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 #6 - Southern Spring 2004


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 The caterpillars have won! the little bastards! 
Rhee Tai Kwan Do loses its honour.
Ubisoft inferior at design of both website and  game software.
New tree for the back yard... 'Shade trees in Perth' George Bush - the polluters friend.
Going Postal - Signed by Terry Pratchett! Space junk
Hypericium perforatum 

 J Jonker, the plasterer from HELL!

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 to part 7- Summer 2004-05 [Oz]

 Wed 24 Nov

Allison did take the snake to school, and apparently all the kids in her class were wrapped! They loved it! This snake was at least a year old - I have no idea how fast they grow and it was about 80cm long - and it must have been in our yard for a while unless it came in recently through a gap at one of the corners of the property. How come we never saw it? Allison reckoned that she saw a snake some time ago but her description could have been that of a blind worm, a type of legless lizard which lives around here. Another possibly related fact is that one of the neighbours' dogs just up and died a few months ago. Their dogs were both long legged, short haired, nervous and noisy creatures that used to bark like hell at all sorts of odd times day and night. The single survivor is rather quiet by comparrison, so I can't say that I am particularly sorry about the dog which died.

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 Mon 22 Nov  Death of a dugite.

Did I accidentally kill the dugite with my trapping technique? We will never know. General opinion around here is that I didn't and the snake was probably mortally sick already.

 "What snake"? I here you ask. Well I would that you bothered read about it: As I was setting up my water conservation and cheapskate fruit tree watering system this morning I came across a 80cm dugite lying in the shade under my passionfruit vine. The creature didn't particularly seem to care if I was there or not, although of course I tried to be as unobtrusive as I could once I realised it was there. What amazed and shocked me was just how well camouflaged it was - lying there in the shade it seemed to be exactly the same colour as the dirty grey-brown sand so characteristic of Perth. [The sand is actually white but totally mixed up with organic dust and finally powdered charcoal from thousands of years of bush fires. I will digress further some other time about where the sand and stuff came from.] Anyway, I decided to show the kids what it looked like before it escaped so snuck off to the house to get them. Because it was so sluggish I figured it would still be there when I got back.

Well it was still there so everybody had a good look and we then had to decide what to do with it. Mrs Peaty's child care service would probably not benefit too much from advertising about deadly poisonous, resident vipers, and I was not too happy about future tromping onto such a snake whilst ministering to my baby vines and fruit trees.

To cut a long story short, getting a snake man on a Monday morning is as hard as finding a plumber when you need one. All manner of animal havens, Government departments and the Perth Zoo all had lists of snake wranglers' phone numbers. Pity is they all defaulted to arswering machines or 'switched off' or 'out of range' messages. One guy eventually rang back and said he would call back again in about two hours time when he had finished doing something the other end of the metro area. But he didn't, or if he did no one heard it. Another chap called back late in the afternoon but the snake was already dead by then. So meanwhile Allison and I were wondering how to stop the snake disappearing into the long grass. She eventually came up with the idea of using some plastic baskets from the day-care junk, errh, equipment store....

We nested the baskets because we thaught it might be able to get out of the holes of just one basket and then I upended the baskets over the snake, it tried to move out the way but wasn't very fast. I think I was reasonably gentle with it - I think anyway - and I attributed its slowness to being lethargic still because it hadn't yet had the full strength of sunlight on it. We put a log on top of the baskets and leaned some small sheets of galv. over it all to keep it all shady. After that I finally organised myself to cycle off to work.

Much later in the day I rang home to be told that the creature was dead and that Travis, who had been off studying snake wrestling in the morning but finally rang in the afternoon, reckoned it must have been sick already otherwise we would never have got the basket over it. A close look at the snake in under lamp light, did show up what could have been puncture marks on its back a about 10cm behind its head. I figured it might have been bitten by a cat but Glenda thinks it could have been another snake. The latter possibility does not please me because it means there is an even bigger snake lurking around the edge of the garden, or under the house, or somewhere...... Uh oh..... I would dearly love it if the dugit had managed to bite a cat which was attacking it. Can't see any moggy bod lying around though. Pity. They shit all over our yard and kill birds around the place, we have seen them do it.

Allison is going to take the snake corpse to school tomorrow for an impromptu show and tell.

Bob's dog Jupiter died on Friday. Bob is very upset about it. The dog was at least 12 years old and Bob has had him all that time. Coming so soon after the deaths of three relatives a couple of months ago it is a bit of a rough old time for him.

