earlier, I checked an on-line caravan place for the price of a new awning unfitted and it's a tad over $900 but the repair place wants $1360 plus labor, fixings and adhesives which comes to a total of just under $1700. My insurance covers $2000 worth of claim so it doesn't affect me. Even so...

From the Beeb: Russia's leaders are refusing all negotiations with their Ukrainian counterparts, Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has said. Mr Turchynov told the AFP agency that Ukraine would not intervene militarily in Crimea, even though a secession referendum there was a "sham". Meanwhile interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is travelling to the US to meet President Barack Obama. On Thursday he is due to address the UN Security Council in New York.

New Zealand is to hold a referendum on whether to change the national flag, Prime Minister John Key has announced. Mr Key, who on Monday called an election for 20 September, said the vote would be held within three years. The current flag shows the Southern Cross constellation and includes the Union Jack - the UK's national flag - in one corner. Mr Key said the flag represented a period of history from which New Zealand had moved on

The Kiwi flag is very similar to ours, with the Union Jack featuring prominently. There have been rumblings from time to time in Oz about changing the flag, as well as becoming a republic, but so far nothing's happened. The situation is fairly evenly divided.

Twenty-five years ago Sir Tim Berners-Lee was working at a physics laboratory at CERN, in Switzerland, when he came up with a proposal for the World Wide Web. Since then the web has become a system used across the world to allow people to share and access information. (Here is) A selection of people whose lives have been transformed or influenced by the web explain what it has meant to them

Well, I know what the WWW has meant to me... it's given me the opportunity to create a couple of web sites including this one, which gives the dream of travelling Oz so much more emphasis and impact, especially from a sharing perspective. Photography is another of my interests which wouldn't be the same without the internet. Go the web!

Meanwhile, I'm feeling a bit battered and dazed by recent events and suspect it'll take a while to recover. I'm not ill or depressed, just not my usual chirpy self. Gary

March 11, 2014. Off to Ford shortly. Hopefully, PJ will breeze through the rego inspection and service without any nasty surprises. I've had enough of those to last me a while. Bleh.

Back! They're good people out there, friendly and helpful. The girl who drove me home was chatty (when she managed to get a word in edgewise). She's the girl I phoned at Ford the other day to ask if someone could help me with PJ when the awning exploded. Meanwhile, Andrew just phoned - he'll be here around lunch time Thursday to check the rear view camera. He'll also fit the wall bracket for the TV and the digital antenna. So it's all looking good!

From the Beeb: China has urged Malaysia to "step up its efforts" in the search for the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane that disappeared on Saturday. Malaysia said it was widening the hunt, after days of searching found no trace of the plane or the 239 people on board - most of whom were Chinese. Rescue teams from nine countries will now scour areas stretching from the Malacca Strait to the South China Sea.

Nato is to deploy reconnaissance planes in Poland and Romania to monitor the Ukrainian crisis. It gave the go-ahead for the flights on Monday, a Nato spokesman said. "All Awacs [Airborne Warning and Control System] reconnaissance flights will take place solely over alliance territory," the official said. It comes as Russia cements its control of Ukraine's Crimea ahead of Sunday's referendum to join Russia. Ukraine and the West say this is illegal.

I happened to watch a quiz show on telly last night and one of the constestants, who had trouble with some of the answers, kept saying "nothing is coming to me". Oh? Where is it supposed to come from? Maybe answers, like space debris, are floating around in space somewhere. That's how I feel at the mo, waiting for Ford to phone. My brain's gone nigh-nighs.

Speaking of space debris, there's an organization in Oz that believes we should be doing something serious - and soon - about cleaning up the mess before the entire satellite communications network is destroyed by a series of collisions. They say if the situation remains unchecked, outer space will become impenetrable due to a barrier of debris surrounding the earth. They're in the process of motivating authorities in other countries to mobilize an international clean-up effort. How sensible. Satellites aren't just toys anymore... they're vital for modern civilization and communications.

I also watched a program about how the planets formed. After the Big Bang, space was full of debris flying around all over the place. Chunks of debris collided, fused, and became larger as more rocks impacted. As the size of larger chunks increased, gravity came into play - the bigger the planet, the stronger the gravitational pull. Eventually, planets became what they are today. Earth took 4.5 billion years to grow to its current size. It's still being bombarded by space debris, but it's mostly dust, with an occasional meteorite. Along with the rocks came the four basic elements needed for life. At roughly the same time, the moon impacted the Earth, bounced off and became a satellite planet. The moon's gravitational pull gives the Earth balance and prevents it wobbling. It also creates tides, without which early sea creatures would probably never have ventured onto dry land.

Once the earth settled down and stopped being bombarded, it began to cool and form a crust. And you know the story from there. Anyway, that's it in a nutshell, which is all very interesting. Earth didn't just appear. It grew into a giant pile of rock from flying debris.

More importantly - and relevant from my personal perspective - is a call from Ford just now to say that PJ's ready, and that they'll be here in 10 to collect me.

Serviced, ready for registration and.... needs a new radiator. I knew there was a leak in the cooling system but I was hoping for something less expensive than $500. Oh well... that will be done next Tuesday. I'll have to can the awning quote tomorrow - Nabiac is a bit too far to chance the radiator failing so it can wait a week. Gary

March 10, 2014. TX Greg sent a link to pics of a huge storm that rolled into Sydney last week when I was there - but I was on a train back to Taree and missed it. However, one of the photographers from Red Bubble was there with his camera (of course) to capture the event for posterity in pano.

