Sunday, August 29, 2010

Random Thoughts

Have you tried the new moss-covered Big Mac from McDonalds? I'm lichen it.

Do Indians receive telemarketer calls from other Indians?

If you were sentenced to death by firing squad in the armed services but were the only soldier fit enough to carry it out would you actually be committing suicide?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Review - From Hell To Eternity by Peter Firkins

Many moons ago, when I lived in the Mt, Bruce Ruxton, who was the Victorian RSL President at the time, gave a speech about Allied prisoners of war at Sandakan in North Borneo (at the time) and their forced death marches to Ranau. To hear that nearly 2500 Allied soldiers were later forced on marches [approx 455 began the marches] and only six survived was an amazing story. I gained an understanding of why Bruce Ruxton hated the Japanese so much although people of my generation did not have this hatred.

At the Save The Children Book Fair at UWA last weekend I noticed a book in the War/Military section. On the back it said "DEATH MARCH... WITH ONLY SIX SURVIVORS". I knew that I had to get this book and I knew what the story would be about. My copy is 25 years old but still in good nick. It took less than a week to finish.

From Hell To Eternity by Peter Firkins

The Japanese transferred many Allied POWs from Singapore to Sandakan. For three and a half years they forced them to build an aerodrome, starved, bashed and tortured them and failed to treat them according to the Geneva Convention (although the Third Geneva Convention is most appropriate), of which Japan was not a signatory. To the Japanese allowing yourself to become a prisoner was shameful and they therefore felt that prisoners could be mistreated in any manner.

When the Allies, Americans mainly, were looking to land in the area of Sandakan the Japanese forced the POWs to march to Ranau whereupon most of them malnourished men perished due to starvation or were murdered by the Japanese guards. There are some horrendous tales of maltreatment which I'd rather not go into. Some of the men weighed less than five stones (38kg) having been 10-12 stones in their prime. One of the six survivors, warrant officer Bill Sticpewich, maintained records of the war crimes committed and was instrumental in the Japanese being punished for their crimes in 1946.

An amazing story of survival most of the story revolves around the time spent as POWs as the marches themselves took between two and three weeks at the end of the war. It's still a harrowing read in places and not for the faint-hearted. Anybody wanting to read about the worst treatment of Allied soldiers (I'm sure that the German concentration camps were far worse and perhaps the Srebrenica massacre is the only comparable cruelty in living memory) should read this book. A hugely recommended read for those interested in real war experiences and not fiction. The language used is not taxing and just about the only terms requiring clarification were those relating to local Malay words.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Australian Politics Has Taken An Interesting Turn

In case you've been living under a rock, or not in Australia so in which case you probably haven't heard, we had a federal election here on the weekend. The outcome of which is taken an interesting turn. It would appear that we have a hung parliament, i.e. no particular party has a majority to govern in its own right. This hasn't happened since WWII.

There's a few options and they are covered well in this article from The Australian. Basically, the former Labor government, now in caretaker mode, can visit the Governor-General (G-G) and claim to be capable of forming a minority government if they feel that they have enough support in parliament. The G-G would then swear in a Labor Government. If not, the Labor leader would inform the G-G to call the leader of the Opposition to swear them in as the government. Or we could just have another election. Seeing as that costs some $4 for every man, woman and child (not sure where transexuals/transgenders fit in here) we'd be spending about $80-odd million put the electioneering costs of each candidate. That money will be wiped from the markets quickly enough due to the uncertainty created anyway. Looks like we've finally given the G-G something valuable to do. The position hasn't really been utilised since 1975.

I watched a special 7:30 Report last night where three independents, Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott, were interviewed. They plan to act as a group and side with whoever offers stable, workable government. All of them have a National Party background and all have their reasons for not being associated with the National Party. I guess that counts out them siding with the Liberal/National Party coalition.

Something Rob Oakeshott said that was very much worth listening to. He wanted to see an end to party-focused politicians and see Australia-focused politicians. Hey, that might work. The members of the House of Representatives are supposed to represent their constituents first and not their parties. If workable government was attainable then more and more people would be willing to vote for independent candidates and the major parties would be very concerned that this would lead to a real lessening of their support and hung parliaments in elections to come. The independents may not become a major political force on their own but would hold the balance of power. I wouldn't be unhappy to see that as long as it works. It would certainly lead to better policy in government.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Save the Children Giant Book Sale 2010

Save the Children are holding their famous Giant Book Sale at Winthrop Hall at UWA. It started on Friday and runs until Wednesday. Apparently it was pretty busy on Friday and a bit quieter yesterday morning when we went. The local ABC radio station was in attendance broadcasting live.