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 Thur 18 Nov ...............................Space Junk!

WOW !! I was just outside [about 23:25 WAST] hanging out washing on the old Hills Hoist and looking up as I pegged a towel on one of the lines when what should I see but a brilliant orange and blue point of light shooting across the sky. It started from somewhat southeast of directly overhead and raced northward - towards and past Orion I reckon - with several bits breaking off behind the main light. It left a glowing orange thread of light behind it which faded after a couple of seconds. I think, upon reflection that the object must have crossed about 30º of arc. It had to be space junk; it was travelling much too slow to be a meteor but was very bright so it was presumably a substantial piece of satellite. I was looking up from under the clothes line and through the bare branches of a tree, so cannot tell exactly which constellations it went through but it petered out somewhere past Orion I think. I waited to hear if there was any sound from it but if there was it was lost in the ambient sounds of the surrounding suburbs. From the direction of motion - south to north - I deduce that the satellite or launcher that the piece came from was in a polar orbit.

Terry Pratchett did sign my book! Yay! Good stuff!. I picked it up on Monday. I haven't started reading it yet because still finishing Something Rotten and also The Unconscious Civilisation.

I am taking Hypericium perforatum - St John's Wort - at the moment, to see if it has any noticeable effect on me. Glenda said last weekend that she now thinks that the dex. actually had a significant effect in that it made me easier to live with: seemingly much less prone to volatile expressions of annoyance at the unexpected mishaps of natural occurrence or the spontaneous and intrusive babbling of impulsive offspring.

The renovation of the kitchen is turning into a real marathon:
The inner walls and ceiling had to be removed because they were made of blue asbestos. We paid professionals to take the stuff out, pack it in plastic and take it to a certified and controlled tip site. All well and good, except that when they broke the panels off of the walls, they left at least 600 little clouts - broad headed nails - stuck in the wood. Muggins here had to go around with a jemmy in one hand and the vacuum cleaner hose end in the other and remove those clouts. The vacuum cleaner had to be running and ready for just about each and every one because each one had a bit of asbestos left clinging to it and as the nail came out I could see a little cloud of asbestos dust motes float away in the air. Spooky! Luckily the vacuum cleaner is an Electrolux with very good filtration system. [Pity Electrolux doesn't follow up the quality of the product with quality of parts and maintenance services.]
Once all the asbestos was out and the nails removed, the plasterers came - the plasterers from Hell! They came late, they worked very short days and they knocked off early each day to go to the pub or, on the Friday, to go and play golf. They put gyprock around the inner surface of the window space without being asked even though it is a wood frame house not brick, so the space is now too small to take the windows which have been made to measure to the bare wood - which of course is what the carpenter is waiting to fix them to. The plasterers say they won't take the gyprock out of the window space, they left a totally disgusting mess in the bathroom when they replaced the ceiling, they treated the place like a building site rather than a house people are living in, and of course they are trying to charge extra for cornices that don't cost more than the plainer ones. [Glenda checked with Brady's Ceilings, the supplier, about.] Glenda doesn't want them back in the house now, but they still haven't finished sanding back the plaster covering the joints between the gyprock sheets. They say they can't come back to do the sanding until Friday of next week, which will be more than two weeks since the start of the job.
Tony the carpenter/builder reckons that two competent plasterers could have done the job in two, eight-hour days. Talk about incompetent! They are not going to get their cheque until the work is done! Glenda already told them that on the phone and the main guy said: 'That's not fair.'

I will be doing hijkl for the next several months rather than *mnop* in the phone area. The change will be as good as a holiday I hope. Certainly the lesser constraints on times for taking accrued leave will be a bit of a relief. As for working in **del**, we have been guaranteed that nobody will be granted leave during the Western Australian school holidays in July 2005. When the subject was broached at a recent meeting **del** said that such constraints are entirely normal in the private sector and that employees get a good deal in terms of call/contact centre conditions. My thoughts on this are that wisdom surely would say that one should not strive to emulate that which is bad!

