Thursday, October 29, 2009

Heidi was trained by the Gestapo

I have mastered the Heimtrainer and can now cycle 30 kilometers in the comfort of my study while I gaze at the sky and the lady across the road in Beatrixgasse working in her kitchen. She obviously doesn't know I am here or she would have her blinds closed.

It is actually harder to cycle 30 kilometers on the Heimtrainer than on the bicycle as I don't get to coast down hills and slow down for roller bladers and the ancient naked men and women carrying their clothes in plastic bags across the paths on the Donauinsel.

However, I also don't have to ride into the teeth of the howling gales that infest Donauinsel.

My German Teacher Heidi Erdbeer was trained by the Gestapo and will only talk to me in German. This is the only German I actually talk – other than in shops. I don't know enough German words to have a sustained conversation so I throw in French words, Australian colloquialisms and Pidgin English. We get along fine.

She gave me a test yesterday just to let me know how little German I really know. It made me very sad to realise that after a year of not doing very much work at all on German – it has paid off – I know Bugger All.

Notwithstanding my earnest protestations I decided to upgrade to Windows 7. I did this simply because I couldn't stand the enormous number of crashes I was having each day with Vista.

It was a real struggle doing the upgrade and I had problems – but not as many as I expected. Windows 7 is now loaded – and works. So far everything I have tried actually seems to function – which in itself is astonishing – but I just know there will be some problems.

It is very, very fast. Windows open in seconds. There have not been any crashes. It is cleaner and much less cluttered that the previous versions.

Despite their best efforts this is my last windows upgrade and as next year is a PC rollover year it's Mac Time for me.

I made the best pasta dish I have ever made. I am getting to be a pretty good 'common or garden variety' cook – meaning that I can cook a number of basic dishes very well. I will never be a chef – but I can keep Cate happy with a variety of nice meals when she gets home from a hard slog at the office doing whatever it is that she does – and that's all that matters.

Anyway – I invented this pasta dish. It involves what the Austrians call Paprikas, the Australians call Capsicums and the Americans call Bell Peppers (and by the way these vegetables raw have an astonishing amount of Vitamins A and C), Pfeffer Salami, Fresh Tomatoes, Garlic, Olive Oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano (a cheese to die for).

Served with Penne this proved to be a sensation and brought a round of applause from an appreciative audience.

Melissa arrives on Friday so I am looking for opportunities to explore some parts of Wien we have not seen (there are many of these). For example – there are cemeteries as yet unvisited.

Cate goes to India on Sunday – for a week!

The cats are learning to love the fire and we can get two in front of it at the same time. Three will be a bit more difficult but we are working on it.

I haven't heard from my children in Australia for a while but assume that if they had been eaten by Lions someone would have told me (well…unless they were ALL eaten by Lions – then there would be no one left to tell me).

But as they live in different places this would entail a coordinated attack by Lions and I don't think Lions have the capacity to do that – so I am not really worried.

Lenny hasn't updated his Blog for while but he works in fits and starts. He is probably totally absorbed by the new season of a Cook Your Nuts Off or perhaps American Chopper (and it took me a long while to understand that this was not about a serial killer but is in fact about some very strange men who shout at each other a lot and build motorcycles in between shouts).

And where is Quolly?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scary Things Day

This is me after the first read of the Reebok Heimtrainer Manual.

We went to Keszthely in Hungary – the largest town on Lake Balaton - and saw Festetics Palace.

There was no explanation about it anywhere we could find - except that it was built about 1745.

However as Palaces go it was a fine example and full of the usual old stuff. It does have an excellent coffee shop – with astonishingly good coffee.

It has delightful gardens and we took many unmemorable photos – one of which will grace this Blog soon. Merisi has probably been there so there will be much better photos on her Blog.

For reasons which we don’t quite understand we didn’t take the camera to Tihany village so were not able to record the fish on sticks performance. This is probably an annual event to coincide with the start of winter. I have put a note in my diary to go back there this time next year – provided of course that Annabella has been able to find the name of that restaurant.

This is serious – Some Truly Scary Things

Scary Thing 1

Cate employed a young woman lawyer from Germany. The woman is married to a black American and has two children. She has started work in Vienna and is looking for an apartment. She looked at one with her children – the person renting the apartment looked at the children and said:

“We don’t allow Negroes in here – if everyone stayed where they were supposed to there wouldn’t be so many problems.”

This flabbergasted Cate but Rozalin pointed out that there is much racism in Wien. It did not surprise me and reflects the many comments I have read about this type of thing on the Virtual Vienna Net which is an expatriate chat site.

Scary Thing 2

There is a report in the Austrian Times “Number of Austrian Holocaust deniers hits lowest level.”

This should be a good thing right? But….. “The number of Austrian Holocaust deniers occurred has fallen to its lowest level ever - five per cent, according to new research.”


The population of Austria is about 8 Million. Let’s assume that there are at least 4 Million functionally literate adults. That means that there are at least 200,000 Holocaust Deniers in Austria.

Holy Toledo!

They had concentration camps in Austria – I have been to one – where do these people get this information. How can they believe this in 2009?

Scary Thing 3

I have just finished reading Richard Dawkin’s latest book ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. It is a wonderful, elegant, and beautifully written book about Evolution.

A table in the back of the book shows the percentages of people in Europe who responded to the proposition that ‘human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals’.

In Austria the percentage of ‘True’ responses was 57 – a good result compared to, say, the USA. But – 28% said the proposition was ‘False’ – and 15% said ‘Don’t know’.

