27 December 2007

Last minute preparation

This time tomorrow we'll be half way to Singapore.

We pretty much packed everything, done our last minute shopping, bought some pounds and euros and worked out what we really don't need to take. We've even been loading music onto the laptop to we can change what's on our Ipods while we're away.

I just discovered I discovered I didn't know how to change the time on my watch. I've only had it a few months, but in that time I've managed to misplace the instructions that came with it. The good old internet to the rescue. I've downloaded the instructions from the Casio website and now I won't have to keep asking Donna the local time, or subtracting from Brisbane time.


I found someone that's been on the London Eye, my very own step-daughter. Jess was over there a couple of years ago and she said it was a pretty good ride. She didn't like the Seaworld Eye much, but she said she enjoyed the London Eye. So there you go.

22 December 2007

Swimming with the dolphins

Ever since she was young, Sarah, my youngest step-daughter, has wanted to swim with dolphins. So, when we asked her a few months ago what she wanted to do for her 21st, she didn't say she wanted a party, she said she wanted to swim with the dolphins at Seaworld.

Well, yesterday was the big day and as you can see from the picture below, she got her wish.

That's Sarah at the top right of the picture. Going clockwise from Sarah, the others are Jess, my oldest stepdaughter, Michael, Olivia and Jenn, Sarah's friends, and Roy, Jenn's brother. All but Jess work together.

The swim lasted about 45 minutes all up. It was split into a deep water part and a shallow water part. The picture above is of the deep water part, where they got the dolphin to respond to different commands. Here, they're all swimming round in circles. The shallow water part was where they had their photos taken with the dolphin.

After the swim we spent a few hours checking out the rest of Seaworld. Donna and I found the animals the most interesting, including the window cleaners in one of the tanks. The two of us did go on one ride though. As we'll be in London soon, and London has the 135 metre tall London Eye, we thought we'd try out the Seaworld Eye, which is only 60 metres tall. Neither of us are that keen on heights, even though I'm a pilot, and if you go right back to one of my very first blog entries, you'll find a picture of me sitting on my parent's roof. We thought we'd try out the Seaworld Eye and if we enjoyed that we'd go on the London Eye.

I don't think we'll be going on the London Eye. The view was great, but every time the ride stops, the pod you're sitting in swings, especially if you're right at the top. I've seen pictures of the London Eye that suggest to me that the pods on that don't swing, because of the way they're fitted, so I'm not absolutely sure that I won't go up in it. I'll probably need a lot of encouragement though.

If anyone has been in the London Eye, leave a comment and let me know what it's like. I know one of my regular readers lives in London (or at least has their internet access through there), but I don't know who they are.

Anyway, getting back to Seaworld, if you want to see more of the day, have a look here. There's even a pic of the window cleaners.

If you ever visit Seaworld on the Gold Coast and want to swim with the dolphins, or the sea lions or sharks for that matter, check out their website here. The dolphin adventure costs $175 per person and your entry into the park is about $65. If you do the family dolphin adventure it works out a lot cheaper. Oh, and the price includes one photo of you and the dolphin.

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16 December 2007

Not long now

Donna just complained that it's hot and she's right, it is rather warm today. It's not so hot that we've put the airconditioning on, about 27 degrees celsius, but it's warm enough that I'm sitting here without a shirt on.

Actually, there's a bit of a sea breeze blowing in the window I'm sitting next to, so it's quite comfortable. The only place that's really hot is my lap, as I'm typing this on a laptop.

Two weeks from now, we'll be complaining it's cold, because we'll be in England. At the moment it's -1 in Poole, where we'll be staying for the first week.

Just about everything that needs to be booked is booked. We'll be staying in the Latin quarter when we get to Paris. The hotel is within walking distance of Notre Dame Cathedral. Once we leave Paris we'll play it by ear, but the intention at the moment is to catch the night train to Rome and spend a couple of days there.

So, now I've just got to get the next four work days out of the way and I'll be on holidays for seven weeks.

With the contract that's been signed with IBM, it'll be interesting to see where I'll be working when I get back, if at all.

09 December 2007

Sore bum

One of the chooks must have a sore bum today if what I found in the nest this afternoon is anything to go by.

The egg on the left is about the size they normally lay, even that's not small. They're usually around 65 grams. The one on the right weighed in at 100 grams and I guarantee it won't fit in an egg carton.

I'm curious to find out just how many yolks it has. I'm pretty sure the last time we had an egg that size it had three yolks.

07 December 2007

Change of plans

We had a call from our travel agent yesterday.

It seems that one of the coach tours we'd booked with Trafalgar has been cancelled, most likely due to lack of numbers. What annoys me about this is that we had to make sure we paid in full to get on the tour about three weeks ago. I assume that was the cutoff for the tour and no other bookings could be made after that. In which case, Trafalgar would have known three weeks ago that the tour wasn't viable and could have advised our travel agent then.

Our agent has suggested different dates for the two tours, but we've already made arrangements around the old dates and it would throw everything into disarray.

So what we've decided is, we're going to stick with our original timetable up to when we would have left for the second tour. That is, we head down to Dorset to stay with my aunt as soon as we arrive at Heathrow, then we head up to London for a night before doing a six day tour to Edinburgh and back. We've then got four days in London, which would have lead us into a seven day tour to Rome, this is the one that's been cancelled.

Instead we'll jump on the Eurostar to Paris, then use our Eurail pass for a leisurely tour around Europe for two weeks on the trains. We had intended to do that after arriving in Rome. We have a fifteen day pass, but would have probably only used it for about a week to see the places we didn't see on the tour.

Once we get back to England, we'll have time to see most of my family in Hertfordshire. Although, we don't know who we're staying with as yet, we're still looking for volunteers. Donna's looking forward to seeing where I was born and where I went to school.

Needless to say, I'm taking the laptop, my cameras and plenty of batteries and memory cards and I'll be blogging about the trip as much as I can while we're away. Donna will most likely do the same on her blog.

It seems that I've won a tour of the Cider Press, the best pub in Torquay as a result of correctly identifying a picture on Dave's blog. I do suspect however, that the odds were stacked in my favour. Dave knew I was going to be over that way soon and the picture in question was taken on the Gold Coast not far from here. We were going to meet up for a drink while Dave was over here on holidays, but I couldn't make it at the time. So there may be three people blogging about the same event.

24 November 2007

Spotted dick

That'll get a few hits from Google.

No I'm not talking about a nasty, embarassing illness. I'm talking about steamed pudding.

We had to go out and vote today and do some grocery shopping. While we were out, we thought we'd check out a new shop that's opened not far from us in the past few months.

It's called Britain on the Bayside and they specialise in British foods, the stuff we immigrants have fond memories of from when we were kids.

It was a very busy place while we were there too, and most of the customers had English accents. We came away with a tinned spotted dick, a packet of Jaffa Cakes (my favourite and the main reason we visited the shop), a tube of Jelly Tots, a box of wine gums, and a couple of other things that I don't remember from when I was a kid, but Donna wanted to try them.

So if you live in Brisbane, and you're missing your Robertson's Golden Shred Marmalade, or your Weetabix, maybe a Curly Wurly, or a huge tin of Bassett's Licquorice Allsorts, check them out. The address is on their website, just click on contacts.

I'm just waiting for them to get some Jacobs Club Chocolate Biscuits in, but I might end up getting them while we're in England.

18 November 2007

Runny nose

I've had this flu now for over a week, it started last Thursday.

I've only now started to get a runny nose and a cough. It's not the full on runny nose either, it's that annoying drip that's just enough to annoy. Just enough that you have to keep wiping it and you end up with a red, flaking nose afer a couple of days. There's just a hint of a sore throat there too.

Around about Thursday afternoon I thought I was getting better. I wasn't feeling feverish, wasn't quite as sore as I'd been (drying my back after a shower didn't feel like I was using a cheese grater on it) and I wasn't as tired. I even had an appetite. I still had a bit of a headache that I'd had since the weekend, but the Panamax was keeping that under control. Then I woke up about 2am that night and felt like someone had stuck a knife in the side of my head.

I'm no stranger to headaches, but they're usually mild and caused by too much alcohol the night before. This was the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced in my life. I took a couple of pain killers (more Panamax) and lay in bed clutching the side of my head trying to get in a position that lessened the pain, but nothing worked. It actually brought tears to my eyes. I would have woken Donna, but there's not much she could have done and it would have only worried her.

How I managed to get back to sleep I don't know, but I woke again about four hours later and had another couple of Panamax as the pain was still there, just not as bad. When I woke up again at 10am the headache was, thankfully, just about gone.

So I went to see my doctor again yesterday and she said the severe headache may have been caused by my elevated blood pressure. It's usually around about borderline, but while I've got this flu it's higher. She's given me another three days off work and I think I'll spend most of that working my way through a box of tissues.