Back from the denteest and all is well. I told them about all the drama that occurred last week and added, "So much happened, it all seems like ages ago!" So I'm wondering if that will also apply to the Odyssey. Here in Taree, where I'm stuck in a regular routine, time seems to vanish without a trace. But "out there" with lots of faces and places and assorted adventures, it may seem like a long stretch between events. I hope so. Hehe. When you're getting on a bit, and you're acutely aware of the limited time remaining, it would be nice to have Father Time slow down a bit.

I researched moon photography last night on the web and discovered a few good tips. There I was thinking I have a responsibility to make my moon shoot next week something super special as if it were gonna be my final opportunity. I'm silly that way, always expecting too much of myself instead of being willing to practice and learn from experience. Anyway, I'm armed with a bit more knowledge now and feel more confident about it. The full moon rises Monday March 17 at 20.29. Forecast is for hot with possible shower. I'll stay overnight and get the sun rise next morning at about 6.

There's a million images of moon rises on the web, including this one over water, but at Wingham Brush I'll have the Manning River, trees, mountains in the background and maybe a pier or something in the foreground to make it more interesting. Hopefully, there won't be too much cloud cover, although a few whispy clouds would be nice. Fingers crossed.

Lindsay wants his undies. He apparently caught some sort of infection in England because of the bad weather there (and being accustomed to more moderate weather here) so will be in hospital for another few days on a diet of mush. Neh, neh, neh, neh, neeeh, neh. Serves him right... I've been putting up with mush for over a year.

Roite, well that's today's chores done and I can relax a bit. I spotted a pic of 77 y/o Pearl on the GN forum this morning. She solo travels in her Mercedes motorhome, sets up camp with two awnings and a shower tent, walks the camp with her two dogs to check out the scene, swims in the lake, throws her own nets to catch red-claw yabbies for dinner, and has a fine old time touring Oz. How's that for spirit?

From the Beeb: A multinational team searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines jet are investigating possible debris spotted in the sea south of Vietnam. Vietnamese navy planes have reported seeing what could be fragments from Flight MH370, which vanished almost two days ago with 239 people on board. Relatives of the missing passengers have been told by the authorities to prepare for the worst.

Tens of thousands of people in Ukraine have held rival pro-unity and pro-Russian rallies, as Moscow continues to strengthen its grip on Crimea. Pro-Russia supporters beat up their opponents in Sevastopol, Crimea. In the eastern city of Luhansk, pro-Russian activists seized regional offices forcing the governor to resign. UK and German leaders telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to urge him to pull back from Crimea. The region is to vote to secede next week.

To a chemist, it is a three-dimensional cubic lattice of carbon atoms. To most of us, it is the ultimate status symbol. But everyone needs to realise that perfect diamonds can now be mass-produced in the lab. It was the US giant General Electric that first figured out how to bake a diamond back in the 1950s. A most fascinating article.

I meant to comment on the condition of PJ's now-demolished awning's plastic casing. It was pretty old and obviously not UV treated, so the plastic was brittle and faded. It still worked okay but it would have needed replacing sooner rather than later. I was also lucky that the impact affected only the awning, and not the camper itself. Small blessings, I guess.

A new 3-meter Fiamma wind-out similar to the old one is about $900 unfitted. Another brand, with an electric 12V motor drive, is about $100 dearer unfitted, but I dunno if I like electric motors. I'll know more on Wednesday when the repairer does the insurance quote.

Oh well, knock 'em down one by one and see what happens. Seeya tomorrow. Gary

March 9, 2014. Well.... I haven't felt this fit in ages! The hospital treatment for the chest infection has had almost miraculous results. For months, I've been dragging myself to the loo of a night, having to sit for a pee. During the day I couldn't stand for long periods. If I did a few tasks around the house or in PJ, I'd have to stop and sit for a while between jobs. When I walked to and from the car to the supermarket, I'd have to pace myself, and take advantage of any seating available to rest. And on top of all that was the shallow breathing, tight chest and coughing. Eeeek!

And now? It's a total transformation. I was up bright and breezy at 6am with no dizzyness. I attended to the usual morning routine without any sign of fatigue. And I feel fine! Last night, I ditched the noodles in favor of steamed fish with lemon and parsley sauce (which has been sitting in the freezer since all my teeth were removed over a year ago). Mashed it with a fork and down the hatch. There's a bit left over which I'll have with a vegetable patty and cheese sauce tonight. Bubble and Squeak - is that what you call vege patties over there? My mouth feels a lot better - almost no soreness - so eating is easier. I think it's due to the vegetable juice I've been having these past few weeks - lots of nutrition being absorbed into the gums to improve healing.

The medicos have been telling me to eat more and I'll feel better. But I figured it was the other way around - feel better and eat more. Hehe. And it's worked! It's the breathing that's done the trick. Lots of oxygen into the blood stream. My condition over the past several months has really had me worried about my ability to do the Odyssey properly - going for walks, long photo shoots, riding the bike, doing chores around the camp, etc. But now those fears are gone. What a relief!