I just don’t know what to say about this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The smell of burning horse filled the air

Look I blame Annabella for most of the problems on the weekend. She said she would provide me with the name of a really good fish restaurant - but failed to do so.

This lapse on her part caused Cate to eat the ‘worst meal she has ever had’ (Now that is a big call).

The hotel star system is not the same in Hungary is it is elsewhere – it may be self regulatory. The hotel had given itself 5 stars. I would give it a 3 for the rooms and a ¼ for the food. It looked good on the Internet (I can hear you all groaning again and saying ‘when will the fool ever learn?')

All the suites are supposed to have a view of Lake Balaton. Ours would have had a really nice view until they built the block of apartments in front of it. We had a spectacular views of the apartments and some trees.

But it was really very nice and we could not complain about it at all – apart from the smell in the bathroom - but if something dies in a brick wall you can hardly expect them to knock the wall down to get it out.

But the second major mistake I made was to arrange for accommodation with meals included. You will want to know why won’t you? Well - 5 Star hotel – food must be good! and it is the start of winter – so there won’t be much available locally.

Cate was very good and chewed every mouthful. She was very quiet during dinner. She ordered a bottle of Hungarian Red Wine for €70. She was unable to drink any of it. She said it was the worst wine she had ever tasted – the perfect accompaniment to the worst meal.

Tihany is a very pretty and popular little village and was absolutely packed with tourists. We couldn’t park anywhere and ended up going back to the hotel and walking the 2 kilometers into the town. We visited the local church and Cate went inside while I stayed outside and counted the paving stones.

We went to a village ceremony where they had big bonfires and men were planting smoked fish on sticks in circles. People were buying and eating these fish but we were not tempted as they looked a bit challenging and were very finny.

Instead we went to lunch in a local restaurant which was full of smoke and we apparently arrived just after a horse had caught fire in the kitchen. Not that I have ever smelt a burning horse but it seemed to me that’s what it was. There were bits of ash floating about and I assume this was its mane.

We had authentic Hungarian Goulash soup in a really big plate with big chunks of meat and vegetables. It was delicious but I couldn’t finish mine as I chipped a tooth on a horseshoe.

Cate also chose the restaurant for dinner and the less said about that the better.

I had expected people to speak English – but they all spoke German – I guess because it is so close to the Austrian border. Many signs are in Hungarian and German – and sometimes

We bought a bunch of Hungarian crockery and an especially fine cat for the Guest Room.

The weather was delightfully overcast and cool and the countryside is really pretty. We both just love Autumn for the coolness and the changes in the landscape.

All in all it was a very successful weekend.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

There is no way through that net!

Cat - Istanbul

The Blog has been delayed today because I have been assembling a Reebok Heimtrainer.

This – as you can imagine – has not been an easy task for me as I am challenged by anything from IKEA – let alone things with mechanical and electrical parts – event if it involves just sort of pushing them together and putting screws and bolts in there.

The diagrams showing how to do it were simply microscopic and I actually had to use a magnifying glass.

It is however together. There are no parts left over. The display seems to work. The pedals turn. All these things are encouraging. The next part is to work out how to program it. Can’t wait.

The weather is delightful at the moment and I have been wandering around doing my chores in the sunshine. It is a bit chilly – but just the way I like it.

Wien really is a delightful city spoiled only by dog poo and smokers – but you can’t escape either of these so we have to make do as best we can.

Sissi spent some time on the terrace today staring at the net – thinking about a way out. I have told her it is impenetrable and there is no point in event thinking about it – but she is clearly not convinced. I will make sure she does not see ‘The Great Escape’ if this is on TV.

We have a new cat minder for our weekend away. Nadia Poponova is broadening her horizons and coming to stay with her young son. This is likely to be traumatic for Monika – who is fairly highly strung – so I have put the first floor off limits to the young man so that Monika has somewhere to hide.

If they make Monika unhappy she will punish them in the only way she knows how. I have left lots of paper towels around the house.

Windows 7 has been launched. Apparently Microsoft wants people to pay them for it. I don’t think this is going to work considering that most people (including me) still want a refund for Vista.

There have not as yet been any reports of deaths on the Austrian ski slopes. I think there is a conspiracy to hide these so that tourists don’t get frightened. I will keep a close watch on this because it is most uncharacteristic.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I have the feathers ready Malcolm

Sky and clouds - Broome Western Australia.

Muffin and Sissi are almost friends – although it does depend on Muffin’s mood.

Most days she wakes up a bit grumpy – but she is getting on a bit – 17 this year.

That’s old for a cat and too old to have a very active flibbertigibbet jumping all over the place.

But when they meet in transit – as they do quite often – they sometimes exchange sniffs. A good sign.

Muffin and Monika have reached – how shall we say it – an accommodation. They are not best friends but don’t always hiss and snarl when they cross paths.

This makes for a much happier household all round.

I almost went cycling – the first time in some weeks – but it was just a bit too grim out there. I can’t go on like this so am going to buy and exercise bike so that I can do something – because it is not going to be too long before cycling will be impossible.

Cate wants us to join a Gym – but we have a long and sordid history of joining Gyms. As many other people do – we join – have a flurry of visits and then lapse. This is of course why Gyms don’t sell short term memberships - and have unbreakable contracts.

Cate excelled herself last time. She joined a Gym and did not go AT ALL – not even once. This was a record that cannot be beaten. Fortunately we had a trial membership so it didn’t cost us too much.

Of course we also have along a sordid history with exercise machines and at various times have bought bikes and rowing machines – all of which have ended up gathering dust and cobwebs.

