Thursday, April 29, 2010

Here we go again

Thank the Lord! They have finally found Noah’s Ark.

Well…they are 99.9% sure it is Noah’s Ark. Ah - but my experience has been that that missing 0.1% is the fly in the ointment every time – especially when those pesky archaeologists get involved and cast a more critical eye over the wonderful finds of the Evangelical Christian filmmakers - who are always on the scene first.

But let’s not be churlish. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. They say that there are shelves and straw (straw?) and I am really hanging out to see where the beetles were. As I have mentioned previously (I have a beetle fetish) there are more than 350,000 species of beetle and it must have been a devil of a job to collect a pair of each and bed them down in the ark - and keep the little blighters together - and in pairs - for 40 days.

No doubt Noah did beetle-sexing 101 at college while he was also doing carpentry to work out how to build a wooden boat the size of Staten Island. But I am being flippant simply because this nonsense makes me want to vomit.

And – just what we needed. British scientist Stephen Hawking has said that ‘Aliens may exist but mankind should avoid contact with them as the consequences could be devastating. If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," the astrophysicist said in a new television series, according to British media reports. On the probability of alien life existing, he says: "To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational.”

Oh Excellent! That’s just fabulous! Thank you very bloody much Stephen.

Not that we don’t have enough trouble with Sarah Palin and Arizona and Glenn Beck and the Tea Party and the fucking Republican Party you have to go and wake up all the bloody UFO and Alien ratbags who will emerge blinking into the sunlight scratching their fat hairy asses and shouting ‘ We told you – there are aliens – Stephen Hawking says so’.

Brilliant. More clattering of empty heads and flapping jaws across the airwaves adding to the cacophony of vacuous honking shouting nonsense that now passes for information and debate in America.

I see vistas of new sightings on YouTube, whirling silvers disks whizzing across the sky. Area 51 will be festooned with tents full of stark raving loonies hunting for alien husks. There will be prayer meetings asking for deliverance from the alien hordes (and for money).

The steaming nitwit who runs The Rapture site will sharpen his keyboard and think of another bilious colour he can add to a site that you cannot look at unless you have taken Travacalm.

John McCain will tell us that any Aliens found in Arizona will damn well better have ID papers or they will end up in the slammer.

It’s all too much....I can't go on...until next week.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

He was just not stupid enough!

There is a weird system in Austria that if you declare your religion (on one of the numerous forms you have to fill out to live here) - then the authorities deduct money from your salary and give it to that church.

I guess this serves to ensure that only those with some commitment will actually make the declaration and pay the money to the church. Beats the hell out of having to wreak havoc in the community with just what you can get by passing the plate around on Sunday.

The Austrian Independent yesterday that:

“More Austrians than ever in history are expected to leave the Catholic Church this year.

Official figures show that 30,004 people left the Church in the first three months of this year, up by 42 per cent compared to the same time span of 2009 when more people than ever cancelled their membership.

These developments mean that between 70,000 and 80,000 Austrians are expected to leave the Church throughout this year after last year’s record of 53,216 people leaving the Church.”

There are of course some obvious reasons for this exodus - but we also have our own Resident Catholic Church Nutter (RCCN) in Austria. I think every country has at least one.

Ours is called Gerhard Maria Wagner and he resides in Windischgarsten in Upper Austria. As reported in the Austrian Independent:

“Wagner branded the bestselling Harry Potter books by Joanne K. Rowling a "work of Satan" and called homosexuality a "curable disease". He also claimed that natural disasters such as tsunamis and hurricanes were God’s punishment of human sin. Wagner hit the headlines this year when he claimed that January’s Haiti earthquake was God’s penalty since "nine in ten people living there believe in voodoo".

Of course being a RCCN is no barrier to high office in the Catholic Church and Father Wagner was nominated by Pope Benedict XVI to become auxiliary bishop of Linz diocese, but eventually announced he had decided to stay at his local parish.

So it is nice to see Austrians voting with their feet in response to the immense dishonesty and corruption in this tragically irrelevant but destructive institution. But not all Austrians are so sensible – as reported yesterday.

"An Upper Austrian farmer died after his hair dryer plunged into the bathtub while he was taking a bath last night (Mon). The Rutzenham resident’s girlfriend told police the man used to put the hair dryer on the windowsill and turn it on to heat up the bathroom. An emergency doctor who arrived at the house within minutes tried in vain to resuscitate the 35-year-old man. Police said they ruled out suicide and assumed it was a tragic accident. Investigations focus on why the old farm’s fuse switch failed to work."

I submitted this story to the Darwin Awards but it was rejected. The man was simply not stupid enough and his sad tale is eclipsed daily by such monumental acts of horrendous stupidity that it almost leaves you breathless.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Paris is my second favorite European city

Merlin - the finest cat in Paris.