Jeremy, my ex-neighbor in Glebe, sent a link to this site which is a Flight Tracker. Click on any plane anywhere in the world and get details of the airline, aircraft type, country of origin, destination, height, speed, etc. Nothing about the in-flight menu though.

Jeremy also sent these pics of his son, Declan, who's one of the two Alka Seltzers in the large glass of water (dark shorts) viewing a giant croc in Darwin, Oz.

The things people do for a thrill.

From the Beeb: The search is continuing for a Malaysia Airlines plane that has been missing for more than 24 hours. Marine rescue teams worked through the night to search the sea south of Vietnam, while the aerial mission resumed on Sunday morning. Flight MH370 disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, with 239 people on board. At a news briefing in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday morning, officials said there had been no sign of any wreckage. I feel for those poor relatives and friends waiting for news.

The US has warned Russia that any moves to annex Crimea would close the door to diplomacy. US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that Crimea is part of Ukraine and Moscow should avoid military escalation. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has been discussing the deepening crisis with world leaders.

Italy's culture minister has expressed outrage over an advertisement by a US weapons firm showing Michelangelo's David holding a rifle. Dario Franceschini said the image was offensive and violated the law. A number of Italian media web sites carried the image of the advertisement showing David holding a bolt-action rifle. The advertisement, from Illinois-based ArmaLite, carries the line "a work of art" in promoting the $3,000 rifle. The advertising industry attracts some pretty weird people.

So what did I do today? Despite the shortage of funds, and all the large bills coming, I bought a wall bracket for the 18" telly and a digital TV antenna. If Andrew is gonna turn up to check the reversing camera wiring, I might as well take advantage of his being here with all his tools. I also inflated PJ's tires for the trip to Nabiac on Wednesday for the awning insurance quote, and did a little shopping. Ford service is on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, NC Art sent this little story:

Amish elevator...

A fifteen year old Amish boy and his father were in a mall. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny silver walls that could move apart and then slide back together again.

The boy asked, 'What is this Father?'

The father (never having seen an elevator) responded, 'Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don't know what it is.'

While the boy and his father were watching with amazement, a fat old lady in a wheelchair moved up to the moving walls and pressed a button.

The walls opened, and the lady rolled between them into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his father watched the small numbers above the walls light up sequentially.

They continued to watch until it reached the last number. and then the numbers began to light in the reverse order. Finally the walls opened up again and a gorgeous 24-year-old blond stepped out. 

The father, not taking his eyes off the young woman, said quietly to his son..... 'Go get your Mother'

Well, that weekend disappeared pretty quickly. The awning drama seems like only a minute ago. By the way, the power pole that I brushed - that damaged the awning casing - is the same pole (well, the previous pole's replacement) that was hit and toppled by a runaway gas tanker in 2011 just outside this house. Remember that? I was woken at 6.30am by the sound of an almighty bang, then a crack, then the sound of electicity sparks.

So now it's telly time and a bit of relax to wind up the day. Catch you again tomorrow. Gary

March 8, 2014. Another weekend! Jeez, they come around quickly. Well... did yesterday really happen or was it a bad dream? Hehe. I guess life can be like a hospital emergency department at times. Fix one patient and before you know it, another is wheeled in for urgent attention. No time to think about it, just accept it and get on with it.

My new purple puffer works well. Slept like a baby last night and when I did have reason to expectorate it was easy. Not long ago I would have spent hours trying to clear my lungs and/or throat. I also noticed late yesterday, when I did the shopping, the walk from the car to the mall and back was no effort at all. Piece of cake.

FL Josh wrote: I am so sorry to hear you have been diagnosed with emphysema.  I would have much preferred you to have been diagnosed with pneumonia since it can be cured. They should schedule for tests to see which of the four stages you are in, and they can then work with you to develop a plan to maximize your life span. No worries, Josh. I'm not sure which stage it is but the doc at the hospital said I'd be able to do everything a bloke my age is normally capable of - walking, cycling, etc. She was aware of my travel plans. I also mentioned it to my GP yesterday, saying that I used to think emphysema was a death sentence. He shook his head to mean no. So it's a matter of taking the right meds and avoiding anything that might exacerbate the condition.

And thanks a bunch for the hugs and kisses, Josh hehe. That was very generous and I appreciate that very much. You're right about it pouring when it rains. By the same token, there's no value in bitching about it.

TX Greg wrote and suggested I might get Ford to check the alternator during the service next Tuesday. He reckons if the battery has enough oomph to crank the engine, it should have enough to power the rear view camera even on idle. I'll charge the battery anyway. In fact, I'll attend to that now.

No I won't. Can't disconnect the battery cos the connections to the poles (or whatever they're called - oh yeah, terminals) are too tight! So I called NRMA roadside service AND THIS TIME IT'S A BREAKDOWN. Kinda. Ish. I'll ask the bloke to check the alternator while he's here. Meanwhile, I'll have a cuppa while I'm waiting.

It's amazing what's stored in PJ's bins. Yesterday, Graham wanted a hammer. So I gave him a hammer. Then I said, "If you need a porta potti I got one of those too. Or a 12V shower hose? Anything you need, just ask. We Gray Nomads carry everything." This morning, when I tried to open the bin, one of the padlocks was sticky so I gave it a squirt of WD40. Fixed. Then I got the right spanner for the battery terminals. See what I mean? Those bins are a veritable treasure trove of goodies - something for every occasion.