This time will be different! (Ha!)

Rozalin has given me the names of the stores that sell Heimtrainers (Exercise bikes to you) so I will have a really good look and buy the most inappropriate one I can (this will be easy for me – I am a specialist).

Urgent recall for dangerous dummies.

I saw that headline on an Australian news website and I thought – oh well I am sure you know what I thought – and I am simply not going to go there. My days of being rude to politicians are gone. I am my new benevolent self – smiling at the world – letting the dross sail gently over my head.

However – I had a Laugh out Loud moment a day or so ago when reading the Sydney Morning Herald online:

“The state's biggest housing project has collapsed after the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, admitted she acted unlawfully in approving the 7200-home Hunter Valley proposal.
……Ms Keneally and the developer of the $1.8 billion complex have conceded the minister's approval of the concept plan and a rezoning application breached planning laws.
Her concession sounds the death knell for a project the planning department had ranked last of 91 potential housing development sites in the Lower Hunter, and which was approved only after the Labor Party donor behind it hired the lobbyist and former Labor minister Graham Richardson.”

So the project ranked 91st and Last out of a potential list of 91 – and the Minister approved it because – let me guess –

Oh no – what a surprise – the developer is a major donor to the Labor Party.

And Richo is involved – Oh dear – (never a good sign!)

I have been around a long time but – has there ever been a more corrupt or incompetent government than we have at the moment? Over to you Sydney readers.

I refer to a story in the SMH ‘Turnbull still stinks with voters’. Malcolm – all you have to do to get me to lift the curse is admit – on the 7:30 report - that you are a complete Plonker. I have the feathers ready.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't buy any green bananas

Ben is back safe and sound – albeit a bit damp. Wherever Cate’s luggage went it was a very damp place and everything was wringing wet. Perhaps they just hosed it when it arrived in Wien.

Cate is staying only two days and then is going to Turkey – but only briefly. We hope to leave at lunchtime on Friday to go to our lakeside retreat in Hungary.

What usually happens is that there is a series of crises just before departure time and we leave hours late.

Billy gets his winter tires on Wednesday – this is an encouraging sign that winter is close. No one else here likes winter much – but we love it.

This place is more dangerous than Iraq. The Austrian Times reported yesterday that:

“Poor visibility, early sunsets and wet surfaces frequently covered with fallen leaves make cycling more dangerous in the autumn, the Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) has warned.It noted today (Mon) 16 cyclists had died and 700 had been injured in accidents from October to December 2008 and 33 had died in accidents from January to September this year.”

Holy Toledo! I haven’t been out since we got back from our holiday – but I will certainly be careful when I do. It’s almost as dangerous as skiing.

(The weekend death list hasn’t come through yet – it is still being compiled by teams of paramedics on those snowy slopes. I will report on Thursday).

A few days ago CNN – and many other American TV channels became absolutely transfixed by Balloon Boy. This was supposedly a small child who was floating around in a runaway balloon – or had fallen out of the (non-existent) basket – or whatever - and the US TV networks scrambled their helicopters and cancelled the holidays of all their staff to follow every excruciating second of this piece of gruesome schlock.

As CNN does whenever something of zero global interest happens – they suspended all normal programming and ran the story nonstop for hours and hours - telling us precisely the same thing – and showing the same TV film, over and over and over again and interviewing an enormous number of people who could tell us absolutely nothing at all. (Not that I listened – I was reading but had the TV on).

Fox did the same – only punctuated by regular frenzied outbursts of spitting and fuming at the President (probably for not having a ‘runaway balloon’ policy).

It was – as anticipated at the outset by the more cynical and jaundiced of us - a hoax. There was clearly no basket under the balloon and I thought it unlikely that the child could be inside (as some suggested) breathing Helium. The Balloon was simply too small to carry anything larger than an emaciated musk rat so there was never much danger of it carrying off a small child.

The networks are of course livid and have now turned on the perpetrators with the zeal of foxes tearing a trapped rabbit to pieces.

The only amusing thing to come out of this is the attached video from the Hitler News Network – which doesn’t work if you listen to the German – but use your imagination.

Balloon Boy

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ben is MIA again

The snow did not arrive and has vanished for probably at least a few weeks. It snowed in many parts of Austria and indeed I saw on TV today coverage of skiers in Schladming – where we were walking just a few weeks ago. Today is quite mild.

(No reports yet on the chaos that I am sure took place on the snowfields but when the convoys of ambulances have done their job they will have a body count and report the number to the Austrian Times).

It was cold enough to light the fire again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and both Monika and Sissi have discovered it - and at various times were both flat out in front of it. On Sunday night Muffin and Monika were in front of the fire together – albeit at the opposite ends of the rug.

Cate arrived bank from Peoria safe and sound – but without Ben. Ben is in her suitcase which is missing somewhere between Washington and Wien. However, he has been MIA before and is quite stoic about these situations. We are confident of an early recovery. Austrian Airlines has been informed of the urgency of the problem. (Newsflash – it has just been found).

Amazingly enough this is the first time Cate has lost a suitcase in transit. It has only ever happened to me once – flying from Paris to London – and it turned up on the next flight.

It happens to other travelers we know all the time and some (including Melissa) have to live in the same clothes for week at a holiday destination. It wouldn’t matter to me as jeans and a black T shirt one day look much like jeans and black T shirt the next.

In Peoria Cate says she met her first (shudder) Creationist. They were in a work group together and she discovered at the end of the week that he was in fact a believer that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago.

She was stunned ‘he seemed like such a nice, normal man’ she said.