I am having the worst hay fever of my life. I have never experienced anything like it. My eyes are puffy and almost sightless. I am sneezing – nay – it would be wrong to call them sneezes – more explosive paroxysms or even involuntary detonations. The cats leave the room when I come and go somewhere quieter. I am stuffing down the required tables which are having little effect. Tissues cover the floor like snow. When will it end (When spring ends I should imagine).

I cannot imagine that there is a better city in which to live than Vienna. It has a quality of life that most people can only dream about and – as far as I can tell – only a minimal number of Republicans. The smoking of course is another matter and I am not going to go on about that again.

Although….. (Oh God here he goes again) My best mate John was here last week. He is a long time member in Australia of Rotary and Rotarians go to each others meetings when they are in other cities, or countries. So John went along to a Rotary meeting last week at the Hilton Hotel and met about 60 other local Rotarians. The guest speaker was the Wiener Bürgermeister Michael Häupl.

The Bürgermeister said that his major problem in Wien was making it smoke free and therefore more acceptable to the many tourist who come from all over the world – where they do not blow smoke over you when you are eating a meal in a restaurant. Good luck Michael – you will need it.

Where was I? I know. Wien is the best city in which to live. (Actually the best city to live in is the one in which Cate is but if I say that she will think I am just grovelling because my iMac cost so much).

But my favourite city has always been Paris. It is special. Sure I worked for a French bank so went there often at their cost and stayed in fancy hotels. I usually stayed in the Hotel Meurice – and I have always loved it.

It is of course my second favourite European city now because my daughter Melissa lives there with her cat Merlin. He is a most delicious cat. Plump - but regal and gorgeous. It is a big call but Merlin is the finest cat I have ever known. (Gasp! It’s OK – my cats don’t read the Blog).

You remember Melissa? She is the one with Musophobia.

The point of this is a video on You Tube. It is the background to a Snow patrol song ‘Open Your Eyes’. It is shot in the streets of Paris in the 1970s. There is a very interesting (to me anyway) story about this film and you can read about it on Wikipedia

I love this. It always brings back memories of Paris then and now. It finishes at Sacre Coeur – near where my daughter lives in Montmartre.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Apparently it's President Obama's fault!

I am always intrigued by the stupidity of humanity in general but also by the breathtaking nuttiness of many groups and individuals.

Hojjat ol-eslam Kazem Sediqi – who is the “acting Friday prayer leader in Tehran” has stated that Women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes" he explained.

My first question is – what is the ‘acting Friday prayer leader’ doing making statements like this? Is it not important enough for the ‘permanent Friday prayer leader’ to be involved. I really hope that Hojjat hasn’t overstepped his authority here and gone outside the guidelines.

He may believe what he said – and this does not give me any comfort at all. Although – he may have been cruising the Internet looking for pictures of camels in lingerie and stumbled across Lady Gaga’s latest video.

This would be enough to cause something of an earthquake in the loins of some men and he may have been taken by the moment and overreacted.

Not so long ago the Chief Imam (or whatever the leading Muslim in Australia is called) likened young non-Muslim Australian women – dressed as they normally dress – to ‘cat’s meat’ and said it was no wonder that they were raped by young Muslim men - because they provoked them beyond all reason.

It would all be so hilarious if these people were not serious and in positions of some authority in what must be the most repressive and misogynistic religion ever invented (and there is a awful lot of competition for that particular title)

Rush Limbaugh on the other hand thinks that the Icelandic Volcano eruption was caused by the healthcare reforms in America. Apparently it’s President Obama’s fault.

I think God needs some contemporary geography lessons. I know he made the world but that was a long time ago and things have moved about since then. I mean - why is he kicking the shit out of Europeans because of something President Obama did?

But - I just don’t agree with them. I think the volcano thing was God telling Austrians that he does not want them to smoke in restaurants anymore.

The problem is that these signs are too obscure. We need something more direct that we can link to our generally frightful actions on earth. I mean – earthquakes and volcano eruptions happen all the time and – while Rush may be right – I for one would like more proof.

Why don’t these people pray to God to ask him to do something more direct – you know like making Glenn Beck combust spontaneously on air at the same time sending a message saying ‘this is what happens to those people/infidels (tick one) who take my name in vain.’

I don’t pray to God any more. There were some tragic incidents early in my life that made me doubt the power of prayer.

In my first job I had a crush on a girl called Ann Hastings. She was a few years older that I was and I prayed to God for the courage to ask her out. God granted me that wish and when I did asked her out she laughed. LAUGHED!