NC Art just wrote: OK Mr. Kelly, You’ve had your allotment of tribulation for awhile. The hell of it is, awhile ain’t forever, so keep your shorts clean lest some bloke steals your pants while you’re strolling thru the neighborhood. Hehe.

Well, the NRMA bloke was helpful. Battery is fine, alternator is fine, and it seems the fault with the camera is in the wiring or perhaps the camera itself. I'll get Andrew to check it out (Sorry, mobile service is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later). Meanwhile, the NRMA bloke checked the radiator and topped it up with water. I told him I was having it serviced by Ford on Tuesday, and that I often have to top it up with coolant. Then I learned some valuable lessons - NEVER mix brands of coolants because they can interact and become like an acid, causing all kinds of damage to the cooling system. Good thing he warned me about that because I was about to run out of the old brand and start using the new one. However, I have already been using a coolant which is probably different to the one Ford used last time the car was serviced. Too late! The NRMA bloke told me to toss the coolant and use water if need be. Moreover, if the system was okay, it shouldn't need top ups between servicing. So there's another Pandora's box waiting to happen, it seems. Oh, and I don't need to charge the battery. He also said the terminal connections don't need to be removed before charging either. So that's something else I've learned. (I'm sure it was different with TT). 

And in the middle of all that, Lindsay phoned. I heard him leave the house at some ungodly hour during the night, and it turns out he phoned an ambulance to take him to hospital (copycat) where he's on level 5 in some sort of trouble with blood sugar levels or something. As he puts it, "there's a few things wrong". He wanted me to bring some of his stuff up there - just as the NRMA bloke was pounding on the front door. Aaaaggggghhhhhh!

Back from delivering Lindsay's things, and filling PJ's tank. The rear view camera won't work at all now... just keeps bleeping. There's a lot of nose-to-kerb angle parking here in Taree, including where I parked at the hospital, so it ain't easy to reverse out into the street without being able to see a damn thing! No screech of brakes? No horn blaring? Keep reversing. She'll be right mate, no worries.

Andrew called. He's at a country show up the highway with the kids (being Saturday) so he'll give me a call when he's in Taree and check the camera wiring, etc. There's only a 30-day warranty on the item (Australian retailer, eBay) so if it's a dud, it'll be back to square one. We'll see.

From the Beeb: Malaysia Airlines says it has lost contact with a plane travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people on board. The airline said in a statement that flight MH370 disappeared at 02:40 local time on Saturday (18:40 GMT on Friday). It had been expected to land in Beijing at 06:30 (22:30 GMT). The Boeing B777-200 aircraft was carrying 227 passengers, including two children, and 12 crew members. Oh dear, just when you think it's you who's having a bad day.

A stand-off involving pro-Russian soldiers at a Ukrainian military base outside the Crimean city of Sevastopol has reportedly ended without incident. A BBC correspondent saw two lorries from Russia's Black Sea Fleet outside the gates, surrounded by armed men. But no shots are believed to have been fired, and the men and lorries reportedly left after "negotiations". Troops wearing Russian uniform without insignia have blockaded bases since taking control of Crimea last week.

The 2014 Winter Paralympics have been opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a spectacular ceremony. The ceremony at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi was themed Breaking the Ice and featured music, dance, special effects and fireworks. Shame the event has been upstaged by the current political crisis.

Building three "Great Walls" across Tornado Alley in the US could eliminate the disasters, a physicist says. The barriers - 300m (980ft) high and up to 100 miles long - would act like hill ranges, softening winds before twisters can form. They would cost $16bn (£9.6bn) to build but save billions of dollars of damage each year, said Prof Rongjia Tao, of Temple University, Philadelphia. And real estate values would rise.

Visitors at the Geneva motor show expecting to see the latest Ford Focus or Subaru Forester would have been surprised to find an apparent Bugatti Royale standing head height in their way. History buffs would be momentarily at a loss for words when their friends asked, “What’s that?” And those who have ever described anything as merely an engine on wheels would be washing their mouth out after visiting the Palexpo centre. All were made manifest at the 2014 Geneva motor show.

It's late afternoon now, peaceful and calm, as though all the recent dramas were a figment of my imagination. I wish! Also, now that I'm feeling much better, my appetite is improving - really looking forward to dinner (despite being the regular mediocre noodles and cheese). Polished off the last of the trifle earlier so I'll have to make some more. Yum! Gary

March 7, 2014. Did I say Albert? I meant Alfred. Albert is my friend from Denmark and also the name of one of the cross streets at this intersection. Royal Prince Alfred hospital is the one I was at in Sydney. RPA for Alfred. I'm getting old and forgetful ya know.

Speaking of forgetful, the X-ray taken a couple of weeks ago showed no sign of infection, which is why my local GP didn't bother to alert me. Things can change pretty quickly, though, as the later X-ray demonstrated. Fortunately, the prof mentioned the word 'infection' during my Sydney visit which  alerted me to the possibility and caused me to take action.

I still have the lung infection of course, but getting rid of phlegm is much easier now that I can draw air into my lungs. Before, I didn't even have sufficient air to blow my nose! Shortness of breath has been a recurring problem for many years, come to think of it, so I've probably been suffering infections for ages without realizing what was going on. Thankfully, that's no longer the case and won't be again.