I explained to her that more than 40% of Americans believe in Creationism. This means that there are about 120,000,000 of them wandering around over there – so it is entirely likely that every third person she saw in Peoria was a Creationist.

However, in the circles in which she moves – which compromises mainly scientists, doctors, lawyers and the well educated – it is a bit unusual - and I imagine they would go to some lengths to hide the fact in Ducky Pharma as it may be a bit career limiting.

He was from Arkansas and I imagine that the percentage in that State is much higher than 40% – it might be closer to 99%.

But – it is not all their fault – this is what they are taught by their parents, their teachers and the religious.

I am intrigued by an article I saw on Friday – it was about the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh going to a London play ‘incognito’.

I quote

“Britain's Queen Elizabeth stunned theatre-goers in London this week when she and her husband slipped in to see a play unannounced and at the last minute, newspapers reported.
"The Queen and the Duke sat down as the lights dimmed and it was a huge shock when people realized who they were," said a journalist at the show for The Lady magazine. "They were incredibly apologetic for asking people to let them past and there was no hubbub or fuss about it all."

The Queen and her husband often make incognito trips to the West End, but are rarely spotted, an aide told London's Evening Standard newspaper.”

Well – leaving aside ‘incognito’ which is not correct – (she went as the Queen – not in disguise) – my question is:

How can the Queen and her husband often make trips to the West End and be ‘rarely spotted’.

Do they only go to performances for the visually impaired? Do they arrive in a mini-cab? Do they arrive when the lights are dimmed and leave before the go on again?

Now I am not the world’s most observant person – but if I was sitting next to the Queen or Duke of Edinburgh I would certainly recognise them – even if she wasn’t wearing a Tiara.

Is there ANYBODY in London MORE recognizable than the Queen and the Duke?

Many things that happen in the world just don’t make sense to me. Perhaps I look at things too clinically. I should read articles like the Incognito Queen and move on – but I just can’t.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Watch out for the Crocoduck

Still no snow but it is on the way. It is in fact due tomorrow.

Last night I lit the fire for the first time and was greeted with a chorus of indifference by all of the cats.

Monika and Sissi had a close look and a sniff and moved on. Muffin sat in front of it for a few minutes – and also moved on. A very disappointing outcome.

Clearly it is not cold enough so we will just have to wait a bit. If all else fails I will don my winter woollies and put them on the balcony for an hour to soften them up.

I am girding my loins for what I fear will be the first of many deaths on the snow on the weekend. I don’t know when the official skiing season starts – but as there is snow out there I imagine thousands of Austrians will be doing their level best to merge with infinity.

I can almost hear the thuds and screams.

I shall report – in broad terms – but will not give too many details because it all becomes too morbid.

I am so sick of the way the Austrians shuffle off the mortal coil I am not even going to give you details this week of even the more bizarre ones. There will be no mention of the drunk fireman, the wood-chopping pensioner, the reckless farmer or the curious tourist.

I hear from Cate briefly each day as she lurches out of bed in Peoria and prepares for a new day doing her course. Apart from the permanent state of exhaustion she is apparently enjoying herself.

The course is for people who are So Damned Important that they get to present to Le Grande Fromage in person. Very scary indeed.

She is not of course in Peoria but I can’t tell where she really is – it’s a secret location in what was formerly a red state but turned blue at the last election.

If they know Cate is there they will capture her and turn her into a (shudder!) Creationist.

Speaking of gold-plated blithering idiots. If you haven’t heard of the Crocoduck you should watch this. The Crocoduck arrives in about 2 minutes.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I hate the Italian Football Team!


The Herminator has retired just before the skiing season starts. This is indeed a bitter blow.

The Austrian Times reports:

Austrian ski ace Hermann Maier unexpectedly announced his retirement today (Tues) from competitive skiing.Maier, 36, said that surgery on his right knee in the offseason was the main reason."I gave it a lot of thought but decided spontaneously that now is the best time for retirement," Maier said.

Well – it’s going to be a bit dull this year without the Herminator.

No snow here yet – but there is lots around in other parts of Austria. From the Austrian Times again:

“Austrian mountains have seen up to 45 centimetres of snow as Arctic weather has swept through the country, the Central Agency for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) has said. It said the weather station at Rudolfshütte in Salzburg, which is at 2,000 metres above sea level, had received the most snow - 45 centimetres - last night (Mon/Tues).

ZAMG said high wind had accompanied the snow, with gusts of up to 150 kilometres an hour reported on the Schneeberg in Lower Austria and gusts of more than 100 kilometres an hour in many areas.

Such high winds, the agency said, were recorded on average only once every 25 years. It warned that Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland would have high winds of up to 80 kilometres an hour on Thursday.

The snow in the mountains is a taste of things to come for some provincial capitals, which are expected to see their earliest snowfalls in history this week”.

To celebrate this Sissi dragged my Austrian Rat Hat out for the basket and tried to eat it. It is a bit soggy but none the worse for wear.

Michael Jackson’s ‘new song’ is actually and old song and coincidentally co-written by Paul Anka who is coming to Wien on November 16. Paul said he is very pleased because he will get half the royalties.

I reckon that’s fair enough – what’s the big deal - I mean it’s a bit hard to write songs if you’re dead – of course someone else had to write it – and in the age of recycling why start afresh when you can save the planet and use old songs.

On this unhappy note I regret to advise that a new book in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series goes on sale today. You may be surprised at this – because Douglas Adams died in 2001.

But his estate – in the endless quest to leave no stone unturned to make more money out of anything at all – commissioned another author to write a sequel.