I had forgotten to ask God to get her to actually go out with me. Sure it was my fault - but has he no imagination?

I must say that with God and me it has been downhill ever since that day.

Still – these days Ann – as I do – will look like a baked Alaskan Salmon. This is God's way of punishing her for refusing me and punishing me for praying for something so frivolous.

The good news is that my iMac has been built and is winging its way to me!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's Anzac day today

It’s Anzac day today. This was the day in 1915 when Australian, New Zealand and British forces landed on the Turkish coast at Gallipoli. It apparently seemed like a good idea at the time. They stayed for a while, were massacred in their droves and eventually left.

It was a complete disaster and was an ominous sign of the mass slaughter which was to come in France in the later years of the war.

The Australians and the Kiwis were so upset by the whole shemozzle that we initiated ANZAC day which is the day each year when we remember the fallen.

The combined forces were driven off the peninsula by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who was then the relatively junior commander of the Turkish forces at Gallipoli and who later became the founder of the Republic of Turkey – and its first President.

He took the whole Gallipoli thing rather well considering the number of his ‘Mehmets’ that the invaders killed - and later built the memorial at Anzac Cove.

I was weighing the cats and discovered that I now weigh 92.3 kilograms. This is the heaviest I have ever been. Now sure it coincides with three weeks of holiday eating and not much serious exercise – but it is just appalling.

According to the BMI sites I have looked at I should be between 61-80 Kilograms. 61 Kilograms? Screaming Lord Sutch! I would have to lose 32 Kilograms!

I kept checking until I found one that told me my ideal weight is 85 kilos. That is better – I can live with that. But I am happy to shoot for 80.

Notwithstanding almost terminal Hay Fever I started riding again today and discovered that the bloody trees are already molting. They are all sending down showers of white and yellow blossomy thingies (I don’t know what they are called) and soon this will turn into a veritable storm through which I will have to ride stoically and sneezing incessantly.

But it has to be done. I need to eat properly, exercise and lose weight. I need to be at my ideal weight by the time we go cycling in Italy in July. It will be so!

But weight is not a problem for some people. I read an article online recently about fat people who like to be fat and want to get fatter.

I don’t quite understand this. I can understand fat people who are unhappy being fat and would rather be thinner. I understand fat people who are comfortable with their weight and have no desire to be thinner.

I cannot understand fat people who are fat and want to get fatter – but maybe it’s just me. This is a bit hard to explain so I have included some parts of the article:

“Peter rejoices whenever he puts on more weight. He loves how his protruding belly moves and delights in the fact it gets in his way.

At 170 cm and weighing a hefty 113 kilograms, Peter, who requested that his last name not be published, is on a quest to become even more corpulent. He documents his weight gain on his blog,, under the pen name "Stupidgit."

"I love how my weight feels when I run, falling and shaking my body shortly after each step..." the 23-year-old Lexington, Kentucky, resident, writes on his blog. "The only thing I love more than being fat, is getting fatter."

As hard as it is to understand, Peter is not alone in his desire to gain weight. The internet is rife with "gainer" blogs, plus dating sites and discussion forums that glorify big bodies, with names such as Fatnesse Follies, Growing Larger, and

While far from mainstream, the phenomenon was brought into the public eye in March, when a 272 kilogram New Jersey mother announced she is trying to reach 453 kilograms (1,000 pounds) to become the world's fattest woman.

Donna Simpson, a 42-year-old mother, told Britain's Daily Mail that she raises money for her weekly $US750 ($802.65) food budget through a web site where men pay to watch her eat. Her longtime boyfriend reportedly encourages her weight gain.”

Excuse me?

I can imagine men paying women to do a lot of things but – eat?

The New Jersey woman is going to have her work cut out based on what I see in the USA each time I go there – but good luck to her. Everyone needs a goal in life.

Mine is to lose 7 kilos in 2 months and then get to 80 kilos by the end of Summer.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Black Screen of Death is even more formidable

First of all I would like to apologise for the very poor quality of the Blog over the last week or so. I have been distracted by the Hendos and by Migraines and possibly the worst Hay Fever I have ever had.

I have sneezed so much I have whiplash and dehydration – but the cats no longer jump when the numerous explosions take place. They just roll their eyes and sigh.

You have voted with your feet and readers have deserted me in droves. You fickle bastards! 360 posts and you desert me as soon as I have an off week!

Was I this bad last year – I just cannot remember. Nadia Poponova came on Tuesday and we compared notes. She looks worse that I do and has a red nose and puffy eyes and looks like death warmed up. She has been to the Doctor and has pills.

I have been for blood tests because I was sure that not all of my problems are Spring related – and the results say that everything is in order. Dr Mordor does not know what the matter is - it may be Spring or the Volcano or the problems in the Vatican.