Off to see the local GP shortly to discuss the latest events including Ventolin.

Back. The GP checked out the new X-ray, read the report, and gave me a prescription for a "purple puffer" which I'll use morning and night to prevent a recurrence of breathing probs in the future. So he says.

BUT, I had other chores to do - shopping, laundry, etc, so the intention was to park in the street in front of this house, come inside, get organized, and resume the chores. However, another parked car put paid to that idea. It took up the whole damn double space, so I had to make a quick decision to park on the downhill side of my drive. Just when I thought I might be a little too close to a power pole, *crunch!* I sideswiped the pole, knocked the crap out of the fiamma awning casing and used several expletives to express my displeasure. A few minutes later, I drove to a canvas repair place two blocks up the road but didn't make it before the whole awning unraveled and spilled onto the road. PJ is now parked outside a house with the fiamma sprawled everywhere. Walked home to phone help. NRMA roadside assistance didn't wanna know cos it's not a breakdown. NRMA insurance didn't wanna know cos they don't have a spare person available to assist in unbolting the awning so I can roll it up and stow it in the camper. I can't unbolt it cos I still have shortness of breath. So I phoned the Ford dealer and pleaded with them to send someone out - and I'll provide the spanners. They're busy but they said yes... as soon as someone is available which shouldn't be too long. They're gonna give me a ride up the hill as well, to where PJ is. So there ya go.... MORE DRAMAS.

Once that prob is sorted, I can phone NRMA insurance again and get the claim organized. They'll either fix the current one or pay for a new one, and charge me $200 excess. Oh, and did I mention a loose connection in the rear view camera? Yeah.

Not over yet! Two cops just arrived at my door to inform me that the awning damaged two other vehicles as it fell off. I was unaware of that so I "left the scene of an accident", which is an offence. Oops! But the cops understood that I had no idea of damage to the another vehicle. In fact, one of the owners came out of his house, checked his car and didn't say anything so I assumed his car was okay. He must have checked again after I left, and phoned the police. Anyway, the cops have my name, address, license and insurance details and are happy for me to stay here and wait for Ford. Sheesh. What a day! So it appears NRMA insurance will have a little more than just an awning to be concerned about, even if damage to the other vehicle(s) is superficial. These days, if a pigeon so much as craps on a fender, you get a whole new fender.

Incidentally, the cops version of "two other vehicles" must have been a trick question. There was only one car parked in the street.

Just called Ford again to make sure they haven't forgotten me. "Graham's gone to lunch." Do people still do that... take time off for lunch? I'm having all kinds of dramas here and Graham's gone to lunch? That's not what I said to the receptionist though. Anyway, when he comes back she's going to get him to phone me. Meanwhile, I'm worried about this being Friday and having PJ stranded in a strange street with a buggered fiamma scattered over the footpath all weekend!

And this is where the lack of teeth comes into play. It's difficult enough to explain things to a whole bunch of people on the phone in the first place without the pronunciation issues associated with being toothless. "Gary Who?" I have a prob with 'L'. When the cops arrived, I could tell they were thinking I was some kind of mental deficient. But they eventually warmed to me.

And the good news? Well, NC Art wrote, which is always a plus: I think the barefoot female (at Central Station) was taking pictures of her pedal digits. When it comes to selfies there’s no accounting for taste. And, I thought the fotos from your trip to Sidney and Glebe were good. The lowering sky seemed to soften sharp edges but without losing detail. Keep up the hacking, hawking, coughing, wheezing and whatever ‘til the old lungs get clear and robust. You need lots of wind to argue with the Odyssey trekkers you’ll meet.

Art also sent this link to spectacular new pics of Niagra Falls frozen over.

Any war plane tragics out there? A GN posted a link to a whole bunch of pics of WWII planes from various countries at an air show in China.

Graham from Ford turned out to be a treasure. He studied the thing for a while, figured out how to detach it, asked if I had a hammer (which I did) and within 10 minutes he had it rolled up and inside the camper. I asked him to add the bill to my service bill next Tuesday and he said, "No worries, mate. This is a freebie." What a wonderful gesture, and one I desperately needed after all the crap I've been through. Those bits of plastic on the fence, by the way, are from the damaged car. I thought they were off mine. I dunno what part of the car they're from. The damage was obviously caused by the awning's arms flailing around in the breeze.

So I arrived home, did the insurance thing and now have to get a quote from a repairer. Great Lakes Caravans is at Nabiac, about a half hour down the highway. He suggests the old awning is ratshit and I'll need a newie... maybe a press-button powered one. Oh yeah, speaking of power, I noticed the rear view camera beeps a lot. It's on when the engine is revving, but shuts down on idle. Almost flat battery methinks (from too many short trips around town) so I'll put it on an overnight charge on the weekend.

Then I did the shopping, spent a fortune on meds, and here I am at 5.30pm. Seems like it's been an expensive day... with the two insurance claims, mine for the awning, and the other from the owner of the damaged car, I'll be up for my insurance excess of $650. Excess is only $200 for the camper but the NRMA reckons it's the truck's fault, which has the higher excess payment, and which is the one I'll have to pay (but not both, thank god). And that's on top of about a grand's worth of rego and insurance bills due by the end of the month. Hehe. I dunno who it is up there in the clouds who's testing me but he's sure as hell doing a bloody good job. Sheesh. It's enough to drive a bloke to drink.