There is simply NOTHING that people will not do to make a buck. It really is enough to make you vomit.

My care-o-meter shows how much I (A Douglas Adams fan) am looking forward to a sequel.

The Wet Patch people (A supervisor and two assistants) have been and have found the Wet Patch problem. The seals around the bath and flooring were not effective. (It’s those damn seals again! – was there a number 7?).

They have re-sealed all the appropriate areas and I expect that all will be well. In another few months there will be an inspection and in about 2016 someone will arrive to paint the wall.

I have never mentioned how much I hate the Italian Football Team (and so does Lenny)

I hate them because they cheat – a lot. In the last World Cup Australia nearly made it to the Quarter Finals and in the game against Italy held them to a draw. In the last minute of play an Italian player took a dive to get a penalty and Italy won the game. The Italian Cheating Diving Team then won the World Cup.

Here is some secret video footage of the Italian team at practice.

Azzurri Training

My research since then has shown that the Italians are probably the worst cheats in world football - but that their fans expect them to cheat - because winning is the only thing that counts. The statistics from that World Cup show that they were awarded the most number of fouls (i.e. they dived more than anyone else).

Indeed – the former Premier of NSW – Morris Iemma – himself of Italian origins - said that after that particular game he bought a book about why Italians are born to cheat at football.

Anyway – its World Cup time again next year and both Italy and Australia are in the final 32.

As punishment for what the Italians did to Australia last time I have put a curse on the Azzurri. (I and I am really sorry I have had to do this because I know some lovely Italians).

You may think this is a case of overkill because it will have a dramatic effect on so many Italian footballs fans – but I was REALLY unhappy about what they did to Australia.

The curse involved candles, duck feathers a cork and rubber gloves and I won’t go into too many sordid details but it absolutely guarantees that Italy will not make it past the Quarter Finals. This is a safe bet – you can put money on it.

My curses always work – look at Malcolm Turnbull’s ratings and what happened to John Howard and Brendan Nelson!

(Sorry Brendan - but it was for the best - we simply cannot have a complete Goose as the Leader of the Opposition).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Who wants to see curvy women?

Apparently we may get snow later in the week.

I heard this from Melissa who read it on Rozalin’s Facebook page – so it must be true – because Rozalin knows everything.

This will be the first snow for Sissi and I am looking forward to seeing how she copes. She went outside for about two seconds today but came back in very quickly indeed. It is COLD.

The firewood is ready!

Curvy women have no place on the catwalk, iconic German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld was quoted as saying, after a fashion magazine said it was banning skinny models in favour of "real women".

"No one wants to see curvy women," Lagerfeld was quoted as saying on the website of news magazine Focus on Sunday.

"You've got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly," he added.

Oh – nice one Karl! I like this subtle approach from a man who looks like the rear end of a goat – but with sunglasses.

Really Karl – if you want to have any credibility at all you are going to have to stop dressing like an aged, gay Moroccan cocktail waiter and get some decent sunglasses. I know they are your own brand – but they suck!

And take it from me Karl – There are two people and three cats in this house who want to see women with curves (Monika in particular at the moment can’t stand stick-thin women and leaves the room if I am watching the Fashion Channel).

The picture I have included shows the woman who was caught by Karl with his old trick – the exploding Max Factor compact case. He is such a wag! He catches all the new girls.

I have been awarded a PhD by an American University.

I applied on line quoting details from my résumé and after a lengthy evaluation process by the Academic Evaluation Board I received a reply – it took one minute and 12 seconds – I timed it.

My chose field is Public Administration – but I may also get a PhD in Theology to help me with my investigations into the weird world of Creationism.

All I have to do to collect my documents is pay USD 600 (plus another USD 90 for each additional degree).

This is a bit expensive and I may shop about - I am sure I can get a better price than that.

Cate has decided that she needs to get away on the long weekend (26 October) so I have booked a place at Lake Balaton in Hungary – this is about 4 hours drive. It looks nice – but you never know.

The holiday is for Austrian National Day and commemorates the State Treaty restoring national sovereignty and the end of occupation when the last WWII troops left Austria and the passage of the law on permanent neutrality. This happened in 1955.

If you could just take all the holidays people have because the Communists left them you would never have to work.

I was delighted to see that the award of the Nobel Peace prize to President Obama has left Fox, Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin, Beck and any number of other right wing whackos – absolutely howlingly, shriekingly livid and foaming at the mouths.

Glenn in particular reminded me of one of those children you see in the supermarket who won't stop crying. Eventually its mother gives it a really good whack and it goes purple while it sucks in enough air to let out a shriek that would scare the stuffing out of a Banshee. I hope he was wearing his Kimbies.

I really don’t know or care whether or not President Obama should have received the prize – but I am delighted by the collateral damage. It has even managed to bring Lord Downer out of his burrow - huffing and puffing into the sunlight and brushing crumbs from his Pince Nez.

“Mr Downer described the decision 'a farce' and said Mr Obama should have refused to accept the prize.

He has been in office for less than nine months when it is announced that he has won the prize, so they would have made the decision a few weeks ago I suppose. It does make the whole system a bit of a farce," he said. Mr Downer says it is a pity Mr Obama did not refuse the award. He says the prize is overtly political and the committee is not equipped to choose the right winner”.

An excellent result all round!

Now if next year they can give it to the Rudster a number of people I dislike intensely will die of Apoplectic Spasms and the world will be a much kinder and quieter place.

The game is up!

Is this the Seventh Seal? It could be – I can’t see a number unless it rolls over.

