Friday, February 27

On the Train Again.

Back in January, a group of volunteers from the Caboolture Historical Village joined the steam train which travelled from Brisbane to Cairns to celebrate 150 years of Queensland Rail, and had a wonderful time promoting the Village.

It returned to Brisbane yesterday and three volunteers, including me, dressed up, joined the train.  We could not buy tickets as they were sold out, so we joined the train without tickets (as we knew that no one checked), and managed to do the Caboolture to Roma St, Brisbane, without being asked for a ticket.

Is this me?

Train arriving at Caboolture
My two travelling companions
Mind you, dressed as "criminals" it seemed fitting!!  We were the focus for lots of photos, and much laughter especially as my two offsiders ate from their stale loaves of bread!

Back at Roma Street

One thing that we were curious about was that we had to catch a "normal" train back to Caboolture - and wondered how we would be treated by fellow passengers.  Us, dressed like we were.  On the Roma Street station folk looked at us with great suspicion, but we were not the only ones in outfits as there were a couple of blokes on another train dressed in a toga!!!

Actually apart from some strange glances all was well - in fact we spend the time talking with two passengers who had been on the steam train - they too were returning home.

It was a great exercise to promote the Historical Village.

Thursday, February 26

The Leg Hair Shaver.

I am one of the lucky ladies that has little problem with leg hair.  Being a blonde for most of my life, my leg hair have been pale, and luckily not bushy.  When I was a teenager, leg hair wasn’t a big deal as we wore clothes that were less revealing than in recent times.  Same with under arm hair - but typically, even though it was rare for anyone to see it - we generally disposed of it!

Now, as a senior woman, leg hair is still not a big deal for me, but occasionally I look down and see isolated hairs showing up in the light and reach for my favourite electrical “beauty” appliance, which has a great story.

Way back in 1969, July, I recall,  I attended the launch of a soap in a big event at the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne.  My husband was a representative for Lever and Kitchen, which released the Lux toilet soap at this grand affair. 

I was 7 month’s pregnant and had to hire a dress to wear to this salubrious event.  A friend (her husband was the state manager as I recall) was 9 month’s pregnant and she too hired a dress.  Strangely they were almost identical!!

On that night all the ladies were presented with gifts – one of which was a Philips special presentation which included the shaver for ladies, and various manicure items.  I have long since left the manicure items behind as I preferred other tools, but I have kept the shaver.

As I used it this morning to demolish a few stray leg hairs, I reminisced on the event and the fact that this item – has survived 46 years and still works well, just as it did as a brand new item.
Eeek!!  That reminds me that “my baby” will be 46 years old this year.  Sad.  Feeling old.

Saturday, February 21

Great Lighting Choice

Last year an elderly family member, while recovering from leg surgery, ventured to the bathroom in the early hours of the morning without turning on any lights.  He thought he could manage to walk from the guest room to the toilet down the corridor without turning on a light.  It was pretty much pitch black - but somehow he thought he would manage.

He didn't of course, and tripped over something and banged onto a chair which he had placed in an unusual position the night before to rest his leg on.  Bang, down he went and hit his head on the seat of the chair.

A family member heard his screams and helped him get to his destination, before helping him back to bed.  Sometime later, she became concerned and phoned me - her mother, (former nurse) asking what might have happened.  My diagnosis was spot on!!  He had broken his neck!

Call 000 (Emergency number for Australia) and get an ambulance!!!!

She did.  The ambulance officers were initially of the opinion that he had not broken his neck - but when  the xray's proved my diagnosis correct he was treated in a spinal unit and spent time in a brace before he could return home.  He was in a brace for many weeks, and then not allowed to drive for a long time eithre.

The message is clear - it is not wise to walk in the dark without a torch!!!

So for Christmas I bought a night light for the man recovering from his broken neck - a light that is activated by movement.  I had bought one myself - and have found it very useful.  Living along I am not afraid of turning a light on - there is no one to disturb.  I always carry a small torch with me - especially when I am away from home as often one can be mildly disorientated when waking in the night.

The light I purchased (and there are many similar on the market) was a Click brand from Bunnings, and it has another key feature which came into play last night.

Currently, here in Queensland we are suffering the affects of Cyclone Marcia - luckily for me I am far south of the major cyclonic weather - we just have flooding where we are!!!