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 Sat 13 Nov  

Further evidence of the oxymoronic entwining of sublimity and silliness...... Early in the week a friend from work, who is actually on leave for the moment, rang and left a message on my voice mail. It was about Terry Pratchett the Discworld author and that he was going to be at Angus & Robertson bookshop in the Murray St mall on Friday at 1PM signing copies of his new book "Going Postal". To cut a long story short: I took the book tokens I got for my birthday and bought of copy of the book and then stood in the queue for a while. Talk about 'mad dogs and Englishmen!', it is no-where near high summer here yet, but the sun on my balding pate was too much to endure, not to mention that it looked like a 2 hour wait for my part of the queue to reach the great man. Clearly he types on his word processor much faster than he rights salutations in the fronts of books! Seems to me he needs a set of about 10 or so that he has memorised so he can scribble them on automatic as he chats to the adoring fans. Anyway I had to go back to work, so left the book at the shop for the time being in the hope that he would sign it - along with about 50 others left there for that purpose. The lady looking after this area of the shop assured me that the great man is actually quite good about this sort of thing so there is a better than even chance. I noticed that she carefully put my book at the bottom of the pile though .... Let's see on Monday how Murphy's Law ['Poor Man's Entropy' is what I now call it] has impinged on this naive aspiration. 

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 Fri 12 Nov ......... du sublime au ridicule .....

To start with the possibly ridiculous ... I have just completed game number 5000 of Freecell. As someone said: "There is no such thing as just one game of Freecell." Absolutely! Well I have played all the games consecutively from number 1 to number 5000. Just 27,000 to go now. Some were rather hard but I got all of them out [after 20 repeats in a couple of cases]. I now read, at
Michael Keller's Game and Puzzle Pages that all of the Microsoft Freecell games can be solved except number 11982. I guess I had assumed, based on the assertion in the Help file for MS version of Freecell that all of them should be able to be solved, that they had been generated by some algorithm or other which worked backwards by moving cards out from the home cells. This does not seem to be the case however if number 11982 simply cannot be solved despite hundreds of people trying and also several computer programs failing at the task. Microsoft supplies 32,000 deals, and only one of these has so far illuded every attempt to solve it. Maybe my surmise about how they generated the games was correct. By my calculations there ought to be 9,834,496 altogether.[8^4 * 7^4]. Ah well it doesn't do to take these things too seriously.

The same applies to all the other potentially stressful things happening at the moment:

  • renovating the kitchen
  • replacing my bicycle because the front wheel rim started to tear apart and that, with other repairs soon to be critical, would have involved about $300 transplant surgery, so $650 for a better quality new bike was the best way to go. The pity is that I must start saving again for the digital camera I want to buy - and need to if my project #2 is to get off the ground. Project #2 is to create a photo library of the different kinds of shade trees that grow in Perth WA. The consolation as far as the bike is concerned is that it will have paid for itself within 9 months as long as I use it for commuting, which has been my practice for the last couple of decades. This costing is based on the expense I would have incurred buying 1 zone multirider tickets at $16 per 10 trip card and working a regular 5 day week. The saving is far greater if I count the money I don't have to spend on gym membership fees.
  • dealing with the worsening situation of lack of control at work. ie the increasing technocratic managerial style being imposed with the call centre technology and its global routing system, and script based answering of queries.

I counter these things in part with thinking about 3 projects I have in mind:

  1. creating pamphlets publicising my basic philosophical ideas
  2. creating a 'Shade Trees in Perth' website
  3. creating Chinese language versions of the pamphlets in project #1. That could be taken further by putting them into Bahasa Indonesia also.

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 Thur 4 Nov

Saw Bob Cook yesterday; C. and I went to lunch with him at Toledo.We had cheap midday house specials, mine was calamari with some small amount of salad. $10 for a small/medium dish with a glass of watered down wine thrown in. The herb batter on the squid was quite nice and the squid itself was not too tough. OK for the price, but nothing spectacular. Bob was looking healthy and seems to have lost a little weight. Bob and C. are both dog lovers and traded stories. Bob's dog Jupiter is really not well. He has been suffering with a cancer for over a year now. I regaled them with the developing saga of our kitchen renovations.