I'm also on a waiting list now to borrow an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. What that does is check your blood pressure every 15 to 30 minutes over a 24 hour period to see if you really do have a problem. A lot of people suffer from white coat hypertension, which means their blood pressure only goes up when the doctor checks it. I know for a fact that mine is always a bit higher when my doctor checks it, than when I check it at home myself. Actually, it seems to be mainly that particular doctor.

Once I get over the flu, I think I'll have to start using the elyptical crosstrainer (or epyleptical as we like to call it) and start training again. I know from last time I used it that it's the best way to get my blood pressure under control.

17 November 2007

Counting down

I've just added a countdown timer to my blog. It's counting down to the time I finish work before our European holiday.

Donna gave me a funny look when I showed her. Yeah, I know, you shouldn't wish your life away and all that, but now the trip is all pretty much planned, booked and paid for I'm getting bored. Especially since I've been home sick by myself all week and when someone to talk to does come home, they're telling me to go to bed and stop lying around in the livingroom. Either that, or they're annoying me by tickling my feet. No respect for the dead, either of 'em.

Anyway, I got the counter from here. You'll have to alter the code slightly for your own use, but there's enough info on the page for you to manage that. If you've managed to add links and stuff to your blog, you shouldn't have any trouble at all.

I've also been counting down the days on my Facebook page. For some reason that has a different number of days. I think I may have lost count while I've been at home, or it might just be that I've been counting from the beginning of each day and including the first day of my holiday.

13 November 2007

Seafood part 2

I mentioned the other day that I'd inadvertently booked seafood meals for my entire trip to and from the UK.

There's a feedback form on the Singapore Airlines website, so I thought I'd fill that in and see if there was anything that could be done about it. I just got an e-mail back saying it's all sorted, and I'll be getting standard meals on the flights.

Of course, if the cabin crew come around at meal time and one of the choices is seafood, I might just go for the seafood.

I just hope the special seafood meals don't look too good, I'll regret changing back otherwise.

10 November 2007

What ex-pilots get


It's also what I've got at the moment. I don't mean the runny nose and the cough either. Here in Australia most people call a cold the flu. There's a big difference. I've got the aching muscles, the tiredness, the headache and the fever that comes with real influenza. And it hits you all of a sudden, doesn't build up slowly like a cold.

I think this is only the second time in my life that I've had the flu, but I've had my fair share of colds.

What's most annoying about it, is that I was supposed to be going diving again tomorrow morning to finish off my dive course. Now I've got to postpone it again. I suppose at least I can sleep in tomorrow, I would have been getting up at 4:30 am.

04 November 2007


We fly to England at the end of next month.

Yesterday I was on the Singapore Airlines website looking at our bookings. If you've booked your flight with them online, you can select your seats and meals in advance. We already know what seats we've got for the flights, I fixed that up a couple of days after booking when I realised I could do it.

Every now and then I have a look at the booking to see if anyone with better seats than us has cancelled so I can change ours. We've got pretty good seats anyway, but window seats right at the front of a section, with no-one sitting in front of us would be good. There's nothing worse than being twenty minutes into an eight hour flight, and the moron in front of you reclines their seat and leaves it there for the rest of the flight.

Anyway, while I was looking at the airline's website I decided to see what was included in the seafood meals, as opposed to the standard ones. This involved going into the change meals page and changing it to seafood. I now find I can't change it back to standard meals so I've got seafood for every meal, there and back.

I may be able to change it when I check in, which I can do online within forty eight hours of the flight, or it may mean contacting them personally.

Not that it matters. I like seafood, so I'm not too worried if that's all I eat on the flights. It'll also mean I get my meals before everyone else. I certainly can't complain about that.

03 November 2007

The end is nigh

There were a few smiling faces at work on Wednesday afternoon.

Most of us have worked for the company for a long time, I've just passed twenty four years there myself. Most of us are looking to do something different, to get out of the rut. We're bored with what we're doing, but there's not really anywhere else we can go in the company. The only reason most of us are still there is because they pay well. To leave would mean a big drop in pay, something none of us can afford.

On Wednesday afternoon we were advised that the company had signed a memorandum of understanding with another company. This MOU is for them to do a review of the logistics side of the company with a view to them taking it over, outsourcing in other words.

Why are we happy about this? It could mean redundancy packages for us. With the amount of service most of us have, they would be big enough that we could afford to take lower paid jobs elsewhere. In my case, it would mean our mortgage would go down to about the size of a small car loan. I could go and drive buses or stack supermarket shelves for a couple of years until I've finished my degree. Anything but sitting at a desk being bored out of my mind.

Of course we don't actually know what is going to happen at the moment. Maybe nothing will come of the review. We may be made an offer we can't refuse by the other company, and they may much better to work for than our present employer. As long as something happens though, we'll be happy.

28 October 2007

Sometimes it's just not worth getting up

This is Charlie.

He's only about two weeks old at the moment and he and his two litter mates are in care with Natasja, our wildlife co-ordinator. They were found at a local primary school and rescued by the RSPCA. Once they are old enough to be weaned, one will stay with Natasja, one will go to live with another carer, Binny, and little Charlie will go to live with Brett. Brett created the BARN website and you may have seen a pic of him in this blog holding a snake.

Doesn't Charlie look fed up? That's probably because every time he and his mates climbed out of the cage, they got put back in.

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27 October 2007

Thar she blows

Another early start yesterday morning, so we could get down to the Tweed River near the top of the tide for the final day of the diving course. I got up at 4:30am and left the house while it was still dark.

We had a few other divers with us this time, a guy from Melbourne who already had his ticket, a guy on holidays from Dublin who only had to do his last dive to qualify, and Tanya, another instructor who was taking the other to guys down.

That made ten of us and the Aussies were still outnumbered. Terry, our instructor, is from England as are Dave, Laurie and I. Matt is from the US, and Tanya is a Newfie. That left just Alex, Will, and the guy from Melbourne as the token Aussies. Actually the joke was that Matt was the token yank, in case we needed to leave someone behind.

Once we arrived at the boat the trailer was unloaded, gear was assembled, we got into our wetsuits, loaded up the boat and headed down the river and out into open water.

This time of year the humpback whales are heading down the coast back to Antarctica and we saw a heap of them in the distance, blowing and sticking the occasional tail up in the air.

Cook Island is a nature reserve, so to avoid damage to it by anchors there are mooring bouys to tie up to. We tied up to one of them and started putting on our gear ready to enter the water.

Getting into the water was different to what we'd previously done. Before we'd either slid over the side then put our gear on, or we did a giant stride entry. This time we had to roll backwards into the water. You usually see divers do it from an inflatable boat where you're close to the water. The boat we were on had about a metre drop to the water.

My first entry was a bit of a shock. My mask half filled with water and the water was cold. I took the regulator out of my mouth and took a few deep breaths to compose myself, then put the snorkel in my mouth, signalled okay to Terry on the boat, then swam round to the mooring line where we were to assemble before descending together.

About twenty years ago I went diving off Mudjimba Island on the Sunshine Coast. When I first put my head underwater there and looked down the ten metres to the bottom, I was amazed. There was so much to see. When I looked down at Cook Island yesterday I realised this wasn't going to be the same. We've had a few storms and some northerly winds just lately and visibility was pretty bad.

We made the most of it anyway, practised a couple of skills on the bottom, got to see a turtle then did an ascent on our buddy's alternate air source. After that, we all went back down one at a time with Terry and did a CESA, a controlled emergency swimming ascent. This involves swimming to the surface while exhaling all the way up so your lungs don't overexpand with the lower water pressure.

Back in the boat we changed our tanks over and had a bit of a break. Because the visibility was so bad the boat was moved to a different mooring, where it would hopefully be a bit clearer. The entry into the water this time was a lot better, probably because I was already wet and because I'd already done it once.

Visibility here was even worse than the first dive and this time we had a bit of a surge to put up with as well. The plan was for Terry to take us aside in our buddy pairs while Tanya looked after the rest of the group, get us to take off our masks and replace them, then swim about ten metres away using compasses, turn around and swim back to Terry. Once all that was done, the rest of the dive would be a look around and we'd ascend to the surface as certified open water scuba divers.

Terry took Laurie and I aside, found a spot where we could kneel on the bottom, then got me to remove my mask and replace it. We were getting knocked around all over the place and once I'd got my mask back on and the water cleared out of it, Terry took us back to the main group, gave us the thumbs up sign, meaning ascend, and we all swam back to the surface.

It was the first time Terry had ever had to cancel a dive, but he said it was just too dangerous trying to keep an eye on a class in those conditions. So we all got back into the boat and headed back to the Tweed River.

It wasn't a total loss though. On the way back we came across a female whale with a couple of calves. One of them was breaching and fin slapping and just generally having a good time, so we stopped for a while to watch until they swam away.