Last night I was sitting watching television when there was an unexpected power outage.  It did only last a short time, but what happened impressed me and made me leased with my decision to use the Click light.

Suddenly without warning all power was lost.  Immediately the Click light came on - giving me more than adequate light for me to see around the room - so I didn't have to be concerned about falling over furniture in the dark.  The Click light also has a torch function.  I could have, if needed, have used it as a torch to find my way around the house to light a candle or source another torch.

As it turned out the power outage was short lived and the only inconvenience was having to correct the clock on my microwave.

However, I am going to be talking about this light - or similar ones.  It could well have saved me from injury.  It is such a comfort to know how this works and how useful it could be.

I recommend that everyone has one of these!!!!

Friday, February 20

Living with Cyclones

I am lucky - so far anyway, as the current cyclones are some distance away - there is one near Darwin in the Northern Territory, and another, Cyclone Marcia crossing land some 640 kms north of my home.  The affects are being felt here and further south, and no doubt will affect us for a few more days.

The advice from the government and emergency service agencies is to stay home, so I am.  My appointment that I had intended to go to today has been changed, and I have no reason to leave home, though my camera is keen to get out and take some photos.

The rain is pretty amazing - it is just pouring down, and gutters/downpipes are overflowing.  The sound of the rain is amazing too.

I have lived through cyclones that have come close to Brisbane in the past,  It can be scary - but luckily I have not had to experience the damage that other communities have experienced.  

Overflow from my downpipe

My water tank is full and overflowing

The local school is closed and there is minor flooding around.   There are two roads in/out of Beachmere, and both flood, especially with a high tide, and there is a king (higher than normal) tide due today, so we do expect the road could be closed sometime today.  There is a storm surge to take into consideration too - so some flooding is very likely.

I live alone and am well above flood level.  Where I live was formerly a swamp - as much of this area has been swamps for thousands of years.  The developers were required to build up the land by around 2 metres, so I feel quite safe from flooding - unlike many of the residents of this area.

I have food, water, wine (so important!!!) and if the cyclone does come closer I have all the provisions I need.  I am also lucky that my car is in the garage, so (fingers crossed) I do not expect to experience much danger personally.

It will give me plenty of time to catch up on writing etc.  As long as the power lasts!!!!

I do hope everyone remains safe and that there is little or no damage to property.

Thursday, February 19

About TED

I was introduced to the TED program by a Dutch man, sitting by a pool in Bali, Indonesia and have been a fan ever since, spending a lot of time watching the many videos.

The idea of TED is to spread ideas - especially good ideas.  Go to the TED website for more information and to check out some of the speakers and ideas.

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a TEDx event at Griffith University and I repied and accepted and was thrilled to go yesterday.  I didn't attend the actual event, but  it was happening at the Gold Coast and we were witness to it all via the technology of streamlining.

Though I must admit - it was almost as good as being there in person.  So far the videos are not posted to the TEDx - but I will endeavour to share them here when they become available.

The speakers were excellent - check the details of the speakers here. 

Below are some great TED talks.

Below is Geoff, who sadly passed on recently.

Just go to the TED website, and write in a topic of which you have interest and see what comes up.

Friday, February 13

Australia Zoo

I am fortunate that almost 12 months ago I purchased an annual ticket to Australia Zoo - and it has been a wise move, as I have taken advantage of it several times, making it a good investment as if I had paid separately for each visit, it would have cost me more.

On Wednesday I went with my friend from China (26 year old guy who works at the university where I taught in 2008, and 2010).

AR at the entrance

A great Aussie

Can you see the baby with the mother - I think 'baby' is almost full grown.

AR with some new friends - mother and joey
We took umbrellas - there has been frequent rain here in Queensland the last few weeks and it did rain before we left, but fortunately it did not rain while we were at the Zoo.   I had been previously to the Zoo when it had rained and recall the experience - which was not pleasant, so I think the umbrellas warded off the rain on this occasion.

We say the performance in the Crocoseum and then had lunch in the Food Court.  It was ok, though I thought a little expensive.  Then we caught the Shuttle around the Zoo.  AR only wanted to see kangaroos and koalas - so we managed to have a good look at them - pat them etc, while we were there, before heading back home.  It was a big day - but good weather, and great things to see!!!