I was talking to David B. at lunch time today. He like me and everyone else I know is not happy that George W Bush has been reelected. I can't find anybody who thinks that the world is now a safer place with him back in the White House. Anyway the subject turned to things Arabic, and Dave asked the leading question: "Has there ever been an Arab country with a democracy?" Well that is a leading question isn't it! I think the answer is No. We got to discussing why this is so and I got this insight which is the likelihood that the development of scientific method in Europe may have had a very significant influence on the advent of democracy and the ultimately universal suffrage. This is because the development and practice of scientific method fosters and encourages a sceptical distrust of ancient and arbitrary authority which are cornerstones of both religious authority and military dictatorships. As John Ralston Saul points out, there had to be an emphatic belief in the importance of the individual which came at least in part from the philosophies of the Ancient Greeks, and also from Christianity. Clearly the rediscovery in Europe during the late Middle Ages of the Greek philosophers provided some conceptual foundations for ways in which social conditions and relationships could be different. It is interesting to note however that this knowledge of the Greeks was handed on the the Europeans by the Arabs. Why did the requisite changes not occur within the Arabic communities that were the sole proprieters of this knowledge for nearly 2miienia, !!! Propably due to the rather strictly implemented authoritarianism that seems to be a pervasive characteristic of Moslem ideology.


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 Sat 30 Oct  Worked overtime today, it being nearly the last day for lodgment.

Rang Dad last night, he has been back from overseas since Saturday. I had been meaning to ring him through the week but all the chaos surrounding the kitchen revamp at home and the extra pressures at work kept distracting me. He sounded terrible on the phone: he seems to have picked up a really bad cold from either his stopover in India or the flight back from there. I didn't let him talk much but, typically, he did have one funny story. He hired a car in Bombay [Mumbai now I believe] and drove himslef around in order to get to see some people who have been forestry investment clients of his for the last 10 years or so. I got tired because of all the travel and the jet lag coming back from UK and so he parked in a small side street near the sea front. He reckons he left the engine on so as to run the air conditioner and went to sleep [This is potentially suicidal of course because exhaust fumes can get blown under the car by the wrong sort of breeze and suched into the fresh air inlet. A decade or so ago a family of Mum, Dad and at least one child all died in just this manner up North in WA; they had stopped to sleep beside the road on a very hot night and were found dead next day from carbon monoxide inhalation.] Amyway, in Dad's case it seems the breeze caused no such problem but he was woken up in the wee small hours by a religious procession of dancers, drummers, gong players and lots of others singing and praying, who all swarmed around his car as they made their way down the small lane to the beach. It seems they all kept on going and waded into the surf as part of the sacred celebrations or whatever.

I have just read the editorial to October's Scientific American magazine and it is really disappointing, but I guess not terribly surprising, to read that during his term in office so far George Bush Jnr has caused regulations enforcing the installation of pollution controls for coal burning power stations to be watered down. This means that utility companies doing upgrades and repairs costing as much as 20% of the plant's value do not have to upgrade - or even install for the first time it seems - devices which remove unburned particulates and ash from the exhaust. The article notes that during a major power outage in USA during August 2003 when many power plants in the NE and Mid West were forced to shut down, visibility doubled, and "researchers found a 90 percent drop in sulfur dioxide levels and a 50 percent reduction in ozone". Apparently the reduction in haze was easily visible to the unaided eye, which is pretty terrible when you think about it. The article notes that the Bush Administration's approach doesn't make much sense from any point of view because:

"The new rules do not even make economic sense for the nation as a whole: although the Department of Energy estimates that adding pollution controls to old generators would cost $73 billion over 20 years, the health benefits would total more than $1 trillion over the same period". 

This is yet another example of the self defeating and futile nature of policy which lacks one or more of compassion, democracy, ethics or scientific method. George Bush's regime seems to regularly impose the will of selfserving, sectional interests over the real needs of the majortiy of US citizens, never mind the real needs of the people of the rest of the world.

Maggie at work found me a patch to try fixing Petz5 [Catz5 & Dogs5] so that it will work with Win XP SP2. This didn't come from either Ubisoft or Microsoft, but it didn't work anyway, the program still cannot load itself completely and nothing I can do with the Win XP compatibility wizard helps either. 'That's pretty damned poor!' is what I say.

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 Sat 23 Oct

Last weekend I finally decided on a replacement for the Melia azedarach that we paid to have removed from the SW side of the back yard. The tree I chose is a Koelreuteria paniculata or Golden Rain Tree. It could possibly grow to 15 metres but probably won't get that big. If it thrives its crown should spread several metres in diameter and have pendulous clusters of yellow flowers for part of the summer. I am thinking of getting a couple of Japanese Maples Acer palmatum for other parts of the back yard to hide some boring views of the neighbours' garden and give some contrasting colours for autumn.