Cate is in Peoria at Ducky Pharma headquarters and will be there for a week.

This has left the cats and I at a loose end and we are thinking of ways to fill in our days.

However – I have a busy week lined up.

I am about to buy my new Telephoto Lens with IS. This is important as I have reached the stage in life where I tend to quiver a bit as I am focusing for long shots. This new lens will enable me to take better close up photos of Bees and Ducks.

They will not be of Merisi standard – but will be a bit better than the ones I take at the moment.

Also our wet patch is getting bigger and a man is coming investigate. This patch appeared on the wall outside the en-suite some months ago and has been subject to a couple of inspections so far. It may – or may not – be caused by the water heater which is almost directly above it in a cupboard in Cate’s study.

In recent times it has started to grow again and I am sure it will continue to cause consternation to the people who will come and peer at it over the next few months. I imagine it will still be there when we leave – and will probably cover most of the wall.

It is getting colder and the cats are not venturing outside too much. I expect that it will soon be time for a fire and we will test the theory of whether or not the cats will cluster around the fire and achieve some sort of rapprochement.

Sissi is entirely unconcerned by Muffin’s bad attitude towards her and plays with Muffin’s tail whenever she gets the opportunity. As I write this she is sitting on top of the Air Conditioner looking at Muffin – three feet below her. Muffin growled for a while but realised finally that there was no point (Sissi started licking her bottom and Muffin took this as a sign of lack of interest) so went to sleep instead.

I recommence German Lessons on Friday with Frauline Snow Mountain’s replacement. (I think I have given her a name but can’t think what it is). I will have to go back through my blogs – or perhaps I will rename her – Yes I shall call her Heidi Erdbeer.

One of the good things about writing a blog is that you can make things up. Not that I would ever lie to you but it is conceivable that I may exaggerate slightly if the need arises.

But it may be to no avail. In my endless quest to find every Nutter on the planet I have found someone who has been appointed by God to tell us that our time is up.

Damnation! I was just beginning to get the hang of it and it’s all over.

Hmm…....perhaps I should not buy that new lens but just put the money into alcohol. Anyway – I am on the Lookout for the Seventh Seal because this is a sure sign that the end is near.

Unfortunately while this man has been appointed by God to tell us the Game is UP he has not been given what you would think would be a crucial piece of information – the date of the UPNESS. I think this shows a distinct lack of trust by God in his Chosen One but what do I know?

If I was the Chosen One I would be well pissed off by this mistrust and would probably want an explanation – and mediation. I would also be worried that the other Chosen One (Yes there is another) has the information I don’t – but I wouldn’t be able to ask the other Chosen One that because God hasn’t told me who it is – another piece of critical information that is missing.

But if I was the Chosen One there is no point going round telling people the end is near – but you don’t know when – everyone does that. I would just pick a date (a long way into the future) so that I had something to hang my hat on.

Now if God was unhappy with that he could just tell me the correct date and I could make the necessary changes.

Or – if he didn’t tell me and just pulled the plug early I could just say that I hadn’t allowed for daylight saving or something like that – because when it happens people aren’t going to be too worried about anything I may have said.

Bunches of them will be standing around waiting to be taken up into the sky and the rest of us will be plundering their possessions and moving into their houses.

The Game is Up

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cows cause Tyrol travel chaos

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Windows. Not the glassy ones – those loads of old rubbish that have been ‘designed’ by Microsoft. Each designed to fix the problems caused by the previous one. Each one finding new ways to be worse than the previous one.

My current issue is the Internet Explorer – and indeed almost everything else – stops working constantly.

I get this message saying ‘Internet Explorer is not responding’. It is apparently too busy doing more important things and has absolutely no interest in my exploring.

My next computer will be a Mac.

We had a fabulous meal at Ein Wiener Salon – almost rendered impossible by smokers. There was a table next door to us with six people – four of them smokers. Behind us there were two more smokers. They smoked non stop for the almost three hours we were there.

It was very, very hot and the smoke and heat gave me an amazing headache.

I had to stuff myself full of pain killers and was subsequently berated by Cate for ‘Conspicuous Yawning’ when we were sitting around talking with L and D.

I am not sure how one can yawn without being conspicuous but to guard against this heinous crime I am going to carry around a Gunny Sack into which I can put my head when a yawn arrives.

It was so bad we really have to think carefully about going to Ein Wiener Salon – even though it is the best restaurant in Wien.

And yes I will eventually do my Restaurant Review.

We had our trip to Melk but I did not go into the Abbey and instead went into the Old Town and the gardens and took some photos. There were no Bees.

There is a website run by barking mad people called WND (World Net Daily). Amongst other things they are running an ‘Impeach Obama’ Campaign and are selling bumper stickers calling on President Obama to produce his birth certificate.

They also have an astonishing collection of some of the weirdest books you will ever see anywhere. Including this one.

The blurb for this one says:

“Millions of people believe in the theory of evolution. This alarming fact is proof of a massive amount of human ignorance. Ray Comfort’s radical book is a call to wake up and think—to consider the theory of evolution and see how this unscientific theory collapses under scrutiny.

Ray Comfort poses 101 Questions to shake believers' blind faith in the theory. Well known evolutionists reveal in their own words the unscientific nature of that in which they have so blindly put their faith. After reading this book, the reader will be in the position to make a well-informed decision about the widely accepted, however poorly proven, theory of evolution”.

More than 40% of Americans believe in Creationism. I am not sure that there is any hope for a country that has that many stupid people on its books.