The performance in the Crocoseum

Technical Challenges

I wrote about some of my technical challenges here  a couple of days ago - and alas they are not getting any better.  The ISP I signed up with has advised me that I used all the data in four days - and that may be true, but I cannot access the site which gives me details.  My computer won't let me access it.  I am now using an alternate ISP - but that is not all my problem.

Somehow my computer has been completely re-somethinged and I am having trouble accessing programs - and everything seems to have changed.

To add to my challenges, my phone died.  It was almost two years old and had a fall into the lake, though I scooped it up almost as it hit the water, but still it has played up since.  Yesterday I set out, with an hour to spare, to find an alternative.  In the end I bought another Samsung - the same as the one that had died.

While it looks and feels like the old one the Apps etc are all changed, and of course I have to reload the Apps that I had on the other phone.  So many things are different.  I am going crazy.


* the computer is still crazy
* my internet access is still restricted
* I am having to learn my phone all over again.

Give me wine!!!!!

Near enough is good enough?

I live in rental accommodation.  I love my unit, but if I could have an opportunity to speak with a building team, I would have a lot to say.  I know that builders build to a price and the more corners they can cut, the more profit for them and often the owner/developer who will never live in the property will have no idea what these cuts will mean to the tenants.

My unit (one of two – a duplex) was brand new when I moved in just under two years ago and I did expect to have to deal with some issues associated with a new never been lived in property and mostly the rental agency treated me well – though taking 6 weeks in the midst of summer to even consider fixing a faulty air conditioner did not impress. (As it turns out, during the building the ‘motor’ of the conditioner was stolen, and a replacement was put in place, but as I was to learn it was never connected or not connected correctly.)

There were little things like the power point that never worked, the smoke alarms that alarmed me frequently and often in the middle of the night that shrieked to wake me – despite the fact that there was no sign of fire.  A ‘repair’ was made, but it didn’t work and eventually they had to re install the alarms.

One of the bricks on the letterbox was loose when I moved in - and it took the builder over 12 months to return and correct it - in fact the builder didn't return and the maintenance man did it for me.

As well there was a fault with the rainwater tank, which may or may not have be repaired correctly.  There was an issue with the letter box, privacy as the bathroom windows had an ineffective glass which enabled neighbours to peer in and see people in the  shower – and I had a couple of young girls staying with me when we discovered the issue!  Not that I had a peaking neighbour, but it was something I wanted fixed.

There are some ‘structural’ issues – one is that the laundry is in a corner of the garage, and whoever does the washing has to carry the load from the garage, through the house past the kitchen, and the lounge room and out the back door, across the verandah and along the side of the house to the clothesline.  Now, that means I have to lug the clothes basket through the house and out to the clothesline.  I have a trolley – but with the steps and the gravel at the side of the house, it is useless.  I just have to carry the clothes outside.

The garage – which I am delighted has a remote switch to open and close the door is probably 10 cms too narrow – as when driving the car into the garage it can be a bit of a squeeze to get out of the car, and if you have groceries or other items in the car, one has to squeeze a bit more.  I also have a bicycle – and nowhere to store it, which creates an issue for me.  I store it in the lounge room!!
I am also annoyed that in both bathrooms there is a narrow strip of floor that no mop fits into for cleaning, and as I am sometimes physically challenged, getting down on my knees to clean that part of the bathroom is often an impossibility.

One of the other stupid things is that one air conditioning unit is positioned on the back wall above the lawn – but not high enough up from the grass to enable a lawnmower to reach the grass.  It peeves me at times when I mow the lawns and can’t get under the unit to mow that grass.  Grrr.

There are other minor issues - minor now, but I can see that over time they will deteriorate - one is the concrete slad under the clothes line and the drive way - pebblecrete - showing signs of 'wear' - and it is not yet 2 years old!!

Perhaps the shoddy work is because for some builders, "near enough is good enough"!

How do you mow under this?

Spider, spider!!

It was a normal morning.  I had partaken of my breakfast, fruit, muesli, toast and coffee, tidied up around the house, made my bed and entered the shower after taking off my FitBit and glasses.  I sloshed the washer with shower gel around my body until my eyes set on a black blurry spot near the bottom of the shower screen.  How I wished I could still wear my glasses and see things as I took my morning shower!  I tried to focus, without success and no choice but to stand as far away as I could, and hope that it remained in situ, until I finished my shower.