Today I replaced our HP 640c printer with an Epson Stylus Photo R210. The HP printer had started stuffing up big time AGAIN! This time it was the paper feed and the amount of noise it was making as it didn't manage to make a single sheet move through indicated that once again it would need a minimum outlay of $45 plus parts to get it working. It seems to me it has required about $45 per year in servicing charges since we got it with the $200 voucher that Glenda received as the Howard government's paltry compensation for the horrid task of gearing up to pay GST on the microscopic income she got from HAMA beads. [What a bunch of losers they were! Dictating imperiously from NSW to their one wee agent in WA and charging customers a hefty freight bill for the Nullarbor transport when people could get the stuff for a cheaper price from Target in WA! Duh! Eventually Glenda just gave up and told people to go to Target.] Anyway the HP seemed to need lubricating of the bar that the print head slid back and forth on but you couldn't be sure that was definitely the problem without a major checkup of the whole thing. So it was sort of OK while it worked, and decently quiet, but with a propensity to clag at a critical time of year, like now for instance when Gwyneth is doing final assignments for end of year at Uni. Plus the cartridges are really expensive.

I am cutting back on the dex and will probably stop using it altogether because it doesn't seem to be having the significant effect, long term, that was hoped for. I'll try St John's Wort next, see if that makes any kind of significant difference.

Glenda is in process of remodelling the kitchen. She has scored an amazing bargain in the form of kitchen benches and cupboards plus some appliances thrown in, for a small fraction of what it would all cost if bought new. The bench tops are real granite! Once again she has sniffed out a set of stuff being discarded by denisens of Dalkeith which is truly another universe compared to where we live. Over there it seems money is never an object of concern. In the past Glenda has scored many interesting and useful items of high quality being - effectively - tossed out in garage sales.

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 Tue 19 Oct

I am currently reading two books, one at work and one at home. At work is the fourth in Jasper Fforde's serial of the adventures of Thursday Next, Spec Ops [literature police] officer, Jurisfiction agent and constantly lucky adventurer, and mother [now] of a 2 year old boy whose father has been made never to have existed - except in Thursday Next's memory and in the 23 chromasomes he invested in Ms Next prior to his eradication. Complex, clever and funny, you have to read it to really appreciate how madly inspired the author really is.

At home I am slowly reading The Unconscious Civilisation by John Ralston Saul, a philosopher who criticises Western society and the sins of corporate entities which corrupt both the people who run them and those whom they purport to serve. He is well worth reading. For me he is illuminating the history of the growth of awareness and belief in the value of the individual in Western culture and showing just how important this belief is in empowering us to work at the democracy we need to ensure our safety and posterity. He spends a lot of time showing up the shallowness and lack of ethics engendered by uncritical adherance to economic theory. One thing I like about him is he provides a theoretical counterbalance to the Marxist insitence on the primacy of material conditions. By this I mean that whilst one's relationship to the means of production does indeed control very much of a person's material circumstances and life prospects, there are important cultural elements also which strongly determine the kinds of choices that he or she makes. For me this ties in with my realisation of many years ago of the independent existence of culture, ie that from the point of view and experience of the individual, the culture exists 'out there' inside the heads of thousands or millions of other people.

Maybe that is just another way of saying that people's beliefs are just as important as their material circumstances in determining what happens to them. All well and good, just so long as we recognise that this is not a trite observation. John Ralston Saul is pointing out that all the corporate entities which now exist and most of which have been endowed with the rights of legal person, thrive by imposing ideologies on their members and, so far as possible, on their clients and customers. Ideologies are collections of half truths however: they falsly present sectional interests as being universal truths. Furthermore, all these entities and their apologists tend to push people into cynical disregard for ethics and the belief in a 'Public Good'. They engender an implicit assumption that anyone seeming to be 'doing good works' is on the take - they must be pushing their own sectional interest.

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 Sat 16 Oct

I have just had yet another frustrating and annoying experience of my time being wasted by a web site designer! The miscreant this time is ubisoft the creators of Catz5 and Dogs5. My daughters had got into the habit of playing these games [which combine to form Petz5] on my computer because the machine they normally use cannot run the program fast enough to cope with the heavy demands of the graphics. However, since I installed WinXP Service Pack 2 [SP2] the program could not produce sound, and gave an error message saying sound would not happen. After a few days of this happening and my youngest child playing the game without the sound, a further problem devoloped and the game will simply not start up properly anymore. It crashes and disappears each time before it has finishes setting itself up. I have uninstalled and reinstalled it but this has not improved anything. Maybe the problem is caused by some driver not being compatible with something installed by WinXP SP2. I don't know, and after my experience with the web site, I am very unlikely to ever try finding a fix again. Ubisoft has failed!