From the Austrian Times:

“Cows cause Tyrol travel chaos
By Thomas Hochwarter

Train services were cancelled and traffic held up for three hours when a herd of cows strayed onto a motorway and rail tracks in Tyrol on Saturday.

Police in the province’s Schwaz district said today (Mon) the ten animals had got out of a nearby farm and then gone onto the Inntal motorway (A12) and railway tracks near Wiesing.

Officials said the cows were caught after three hours, adding none of them had been injured”

For those unfamiliar with cows the AT has obligingly provided a photo.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cate says Monika is fat

Cate tells Monika every day – and night – that she (Monika) is fat. I don’t think this is helpful for Monika’s self esteem. Monika was a complete wreck when she arrived here and it has taken months for her to settle down – and she is still a bit wobbly and can’t always find the Kitty Litter – and if Cate keeps talking to her like this I am afraid that she will have a relapse.

Anyway I don’t think is really fat. She may be a bit plump – especially around the bottom – but that does that matter? I will post a photo soon and you can be the judges.

I would rather have a plump happy cat than a thin nervous one. I mean it’s not As though we are going to enter her in the “Cat of the Year” competition.

So I go around telling Monika that she is not fat and when I pick her up I do not – unlike Cate – say – “Oh Monika you are such a Tub”.

I bet Annabella doesn’t tell Stan and Ollie that they are tubs!

I think I will get Monika a subscription to "The Ample Cat" so that she can see that it is not a crime to be well proportioned.

Incidentally – I do check Annabella’s Blog and there has only ever been one entry – December 2008. Do I detect an astonishing lack of commitment here - or perhaps she runs another one somewhere else but is keeping it a secret.

I also note – while I am in critical mode – that Lenny’s Blog has not been updated since 8 September.


I made L and D my special Wiener Schnitzel last night but it was not as successful as it could have been.

I was cooking outside and it started to rain so water got into the cooking oil and rendered it almost useless. The Schnitzel tasted fine but was not as golden brown as it should have been and the crunchy potatoes were quite pale.

Incidentally – what we call Chips and the Americans call Fries are often called Pommes Frites here. Why is this so. Merisi?

Tonight I am making Hungarian Goulash Soup and hope for a better outcome.

Tomorrow we are off to Melk Abbey (Shriek!). I am not going in and will instead go into the gardens and take pictures. They may have some bees.

Tomorrow night it’s off to Ein Wiener Salon to bask in the glory of Sven’s blissful cooking.

More Cat Haiku from Annie's collection.

There's no dignity
In being sick - which is why
I don't tell you where.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

You would need to be an Octopus

On the weekend we went to see the Schatzkammer (Treasure Chamber) where all the crown jewels and robes and paraphernalia are kept. This is part of the KHM.


It is an astonishing collection of fabulous stuff including some robes that look so dusty I sneezed just looking at them through glass.

They were very grubby and obviously haven’t been cleaned for many years.

And I just don’t know how you could clean them. You certainly couldn’t afford to send them to the dry cleaners in Vienna – you would have to sell the jewels to pay for that!

I am glad Cate doesn’t wear stuff like this. It would be hell to iron. I have enough difficultly with some of her frilly stuff – and just hate the shirts that have elastic sides.

You would need to be an Octopus to be able to hold these on the ironing board and get the iron onto them without them springing all over the place. Whose idea was this?

In fact whose idea was it that you can take a frilly piece of cotton, add elastic sides and then charge €160 for it – and then get someone to actually pay the money. Holy Toledo that is one smart Dude!

I don’t iron her crushed linen things – but this offends my sense of aesthetics as I hate crumpled clothes. The fact that they are supposed to be like that doesn’t make it any better and I am always reluctant to hang them on her wardrobe as they look sort of…unfinished.

However – I am making progress as since being here I have stopped ironing underwear. This was a significant wrench and required great willpower – but I managed.

We also went to the Jewish Museum which is unlike any Jewish Museum I have ever seen – and is absolutely incomprehensible.

It looks like it was done by a hare-brained temp from the Tate Modern who stumbled onto a box of Barbie Dolls and Smurfs when she was high on Cocaine – and scattered them randomly throughout the museum.

Makes no sense whatever to me and I probably need to go with a guide who understands these things – or is high on Cocaine.

The following from the Sydney Morning Herald is just too good to let go:

“Almighty row over ethics class in schools

September 26, 2009

THE State Government's religious education advisory panel will fight a pilot program that offers ethics classes to primary school students who opt out of scripture.

Instead, it will continue its support for a policy that prevents students who opt out from having any instruction, and specifically no ethical instruction, during the time set aside for scripture each week.

In some schools, that leaves as many as 80 per cent of students excluded from education for an hour each week - despite reviews dating back to 1980 recommending the policy be amended.

The pilot, developed by the St James Ethics Centre, is fully funded and was endorsed unanimously by the Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations of NSW in July. But it must still be approved by the Minister for Education in consultation with a religious advisory panel.

''It doesn't have the support of the religious community, that's just a pragmatic reality,'' the acting chairman of the Inter-Church Commission on Religious Education in Schools, Reverend Mark Hillis, told the Herald. ''I don't see how having a small interest group coming into a school and ramping up things helps.''

I would like you to reflect on that last sentence:

''I don't see how having a small interest group coming into a school and ramping up things helps.''

This is a man who teaches Mumbo Jumbo in schools suggesting that teaching children about Ethics is ‘a small interest group coming into a school and ramping things up’.