Because we still have a few things to do before we qualify, we have to do the last two dives another time. This is at no extra cost incidentally, so it basically means we're getting six dives for the price of four. I must admit, despite the conditions yesterday, I still enjoyed myself. Maybe I'm one of those people that enjoys muck diving.

So one Sunday within the next few weeks we'll be heading off for another couple of dives. Hopefully we'll come back qualified.

25 October 2007

A fart in a wetsuit

For the last three days my brother Laurie and I have been doing our open water diving course.

Now I was going to update the blog daily with news about the course, but after a morning of doing theory, the first thing we did in the pool was a two hundred metre swim and ten minutes of treading water.

I haven't been in a swimming pool for years and I've certainly never been much of a swimmer. I didn't have much of a problem from the fitness side of the swim, it's just that I was using muscles that I probably haven't pushed hard since I stopped working out in the gym about ten years ago. I thought I could cheat it a bit by pushing off from the side and just gliding underwater part of the way. It doesn't pay to cheat, at least not if you haven't tied your swimmers up properly.

Anyway, by the time I got home that night, my shoulders were so sore and tired I couldn't find a position to put them in that was comfortable. So I had an early night.

Of course the two hundred metre swim and the treading water weren't all we did. We practised a lot of the skills you need to know before you go in the open water. Stuff that could save your life, like finding your regulator and putting it back in your mouth after someone has kicked it out accidentally. Clearing water out of your mask while underwater is something that comes in handy, especially when you're bearded like me. It's surprising how much there is to learn. It's not just a case of strapping a tank to your back and breathing underwater.

The second day involved more theory and an exam, which everyone passed quite easily. Then we started off in the pool with a bit of snorkelling. First we had to duck dive to the bottom, three metres down, swim through a hoop and come back up. It's very easy to get down there and get through, but just about everyone of us got our fins hooked as we went through, even those of us that had watched the others and tried to swim as low as possible.

Then we did it after hyperventilating, which allows you to stay down longer and swim through the hoop more than once.

There were a couple of toys on the bottom, a shark and a lobster. Laurie went just before me, picked up one of the toys and swam through the hoop three times. Now, I was going to do that just to show off, because no one else had done it yet. Laurie had knocked the hoop sideways when he went through the last time, so I turned to Terry, our instructor, and said, "leave it crooked". Then I dived down, picked up both the toys, and swam through the hoop three times.

Of course the next person, a retired guy called Dave who's in his sixties, dived down and went through four times. I should mention at this point that out of six students on the course and the instructor, not one person doesn't have their fair share of grey hair. Most of us have pot bellies too.

The rest of the day was spent practising more skills, like breathing from an alternate air source, ie. your buddy's second regulator, and hovering.

You might think hovering, staying stationary in the water, would be easy. It's certainly important if you're diving near a reef to stop you crashing into it. It's harder than it sounds though, because as you breathe in and your lungs fill up, you become more bouyant, as you breathe out, you become less bouyant. You need to have just the right amount of air in your BCD (bouyancy compensation device, like a life jacket), then you control your breathing so that you're breathing out as you start to ascend and in as you start to descend. Of course the deeper you go, the less bouyant you are, so you have to make adjustments again.

Day three was today and involved an early start as we had to be down the Gold Coast around eight in the morning due to the tides.

From the Southport Spit we had a quick ten minute boat trip to Wave Break Island. We jumped in the water in our snorkelling gear and wetsuits and put on our BCDs and weight belts in the water. Putting on a weight belt in the water is easy, you just lie on your back holding the belt with one hand, then roll over onto your front and do it up. Putting on the BCD is a different matter as you invariably get tangled up in your straps.

After two days of swimming in a pool that's heated to around 30 degrees Celsius, jumping into seawater at 20 degrees was a bit of a shock, even wearing full length wetsuits.

For the first dive we just practiced a few of the skills we'd done in the pool and went down to about seven metres. It's a sandy bottom there, so there isn't much to see and visibility was only about three to five metres anyway. It was still a good first dive though, so different to being in the pool, and we did see a few fish.

We stayed in the water after the first dive. We just handed our BCDs up to Max in the boat, who changed the tanks over and passed them back down to us. Then we went down again and practiced a few more skills. By this time we'd been in the water for close to two hours, so some of us were starting to feel cold.

I must say, the biggest relief on getting back in the boat was taking off my mask. Leaving your mask up on your forehead is considered a sign that you're in distress in the water, so you don't do it. Instead you just leave your mask on, or push it down around your neck where it can be a bit of a nuisance.

Tomorrow is an even earlier start as we're diving at Cook Island, just off Fingal Head, near Tweed Heads. Hopefully the water will be clearer there. We don't have many skills to practice there as we did most of them today, so it'll be more of an experience thing. Terry reckons we should get to see a few turtles.

Oh, and if you've ever wondered, when you fart in a wet suit the bubbles run up your back and escape out around your neck. That means if you do it under water, the bubbles from your regulator as you exhale should hide it.

22 October 2007

Jacques Costeau, at one with nature

I've got this week off work and it feels great.

The reason I'm off, is because tomorrow I start the open water scuba diving course with Pro-Dive. The course involves two days of theory and pool dives, then two days of open water dives in the ocean, putting into practice what we learnt in the pool.

As I type this, I can see out the window that it's quite windy today. I'm hoping it's not too bad on Thursday and Friday as I sometimes get seasick. My brother Laurie, who is also doing the course, used to be in the navy and didn't have much trouble with seasickness unless it got really rough. I may have to pack some Kwells in my bag, just in case.

We used to be able to get a drug called Travecalm which was really good for motion sickness. Donna used to take one when ever I took her flying. It was taken off the market after it was found the manufacturers had serious problems with their quality control. Batches of Travecalm were going out with way to much of one of the ingredients and it was causing people to act strange after taking it.

Not the sort of thing you want at six thousand feet in a small aircraft.

Anyway, I'll naturally be blogging about the dive course, and I suspect Laurie will write a bit about it in his blog as well.


And speaking of nature, we have two new additions to the family. Rufus and Rusty are a pair of orphaned ringtail possums. Rufus's mum came into our care last week after she had her tail run over by a car. Unfortunately, she died a couple of nights later. Rusty joined us yesterday as ringtails are best kept with others of their kind.

You can read about the two of them on our carer's blog, A Possum in my Pocket.

19 October 2007

Come with me

and you'll be.

In a world of pure imagination.

I caught a bit of Australian Idol tonight. One of the contestants is a bandsman in the navy. Listening to him sing, he reminds me a bit of Harry Conick Jr, and he's not a bad horn player.

I used to play the trumpet. Now I never played it long enough to get good at it, but I liked to tell people I had a 21 inch horn, even longer with a mouthpiece on it.

The thing is, this Idol contestant, whose name I don't even know was singing one of my favourite songs.

Scroll back up for a hint.

I haven't been following the series much this year, so I don't know really what they're like. One contestant, Brianna, reminded me a lot of a friend of mine, but I suspect my friend had better pitch control, and Brianna got voted out a few weeks ago. So this navy guy is my pick to win this year.

Anyway, in a round about way, this blog entry is a way of saying, "we saw a famous person last night".

We went to the Dockside Comedy Bar last night for Jess's birthday, which is tomorrow. I can thoroughly recommend it (the comedy bar and Jess's birthday). Anyway, during one of the breaks between acts, those of us that didn't need to, were outside with those that needed to (smoke). I looked over toward the entrance and there was a guy chatting to one of the staff, and he had the biggest afro I've seen in a long time.

"That's... um... Side Show Bobby", I said, as discreetly as possible. I'm sorry, but I couldn't think of his surname at the time. Being the designated driver (actually I volunteered so I didn't have to listen to Sarah's crap music, which would have happened if she drove) my mind was a bit twisted by orange juice. Anyway, I drew attention to him and everyone agreed it was him. It was Bobby Flynn, from last year's Idol. Oh, and the hair is much bigger in person than it is on the tele.

Now I quite liked Bobby. A lot of people said he had an original sound, which I disagree with. He reminded me of Boz Scaggs, someone you're average Idol viewer would be too young to remember. I just wish he'd hurry up and get his album out.

Getting back to who I'd like to see win this year's Idol, here's a reminder of what Gene Wilder sounded like when he sang, Pure Imagination.

12 October 2007


We're still in the process of planning out our holiday at the moment.

The flights are paid for, and we've been going through the Trafalgar Tours brochure and website. We've pretty much decided to do a four day tour up to Scotland and back, do a trip down to Poole to visit an aunt, then a seven day tour to Rome. After that we're going to travel around on the trains using Eurail passes and head back to England.

As the Australian dollar is quite strong at the moment, it works out cheaper to buy a Eurail pass online via their official website than to buy it from Australia. I ordered the passes the other day and they e-mailed me back with the Fedex tracking details. They started off somewhere in Massachusets (or wherever MA is), went to Memphis, now they're in Hawaii. They're getting to see more of the world than us.