So I guess I better stay home in case anything else happens. Got my leafy greens, a couple of pears and nectarines, eggs, cream, meds and I'm set for a bit of telly to see if anyone else out there has had a worse day than mine. Gary

March 6, 2014. Breathing is pretty good ya know. Matter of fact, I could get used to this. Slept peacefully all last night with no breathing or coughing probs after I called emergency late yesterday and was admitted for treatment of chronic chest infection and difficulty breathing. Pretty scary, actually. But the Taree hospital staff were fabulous and had me ship-shape (ish) after a few hours. The doc, Alyson, said "You don't leave here empty handed - you've won prizes of steriods, antibiotics and a ventolin puffer." There's enough medication for a week's treatment, and I get to keep the puffer in case I experience breathing difficulty again.

FL Josh wrote to ask why the doc in Sydney (a medical specialist - head and neck - as well as a professor) didn't organize a chest X-ray at the hospital there. The X-ray had already been done here in Taree at the base hospital two weeks earlier but my GP hadn't informed me or the Sydney doc of the results, so the Prof organized my GP to fax them. Meantime, I had a train to catch and didn't hang around. While I was in hospital last night, they took another X-ray and discovered a degree of emphysema (the cumulative result of 50+ years of smoking), an infection causing my shallow breathing, but no pneumonia or anything major. The degree of emphysema is such that it won't affect my normal activities but it does make me more susceptible to lung infection.

When I first arrived at the hospital I was speaking in single words, taking breaths in between, but after treatment I was back to normal sentences. So there ya go, there's life in the old dog yet. I was worried for a while that it would seriously affect my AO plans. Or worse. Eeeek!

Josh added: I liked your picture of the old winch.  I know it was tough for you to do your photos not feeling well, but you were a real trooper.

That's me, folks! Troop, troop, troop. With a dash of troppo for amusement purposes.

The first email I read after arriving home from hospital last night was from OR Richie. The respiratory problem came back big-time and put me in a state which was about one day short of hospitalization.  I was exhausted constantly but staggered back to my doc a little over a week ago, in great pain, literally drowning in my own lungs with no energy and everything else that goes along with.... well, it's called Pneumonia.  Let's just say it's been bad and only the last few days have I felt better, back on getting back on with everything, and somehow managed to avoid missing much work.

Some super high powered antibiotics and corticoid-steroids did a good trick and after another two hour session at the clinic this morning, I'm told I am a "million times better" but have to watch it a bit, so now it's like coming back to life.

The bugger is trying to steal my thunder! Can you believe that? Yeah, what a coincidence!

Now the thing that strikes me about this whole episode is that two people can read the same report on Waffle but get a different message. FL Josh reckons the sky is falling in and I'm about to cark it, but TX Greg doesn't see it that way: Glad to hear the Sydney trip went well and the doc gave a good report. Now just get the local doc to recheck that possible lung infection!

See? No panic. Texans are like that... which explains why they talk funny.

Greg also writes: The pics turned out great. I was surprised at the inside of the Royal Prince Alfred hospital. It kind of reminds me of what you might see here in a old court house. We tend to preserve things like old court houses, yet seems like everything else gets torn down and rebuilt all the time.

Oz had that problem during the mid 20th until the greenies and building unions started kicking up a stink, demanding the preservation of historically significant buildings. Good thing they did or a lot of what was worth preserving would have been demolished (like the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney which has been restored to its former glory - and what a stunning building it is). Since then, it's been amply demonstrated that new and old can co-exist quite happily. I thought my streetscape view of Hegarty St (opposite my old house) looked pretty spiffy. In my day those houses were in varying states of repair but now they're all well cared for and looking good.

Speaking of photos, while I was at Central station getting ready for the trip back to Taree, I spotted a couple of backpackers and used the little Fuji compact (far less obvious and intimidating than the Nikon) to capture the scene.

The bare foot caught my attention in the first shot. Somehow it seemed at odds with the smart phone. In the second shot you can just see the top of the backpacker's head on the right. All that hording around the walls means that Central Station is getting a makeover. BTW, those interior pics of the RPA were taken using supressed flash and just the natural light to capture the stained glass windows. Worked pretty well.

In the morning, before cabbing it to Glebe Point, I had coffee at the station, and as I sat there I was trying spot the Aussie. Soooo many Asians, Middle Easterners and people from the sub continent! Even the coffee shop was staffed by foreigners. After leaving Hegarty St and hailing a cab, my driver - a turban-clad Indian with beard - pulled up outside the main entrance to the RPA and refused payment. "You're free to go," he said, "have a nice day." What a nice man and such an unexpected gesture!

My train left Sydney at 2.40pm which explains why I missed something TX Greg wrote about: You didn't mention seeing or getting caught up in this storm... Some wicked pics there.

NC Art sent this link to a vid explaining the differences between a man's and a woman's brain - as told by a comedian. Funny stuff.

From the Beeb: US Secretary of State John Kerry has described a meeting with his Russian counterpart over Ukraine as "tough", but promised to continue talking. Mr Kerry said he was committed to working with Moscow to ease the crisis. Russia's Sergei Lavrov refused to meet his Ukrainian counterpart, whose government Moscow does not recognise.