We spent one hour searching for books. The missus grabbed two cross-stitch magazines, The Boy got a few books including reference material and I picked up several sports autobiographies, war books and history books. I didn't think that the books on offer were as exciting as last year, although I did spot a few copies of one of the books that I purchased last year, and that the price of the higher quality books was much more than last year. I seem to recall not paying more than $8 for a publication last year and this year bought one for $15 and another for $12. Still, they will certainly tide me over until next year. Less time on Facebook and more with my head in a book. Not a bad pickup for just over $100 methinks.

Get down there, grab a bargain, learn yourself up and help out a worthy charity.

Winthrop Hall at UWA

This way please to the Save the Children Giant Book Sale

Thouands of books for sale

720 ABC's Sinead Mangan with guest Chris Murphy on guitar

My books - pic 1 

My books - pic 2

The Boy's books - pic 1 (doubled up the Ancient Rome Atlas and World History)

The Boy's books - pic 2

Pile of books for a pile of reading over the next year

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Polling Place on Election Day 2010

I've just returned from voting. No queueing for 10 hours in whatever the weather can throw at me. No acts of terror to frighten me away from partaking in my (compulsory) right to vote. Managed to avoid the Laborites, who were camera shy, with their how-to-vote-for-the-biggest-load-of-crap-and-wastage-party papers. Not that I'm biased mind you. Interestingly there was a queue to enter the polling place. And the people in the queue were quite chatty.

Polling place parking at a premium
Even had to queue to vote
Come on you Irons
Tim Hammond banner - Boo! Hiss!
Move Australia Forward - get rid of Julia Gillard's Labor government
Steve Irons - Current federal member for Swan
Banners everywhere
Who's going to clean all of this up?
Clever Liberal Party banners
I think this is an anti-Liberal Party banner
Those Laborites are at it again
Liberal Party aides weren't camera sh
Liberal Party advertising
The Liberal Party's promises

Grease...Is the Word

The Boy's school put on a musical production of Grease last night. It was a great show and hard to believe that all of the kids were pre-teens. We enjoyed it very much and met up with a few other parents that we know. Apparently some 800 or so tickets were sold so it was a nice little fundraiser for the school. Well done to everyone involved, especially the crew responsible for setting up the scenes.

Grease is the word
Before the show
Grease Lightning being performed
Practically the whole cast
A Blues Brother appears to have inflitrated the Grease set
Stars of the show

Federal Election Day

No, I said election. It's nothing to do with a Japanese stiffy.

Australians go to the polls today to vote for members of parliament. Well, when I say today there have been some 1.8 million votes cast already by 13% of the voting population in postal votes and the like. That's for people who won't be in the country on the day or can't make it to a polling booth. Voting only takes a few minutes and is unlike the US Presidential voting where people can queue for 10 hours, on a Tuesday, to cast their vote. We always have it on a Saturday. As it is compulsory perhaps we should have the following Monday off as we have had to "work". I can walk less than 10 minutes to the polling booth.

I'll be voting today for my local member. No, that has nothing to do with my anatomy. Why do so many terms to do with politicians have sexual double meanings?

I hope that the Liberal/National Coalition gets back into office. They require 17 additional seats, a huge swing, and I have a hunch that with the polls indicating that it will be such a close affair (another double entendre?) that they will just miss out. We'll be stuck with those idiots who have wasted the budget surpluses put aside by the Coalition over the previous 11 years, who ran a disastrous home insulation scheme, who want to almost tax our mining industry out of existence, who want to tax our use on carbon when this is rather stupid and not giving people incentive to change where they obtain their power from, etc, etc. The Coalition has something like 44% of the primary vote and the Labor Party has about 38% but with the Greens providing their preferences to the Labor Party it looks as though this damn preferential voting system is going to deliver us another bloody three years of Labor.

Why would anybody, in possession of a right mind, vote Greens? Not only does the Labor Party, like I mentioned previously, want to almost tax our mining industry out of existence, but the Greens want to add $2 billion dollars to the bill.

Vote Liberal - vote for business. Business creates the jobs in this country, not the government. Well, the government does create jobs but they are only parasites, i.e. public servants.

Disclaimer: This message has not been endorsed by the federal Liberal/Nationals Coalition. It is the opinion of Frugal Bastard.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Election Propaganda Is Testing My Shredder

Checked my mailbox tonight and the amount of election propaganda was amazing. And as it has my name and address on it I put it through the shredder. I'm not one for leaving that sort of stuff in the rubbish available to dumpster divers. I think that there were seven postcards and pamphlets in total. How much money do these political parties have to waste of electioneering material? Too much. And that doesn't include what is delivered to the letter box. My shredder is certainly working overtime and getting up around the duty cycle.