He sighed and said ‘there is not much I can do for you but I hope that despite your problems you will feel better soon’. I am not kidding – this is what he says – he should not be a Doctor – perhaps a philosopher – or vivisectionist.

Something went seriously wrong last week. Rozalin borrowed my Dell notebook PC for a conference Cate was hosting – and it crashed. It was not a Blue Screen of Death - it was a Black Screen of Death. This is actually worse because there is no sign of life at all.

This is the only major software failure I have ever had with Dell and – the weird and seriously wrong thing – the PC is still under warranty! Not by much mind you – but still there.

So after the Hendos left on Wednesday night I metaphorically girded my loins to tackle the software problem. Now what I could do would be ring the Dell Service people in Europe – and I thought about this – but the PC ID is not recognised on the European website so they probably would not talk to me.

I could ring the Dell Service people in Australia – well – in India actually. I have spoken to Dell many times about many things in Australia and it is always a very nice Indian man who deals with my issues.

But I knew that it would be an excruciating process as what they do is get you to run through an endless series of software processes and procedures because they will do anything to avoid sending a technician if the PC is under warranty. I have had only a few glitches with software – but I know how it works.

I thought to myself – what would William do? Now William lives in the wilds of France with Sophie and Donkeys and Goats and sure he could ring someone but he is a very practical man and I just know that he would roll up his sleeves and deal with the issue. So that is what I did.

A BSoD is a formidable obstacle. There is no sign of Windows or anything approximating something you can try to click. Indeed - there is no cursor. It is inky black! It is blacker than Dick Cheney’s heart.

All you get on a boot is a choice of F2 or F12. So I played with these for a while and made no progress. I then delved into the innards of the Dell help site – which I must say is bloody marvelous. I actually used the terms ‘black screen’ and ended up with loads of sound advice about messing about with the BIOS to boot from the original Windows disk.

After an immense amount of farnarkling and backtracking – it worked. I reloaded Windows – changed the BIOS settings back and now no longer have the BSoD.

Of course I had to do a clean reinstall so lost all my programs and settings – and files - and these will take me years to reestablish - but I did not have to talk to Dell Indian Man!

I will reload the programs I need over the next few weeks-months-years – but I am losing interest in Dell and Windows because – as you know – I am now an Apple convert. As we speak my baby is being built somewhere (China?)and will soon wing its way to Vienna.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An iMac is heading my way

The Hendos left Wednesday night. There was some consternation that the Volcano would prevent them from leaving and they were getting a bit edgy about the garden at home. John has a John Deere mower which he uses to mow the lawn in his vast estate and he suffers from withdrawal symptoms if he does not ride it regularly.

I think I may have inadvertently added to the problems caused by the Volcano. A few days ago I deleted a whole bunch of large digital photographs and released billions of pixels into the atmosphere. These must have caused a problem and I hope they can’t trace them back to me. But I just don’t know how to delete photographs and not make a mess with the pixels.

Christine was quite taken with the cats – especially Monika and Sissi – and is planning on acquiring a cat as soon as she gets home. She is a former cat minder so knows the ropes and they have a gigantic house in the country which is perfect for a cat – or two. John is not so keen but as he has no say over what happens inside the house she will not have a problem.

I have purchased my iMac online from Apple in Austria. It is the Mother of iMacs with something called a Quad-Core – and with 8GM of Ram and a 1TB Hard Disk. Lenny is right about the Mac to die for but I have a limited allowance and Cate is already giving me an advance on this so I don’t want to push my luck - I am going to have to take in washing and ironing as it is to make ends meet.

I have bought all the appropriate software and have joined the Mac forum so that I can display my stunning ignorance in public. These will all be prefaced with ‘Dumb Newbie question follows:’

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guest Blog - Part 2

Early morning in Padua

There are many scary things in Vienna. In the early days I used to dread going to our local supermarket for fear of being shamed at the cash register. When I say ’supermarket’: it is not a supermarket as we know them in North America, the UK and Australia. In fact it is about the size of our lounge room in Vienna – but has fewer useful things on the shelves.

The worst part about the supermarket was getting accustomed to the cost. Until we got to grips with the fact that Vienna is a really expensive city, I used to panic at the cost of some of the items I had to buy. I carried a brown paper bag around so that I could breathe into this to calm myself down in times of great stress.

For weeks I couldn’t buy bananas. I would put them in the basket and take them to the cash register and the cashier would pick them up and say something unintelligible to me. I would shrug and she would put them down behind her. I assumed she was saying “do you have a licence to buy bananas?”

I did not and accepted that at some stage I would need to acquire a banana licence. I eventually discovered the secret: I was supposed to weigh them and take them to the cashier with the price tag on them.