30 September 2007

Spring is definitely here

It wasn't all that long ago that I was wearing three layers of clothes even during the warmest part of the day. I've hardly worn a shirt this weekend.

There are other signs that it's now spring. Most of the trees are either in flower or they've changed to a pale colour as the new shoots come out. This is great news for the possums as they love both. Every afternoon we go out in the yard and cut bits off the trees to feed Mogwai and Lucky. The neighbours must be starting to think we're really obsessed with pruning.

Spring also means that the young possums born this winter are starting to become more independent. I spent most of yesterday afternoon reassembling an aviary for Lucky to move into. We already have one set up for Mogwai and he's been having a look around in there each evening for the past week. He'll most likely move in next weekend. He also gets to play on the clothes line each evening, so he gets some practice climbing around and gets some exercise.

There's also more activity in the bird world at the moment. We're starting to hear the young noisy miners squarking for food. In a month or two that will become really annoying because they just don't stop. This is also the season when a lot more birds come into care because they've fallen out of nests or whatever.

I'm still waiting to see my first dollar bird for this year. They're usually doing their aerobatics around the back yard in the early evening at this time of the year.

Spring is also a good time to start new things. Donna started blogging recently. She's been following mine for ages and finally decided to give it a go herself. She's discovering it's not as hard as she thought. She finds herself planning her next entry in her head while she sits on the back verandah with a drink in the evening. Something I can relate to, and I'm sure other bloggers can too.

I hate statistics

I may have mentioned it before, but statistics is the worst subject ever to be inflicted on a student. It's even worse than maths.

If you google the phrase, "I hate statistics", you'll come up with all sorts of blogs and other websites written by people that teach the subject. They'll go on about the fact that, most people that hate statistics do so because they aren't very good at maths, or aren't that interested in maths.

No, the reason most people hate statistics is because it's taught by people who have such a twisted personality they actually enjoy it. This twist also renders them incapable of realising that, those of us that hate statistics, are going to have great difficulty learning it if all the textbooks and study notes are written as though we all love it.

No matter how much people try to justify the reasons for people hating statistics, it's not going to change the fact that the majority of statistics and maths teachers are incapable of teaching.

Even the book "Statistics for the Utterly Confused" causes my eyes to glaze over as soon as I start to read it.

Now I realise that having an understanding of stats is necessary in science. Scientists gather and interpret data from their experiments. What I don't understand is why I can't just put the data into a program on my computer, tell it what I want to do with that data, then get easy to interpret results. No, I basically have to learn to be a computer programmer to get the software to analyse the data. If I do something wrong, I get a completely meaningless error message that is useless to me. What the hell does "NaNs produced" mean?

You're probably wondering why I'm ranting on about stats. I'm supposed to be working on an assignment and I'm stuck. This is the fourth one for this subject and there are two more after this one. This is the third time I've attempted the subject, the other two times I pulled out early enough to avoid failing. The lecturer this time is at least a lot better than the previous two, but that still doesn't make it any easier to learn. It's still a crap subject taught my someone who enjoys maths.

What I'd like to see in a stats class is the data on how many people fail statistics and what majors those people are doing.

Did I mention that I hate statistics?

29 September 2007


I've been following the events in Burma just recently.

For those that don't know, Burma is bordered by Thailand, China, India and Bangladesh. There are probably a lot of allied soldiers from world war two that owe their lives to the people of Burma, just as many soldiers owe their lives to the people of PNG during the same war.

So how are we repaying them for that help? Well, we aren't really. While the regime there are opening fire on democracy protesters with live amunition, all our government can do is tighten visa restrictions on certain members of the regime.

It's been suggested that if Burma had oil the yanks would have troops there by now, they'd find some bogus excuse to go in, just as they did in Iraq.

If you want to see what's actually going on over there, have a look at Ko Htike's blog. Be warned though, it's not for the faint hearted. Some of the images there are quite disturbing. The stories and pictures on the blog are supplied by ordinary people, like you and I, that are risking their lives to get the message out. Something that's even harder to do now that the regime have cut off the internet in Burma.

27 September 2007

Playing with our balls at work

One of the things our performance at work is measured on is the number of missed calls.

If we're all busy and there are no agents available a missed call goes through to message bank. We try to keep the number of missed calls down to below five percent of the total calls. If it stays up for too long it usually means we need to employ another operator, or we're all being slack.

Now, someone has to get the messages off the message bank and this causes problems. It usually falls to one person to do it, and that usually means they're the one doing all the call backs too. It gets a bit unfair, especially if we're busy or the database crashes (that happens all too regularly) as there will often be quite a few messages to reply to and one person doing them.

Yesterday our team leader came up with a solution. He grabbed an orange stress ball, wrote "message ball" on it, and we use it like a baton.

The idea is, whoever has the ball is responsible for getting the messages off. If you have more than one message you pass the others clockwise around the room, along with the ball. That way the job gets shared around. You don't have to bother with rosters that get all confused when someone is off sick or on leave, which sometimes happens with other duties we perform. You just pass the ball.

Such a simple solution.

25 September 2007

Three years and counting

I'm sitting on our back verandah as I type this. Three years ago I was sitting out here with friends and family celebrating the fact that, Donna and I had just become husband and wife.

Yes, today is our third anniversary.

As I look back over the time since we first met back in November 2001, I'm amazed at how much we've done together in such a short time. Donna had never been overseas before we met, we've since been to New Zealand and Vietnam and we're off to Britain, and quite likely a bit of Europe, in the new year. Donna's been up in light aircraft, ridden on a motorbike, had good... we won't go into that, seen a lot more of Australia than she'd seen before and tried a few other things that she wouldn't have tried without a bit of a push from someone that had the utmost confidence in what I thought she might be capable of. With Donna's support, there's been a lot of things I've done since we met too. I wouldn't be half way through a science degree without her help.

I've been lucky enough to have married someone that has put up with the fact that, because I was single for so long, I come across as being a bit of a selfish bastard. A singly, as my mate Tony used to put it.

I just read that bit to her and she giggled.

Anyway, we're now planning our next big adventure, our trip to Britain at the end of the year. It's something we're both really looking forward to. From Donna's point of view, she wants to see where I was born and where I went to school, and meet the relatives (of which I have a hell of a lot) that she hasn't yet met. From my point of view it's a case of sharing part of my life experience, and showing her a part of what I'm all about.

What Donna is really looking forward to is spending new year's eve in an English pub, and going outside to see snow falling. I can't guarantee that (the snow bit), but I know a couple of great country pubs in Hertfordshire (where I'm from) that she'll really love. We're taking our darts with us too.

We're hoping to see a bit of Ireland as well, since Donna's family has some Irish heritage and I've always wanted to see more of the British Isles, never having been further north in England than

Hopefully, next year we'll spend some time down around the Murray river since Donna is also descended from the Yulupna tribe in that area about four generations back.

Either way, we'll always be trying new experiences, whether it be visiting places like Vietnam, which we did in January of this year, or looking after wild animals, like the possums we have in our care.

I've known a few people that have retired from the jobs that they've had for three or four decades. Within six months of retiring, they've died because they had nothing to live for, but work. That will never happen to us, there's nothing surer than that.

22 September 2007


We've been talking about it for a while, going to England for a holiday.

Donna wants to see the area where I was born, and do the things that most Aussies want to do in England, drink in a pub and see and old castle.

So, this morning I booked the tickets.

We're leaving at the end of December, just after Christmas and coming back in the first week of February. It struck me as we were talking about it after I booked, that that's only three months away.

Now to start letting the family over there know we're coming.

16 September 2007

Fess up

OK, come on fess up.

Which of my rellies is the frequent visitor via my mum and dad's blog? It's you Annabelle isn't it?

Drop me an e-mail at sdporter at tpg.com.au.

Psycho possum eats man's brain

I'm not sure exactly what Mogwai was doing here, but it didn't tickle.

It's not like I've got nits or anything like that, and my hair was clean as I'd washed it that morning. Although, there may have been a few bits of flower in my hair from the afternoon when I was collecting their food from some of our trees.

Every afternoon one of us goes out in the yard with one of those secateur on a pole things and cuts the best looking flowers we can find. The best ones always seem to be the highest up in the tree. Being spring here now, we have plenty to chose from. Most of the calistemons, grevilleas and banksias are in flower. In fact, most of them look more red than green at the moment.

Invariably, when getting flowers out of the tree, you end up with bits of tree showering down on you, so maybe that's what Mogwai was after. Then again, perhaps he is just a psycho, brain eating demon (Mogwai is chinese for demon).

I also have a couple of holes on my belly where he jumped from Donna to me last night, while we were both standing up.

Oh the joys of being a carer.

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13 September 2007

Sick again

I'm off work sick at the moment.

It's nothing serious, but when your throat feels like you've swallowed a razor blade and y.our main job involves talking on the phone all day, you can understand why I'm at home.