The problem with the web site is that they do not give a warning that a child cannot register without first having a parent fax permission to the company. They should have an explicite statement on their registration page warning of this so that people do not waste time, as I did, trying to fill out a whole registration form on behalf of my children only to have a message refusing the registration because the date of birth given indicated someone too young to be legally responsible for their actions.

This lack of care on the part of ubisoft website designers, and the abysmal failure of the Petz5 game program to cope with WinXP SP2, leads me to recommend to parents that they DO NOT BOTHER TO BUY UBISOFT PRODUCTS! Save your money and buy something else.

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 Sat 9 Oct

So the Liberal - National parties coalition is back in power for another 3 years! And with an increased majority in the lower house and perhaps for the first time an absolute majority in the Senate. This does not bode terribly well I think. Howard is a liar and a scare monger, and is quite capable of doing any number of dirty tricks. I suspect that he will launch an attack on the pay and conditions of public servants, and probably seek to impose work place agreements more widely thus disempowering more ordinary workers. He apparently wants to increase the so called 'efficiency dividend' which is an automatic annual percentage reduction in funding of government agencies, even though his government is in the habit of creating ever more complex legislation which is a nightmare to administer. The reasoning behind quite a lot of Howard government new law seems to be that of providing some kind of look-good assistance which is ostensibly for the benefit of nearly everybody, and providing 'more choice', but which is actually implemented in ways designed to cater to the vagaries of his party's overall conservative constituency, or timed and targeted to create a social mood and political climate likely to be favorable to him and his mate. The 2004 budget has prime examples of the latter: the most obvious is the 2 FTB supplement payments - $600 extra per child in June 2004 and then another $600 per child timed so that the majority of payments started coming out just before the 9 October election date. It seems pretty clear that planning for this exercise must have been going on a year ago.

John Howard has got us into a war in Iraq on the basis of spurious arguments and dubious or totally inaccurate intelligence. Who knows how much all that is costing financially? And to what end?

I think it is unlikely that Iraq is going to develop into a true and effective democracy within the next ten years; twenty years perhaps, but more likely much longer. I think it highly likely that another strongman will come to power once the USA gets fed up with the unending procession of body-bags and pulls out. Whether or not the strongman becomes a psychopathic despot like Saddam Hussein will be a matter of chance. [I guess he would be a psychopath already so the chance side of it will have more to do with the evolution of a clique that lets a psychopath manipulate himself into a position of absolute power.] One of the really chilling aspects of the Iraq situation, quite apart from the prospect of future entertainment provided by a powerful madman, is the realisation that whilst it is unfortunately true that now more than a thousand American servicemen have died in Iraq, the number of Iraqis who have died is probably ten times that number. A significant proportion of these will have been innocent women and children caught in cross-fire or blown to pieces as 'collateral damage' when bombs and shells are aimed at the wrong spot.

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Mon 5 Oct

So long since I last wrote anything, and nobody noticed, nobody gave a damn! And doubtlessly this is as it should be. But many small things have happened: Dad has gone overseas to see some of his relatives and visit some of the people he knew in Wales all those years ago. He said he was even going to give a talk at the University of Wales at Bangor, where he got his degree in forest botany about 60 years ago. Glenda was successful in tracking down a set of kitchen cupboards and so forth, including built in wall ovens, dishwasher, granite work benches, and all very sturdily made without any use of chip board. Glenda is always looking f or a bargain and this time she scored in getting a good sized setting from Dalkeith which is one of the richest suburbs in the Perth Metro area. Dalkeith is the place to score from garage sales, or renovations, because person people in Dalkeith seem to have a totally different perspective of money.

Gwyneth, our oldest, no longer goes to Tae Kwon Do practice with the Rhee Tae Kwon Do people. Some weeks ago she went to a grading session at which his nibs Grand Master Rhee himself officiated. Mr Rhee delegates some things to his subordinated teachers but, by and large, he is the ultimate authority in Rhee Tae Kwon Do and he takes care to be seen to be in charge at the gradings. Rhee Tae Kwon Do is after all his product. Unfortunately for Gwyneth and one other person going for their black belts, Mr Rhee took it upon himself to chuck a maddie and object to some aspect of style and technique in one of their roundhouse side kicks. The great man did not apparently condescend to demonstrate by example so black belts were told what to do and berated when they didn't get it right. Gwyneth insists that she had never before seen any discussion of or demonstration of this particular variant of the kick. Well neither had any one else, it seems, so all the local black belts are now furiously practicing and demonstrating  the new technique.[This latter bit comes from Lewis who is at a lower level and is still going to lessons as before.] Mr Rhee refused to let Gwyneth and one other guy continue on with the grading and therefore they didn't get promoted whereas two other candidates did. Glenda, who was watching at the time, reckons that Mr Rhee wasn't paying attention to the candidates until he looked up and just picked on Gwyneth and the other guy. It all appeared to be entirely arbitrary.