If you didn't know, there is going to be a federal election in Australia this week. Australians will decide should we put up with the wasteful, incompetent and mismanaging Labor Party or give the "fair go for all, conservative, business-backing" good guys from the Liberal/National Party Coalition their backing.

I think that it will be very close. There isn't a lot of policy difference between the major parties and many people are disillusioned with both of them. Actually, not having many differences is more a sign of stable government than anything else. The most disillusioned voters are likely to vote for the Greens which would be a disaster should they end up holding the balance of power. Think before you vote, people.

One large problem in this country is the compulsory nature of elections. If you don't vote and don't have a decent reason for not doing so then you will be fined. It's only $20 and possibly $50 so it's not like a huge deterrent.

Apparently it is legal to partake in a donkey vote, i.e. place the first candidate on the ballot paper first, second candidate second, third third, etc. It is illegal to encourage somebody to do so. How lame is that? Almost all politicians are donkeys nowadays anyway. Where have all of the statesmen gone?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Queens Gardens Walk

Went for a walk at lunch time today. Just me and my camera in Queens Gardens.

Queens Gardens Walk photo album on Facebook.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review - Kokoda by Paul Ham

Just finished another book written by Paul Ham. It's called Kokoda and covers the history of the battle between Australian (and American) forces and those of the Japanese. This book is incredibly well researched and examined sources such as diary entries, military documents and numerous interviews.

Kokoda is a term for which the Australian soldiers are held in high esteem. But not many of us know what happened there. This book tells the story of the struggle between few well-trained and many conscripted Australian soldiers who suffered from poor leadership, were ill-equipped and supplied and who fought against the Imperial Japanese army in some of the most inhospitable land (Australian territory at the time) imaginable.

The content is graphic and sometimes chilling. The subject matter is not for the faint-hearted. Neither side was well supported and suffered immeasurably from disease and lack of food. Cannibalism took place. War crimes are put forth. It's hard to believe that two armies could fight in such conditions.

This book is a must read if you want to know the story of Kokoda. It's also necessary to read if you wish to improve your vocabulary. Some of the words used that I need to look up are:

Crapulence, inviolable, gallimautry, amanuensis, discombobulated, ambuscading, bowdlerised, pathos, exigencies, obfuscation, spenetic, obesiant, kessel, mendacious, propifious, etiolated, caparisoned, rumbustious, felorile, fetiol, transmogrifying, ineluctable, insouciance, anthropophagy, eponymous, glossitis, apotheosis, exculpatory, abnegation, encomiums, sisyphean, abstemious, corporeal, inculcated, oleaginous and perfunctorily.

I'm glad to say that I completed the book just before the upcoming Save The Children Book Fair at UWA this weekend. Don't miss it if you wish to pick up a bargain, or twenty, on secondhand books with proceeds going to an excellent charity. You might even see me there.

Kokoda by Paul Ham

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Updating The Blog Roll

I read a few blogs about the place. Some people blog daily, some frequently, some regularly, some rarely and others have fallen by the wayside. On the right hand side of my blog page I have a Blogroll. It's a list of all of the blogs that I regularly follow and it has certainly become dated. Several blogs are no longer and there are new ones that deserve to be added. To make my blog relevant in relation to what I'm currently doing I went to the trouble of updating the Blogroll. Please don't confuse it with bogroll. There's a marked difference.

New blogs that I follow include:

Double-Half of One Ten without ham - Bit of a zany German girl, my age, who visited Australia and blogs in English.
Sudeep's Blog - Indian guy living in the States, I believe, who likes to report on the latest technology worldwide and relevant technical articles and how they relate to India.
Life in Rural Thailand - Antipodean and family living in rural Thailand. It's a very different way of life to what we've become accustomed to in the West.
The Rejected Webcomic - Comic strip character who always face rejection. Based on someone's particular life experience?!
Rich and Gem Have Gone Travellin' - Lovely lass, who was our receptionist for a few months, and her boyfriend from Old Blighty who are travelling the globe. Needs to update a bit more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Brothel Blaze - Glad To See Contraceptives Used

News story from yesterday with the headline of "Door kicked in at brothel blaze". What caught my eye was a line within the story that indicated that perhaps their whole stock of contraceptives were burnt in the blaze.