We have an agreement here. If you're taking the day off sick, you ring work and tell them yourself. That way you're less likely to take a sickie. The trouble is, when you have a really sore throat and don't want to talk, you really don't want to be ringing the boss. I couldn't be bothered arguing with Donna about it, for obvious reasons, so I switched on the laptop and e-mailed my boss instead.

Anyway, the throat feels like I've swallowed gravel now, which means I can do a Lee Marvin impersonation and sing "Wanderin' Star" in the correct key. See, there's a positive in everything.

By the time I get back to work on Monday, I should be well into the runny nose and hacking cough stage. It's lucky my desk faces the corner away from everyone. At least I won't be coughing in their direction.


Donna had her first job interview in about eighteen years on Monday.

Out of about eighty applicants for the job at a wine merchant's, only three were interviewed. She got the call today to say she'd been unsuccessful, the woman that got the job actually had experience in the wine industry. They want to hang on to her resume though, in case it doesn't work out with the other woman. So I guess that means she came second.

Needless to say, it's done wonders for Donna's confidence. She's only applied for two jobs so far, and only just missed out on one of them. So I don't think she'll have to much trouble finding something. She can afford to be a bit picky too, as she's still getting casual hours from her old employer.


While I've been home this week I haven't sat idle, well not very.

I finally got around to registering on Facebook. Would you believe, there are 253 Steve Porters on Facebook, and every single on of us are good looking. Okay, I lied about the good looking bit.

We've also been busy with the animals.

Donna was out with Jess yesterday looking for an apartment to rent. While they were out, Jess got a call from BARN to go and pick up an injured ringtail possum. So now we have three possums to look after, although the ringtail will probably be released back into the wild this weekend. That should be interesting as it will be our first release.

I mentioned the other day that Lucky, one of the brushtails is suffering from a rash. Well he had a bath today. He's still complaining about it now, an hour later.

Edit: 14:20pm

An update on the ringtail. He sadly died this afternoon. Just one of the things you have to accept as a carer and something we'll see a lot more of.

10 September 2007


When I was growing up, a servo (service station) wasn't just somewhere you bought your petrol and ciggies ( a good mix), you could get your car serviced there too. Not only that, but the guy that owned the business probably knew you and your car as well.

Well, there's not as many petrol selling places where you can get your car fixed these days. You either take your car back to the dealer and get it done properly (but pay a lot for it), take it to somewhere like K-Mart Auto (and pay a lot for it, but not necessarily get it fixed), or search out an old fashioned servo and get it done properly at a reasonable price.

Sarah's been having trouble with her Daewoo Nubira just lately, it's been running really rough. She took it to K-Mart Auto to get it serviced and they replaced her spark plugs and HT leads and did a few other things, recommended a few things, and charged her about $500.

Not long after that, the car started running rough again, so her grandad and I replaced the fuel filter (one of the things they recommended). A couple of days later it was playing up again, so Donna rang up K-Mart Auto, told them the problem and Sarah took the car in for them to have another go at fixing it.

The verdict? One of the spark-plugs they'd put in was faulty.

I used to have a Daihatsu Charade that had a similar problem. My local servo back then had replaced the HT leads, but when it played up again and one of the plugs looked stuffed, they correctly surmised that the reason the brand new plug was the way it was, was because one of the brand new HT leads was stuffed.

I started to suspect that maybe they hadn't installed a faulty plug, they were just clutching at straws.

Now there's a servo about five minutes drive from us, near the Wellington Point railway station. it's one of those old style servos where they actually come out and pump the juice for you. The last time I had that done was in Gatton about two years ago, and before that, I can't really remember. That used to be what service meant.

Anyway, Donna used to get her car serviced at the place in Wello, and whenever we drive past there on a week day, there's always a heap of cars parked out the front waiting to be worked on. A good indication of its popularity. So Donna rang them up and got Sarah's car booked in for this morning.

The verdict? It was the ignition module. It was that that caused the plugs to fail. Not only that, but a couple of the plugs were cracked, because whoever worked on it before had done them up too tight and broken the insulation. Oh, and the new HT leads were cheapies too.

If you're having trouble with your car, try and find the little servo in the backstreet that looks a bit like a museum piece and has a heap of cars parked out the front every day. There's a reason all those cars are parked there. You might notice, it's a different bunch of cars each day too.

Oh, and Donna hadn't taken her car there for a few years, but Geoff (or is it Jeff?), the owner, still remembered her.

08 September 2007

Cute, furry little critters

I couldn't resist posting this picture of Lucky as a reminder to check out my wildlife carer blog, where you'll find a picture of Mogwai.

The possum in the pocket is Mogwai as well.

Aren't they cute.

06 September 2007

Stressed moggy

It seems Dizzy the evil cat may be suffering from stress.

She's been having trouble just lately with, what appeared to be, a bladder infection. I can relate to that. She'd been spending a lot of time in her litter tray and out in the yard just trying to pee and not having much luck. What did come out had a bit of blood in it.

The vet gave her some antibiotics a week or so ago and that seemed to help. He asked at the time if she seemed to be stressed at all, and Donna replied that she didn't, but did stress the dog a lot.

Anyway, Donna noticed yesterday that Dizzy was spending a lot of time in the yard looking like she was trying to pee, so we decided to take her to the vet's the next day (today).

While I was sitting out on our back verandah early yesterday evening she was lying on my lap asleep, Dizzy that is, not Donna. I got up to go inside for something and noticed a dark patch on my jeans. I'm getting used to animals leaking on me. Forty-five minutes later she was in the vet surgery being examined again.

The vet had a look at her, asked again about stress and let her get back in her carry box. While he was discussing what the problem could be, and the fact that he'd like her to stay overnight for observation and to get a clean sample of urine out of her with a needle, she let go in the box. There was a mad dash to get her out before she got it all over her as she was lying down at the time, then we all grabbed paper towels to clean up after her.

She should be home again tonight hopefully. She'll either have a course of a different antibiotic, if it turns out to be a bacterial infection, or something to calm her down if it turns out to be stress.

I can't get this image out of my mind of a doped up Dizzy lounging around the house, giving people peace signs and disappearing when Carla, the ex-sniffer dog, comes to visit.

02 September 2007

Father's Day

It's father's day today, or at least it is in Australia, I think it's on a different date in other parts of the world.

Anyway, instead of driving all the way over to Mum and Dad's place to see them, we decided to invite everyone over to our place for lunch. We've had a lot of renovations done in the last year or so and Mum and Dad haven't seen what's been done. We also thought it would be a good chance for my nieces to see the animals.

My brother Laurie has a black labrador called Carla. Carla was a customs sniffer dog in training, but she dropped out of sniffer dog school so now she's a family pet. She loves to travel in the car, so Laurie asked if they bring her over as well.

At one stage I looked out the backdoor while they were here and she was standing on the verandah all wet. We found out something about Carla today, she likes to swim. We always joke about sitting in the pond on a hot day, but only Carla has ever been for a swim in there.


I decided to put an Adsense banner on my new blog today, like the one I've got on here.

Because I've mentioned bladder troubles a couple of times, most of the ads that have been coming up have been related to that. If I start mentioning SCUBA diving a lot, it'll start showing ads for SCUBA diving.

When I put the banner on the other blog most of the ads were for possum traps and pest control, not really the sort of thing that fits. I've put a Google search box on there instead.

31 August 2007

A new blog

I've been doing a bit of Googling this week, looking for information on wildlife caring.

There's plenty of information out there, but there don't seem to be many people blogging about it, so I thought I'd start one.

Now, I could just blog about it here, but if someone finds my blog because they've done a search on wildlife, that's what they want to read. They don't want it interspersed with tales of rectal examinations, or driving a truck. They might not even be that interested when I write about my SCUBA diving course in October (I passed the medical today by the way).

I thought I'd leave this as a personal one and do a knew one just about caring for wildlife. That's not to say I won't have some of the wildlife stuff on here as well though.

If you wan't to have a look, it's called "A Possum in my Pocket" and you can get to it by clicking here. I also have it listed in my sidebar.

Oh, and it will look a lot better when I've had a play with the template.

30 August 2007

Wet patch

I knew it couldn't last for long.

I was sitting in an armchair last night watching "House" while Mogwai the possum played under my jacket. I'm not sure what he was trying to do under there, but it seemed like he was trying to burrow into my armpit. At one stage he crawled round the back of me and came out the other side to try the other armpit.

Once House finished and the ads were on during the behind-the-scenes special afterwards, I got up to put Mogwai back in his cage (that's always fun, like trying to get chewing gum out of your hair), when I discovered the back of my pants were wet. He'd done both number one and number two on the seat behind me and it had soaked right through. I can't believe how big the wet patch was.

When I took my clothes off even the tail of my shirt was wet. I ended up watching the last bit of the special in the nude. No point putting clean clothes on just before bed.

28 August 2007

Little visitors

We have a few visitors staying with us at the moment while Jess, who is a wildlife carer is away on holidays for a week.