When I see stuff like this it makes me want to sob.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I just don't get it

Hummingbird in flight

On Sunday night we went to see Cecilia Bartoli. Cate says she is one of the best singers in the world – even better – she says – than Cliff Richard. Cecilia was accompanied on the Piano by Lang Lang who is just as famous.

I quote from Wikipedia:

Bartoli is considered a coloratura mezzo-soprano with an unusual timbre. She is one of the most popular (and one of the top-selling) opera singers of recent years. Bartoli is much liked by the concert-going public for her lively, vivacious on-stage persona, while her lyric voice and investigations of other Baroque-era music have given her considerable recognition even among the non-opera-going public.

The performance was in the Großer Musikvereinssaal.

"As high as any expectations could be, they would still be exceeded by the first impression of the hall which displays an architectural beauty and a stylish splendour making it the only one of its kind.”

This was the reaction of the press to the opening of the new Musikverein building and the first concert in the Großer Musikvereinssaal on 6 January 1870.


It was – by all accounts – a stunning performance – with much warbling and trilling – and as an added bonus she did an imitation of a ladybug singing – fabulous!

As you are aware – I am not much into this type of singing and – of the more than 20,000 tunes in my iTunes library – there is masses of Classical Music and Opera – including Cecilia – but I don’t get to it very often.

I mean – I can understand the concept – it’s just that it doesn’t stir me the way it should. I have to live with this.

In any event – Cate loathes 90% of my music and I don’t berate her about this so she needs to let me off the hook.

Cate thought it was wonderful - and that’s all that really matters.

There was only one other person in jeans as far as I could see and the seething mass of humanity on show was mainly pretty well dressed up.

However, I was wearing a double-breasted navy blue jacket and a blue and white striped shirt – together with my new Camper black leather shoes – so looked pretty cool and got more than one casual glance from the very old and short-sighted women there. (I was also one of the youngest people in the room which tells you something).

It was of course not air-conditioned so in the second half was punctuated by people flopping unconscious from their seats.

We were in the very back row and behind us there were approximately 6,000 people compressed into the ‘standing room only’ pen. They generated a lot of heat – but were too closely packed together to collapse.

At half time a woman with a beehive hairdo escaped from the pen and sat in one of only two spare seats in the theatre – which happened to be in front of Cate. Naturally I gave my seat to Cate so I could watch this woman’s head for an hour.

Not that I minded – just because we paid €137 for each seat and she paid €30 to stand there is no reason why I should not look at her head for an hour. I couldn’t see around her as she kept bobbing and weaving - she may have been a retired boxer but I couldn't see her nose so it was hard to tell.

(We were originally told we had seats near the front – and then that we had no seats – and then that we had the last two together).

The woman behind the other spare seat was much more forceful. She told her squatter that if she was going to sit there she needed to lean way to the left so she did not block the view of the stage. She duly did this and will probably be having physiotherapy today.

There is no smoking in the Theatre at all. Why? You can smoke almost anywhere else in Vienna – including in shops, bars and restaurants – how can they ban smoking in Theatres?

If I was a smoker I would start a class action against them for impinging on my rights.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How do they get coffee to taste SO bad!


We found some extremely bad coffee during our travels. Darryl had a cup at the Festung in Salzburg and agreed with me that it tasted (as reported in a Blog in November last year) like boiled kitty litter. How do they do this?

As Baristas no longer exist in any place we have seen – and all coffee is produced with the press of a button – it must be the coffee they use. Do they recycle the grounds and put them through more than once?

Don’t they ever drink their own coffee? Surely one would only have to try it to realise that it is poisonous enough to kill a NSW Politician.

Beats me. I had three coffees on the last trip that went straight into my “10 worst coffees of all time gallery” – and they have to be really bad to get there. Two I could not actually drink – and when I need caffeine I will drink almost anything.

I wasn’t sure about Nespresso machines when they first appeared but have grown quite fond of them. You can be guaranteed a cup of consistently good coffee. And anyway – our Jura is a push button machine so I can’t be too snobbish about the whole business. But we did take a long time to find the coffee that suited us best.

Yesterday was very windy and at times was quite cool. I spoke to the Ducks in Stadtpark and asked them if they were prepared for winter but they were non-committal. I am sure they are – after all it happens to them every year and while they may not like it much they have probably gotten used to it.

I am sure they would envy their Ducky relatives in Australia where it doesn’t get very cold at all. Although recently they would have a lot of trouble getting the red dust out of their feathers.

I am buying a new telephoto lens for my camera so that I can get close-ups of the Ducks. I know you love these photos so will let you have a selection in winter.

We are all looking forward to winter and fires. I have immense piles of firewood in the lounge room and some emergency reserves in the basement and it won’t be long now before we have our first fire and test the new Funkenschutz.

The most interesting part will be seeing if the fire brings the cats together. While relationships have improved markedly there is still much hissing and snarling. This may be overcome on cold nights when the cats lie in front of the fire and – of necessity – will be very close together.

At some stage Sissi will get too close to the fire and get singed. This is inevitable. I am keeping a bucket of water handy so that I can douse her when then need arises.

It is news day and – as usual – the Austrians have been finding innovate ways to merge with infinity. I will not bore you with the details and will merely provide the headlines.

Driver in Hospital after Pig Truck Smash
Sore loser butchers Billiards rival
Teenage cleaner sets himself ablaze
Pensioner burns himself to death smoking in bed

There are of course many more – but many of the protagonists lacked imagination and fell off mountains or under tractors – and this is very old hat here.

Liz and Darryl have gone to Budapest and a few other places and will be back next Monday. I will take them to Melk Abbey – I haven’t been there for…let me see….three weeks.