Within seconds though, the black blob started to move up the shower wall!  Centimetre by centimetre it slowly edged upwards.  I quickly rinsed and escaped out of the shower, sloshing water all over the bathroom floor in my efforts to escape.  I made a hasty grab for my glasses, which were sitting on the side of the hand basin, pushed them onto my head and peered gingerly through the open shower door.  Mr Spider was still slowly climbing upwards.  I backpedalled quickly and set out to the kitchen and my can of Mortein.  I returned and before Mr Spider could torment me further I sprayed and sprayed until it dropped to the floor, ran a short distance and hid under the anti-slip mat. Later on in the day, when rigor mortis had set in, I carefully picked him up with a tissue and flushed him away.    Never will that spider terrorise me again!

Monday, February 9

The Death Penalty and the Bali Nine

I know a lot of folk will not agree with me - but I do have strong views about the issue and what these young folk did a few years ago.

"If you do the crime, you do the time" comes to mind as I write this.  These young folk knew they were breaking the law when they chose to become involved with the smuggling of drugs - and anyone who is going to break the law, whatever law, especially one where they KNEW that they would be risking punishment of some sort, should not carry on when the punishment, according to the law of the country in which they broke the law, is about to be meted out to them.

I do have some discomfort supporting capital punishment, as I know that some people have had their lives snuffed out and years later it was found that they were innocent, however, I feel that for many people that are kept in prison for years as a result of their crime enduring a challenging quality of life and costing the communities a lot of money, they would perhaps prefer to have their life taken from them.   Some of these folk are really nasty people - and we send good people to be their prison officers, who are often badly affected by the experience.

There is no easy solution I know - but the laws of Indonesia were broken by young people who may well have been naive, but they knew that they were breaking the law and should face the consequences.  I know that the two guys who are the focus of the pending death penalty, may well have reformed, but the fact is, they broke a law and should face the punishment according to the law of that country.  It's a tough stance I know.

There has been a lot of pressure on the President, government and courts of Indonesia to spare the lives of the two folk - and all laws have been challenged in order to save them - without success.

Other countries have high numbers of executions too - China being one of them, which I know. There is interesting reading at Wikipedia.

I am always concerned about the prison staff - as I know that working in a hostile and negative environment must be very testing for them.  I know some of the negatives affect them.

Way back in the 1970's I was a registered nurse in an acute psychiatric hospital, and was surrounded by foul mouthed sick people.  I recall my family commenting that expletives were infiltrating my conversations.  I tried to stop this, but the people I spent most of my waking time with - the other staff and the patients - also used frequent expletives in every day conversation.  I felt eventually that I was spending much of my life in a rather different community than that I had wanted to be part of.

Do the crime - do the time - or face up to the laws of the country in which you committed the crime. I do think that in the 21st Century, there is a lot of technoogy that can prove beyond doubt of the crime committed.

I have sympathy for the families of the men, but not much for the criminals.  Hard line, I know.

Student Visiting.

In 2008, as I was catching the bus back to the university campus in Shaoxing, China, where I had been teaching English, a young man came and sat next to me, introduced himself and asked me if I was an English teacher at the university where he was studying.  When I told him I was, we chatted for the rest of the journey and he walked with me (carrying my shopping like a lovely well mannered young gentleman) to my apartment.  Somehow the friendship was sealed that day.

Over the next few months we met up regularly.  He would come to my apartment and discuss the challenges he was having as a student, and I came perhaps like his second mother - or at least someone to confide in, and along the way help him with his English.  He was not studying English like the many other students, and was doing a business course, but he had some interesting extra curricular activities which perhaps made him the envy of his peers.  Some mornings he would get up around 4 am and ride his bike to a radio station where he ran a program, and he also volunteered for many duties within the campus.  He also became a member of the Chinese Communist Party.  He had some friends, but his many duties kept him a little on the outside of his peer group, and sometimes he felt isolated.

He attended a special English group that I ran in one of the cafes on campus, and as my year of teaching went on, our friendship remained.