This is Lucky, he's an orphaned brushtail possum. As he's a bit dehydrated at the moment, Donna's bottle feeding him twice a day.

We're looking after two possums. Lucky is only 300g, his little mate Mogwai is even smaller. He's so small in fact that he's sitting in my jacket pocket as I type this.

We also have a couple of reptiles staying with us. You may have seen Willy, the one eyed snake before if you're a regular reader.

Willy was rescued after being attacked by birds. He's about twice the size he was when he was rescued (probably about a metre now).

The other critter is a blue tongue lizard that was rescued from someone who was keeping her illegally as a pet and had over fed her. She's now a lot closer to her correct weight, but is unlikely to ever be returned to the wild as she's too used to humans.

I'll tell you more about our little visitors at a later date, and show you more pics. It's a bit awkward typing with Mogwai in my pocket as I'm afraid I might knock him with my arm. I'm also afraid he might pee in my pocket.

Incidentally, if you're living in the Brisbane area and don't have plans for this Saturday, BARN are having an open day at Willawong animal shelter. Check their website for details under coming events.

18 August 2007

Singing for his supper

We've been getting a lot of visits from a group of butcher birds just lately.

We usually give them pieces of raw mince and there are a couple of them that will actually eat out of our hands. One in particular we've nicknamed Gandalf.

Gandalf is a juvenile and therefore he's grey where older birds are usually black, hence the name Gandalf the Grey. Apart from eating out of our hands, he has a habit of sitting on the window ledge and watching us in the kitchen.

Butcher birds are probably one of the best singers of any bird I know. When they get together in a group they can be quite loud, but when one sings alone it can be very pleasant to listen too.

Below is a video I shot of Gandalf just the other day. I'm not sure if he was singing to me so I would feed him, or whether he was singing to another butcher bird sitting in one of our flower pots.

I was going to say, why would you want to keep a bird in a cage when you have this sort of thing in the wild. I'd feel like a hypocrite though, as Sammy the cockatiel is coming back to live with us soon. We're also thinking of becoming carers now that Donna has a bit more time at home, so we may end up with a couple of injured or orphaned birds in cages soon.

15 August 2007

Drop your pants and lie on the bed

I had my ultrasound today.

I know a lot of people that have been for ultrasounds. Any woman that has had a baby would have had one, but it turns out a lot of guys have had them too.

Most tell the same story. You drink your litre of water before you leave home, then you sit in the waiting room for ages with your legs crossed and your bum cheeks bouncing up and down on the chair. One guy I know from work actually got up while he was waiting for his and told the receptionist that it wasn't so much a case of when he could pee, but where, and informed her that the flower pot in the corner was starting to look pretty inviting.

I must have been lucky. I was just starting to get to the wriggling stage when my name was called, ten minutes before my appointment time.

I was told to drop my trousers and lie down on the bench, or bed, or table, or whatever that thing is in doctor's surgeries. The doctor then slapped on some lube and started doing the scan.

Now I'd been told this was uncomfortable, mainly because you're lying there with a full bladder and someone is pushing really hard on it. If anything I found it more ticklish than uncomfortable.

Once the initial scan was done, I was told to go and have a pee and to take as long as I needed. This was good as I've gotten into the habit of taking a book in with me whenever I go for a pee. I'm getting through Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series at a rate on one every two days.

So, after peeing as much as I could, I went back into the room and the doctor continued the scan, doing my abdomen again, then my sides. I found the sides more uncomfortable, mainly because they tend to get pretty close into your ribs.

Once that was over I went across the road to a pathology lab for a blood test to check if my prostate is OK and took the opportunity while I was there to use their facilities (have another pee).

Now I know the big grey envelope with the results in has a seal on it saying it's not to be opened by anyone but the referring doctor, but I never take notice of that. I won't tell you what the results were, not until I've discussed them with my doctor, but it doesn't look like there's any kidney stones. The peeing problem will hopefully go away with a different course of antibiotics.

Hopefully, I should now be right to go for my dive medical later this month, in preparation for the course in October.

12 August 2007

Tap dancing

I'm going for an ultrasound on Wednesday to check my bladder and kidneys, etc.

The appointment is at 9:30 am, so I have to drink a litre of water between 8:30 and 9:00, then not pee until after the scan. I've never had to do that before, so I thought I'd do a practice run this morning while I worked on a uni assignment.

I started at 9:30 and managed to drink all the water within half an hour. That was the easy bit.

By 10:30 I was starting to feel it, but not too bad. I managed to hold on long enough that the appointment would have, hopefully, been finished. By 10:50 I was starting to wriggle a lot and decided it was time to take a break from the uni assignment and go for a much needed pee.

As I was planning to use the downstairs toilet, (Sarah and her friend were in the room next door to the upstairs one) I had to go through the laundry to get to it. Donna had put a load of clothes on and the washing machine had emptied into the tub as it should. Unfortunately, the plughole in the tub was blocked and the water wasn't draining away. It was less than an inch away from overflowing all over the floor. So, I had to clear the blockage before I could go to the toilet.

I'm just glad no-one was watching me, I'm not very good at tap dancing.

03 August 2007

Another trip to the doctor

I paid the doctor another visit yesterday.

It was the same problem as last time, having trouble doing a full pee and feeling constipated. I thought I'd do something about it before I got to the fever stage this time.

I managed to see my regular doctor this time (I'll call her Dr M), she's actually the wife of the doctor I saw last time (Dr R). I was actually booked in to see a different female doctor, but Dr M must have seen my name on the computer and she was free, so she came out and got me. Thankfully I didn't get a finger up the bum this time. Dr M has thinner fingers than her husband, but you should see her nails. Makes your eyes water just thinking about it.

Anyway, I came away with another script for antibiotics and a few referrals for blood tests and ultrasounds, just to make sure my prostate, kidneys and other stuff are okay. My father-in-law had a bladder infection years ago, that was caused by a kidney stone that had created a bit of a blockage. Bladder infections are actually quite uncommon in men apparently.

I'll just be glad when the antibiotics start to work again and I don't have to get up to pee three times a night.

I won't even mention the turtle head feeling, oops I just did.

02 August 2007

Unfortunate captions

The present CEO of Telstra often gets compared to Cheech Marin of Cheech and Chong fame.

Imagine the reaction at work when the picture below appeared. Check out the bit in blue.

Okay, I've cropped the rest out to make it funnier. He's actually talking about broadband speeds, or lack thereof, here in Australia.

On the topic of broadband, I got a new Next G mobile phone yesterday. It seems funny watching a minisode of Starsky and Hutch while sitting on the bus on the way home.

29 July 2007

Psycic cat, or murdering moggy

There was an interesting story in the news the other day. You can click here to read it.

It seems there's a two year old cat called Oscar who lives in a nursing home in the US. Oscar apparently has the ability to tell when a patient is going to die, and he curls up on the bed next to them for their final hours.

His ability is so reliable that the staff there now call the patient's relatives in preparation whenever they find him on someones bed. I'd have thought resuscitation might have been a better option, but what do I know.

Anyway, I've been thinking, and there's a few ways of looking at this;

A) Oscar really does have a sixth sense.

B) The patients don't really like cats, and the ones that are about to die are the only ones that don't push poor Oscar off the bed.

C) Oscar is actually a psychopathic, murdering moggy and the only reason he knows which patient is about to die is because he's the one doing it.

I've got to admit that I'm a bit skeptical about extra sensory perception and all that, but I do tend to think that option A is still the most likely. Option B is still quite possible too.

A couple of weeks ago when I was ill, I went and had a lie down on the bed and Dizzy came in and lay on the bed with me. Normally she'll lie next to my legs and rest her head or her paw on my ankles. This time she snuggled up to my chest and rested her head on my shoulder.

Either she sensed I wasn't feeling well, or she was waiting for me to fall asleep so she could smother me.

Guess what Dizzy, you aren't in the will. It won't do you any good.

28 July 2007

Kinda creepy

My brother Laurie and I are going SCUBA diving in October. We're doing the open water course with Pro-Dive Brisbane.

Because of my interest in photography and wildlife, I thought I'd get myself a camera that I could use when I'm diving. The dSLR I usually use for photography would be too expensive to use as a diving camera as the waterproof housing would cost a couple of thousand dollars, and I'm not sure I'd want to risk it anyway. So, I bought a second hand Olympus c-5050, an underwater flash and a new waterproof housing for it, all for about a quarter of what the dSLR cost.

Now I've been meaning to try the housing out underwater for a couple of weeks. Since we have a pond in the backyard, I thought I'd try photographing the goldfish in there, below is the result.

There's a lot of sediment in the water which has caused backscatter from the built in flash. I could have used the strobe, but it would have stuck out of the water as the pond isn't very deep at that spot.

When we initially put the goldfish in the pond there were only three of them. After two or three years there's now a lot more than that. The thing is though, we only put goldfish in there.