Gwyneth was extremely upset by the turn of events and it has totally destroyed her faith in the integrity of the organisation. She has been attending classes for the past 4 years or so and had been reassured by the black belts on many occasions that her technique was very good - the only thing she had problems with was 'getting angry' - and Tae Kwon Do had become a really important part of her life and was apparently something stable and reliable. Mr Chun Chol Rhee's sudden and apparently arbitrary change of style and his utterly unconscionable act of humiliating her in front of a couple of hundred people came as a terrible shock and profound disappointments. As Glenda puts it: Gwyneth has discovered the idol's feet of clay. It's a damned pity it had to happen at the start of her last semester before graduating!

Whatever Mr Chun Chol Rhee might think of himself, nothing short of a full and sincere apology by him is ever going to restore his standing in the sight of my daughter, my wife or myself. As for Lewis, he is still a bit young to appreciate the ramifications of what happened. It is because of his continued involvement, and Gwyneth's need to focus all her energies of studying, and for those reasons only, that I have not sent Mr Chun Chol Rhee a letter telling him precisely how badly he has transgressed against the demands of ethics, of common decency and indeed of common sense. It is very likely however, judging from what Glenda described of his demeanor throughout the grading session particularly the way he treated some of the younger children, that Mr Chun Chol Rhee has passed his use-by date. The man has created for himself an exclusive little empire and may have done so for quite good reasons, with the best of intentions perhaps, but he has failed to build and empower a committee of peers who could establish objective standards for techniques and for the procedures at gradings. Because of this the many hundreds of people learning his form of Tae Kwon Do must always remain subject to his subjective and changeable opinions. If he is now loosing his grip with regard to what is correct technique and nobody dares tell him that his conduct of gradings is unacceptable, he is going to lose all the respect of those who have until now looked up to him. The name of Rhee Tae Kwon Do looks set to lose its honour.

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Wed 22 Sept

Domestic issues have dominated for the last fortnight or so. We have all been sick with varying strengths of head cold/fluie something or other. This put the kybosh on plans for gadding about. Also some of the kids have issues with schooling which is making their lives less happy than I would like.

A, who is 11, has problems concentrating on anything she is not interested in and this is not just some transient childish thing. Her teacher Cathy N. is very good however, and is both understanding and sympathetic and also very willing to adapt her methods to help A. This is having some good effect so that A seems to be happier at the end of each school day and actually has some positive things to say rather than her previous blanket, depressive, negatives.

Lewis, who is now 16, also professes not to be happy with the situation at CJ. He seems to think that life would be much better if he went to a private school. He says that he needs to be pressured into working which we don't do, and nor to the teachers at CJ. My opinion is that he needs to decide on what he really wants to do; he has to set himself concrete goals and then prioritise his activities accordingly. I can't see much point in us borrowing many thousands of dollars to start him in a private school when there is a serious likelihood of him throwing it in after a term or two because we would still have to shell out the balance of fees. Far better to find some private tuition to help him out with specific areas he is having difficulty with.

All the coughs and colds notwithstanding, Glenda celebrated her 51 birthday last Saturday and we all managed to pig out on chocolates and Cheesecake Man cheesecake! I got her a food processor which she wanted, and storing the thing is just about the straw which will break the back of our kitchen. There is no longer enough horizontal space to accommodate all the stuff like electric jug and breadmaker, fruitbowl, coffee/tea makings, chopping board, vase of flowers, sundry other daily projects in process as well as the various meal making casserole dishes, colender, and so forth that seem always to be in use. Glenda is determined to find a set of second hand set of benches, pantry cupboard and cook top/whatever to replace what we now have which is all showing its age.

My father is heading off to Britain to visit the relatives and to see the surviving people he knows in Wales where we lived and where he studied. He is apparently going to give a talk at the university in Bangor where he got his BSc in Foresty in the early 1940s.