The following year I was teaching in South Korea, but in 2010 I returned to the university in Shaoxing.  On this occasion I travelled with two other teachers via Hong Kong and Hangzhou, and when I entered the arrival hall at Hangzhou, this lovely man came running towards me with arms outstretched to welcome me back.

He told a funny story of how he had been called to the "boss's office" - and thinking he had done something wrong was a little unnerved, but he had been called in to be told that his friend Dianna (me) was returning to the campus.  He was very excited (and no doubt relieved that he had not been in trouble.)

We had a lot of fun during the semester - especially on some of the trips that foreign teachers were taken.  He and other staff members often came with is and on one occasion there was quite a mix up in the travel arrangements.  They had not booked enough rooms/beds for all of us, and he had to sleep in the same bed as the boss of his department - he was then an employee in that department and his boss was a 50 something female.

He confided in me after dinner - and we discussed his dilemma - he had no choice, and we worked out that he could go to the room latish, when the lady concerned would be asleep and then get into the bed, and keep on 'his' side of the bed.

The next morning very early there was knocking on my door, it was him.  He was quite distressed!  the lady had snored loudly all night and he had got little sleep.  I told him that one day he could use the story in some way, as it really was hilariously funny.  He reluctantly agreed with me, but some short time later came to me beaming with smiles as he had managed to get mileage out of the story on more than one occasion!!!

When my contract was over, I was told that the university did not intend to arrange transport for me from the university to the airport in Hangzhou (as was required by my contract), but it unfazed me as I knew that I could easily get to the airport on public transport.

On the morning I was to go - and as I was about to exit my apartment to go by taxi, then bus, this young man appeared.  He was angry that the university had chosen not to fulfil their obligation to me and the contract and had arranged for the President's chauffeur to take me in the university car, to the airport.  He came as well to ensure I arrived safely at the airport!!!

Then last year I returned to the university for a visit - and again we spent time together and once more I invited him to visit me in Australia.  He took me to dinner, he took me on a sunset cruise around the canals of the city, and again arranged transport when I departed.

He is due to arrive in Australia this evening and will be spending a week with me.  He is a lovely young man and I hope to treat him as well, or better than the wonderful hospitality I received.

In Shanghai

In Shanghai

Saturday, February 7

OMG!! No Internet!!!

We rely so much on our electronic devices and if one becomes unworkable, our life seems to grind ungraciously to a halt.  Life can be tough getting back into the rat race again.

My mobile phone was serving me well, albeit with a minor issue with sound, which meant I usually had to have the speaker turned on.  I chose to live with that rather than invest in a new phone, knowing that one day I would certainly have to buy a new one.  But not yet. The cover was another matter, and one Sunday morning I bought a new case on Ebay, as the old one was wearing badly.  A new bamboo one -  I was excited to have found it and purchased it.

My grandchildren had come to stay, and they “helped” me buy the case, just before we went out to fish in the lake nearby, and while helping one with a snagged hook I dropped the phone into the water.  Briefly.  I swept it up almost as soon as it hit the water, and was glad to see that it didn’t look too bad.  Perhaps only the cover was wet, and I had ordered a new one.   I soon learned that the phone was going to punish me for dropping it in the water.  For a few days, actually until the new cover arrived, the sound was impossible.  Scratchy – in fact sounded more like the speaker was blowing bubbles. 

The children were excited when the new cover arrived and I was excited that the phone seemed to have a new lease on life with the new cover, and the sound improved.  Lucky me.

A week later, the children were back at home and school and I was on my own again, thinking I could catch up on many tasks that I had put aside while I endeavoured to entertain, feed and generally manage the grandchildren, but worse was to befall me.

While busily checking emails, Facebook, local news and other things on my computer, the Internet stopped.  I went and checked the modem etc and turned the equipment off for a few seconds and back on again.  No signal.  I contacted my neighbour – our units adjoin – but she was having no problems.  I tried to phone my Internet provider but could not get through.  Not happy.

So I chose to write and ignore the Internet and prepare for its return.  Surely it would be back on soon!  Later that day a text message came through – the company had had a fire and their equipment was damaged, but they expected it to be back functioning within 3 days.  Could I live without the Internet for three days?  Why not? 