So what's that sitting on the bottom? Click on it to enlarge and have a closer look.

Whatever it is, it's about 5 inches long and has eyes. Next time I put my hands in that pond I'm wearing my diving gloves, just in case it takes a liking to me.

21 July 2007

Gonna make you an offer you can't refuse

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Donna had quit her job and was going to be doing temp work and studying.

Well she has another two weeks to go before she leaves the job, but her regional manager made her an offer yesterday that was too good to refuse.

She's been offered a transfer back to her old store as a casual. That means she can still go and get work elsewhere and study, but if she has trouble finding work she has something to fall back on. Basically, she's not burning her bridges behind her. It also means that as long as she goes in and does a couple of hours a month she gets to keep her staff discount card.

I don't think she'll have any trouble getting another job, but it is nice to have that safety line.

15 July 2007

It comes to all of us eventually

... or at least the men. Women have their own uncomfortable procedures done to them by doctors.

I had a bit of a problem with the waterworks on Friday. Nothing serious, it's just that whenever I went for a pee I felt like I hadn't finished. By Friday night I was shivering like I've never shivered before and went to bed with a fever.

"You've got a bladder infection," said Donna, "and it won't get better by itself."

So off I went to the doctor on Saturday morning, now feeling constipated and finding it uncomfortable to sit down as well.

He got me to pee in a container, asked me a few questions, then got me to lay on the bench while he poked and prodded my abdomen and my kidneys.

Then he said the words that will send a shiver up any man's spine.

"Roll onto your side and I'll check your prostate."

He told me the lube would feel a bit cold. I couldn't care less what temperature the lube was. Cold lube is no where near as uncomfortable as having someone's finger up your bum.

They say that at forty you have a forty percent chance of having prostate trouble, at fifty a fifty percent chance and so on. At least I know that at forty two there's nothing wrong with my prostate.

The antibiotics should fix up the bladder infection pretty quickly. I hope so because my bum's still sore.

12 July 2007


Ever wonder what you'd look like as a character on the Simpsons? Now is your chance to find out. Have a look here.

I left a print out of the picture below on our dining table the other day. Jess and Brett came round for a visit and when she saw the pic, I heard Jess whisper to someone, "That looks like Steve".

Unfortunately, there wasn't the choice of a skinny body with a pot belly, so this was as close as I could get. But it really does look like me. I might have to give Mat Groenig a call.

09 July 2007

Career change

No not me, although I'd love to.

Donna handed in her notice today. She's worked for the same employer for the past 18 or 19 years. She started of as a shelf filler, moved to checkouts, and for the past 5 or 6 years she's been working in the office. A few months ago she was offered the position of office manager in another store which she took.

Now office manager has a nice ring to it, and it does involve a lot of responsibility. What it doesn't involve is a lot of money, nor time to actually get the job done. In fact she's earning less per hour as a part timer in the office than Sarah is as a casual checkout chick. With regular budget cuts there was less money for overheads, and so less hours to do the office work.

So she decided it was time to get out and do something she would find interesting and more rewarding.

The plan is to go to TAFE full time and do temp work around that. The local college runs a certificate course in native animal rehabilitation, and in fact it's within walking distance of home. She was going to start that this month, but it turns out the course actually starts tomorrow (Tuesday). So she'll be starting it in the new year instead.

I've got to admit, I'm a little jealous, I'd love to quit and do something else. I'd even drive buses for a couple of years until I finish my degree. The trouble is, I earn about twice what Donna does. We can afford for her not to be working full time. We can't afford for me to do the same. Now if my employer would make me redundant, that would be a different matter. It would mean bye bye mortgage for one thing.

07 July 2007

Here's a tip

I was trying to think of something really profound as my first anniversary blog post. Blogger has been really flaky just lately. I don't get e-mails to say someone has posted a comment, and for this particular post, I can't even add a title. I may have to move. So I'm going to post while pissed.

Anyway, I wanted to post something really important. I wanted to post something relevant to anyone thats ever been in a kitchen. I wanted to tell you how not to cry when you're peeling onions.

A couple of months ago I was listening to Dr Karl on Triple J while sitting in a minibus coming back from mapping a dry creek bed on a geology residential. There was a guy on the show talking about the fact that, if you had a mouthful of beer while cutting onions, you wouldn't cry. This guy reckoned he'd experimented, and he'd found that a mouthful of beer while cutting onions was the only thing that would stop you crying. Well, not being one to blindly believe some stranger, I thought I test his theory the other day when Donna asked me to cut the onion up for dinner.

Legend that he is, I thought of Dr Karl. I just had to test the theory, especially since I'm studying science at uni. So, I took a mouthful of white wine and proceeded to cut the onion.

Try it for yourself. It works. It may work with water, I don't know, but I certainly didn't have the urge to sob in our dinner. I've been known to take over from Sarah (youngest stepdaughter) after she tried to cut onions for dinner, because she was getting too teary.

Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on. Better still, let Dr Karl know how you got on. I'd be curious to know if it would work with a mouthful of water. It certainly works with a cheap chardonnay.

Did I mention this is my first anniversary post and also my mum's birthday. I'd post her e-mail address so you could wish her a happy birthday, but I can't remember what it is. You'll just have to leave a message on mum and dad's blog.

04 July 2007

Coming up for one year

I just had a look to see when I posted my first blog entry.

It was the 7th of July last year. I should be able to remember that no worries, it's my mum's birthday as well. What do you want for your birthday mum?

01 July 2007

My exercise for the day

I have a motorbike parked in the shed.

It's in the shed because I hardly ever ride it. In fact, I think I've renewed the registration on it twice since I last rode it. So, yesterday while tidying the shed up a bit, I decided to charge up the battery and give the engine a bit of a run.

It actually took until this morning before the battery had enough in it to turn the starter, and it took quite a while before it finally started to fire. Once it was running as smoothly as I could get it I went upstairs, grabbed my gear, and went for a spin.

One of the reasons I hardly ever ride these days is that I had an accident on the bike a couple of years ago. I was able to get back on and ride home (I was not even a kilometre from home on my way to work), but boy was I sore the next day. Hitting the road and sliding for twenty metres tends to do that to you.

Anyway, because of that, Donna doesn't really like it when I ride the bike. She didn't look very happy when I rode out the gate and said I was just going down to Wello Point and back.

Imagine the look on her face when she saw me walking up the driveway without my bike.

No, it's not what you think, I hadn't fallen off again. I'd got just over a kilometre away when the bike started to misfire as I was coming out of a roundabout and accelerating away. I was coming up to another roundabout (a big one) and I thought I'd turn back there, but when it misfired again going down a hill I decided against it. I didn't want the bike to stop on me as I was cranked over going round the roundabout, otherwise I probably would have fallen off.

So I pulled in to the side, went to turn around, and that's when it stopped. I knew there wasn't much fuel in the tank, but I didn't realise it was that low.

It's winter here now, but walking home in a big heavy motorcycle jacket, in the sun, in a hilly neighbourhood tends to warm you up a bit.

Luckily we had a tin of petrol in the shed for the mower. The bike is now back in the shed.

29 June 2007

Daft cats

I was saying to someone at work today that you can't really train a cat, but you can get them to make a fool of themselves on cue.

Have a look at this video.

Grown men were in tears watching that in our office today (it was a quiet day).

And if you think that's funny, here it is with a bit of jazz. What you might call cat scat.

Satchmo, you've got nothing on this cat.

Home and as far away as possible

Youngest step-daughter Sarah watches Home and Away.

If she's working late she tapes it. Why, I don't know, since if you miss something you've probably seen it before anyway. All they do is recycle old plots with different characters; weddings, fatal accidents, infidelity. It's the same with all soaps really.

Eastenders is probably the same, but I haven't watched that since the ABC stopped showing it in Oz. That was back when Den and Ange were still running the Vic and Lofty was married to Miss Brahms daughter. Sorry I can't remember the character's name, but I always remember the song that Nick Berry sang, "We nearly made it".

Anyway, I think Sarah has finally found a reason to stop watching home and as far away as possible. His name is Lincoln Lewis, and he's the latest "heart-throb" to join the cast.

Now, if you look at the pic in that link, young Lincoln is good looking young bloke, and if you're a Queenslander, you'll know that he's the second son of the king, Wally Lewis, rugby league legend.

So why doesn't Sarah like him?

She went to school with him. Not just high school, but primary school too. They weren't exactly in the same group although they were in the same class, so she's a bit pissed off with the producers.

All I can say is, good onya Lincoln. If you can get a job on Neighbours as well I'll be a happy man.

26 June 2007

Sore back

I'm off work sick at the moment.

I was ok when I got up yesterday morning, but after my shower I felt a twinge in my neck. By the time I left for work I had a pain between the shoulder blades that just got worse as the morning went on. By ten thirty I'd decided it was just too uncomfortable, so I came home. I wasn't looking forward to the one hour bus ride home with a sore back, but it wasn't as bad as I expected, considering those low floor buses have really uncomfortable seats.