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 Saturday 4 Sept  Spring has started with 3 days of beautiful sunny days which have now turned to rain for the weekend.

The caterpillars have won! After some hard thinking, and parting with several hundred dollars for the tree loopers, the 2 Cape Lilac trees are gone! A couple of weeks ago I was just starting on the annual pruning of our Cape Lilacs [ Melia azedarch "White Cedar" to Eastern Staters] when the thought of doing all that and then having to spend time each week from late spring through to autumn searching the bark for evidence of infestation and spraying insecticide, without ever being able to completely vanquish the little bastards, well it all just seemed a bit too much. The pruning by itself I could cope with: just a day,s worth of fairly hard labour before the leaves come out in spring and then now and again a bit of control around the edges with the long handled toe-cutter, that was just good exercise. But breathing a bit of Mortein barrier, outdoor, surface spray each week of the warmer months for the next 10 years that we live here suddenly seemed really stupid. And I guess also the caterpillars of Leptocneria reducta have begun to disgust me; I feel duty bound to squash all the ones I see because I am pretty sure that if I don't then those particular larvae, there is a very good chance that the survivors will go on to produce offspring with some resistance to Mortein like chemicals.

Of course now that the main Cape Lilac tree which provided so much summer shade has gone, I now have to plant something else in its place: another deciduous, spreading tree to cover the trampoline, the bird cage and the entrance to G's room. I laughed as I was looking via google to find something suitable, when I came across an entry on the Friends of the Earth website, in which they suggest Melia azedarach as "a good shade tree with dense and spreading foliage, and produces mauve flowers from October to December." No mention here of a repulsive seething mass of hairy black things carpetting your back yard in the dusk!

If anything shows the psychopathically sick nature of the al Qaeda types it is the hostage drama at the school in Beslan, North Ossetia. It seems that some of the dead hostage takers were Arabs. What the hell they were doing there should be a cause for grave concern for everyone in the middle east and neighbouring areas of Asia and Europe.

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  because Islam is essentially a tribal religion that has evolved in partnership with the social and cultural practices of tribal despotism. So long as the majority of people in Iraq remain poor and in constant need of the apparent stability provided by the simplistic, cut and dried pronouncements which seem to be a primary feature of Islam, there is not going to be sufficient tolerance and broad mindedness such as is needed to sustain democracy.


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 J Jonker, the plasterer from HELL!

 "John" = J Jonker 10 Reingold Place Mirrabooka WA 6061 mobile: 0419955946
 Read the following before you ring his number :-(

Note: All they had to do was line the walls and ceiling of a smallish kitchen, and replace the bathroom ceiling!

 J Jonker and his mates perpetrated the following bodgy practices [another plasterer who has examined the work which J Jonker did in our house pointed out some of the finer details]:
  • did not trowel the mixture correctly so that many bubbles were left in the plaster that is supposed to cover the joins between the sheets of gyprock and at the edges next to the cornices. Once the plaster was dry these bubbles became little pits and holes in the surface
  • at several places on the walls J Jonker and Co left trowel edge marks which now have to be filled in
  • did not trowel off the plaster in the centre of the ceiling uniformly with the result that during daylight the light coming in the window causes a noticable shadow line along the ceiling
  • did not complete the cornices to the end of the gyprock at one end of the room. [Yes there is other work to be done in the area beyond where they were lining the walls, but surely the bloody cornice should go as far as the end of the gyprock sheeting.!]
  • treated our house like any old building site, were careless of how the tressles marked the floors, and made no significant attempt to clean up after themselves - the most they ever did was sweep fine plaster dust out the back door and leave it lying there in a pile so that the wind blew it around and kids tracked it right back into the house
  • put gyprock around the inside surface of the timber frame window space [apparently it is a normal procedure for a double brick house where the window frame will fit into the window space of the outer layer of bricks but our house is timber framed]
  • took well over two weeks to do a job that competent workers could have done in two days, and thus put all the rest of the work totally off schedule because all the other tradesmen had other jobs on the go and they had set aside time for us.

    J Jonker and Co were employed early November, didn't finish until late in the month. All they had to do was line the walls and ceiling of a smallish kitchen, and replace the bathroom ceiling! At no stage was it too hot to work because we have evaporative cooling which is effective on the hottest days we have here in Perth and also brings significant relief even on very humid days.

    We had hoped to have our kitchen finished before Christmas. Because of J Jonker, the plasterer from Hell, it probably won't be finished until mid January 205.


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