I was so pleased with myself when I discovered this that I bought bananas every day for a week. Cate used to throw these into the garden six floors below us (‘for the birds’ she said) and I would see our building supervisor picking these up and looking grimly at the top floor apartments.

I had not realised how hard it would be to buy things when you do not know what they are called, and when you are not enlightened one bit by looking at the labels if there are no pictures. I have an English-German dictionary in my iPhone and spend a lot of time amongst the shelves tapping away.

Fortunately, there are expatriate forums where you are allowed to ask really stupid questions like ‘what is plain flour called in German?’ (And it could well be something entirely different in the Austrian version of German).

The scariest thing in Vienna is meat. It is called Fleisch (and pork is called Schwein). Both these are a bit too visceral for my liking and make the whole business a bit grim. After 18 months I have still not mastered meat and have absolutely no idea what a lot of it is. I do know that Austria is probably the most dangerous place on the planet for pigs, and I think more must die here than anywhere else.

It is not just the names of the meat – it is what it looks like. I had to buy a book on meat so that I could try to identify the body parts of the animals that I could see in the windows. I don’t think Australian animals have all these different parts. I blame Chernobyl.

We lived on chicken for the first six months until I found the other things I needed to make stews and casseroles. I have never been able to find a decent piece of steak despite many efforts. My greatest failure was buying what was supposed to be rump steak but was probably horse meat – but I never did discover what it really was. The cats loved it.

The say that the Austrians are unfriendly. I like to think of them as reserved. I have only ever experienced isolated cases of rudeness – although I have been battered with walking sticks by little old ladies on occasions. But that is not because they are Austrian; it is because they are little old ladies and if you are one of these and someone gets in your road, you then beat them out of the way.

Austria is – as far as I can tell – the smoking capital of Europe. It seems to be the only EC country without any effective smoking regulations so it is a dangerous place for people who hate smoke (us) and people who are allergic to smoke (us).

There are some famous cafes we have never been able to get into as we are instantly asphyxiated in the doorway and have to retreat gasping to the sidewalk. We have discovered a number of excellent non-smoking restaurants, and even some of the most famous cafes here have become non-smoking. But it will be a long time before the culture changes.

But you must adapt to local culture: when in Rome etc. We always adopt this maxim, so when we were in Moscow last week we got paralyzed on Vodka and slept in the Metro.

But we love it here. It’s a gorgeous city and we are as happy as clams. Vienna is the most bicycle-friendly city I have seen and there are more than 400 kilometers of dedicated cycle paths in the city. With the warmer weather I have started my regular 30 kilometer rides along the Danube and the Danube Island…just bliss.

Sometimes when I am beetling along in the sunshine I look at the office blocks in the distance and I think about all those workers – and Cate – beavering away. But not so much that it spoils my fun.

The Badger is a bit poorly.

The Badger is in fact a bit crook with hayfever and headaches and is having blood tests. So he is not really up to wrting a Blog. This is a Blog I wrote last week for a guest spot on warsawmommy

We arrived in Vienna from Australia in August 2008. My wife Cate works for a US company and was offered a job here as the Regional Legal Director for Russia, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Vienna is sort of in the middle of all that (well – it’s closer than Australia).

I am the designated ‘Hausmann’ with the job of looking after Cate and the three cats. My duties are not onerous – and Cate travels a lot – so I have time for bike riding, photography, drinking coffee and improving my culinary skills. These have improved markedly in the last 18 months…and I am told that my Hungarian Goulash soup is to die for.

With the benefit of hindsight I would have spent a lot more time than I did learning German before we came to Vienna – and should be doing more now – but life is so short! This would have meant that I would not have had quite so many horrendous experiences in shops and would not have bought quite so many things without knowing what they really were, or really wanting them.

My most famous inadvertent purchase was a pair of Hugo Boss underpants which cost me €29 (it’s a long story). They are, of course, much too expensive to wear so I have had them bronzed and they hang like dice from the car rear view mirror.

As it is, after 18 months my German is like a train wreck. It consists of shattered verbs, smashed adjectives and badly injured nouns. I am frequently stuck for a German word so am inclined to use a French one, or – as my French has now deteriorated so badly as to require life support – an English one, or even a colloquial Australian expression. I also wave my arms around a lot. This makes my conversations quite animated and often entertaining for onlookers – but still fundamentally incomprehensible.

It is not all my fault. The people who invented the German language had serious social problems and clearly suffered from chronic depression during the long European winters.

They have managed to make it almost impossible for a non-German to learn (and this may well have been their plan!). I mean, there are perfectly good German verbs that have been rendered almost unusable by the device of making them separable. This means that sometimes you put one part near the beginning of the sentence and another part (usually the smaller part) right at the end. What madness is this?