I can still feel it now, but at least I can turn my head without my eyes watering. I'll be back at work tomorrow.

I've never had time off because of back pain before. It's not that I've never had a sore back before, it's just that usually it's caused by spending the weekend digging in the garden, and it's usually lower down. I have no idea what caused this.

Back pain is also one of those things that make people think you're a bit of a slacker if you have time off as a result of it. If you've got a cold, people see you coughing and sniffing, and they keep telling you to go home. If you have a sore back, you don't generally show the symptoms, at least not outwardly. You might wince a bit every now and then, but you could be putting that on. In fact, if you can get yourself in a comfortable position (like I am now in an armchair at home), then there isn't much pain and you can still laugh and joke with your colleagues.

"Where's Steve?"

"He's gone home sick."

"He was laughing and joking five minutes ago, What's wrong with him?"

"Bad back."

"Yeah, right."

As much as I hate the runny nose, the coughing, and all the other stuff that comes with a cold, I'd rather be off sick with that than a dodgy back.

Oh, by the way, this is my one hundredth blog posting. When I first started I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to keep it up, but I'm not having any trouble coming up with things to write, and people are still reading it.

22 June 2007

Note to Xena

Leave the wildlife alone. Especially when Dizzy is in the yard before dinner and doing a spot of twitching.

We had a cockatoo in the yard late yesterday. Xena doesn't usually mind birds, but cockatoos are a lot bigger than the lorikeets and galahs that are our usual visitors and she tends to get a bit upset when she sees them in the yard. This one had been in the yard for a while before she noticed it, but when she did she took off downstairs to chase it off.

When she got to the bottom of the tree the bird was sitting in she discovered Dizzy was there, and Dizzy was not impressed. As I've mentioned before, she's never chased birds but will sit for ages and watch them.

There was a yelp just like the night before, but this time she ran the other way and got herself cornered. Dizzy, upset at having her pre-dinner relaxation spoiled wasn't going to let her off easy and was stalking her, determined to make her pay.

While all this was going on, Donna was up on the verandah looking for something soft to throw at the cat to make her stop.

She resisted the urge to scream out, "Puss! Leave the dog alone!" That would have been the ultimate in humiliation for Xena.

Dizzy let her go after a short while, but not before drawing a bit of blood.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I wonder if Xena learned anything yesterday.

20 June 2007

Note to Dizzy

Next time Xena the fat beagle is out in the yard barking at something she can't see, don't walk up behind her, tap her on the shoulder, and ask her what she's barking at.

We don't usually let the cat out after dinner as dinner is usually her motivation for coming back in. Tonight however we have a westerly wind blowing, which means it's pretty cold outside by Brisbane standards. We let her out to see how long it would be before she decided it was nicer inside and came back in.

While she was out there, Xena started barking at something, probably a neighbour's cat. All of a sudden there was a loud yelp and she flew across the back yard and dived through the dog flap in the door downstairs, yelping all the way. She was closely followed by Dizzy.

Now, we don't know for sure what frightened her, but we strongly suspect it was Dizzy walking up behind her in the dark.

I'm sure Diz had a giggle about it afterwards, we certainly did. In fact, I think she probably laughed so much she snorted.

She may not be evil, but she's got a sense of humour.

18 June 2007

Happy happy, joy joy

I'm a happy little vegemite.

Torchwood starts tonight on channel ten and I've just looked at the latest TV Week. Doctor Who is back on next Thursday. The TV Week could be wrong, and often is, but I'm hopefull.

17 June 2007

Dizzy the evil moggy

Look at the picture below. That's Dizzy the evil moggy, ruler of the Porter household, bane of Xena the fat beagle's existence. She looks like she's getting ready to rip the arms off anyone that comes within range.

It's all an act. Those of us that live with her know it's an act. The chooks certainly aren't afraid of her, even Xena remembers sometimes, especially when there's food around. She can usually fool visitors though. All it takes is an evil glare and they won't go with in five metres of her, not easy when the room is only four metres across.

I'm sure she has a good giggle about it afterwards.

As I said though, it's an act. She doesn't rule the house, she's an old softy and actually a bit of a nature lover, as she proved yesterday.

We decided the divas' pen needed a bit of a clean out. You'll recall from a previous post that the divas are in fact four chooks named after the Young Divas of Australian Idol fame. One of them even made it onto a fan forum for said divas.

Anyway, cleaning out the pen is an easy job as it's simply a dome that can be lifted by one person and moved around. All you need to do is rake everything up and chuck it in the compost bin, then spread another bag of sugar-cane mulch before replacing the dome.

The nest is just a large plastic flower pot surrounded with old roof tiles and nearly always has four eggs in it each afternoon. We've learnt from experience that whenever we clean out the pen there's always a family of mice under the nest. Yesterday was no exception.

Donna saw one of them before we moved the roof tiles, so I went upstairs to get Dizzy. Until recently, Dizzy has always been an indoor cat. It's only been about the last six months that we've started letting her out in the yard in the afternoon. We know she won't go far, and she always comes running at 5pm when it's dinner time. She's about ten years old now, so she's pretty predictable.

She followed me out into the back yard, almost walking to heel, and then over to the pen. Once she was in position we lifted up the nest and there were two adult and five baby mice. Needless to say, the parents immediately bolted in opposite directions, leaving the babies to their own devices.

What did Dizzy do? After having the babies pointed out to her because she hadn't noticed them, she sniffed them and watched them try to crawl away. That's it! No pouncing on them and devouring them in one mouthful, no clawing them to pieces. She just looked at them.

She didn't even do anything when the chooks came over and ate them from under her nose.

She was bird watching later on, sitting there watching about a dozen lorikeets eat. She got bored with that though and decided to run a couple of laps across the yard to work up an appetite before going upstairs to see if dinner was ready.

Evil? No way, she slept on my feet last night.

16 June 2007

A couple of things

I've been tagged by Caramaena again.

I tend to avoid these sort of things, mainly because I don't like passing them on. Just like I never pass on an e-mail that tells me to pass it on to ten people in your address book and you'll get good luck.

But I thought this one might be fun to have a go at, so here goes.

Two names you go by:
- I've been called a lot of things in the past, some of which I can't publish here, and that was by my friends.
- Steven. Yes I know that's my name, but most people call my Steve. When Donna calls me Steven I always think I'm in trouble for something, and I'm usually right.

Two things you're wearing right now:
- Slippers.
- My wedding ring.

Two things you would want (or have) in a relationship:
- Friendship.
- Trust.

Two of your favourite things to do:
- Taking photos.
- Learning something new.

Two things you want very badly at the moment:
- To have a job where I'm glad to get up in the morning and go to work.
- To have a job where I'm glad to get up in the morning and go to work.

Two pets you have had:
- A scorpion. Not the most exciting animal to keep as they spend most of their time hiding under a rock.
- Guppies. They got eaten by the goldfish.

Two people I would like to do this:
- Any volunteers? As I said, I don't like passing these things on.

Two things you did last night:
- Had a couple of glasses of Mount Gay Rum. Not as good as Tanduay, but better than some I've tasted. Unfortunately, it's very hard to find.
- Watched Big Brother, Friday Night Games.

Two things you ate today:
Maybe I should have done this later in the day when I'd had more than just a cup of tea. I'll have to tell you something I ate yesterday.
- My usual sandwiches and crisps at work. I always take lunch to work, it's so much cheaper than buying it, especially when you work in the city.
- Baked red snapper done in a sauce made from tomatoes, onion, herbs and white wine. The recipe is a variation of the one in the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet.

Two people you last talked to:
- Donna
- Xena the fat beagle. Sarah had gone to work by the time I got up otherwise it would have probably been her.

Two things you are doing tomorrow:
- Maybe work in the garden. The bindii is starting to come out again (no not Steve Irwin's daughter), so I'd better do something about that soon. They say spring is the best time to get rid of it as that's when they're growing the most, but it's winter here at the moment and the bindii is really taking off.
- If the tides and weather are okay, we might go for a walk out to King Island as Wellington Point. King island is the little clump of trees and bushes near the northern end of the sandbar in that link. You'll get wet if you try walking to it at high tide.

Two longest car rides:
- Our regular trips to Armidale.
- The drive from Arrawarra to home via Nimbin a couple of months ago.
We had a driving holiday for our honeymoon, so you could count that as the longest drive, but that was spread over three weeks and included a trip to Armidale.

Two favourite holidays:
- Driving a motorhome around the south island of New Zealand in May last year. That was Donna's first ever trip overseas.
- A week in Vietnam in January this year. That was Donna's first ever trip to a foreign country.

Two favourite beverages:
- Although I've only just discovered it recently, Tanduay Rhum (yes that is the correct spelling).
- Benedictine.