Burning rubber in a brothel.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Taliban Tango For One

I dunno about you but I don't have a soft spot for the Taliban. We all know that "it takes two to tango" but this article from The Age makes it appear that the Taliban don't think so. A small amout of biology study would impart the knowledge that a women generally requires a man to become pregnant. I wouldn't have thought that women in Taliban-controlled areas were liberated enough not to require the aid of a man for this purpose.

Talk about a mob of cavemen-mentality drongos.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Curtin Uni Open Day 2010

Last Sunday saw Curtin University hold its annual open day. I went with The Boy so that I could see how much the uni has changed since I attended, what activities were on offer and to obtain a bit of information on courses available. Good to see that the militant feeling against the Liberal Party is still going strong (what else would you expect from uni students?), there was a musical statues dance competition held by Nova FM and The Boy wasn't too far away from winning a Nintendo DS, the engineering displays were a bit of an eye opener and very interesting and best of all I saw my teacher from Canning College from 10 years ago and she remembered me by name. I only bump into her every three or four years around the traps so we had a nice chat.

Curtin Uni Open Day 2010 Video

Monday, August 09, 2010

Remember Nagasaki

I'd like you to pause to think about Nagasaki today. It's been 65 years since this city was the second to be destroyed by an atomic bomb. I was there 14 years ago for the 51st anniversary ceremony and, even though I couldn't understand it, I was quite moved by it all.

The Peace Park at Nagasaki is quite different to that at Hiroshima in that it is filled with statues from other countries who wish for peace. There is a shrine for the ashes of those who were affected phsyically by the bomb, known as hibakusha, and in the evening they have a ceremony with paper lanterns and candles, toro, whereby hundreds of people bring them to the river and they are tied together and floated down the river in hope of peace.

Nagasaki is a wonderful place to visit. You can see the remains of the Urakami Cathedral which was flattened, camphor trees and the one-legged torii. All remnants of the blast which serve as a reminder.

Maybe I could mention that my father-in-law lived in Kokura which was the intended target that day. If it hadn't been obscured by clouds my wife and son wouldn't be here today.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

West Coast Eagles versus Brisbane Lions

I was invited to attend a dinner and football match this weekend - the West Coast Eagles versus Brisbane Lions. Even though I have no affiliation with either team the company, the meal and the match are too good to pass up. My former work colleague, Rob, invited me and I took Miky with me. She's not too keen on football but wanted to see what the meal was about.

Early at the ground

The Barry Cable Roo(m).

Tony Mac from 6PR with the Eagles' Daniel Kerr.

I thought that it was pretty fun when the meal to be served was lamb. Miky hates lamb. I've only eaten lamb on a few occasions since we were married. She did enjoy it though as there is a lot to be said for the way that it is cooked. Before the match started we filled in some betting forms - who would kick the first goal, leading team and lead at half time, winning team and margin at the conclusion of the game. As four people didn't show up to our table there were some additional forms that we made use of. My first pick was for the Eagles to win by 18 points and for my second I chose the Lions to win by three points.

Brisbane Lions warming up

Nic Naitanui (9) at the opening bounce.

Ash McGrath (L) and Jonathan Brown (C)

Early on in the match and the Lions didn't appear to have brought their kicking boots. They let a lot of goals go missing with their inaccurate kicking. David, sitting next to me, mentioned that "Jonathan Brown will be the difference between the two sides." I asked, "Would that be by one point or five points?"

Throughout the match Miky would make comments like, "Who was that kicked to?" which is exactly what the crowd and the commentators would have been saying. She reads the game quite well in fact. Maybe she's a closet football lover.

Jonathan Brown - The Brisbane Lions captain

Decent size crowd

Happy Eagles fans after a goal was scored.

Pensive Eagles supporters.

It was a pretty scrappy game with lots of turnovers by both sides. Skills were down somewhat on AFL standard and it wasn't too difficult to see why the Eagles were sitting in last place (16th) on the ladder and the Lions occupied 15th.

Tony Mac with Eagles president Mark Barnabas.

Close game during the third quarter

Happy Eagles fans.

Unhappy Eagles fan.

Very unhappy Eagles fan.

Back inside the room at the conclusion of the match where the winner of the $50 betting voucher for picking the winning margin was announced. I had already seen the winner as I was standing next to Tony Mac when they handed him the sheet - it had my name on it. The Lions had won by five points with the last kick of the game by Jonathan Brown and my pick by three points was the closest. Miky was able to take a photo of me.

Very happy $50 betting voucher winner

Betting voucher

Empty ground