The insanity has no bounds. There are more than two ways to say ‘because’ in German. If you use one possibility the verb goes in one place and if you use another it goes somewhere else. Sometimes I just freeze mid-sentence trying to slot the verb into the right place and the other person just wanders off and does something more productive.

The locals don’t have to look at your passport to know that you are an ‘Auslander’: they just listen to what you do with their verbs, and smile knowingly.

.....more tomorrow

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's all over!

The time comes when you recognise that it is all over. That you have been living a lie. Being untrue to yourself and the ones you love. You have clung to it because you have been afraid to let go. Like a frightened child clings to its mother’s apron. Afraid of what might be unknown and unseen.

It is a big world out there and – for all its many faults – it has kept you safe for many years. But - you have been hurt so many times you can never forget the pain. You know it is time. The wrench will be great but in the end everyone will be better off and can move on to their new lives.

So it’s time for Windows to go. It’s Apple Time!

I buy a new PC about every three years and my last 6 PCs have come from Dell. I have never had a single hardware problem with any home PC that I have ever bought from Dell. The software of course is another matter entirely and Windows in particular has been the cause of much wailing and howling and gnashing of teeth.

My first PC was run (if that is the right word) by something called CP/M Plus – and it had – I think – 256K of Ram. When you asked the PC to so anything at all you could safely leave it for half an hour and have a nice cup of tea – and when you got back it would be clacking away unconcerned by the world passing it by.

My next PC had DOS which was functional – and a whopping 4 Mb of hard disk space. This was the last PC for which you really had to know some code and I go quite good at messing about inside the Registry (was it called that?).

Then we got the first Windows programs and became familiar with the Blue Screen of Death. There was some wonderful Windows Haiku written about the BSoD. Here is a small sample.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams. ( Peter Rothman)

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen
dies so beautifully. (Simon Firth)

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a simple stone. ( James Lopez)

I remember waiting eagerly for Windows 95. In fact I was so anxious that I pre-ordered and paid for it. This ensured that I was one of the few people in Australia who paid full price -because it was discounted from day one. Lesson learned.

As with all versions of Windows – it fixed old bugs and invented new ones and I have been dealing with these for more than 15 years. The current version of Windows is the best yet – but I think it is time to move on.

I have cut my teeth on the iPod and the iPhone and am ready for the big time. This is not a decision I have taken lightly (not the least reason of which is that I have 3 PCs running Windows) so last night I prayed to the Flying Spaghetti Monster

The FSM said ‘Are you kidding me – you have been using Windows for 25 years – you should be bronzed and put in a glass case on rosewood plinths in the front foyer at Microsoft headquarters'.

Good enough for me. I am now shopping for the biggest fastest iMac I can find. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It does not mean that I am going straight

Matthew made a comment on my Blog yesterday that made me stop and think. He said “actually paying for downloads. True retro, maan.“

I realised that it is actually years since I have stolen music - and there are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, iTunes allows me to buy the tracks I want to buy – rather than having to buy a CD with 12 tracks including masses of stuff that may have been fun to make but is not fun to listen to. I don’t think $0.99 is an unreasonable price to pay for a song that someone has taken the trouble to write and record (even if they were drunk or stoned at the time) – and I am happy to pay it.

Secondly – while I still buy some contemporary mainstream music (I downloaded some P!nk tracks last night) I am mainly interested in independent artists and music that is not available on iTunes – or almost anywhere else for that matter.

So I subscribe to a site called emusic This is a legitimate site where the music is made available by a whole bunch of independent artists – and it includes a whole bunch of stuff from eons ago by a wide range of artists. This costs me €0.40 per song and I have an annual subscription that enables me to download 24 songs each month for an annual fee of €115.

This site is good for me as - while my iTunes library currently stands at 19,000 songs - I have an interest the origins of music and particularly Bluegrass, Country and Folk music from the 1920s on. This site has a vast collection of this type of music.

And – I have discovered some sensational Indie groups and artists that I would never have found anywhere else as they simply would not get played on radio.

And it’s not only music – I no longer download TV series – and have not done so since we left Australia. We had a particular problem in Australia in that the TV stations would buy series from America and show them months (in fact often up to six months) after they were shown in the USA.

Even then the episodes would be shown with 20 minutes of advertisements, would sometimes be shown out of order – or repeated - or could well be bumped altogether by something like the Queensland Annual Crab Racing Championships. I made a decision some years ago that I would NEVER watch anything I wanted to watch if I had to endure advertisements – and I never have.