People will be advised to halve the amount of sugar in their diet, under new World Health Organization guidance. The recommended sugar intake will stay at below 10% of total calorie intake a day, with 5% the target, says the WHO. The suggested limits apply to all sugars added to food, as well as sugar naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. UK campaigners say it is a "tragedy" that the WHO has taken 10 years to think about changing its advice

Jeremy, my ex-neighbor in Glebe, offered a choice of coffee or tea and I chose tea - black with a half teaspoon of sugar. Sugar? Wot dat? He searched high and low in the kitchen and couldn't find any, so he borrowed a little (and I mean a little) from a neighbor. I thought everyone kept sugar in the pantry.

FL Josh sent another link to a vid: Here is a video guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye. Very touching, but also not without its dangers. Kids are headed for teenhood with all its volatility and pitfalls so I sincerely hope everything works out well for those two. I loved the kid's response - so endearingly forthright and unexpected.

And that's it from me for today. Been a bit of wild ride these past few days hehe, but I'm still here pumping and grinding. Got me a moon rise followed by a sun rise to shoot week after next, and I'm looking forward to that. I wanna be a whizz bang photographer before I hit the road so I can take full advantage of a wonderful opportunity and an endless supply of subject material. Sounds like fun, yeah? Gary

March 5, 2014. It was quite a day in Sydney yesterday. No point in telling the story twice though, so you'll find it in the AO journal along with the link to the photo album. Back to Waffle tomorrow. Gary

March 3, 2014. Roite, that time of year again. PJ's booked in for a full service and rego check Tuesday next week at Ford. Once that's done, I can re-register and insure the rig. There goes another truckload of dollars! This is year I'm supposed to pay off all my credit but it's the third month already and I haven't even started yet! No wonder they call it the 'never never'.

Interesting comments from GNs about cheapie antennas, yes? Ask what people recommend and they talk about the expensive gear or going satellite or whatever. But ask who's got a cheapie and whether or not it's working okay and you get an entirely different response. Anyway, all that antenna, wall bracket stuff will have to wait until next month when I can afford it.

Well, that was lovely. Just had a major phlegm attack less than 12 hours before my trip to Sydney. I took medication with a smoothie and the medication decided to tickle the throat. Buckets of phlegm followed and it was high drama there for a while, with difficulty breathing, etc. Aspirin is the worst offender if it doesn't disappear down the screech before it gets a chance to irritate. Anyway, it's settling down now after about 90 minutes of mayhem. I think I'll stick to water when I take aspirin in future.

This phlegm business is recent. Not long ago I could sleep 10 hours without a problem. If I'm not wrong, it coincided with substituting coconut milk for dairy milk in smoothies. The other change is taking meds with a nightcap of V8 juice instead of water. I make my own veg juice during the day but I don't see that as an issue.

It's late afternoon now and I've had a snooze which improved things. But I'm still not hundreds - my chest feels tight and I can only shallow breathe. That phlegm attack knocked me about a bit. I'm loathe to do anything that might cause another upset, especially after cancelling last month's appointment with the doc in Sydney. So I'm gonna take it easy and relax before it's time to leave for the railway station. Gary

March 2, 2014. Well, the local farmers can't complain about the rain we've had lately. Time for a bit of sunshine, though. The kiddies wanna go out and play! With the Nikon, that is.

Had another look inside PJ and there is a second spot for the 18" telly. Perfect fit too with the CD changer gone, and without having to relocate the drop-down bench. There are also studs behind the wall lining for strength. Hmmm.

As to cheapie TV antennas, I started a thread on the GN forum with some interesting responses.

From the Beeb: Ukraine says it has put its army on full combat alert after Russia's parliament approved the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine. Acting President Olexander Turchynov said he had also stepped up security at key sites, including nuclear plants. Russia's Vladimir Putin requested extra troops to protect Russian interests in Ukraine. It came on a day of pro-Russia rallies in the country. The move has been met with alarm from Western leaders. And not just the leaders.

Last night Sydney staged its Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for 2014. Check out the pics.

Found a way to simplify the 'leafy greens' part of juicing. Instead of buying different vegies every other day, I get a bag of washed and prepared salad which has a variety of leaves and other things. A $6 bag lasts a week in the crisper even though the leaves wilt a little after 3 days or so. Dozen madder for juicing purposes. And it's easy. Just a good handful of leafy greens together with a carrot, slice of lemon, and an apple and Bob's yer uncle. Carrots were on spesh at $1.30 a kilo but they keep well wrapped in foil in the crisper. So does celery. So there ya go... all sorted.

I'm having a juice now. Not what I'd call yummy hehe, but reasonably palatable - not to mention healthy. Gooooo gums!

I'm not looking forward to the train trip to Sydney and back on Tuesday - such a bore - but I will be compensated by the Glebe shoot. No doubt my visit to Hegarty St will arouse a whole bunch of memories - good and bad. But that was then and this is now. 'What ifs' don't apply in real life. What does apply is making the most of whatever circumstances one finds oneself in. And on the Odyssey I'll have more bloody circumstances than you can poke a stick at. Hehe.