I have a smart phone and could access emails, and most things. 
On the day the system was to be functional again, there was bad news.  It was a strange and convoluted message, but essentially said that the company could not tell when it would be going to return service.  I had to source another provider, which was challenging as I had no Internet, but I managed to use a WiFi at another business and checked out a few companies.  I chose one, on price, which is not always a good idea, but as I don’t earn a lot of money price is often my system of choice. 

The following day, after several phone calls and giving them my details, I am told I have active service.  When I returned home after my morning tasks I endeavoured to get online, without success.  I phoned their help line.  They told me that I could not be on fibre, but had to have had ADSL.  No, I had fibre.  No, said the woman with a foreign accent, probably from an Asian country, then I must have satellite. I have no satellite on my roof, and I explained that, but she did not believe me.  In the end I spent around 4 hours on the phone, as they advised me to change cables in the various boxes on the wall of my very hot garage where they are installed.

In the end she claimed that the previous company had not been providing me with fibre, but ADSL, which she was adamant about, and then told me there was a fault with my computer, or the modem, and gave me a number which she claimed was the company which manufactured the modem.  I rang the number only to learn that it was incorrect.   I phoned my son, daughter, and son in law – the latter who has a very technical brain and I knew he could help me.  None answered their phones, and I left messages for all of them.

I was pretty brain dead with all the endeavours to work with the foreign lady who seemed to be on a different planet to me, and so frustrated I started to cry.  Now, not many folk would know that I can cry – I do not do it in public unless I am at the movies or a funeral, so to have this melt down was quite out of character for me.
Eventually I went to bed, but sleep didn’t come. In part because I didn’t know what I was going to do next with my Internet (or lack of) and I was exhausted, and on top of that two cats chose to spend all night howling at one another across the road.  I could hear them but not see them.  They were loud like a woman screaming.  I learned that other neighbours suffered from insomnia on that night because of the cats, but no one could do anything. It was hard to see where they were.

I did doze off eventually and when I woke in the morning I looked like I had done 10 rounds with Mohammod Ali!!!  Then I had an idea. I would get out the old Dongle that I hadn’t used for many months, and see if I could activate that.  I phoned the company and was told I needed a new SIM card, so waited until the post office was open and went to get one.  They didn’t have one.  So I went to the newsagent where I did get one, but my friend behind the counter could see I was distressed and when I told her my issues, she offered to send her partner who apparently is good with technical stuff. 

I contacted the company to activate my account and SIM card, and had to leave a message – they would phone me back within 10 minutes.  They NEVER phoned me back.  I phoned my son again and ranted about his lack of interest in calling back his mother.  Yes, sorry, but…..

His phone had been uncharged – and when he got it back and running he didn’t see my message, though hours later he admitted he had eventually found it.  Then he phoned the company that was “trying” to get my Internet active.  There was me in the garage again, with laptop, and phone, talking to my son, who was relaying messages from another female techy somewhere in the world, and after four more hours of achieving nothing I stopped it.  It was just going nowhere.  Again I was told there was a fault with my computer.

Then I phoned the other company in an effort to get my Dongle going, which did happen. 

My friend’s bloke turned up, and looked at a few things and then said he had to “activate” something on my computer and so desperate was I, that I let him do it.  I was still not on the Internet.  I have no idea what he did to the computer but it is totally different to what it was like BEFORE he touched it and many of my programs have gone missing.  I could write about 6 pages about the changes to my computer – but I won’t!!!

My tears were starting to flow again – frustration and fatigue was getting to me.  My daughter phoned (she had been busy and just found time to call me)  – over 24 hours after I had called her.  I know she is busy, and I respect and understand that.  Her husband phoned me – apparently he uses another phone and had just realised his old one had a message – my message from the previous day.
I explain the problem to him, and he said he would phone back.  He arranged for his brother to call over that night – they are both technically clever, so I was happy for him to come.  He did and several hours later I was back on the Internet. 

Now I am trying to catch up on my last week’s work, BUT……..   Isn’t there always a “but”?  I am still trying to get my computer back into some semblance of what it was before.  Even Skype disappeared. 

I hope never, ever, ever to have to endure what I have been through in the last week.  I wonder when/if I can restore my computer to its former glory.  OMG.  It is a wonder I didn’t take heavily to wine!!!!!