This necessitated the intensive use of Bit Torrent by me and by hordes of Australians and I used it for series such as West Wing. I mean – really – who is going to wait for six months after the event to see what happened to Jed and CJ and the boys?

In fact – in Australia – Bit Torrent changed the TV industry. Within a short time the TV stations realised that they had to show series episodes within days of the debut in America – otherwise they were showing them to an audience that comprised only people who did not have a PC with a Broadband connection. This would probably only be the Prime Minister and the Minister for Communications.

I don’t do this here – mainly because there is no imperative. I have more than enough to do and am happy to wait for DVDs to become available on Amazon. There has not been a movie released in the last 10 years that I had to see within 12 months of its release.

This does not mean that I am going straight. I reserve the right to steal music or video if the situation demands it.

Incidentally – if you actually want to read something that is always well written, always insightful and very often profound and moving you should visit Matthew's Blog

After reading about Steph’s experience with Absinthe I have acquired a bottle. All I need now is the correct glasses and sugar cubes. I expect difficulty with sugar cubes and will scour Wien tomorrow for these. The Hendos arrive back from Italy on Friday and we will give it a nudge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I cracked the Apple system

You can tell by the colours that this is a cat from Tuscany.

It is still raining and I have had enough. It is supposed to be Spring with birds and buds and warm weather and stuff. I checked the Ducks yesterday and they are not happy. I haven’t been on my bike ride for weeks. I want sunshine – NOW!

I love iTunes and my iPods and iPhone but the one thing that drives me crazy about Apple is that they practice price and product discrimination in various countries. Tunes are more expensive in Australia and Austria than they are in the USA and there are many tunes and other products available in the USA that are not available in Austria.

Another significant problem for me is that in Austria the site is (of course) in German and I have access only to books in German – and all the App descriptions and comments are in German. I can translate these but it is tedious beyond belief and I have other fish to fry.

You cannot overcome this problem from Austria or Australia by opening an account with the US iTunes store because to do so you need a US address and a US Credit Card – or so I thought until Tuesday.

I was ferreting about in the Austrian iTunes store and got totally pissed off by it. I thought to myself ‘there has to be a way to do this – I know – I will search the Internet’. Ta Dah!

The solution was provided by Marc Forrest

It was a little harder than I thought it would be as I could not get a confirmatory email sent to me with the first account I opened so had another go. This did not arrive either so I thought I would need a Proxy Server to disguise my IP Address (those Apple people are cunning devils) so I signed up for a trial period with Identity Cloaker – but just as I had done this my confirmation arrived - and I now have a US iTunes Account.

It is not in my name of course but it gives me access to all the US products – at US prices – and I can use this with gift vouchers I can buy online. I imagine to download stuff I will have to use the Proxy Server as otherwise I will get sprung - but this is not very expensive.

The Proxy Server solution is the same one that most people will use to circumvent Internet censorship in Australia when they start to extend it to cover all those quite legitimate things that the government would prefer its citizens not to see – like euthanasia and atheism and YouTube (shudder).

I have used my brother-in-law’s US address so that at least if there is a problem the FBI will have someone to arrest and incarcerate. This always makes them feel better and will give Steve Jobs a warm glow.

This morning Rozalin telephoned me to tell me that the people in the apartment underneath ours had complained to the building people that there was water leaking into their apartment from above them – and we were the most likely suspects. I could not see any signs of this so the building people sent a man - who appeared in the afternoon.

He knew exactly where to look but could not find anything so he asked me if he could cut a hole in the wall. I said sure – why not – so he did.

This confirmed that there was no leak and after we had extracted Sissi from inside the wall he was able to put it back together again – after a fashion – with Gaffer Tape (what else). He said it must be in another apartment so is scouring the building cutting holes in walls.

The patched hole will remain the way it is for some time – probably years – so I will put a frame around it and say that it is modern art. It doesn't matter to someone who has had cardboard in their air conditioners for more than a year.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My daughter suffers from Musophobia

Bagni di Lucca again.

Sunday was Sissi’s first birthday and we celebrated with a cake and a jumping castle. Well – not really - but we did wish her happy birthday and I let her bite one of my toes really hard. She is now the size of a Shetland Pony and in Summer I will take her to Stadtpark to give rides to the children.

It was also – of course – Balu’s birthday (Balu is Sissi’s sibling) so I sent an email to Rozalin who read it aloud to Balu. I think Balu probably got gifts and this makes me feel a bit ashamed that I did nothing special for Sissi - but I will make it up to her.

I have promised her that in Summer (what happened to Spring while I was away?) I will take her down to the courtyard so that she can gambol in the grass.

After sunny Tuscany we have come back to a cold and wet Vienna. Well – I have – Cate has gone off to a week long conference in Baden which is close to here. It may be cold and wet in Baden also but she will be locked up in meetings all day and night or will be in the bar so will not notice.