It's pretty hard to be stimulated on a wet day in Taree with nothing much going on. That'll change once I hit the road. The newness alone of each place I visit will be sufficient to keep me mentally charged for a day or two. And once the charge begins to fade, I'll be off to the next adventure. No time to be bored. No time to be twiddling thumbs. No time to be reminiscing. That's what this kid needs. Constant stimulus to keep the keyboard and shutter-button fingers busy.

Yep, today has been so dreary it shoulda been cancelled. When I had teeth I could whip up a batch of scones or a pecan pie (jeez, it's been ages since I made one of those!) or something else interesting on a wet day. But not now. It's amazing just how far-reaching the effects of being toothless are. Everything from health and diet to socializing and communication. Not to mention being creative in the kitchen. It's enough to seriously depress a bloke.

Nancy is due back from Darwin some time this month for a visit, so it'll be interesting to see if she notices any positive changes in my oral condition after introducing the juice experiment to the equation. Ditto the doc in Sydney. I need some good news! I'm a patient man but this is ridiculous! Actually, I'm not a patient man but I can be if I need be.

One GN reckons this sign is from a golf course in Scotland.

And now, folks, a new deodorant for seniors.

I was just about to remark about Lindsay not being home yet when lo and behold, who should drag a suitcase up the ramp? This time, Sue stayed behind in England and is sitting on her sister's mantle shelf. Anyway, L is glad to be home after that long flight followed by 5 1/2 hours in the train to Taree. He said he can't wait to use our loo. He reckons there were huge queues waiting to use the Airbus loos in economy so he gave up. He also had no luck on the train hehe. Charming. Just what I needed to know.

And now it's time for a bit of telly and a chair better suited to my bony butt. Gary

March 1, 2014. The TV saga continues. TX Greg wrote to say: "Winguard" Did you mean Winegard??? Been using their products for many years. Have one on my Winnie and even use their model RS-2000 here at the house... The RS-2000 is what I would recommend. Easy to install and no cranking and adjusting for signal.

But I found this new Wineguard on eBay which is made in the US but suited to Oz conditions. On the other hand, according to Greg: Their Sensar IV crank up model is the best one, but would be a MAJOR pain to install, as would require a solid base plate to attach. This one also use the same base as the Sensar IV model. To install this on PJ's roof, because there is NOTHING in the roof to support that base, someone would have to fab up a solid flat plate, say 1/4 inch aluminum, that would span the distance between the roof studs. The metal plate would screw into the metal roof and screw direct to the studs. The antenna base then would be mounted on top of the secured plate. BTW> Don't laugh at my drawings, it's late here and I'm sleepy, hehe :)

Thanks, Greg. I knew you'd suggest something. :)

Greg also points out that the model he recommends is easier and simpler to fit, but if reception is poorer, particularly in regional areas, then I reckon it's worth the trouble of getting the Sensar. Some GNs are so addicted to their daily dose of telly they spend thousands on satellite dishes and other sophisticated equipment. No thanks. I ain't that desperate.

Wineguards aside for the moment, as I mentioned yesterday, my amplified indoor antenna works fine with my 18" TV but not the 7". The prob with the 18" is there's nowhere to store it in PJ during transit without risking damage... UNLESS I create a permanent spot with a wall mount. There's one place where a wall mount can be fitted; on the side wall of the wardrobe/cupboard. It's only a masonite type veneer so it's not very thick. Some sort of support plate (similar to the one Greg recommends for the roof) attached to the inside of the wardrobe wall is needed to carry the load of the TV which is about 5kgs (10 pounds) - plus handle the added stress of movement while travelling. I'd have to speak to Jason the metal fabricator about that. Adjustable wall mounts are not expensive... maybe $30 or so. But it would certainly solve the problem of where to place the larger TV during transit (or viewing, for that matter).

The side of the wardrobe is also convenient to power points (inverter or mains). As to the mini TV, that could serve as my outdoor TV. The Wineguard can be fitted with a splitter - one connector inside and the other in the outside storage bin (on the awning side). Meanwhile, I can use my current indoor antenna. Got rego and insurance coming up so the Wineguard will have to wait a while. So will Jason. Did I mention the spare tire? I keep forgetting.

Satdee, and my last day of peace! Lindsay arrives home tomorrow - back to the farts and flip flops. Woe is me.

From the Beeb: US President Barack Obama has warned Russia there will be "costs" for any military intervention in Ukraine. He said he was deeply concerned by reports of Russian military movements inside the country. Ukraine's acting president has accused Russia of deploying troops to Crimea and trying to provoke Kiev into "armed conflict". Russia's UN ambassador said any troop movements in Crimea were within an existing arrangement with Ukraine. Ukraine's changed, mate. Or haven't you noticed?

About half the personnel serving in Afghanistan's security services are illiterate, despite huge investments in teaching programmes, according to a survey by a US watchdog. "I always regret not being able to read or write," says Ali Akbar, a 34-year-old soldier in the Afghan army.

In pictures: 'Australian vernacular'. How Australian life has changed over the past 50 years. Hmmm. Not my kinda photographic style.

The GN forum has an interesting thread about school reunions - some enjoyed them, but it seems the majority didn't. I've never been to one, and have no plans to. The day I walked out of school for the last time I made a conscious effort not to look back. I hated the place.

Well, there goes the first day of March (down here, anyway). Catch you tomorrow. Gary


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