I got this text message from Melissa at about 1:00 AM on Monday morning.

“I’m trapped in my bathroom because Merlin is walking around with a mouse in his mouth and I can’t cope”

(Merlin is her cat – not her boyfriend - or a Wizard - (see picture!)

Mercifully I was asleep and did not hear the text message coming in. Not that I could do much – after all she is in Paris and I am in Vienna.

I might have said something like ‘Melissa, it’s a bloody mouse not a ravenous lion – get on with it!’ which would not have been helpful at all as she suffers from Musophobia and is not able to look at, touch or otherwise engage with mice. (I have this trouble with Republicans).

I bought her a book on rats last year but this does not seemed to have helped and we may have to get her into therapy with someone who specializes in Musophobia. I imagine there are not many in Paris but there will be thousands in Los Angeles and she can do a course by correspondence.

Melissa was eventually able to wake her boyfriend Henri from a deep sleep and he caught a taxi across Paris to her place and rescued the mouse from Merlin – and Melissa from the bathroom - and let it loose in the street. He clearly does not suffer from Musophobia and will be amply rewarded by the mouse god in due course for this charitable act.

I imagine it took the mouse about 10 minutes to find its way back into Melissa’s apartment but I am sure it will be a bit more careful now - after spending half the night being sucked by Merlin.

Melissa has two dreadful fears – heights and mice. I share her fear of heights but am not in the least bothered by mice who I think are quite delightful creatures. I am quite pleased that god designed mice - but did not go overboard like he did with beetles.

As far as I can tell there are only about 200 types of mice (compared with more than 350,000 types of beetles). I think this is about the right number and cannot imagine what god was thinking on beetle day. Perhaps it was raining, there was no cricket on TV and there was nothing else to do.

As far as I can tell we do not have any mice in our apartment. This is probably just as well because Cate is also not good with mice. She is not as bad with mice as she is with lizards which provoke a reaction similar to mine if I opened the door and Sarah Palin was on my doorstep.

I know this is not likely to happen - but just in case I keep a club just inside the door.

Update: There are mice swarming all over Melissa's apartment. I have told her she will need to toughen up or get more cats. Merlin has sucked one to death but will be knackered by midnight and will need reinforcements.

Monday, April 12, 2010

You need more than 12 Italian words

Bagni di Lucca

We stayed in a little village called Bagni di Lucca. It is near a bigger town near Lucca - which is now famous for us because it has an almost unfathomable roundabout that variously sent us off to many places to which we did not really intend to go.

Our car navigation system suffered from apoplectic seizures whenever we got to the roundabout and we had to put a damp towel over its head and make our own arrangements.

These were never satisfactory and we toured around the walls of Lucca much more often than we had intended. The problem turned out to be numerous road changes and when we followed the car navigation instructions to the bitter end one day we found ourselves at toll gates – but with a fence between us and them. On another occasion our road came to a dead end and we were greeted by a new but unopened piece of road – with no way onto it – so retraced out steps for 20 kilometers.

I imagine that it takes a long while for these types of things to filter through the system in Italy to get to the map people. It may be done by the same people who do the highway restaurants.

Our total combined Italian vocabulary extended to about 12 words and this proved not to be enough as we went to many places where English she is not spoke there. John is excellent at charades and had some long conversations with people who kept edging away from him. He is the type of person who can make people nervous as he assaults them with a variety of English and French – and his two Italian words - while waving his arms animatedly.

He had a wonderful conversation with a man in a vineyard near our unopened road – as we needed to find another way to the motorway. The man spoke for 15 minutes in Italian and John said ‘Prego’ and ‘Si’ about 40 times. When he came back to the car was asked him what the man had said and he said ‘no idea’.

But Tuscany was everything I had expected. There were very few tourists – except at Pisa – and the weather was glorious. At Pisa we took pictures of each other pretending to prop the tower up. I don’t think this has been done before so I am going to submit my photos to National Geographic.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Please don't call it a system

Our Villa in Tuscany

The Italians invented Parmigiano-Reggiano and Chianti for which I will always love them but they are not good at logistics. They have invented what could be the world’s worst system for selling things to travelers in motorway restaurants.

We experienced this horror twice. On the first occasion we stopped somewhere outside Padova for a coffee and a snack and fought our way through crowds of smokers to the entrance. We were then swept up by a seething horde of hungry Italians and propelled with some force into the maelstrom which purported to be a restaurant and snack bar but which resembled a Rugby Maul comprised principally of violent thugs intent on causing physical harm to their opponents. All that was lacking was clubs with spikes.

We clung together but had little control over our movements and were eventually spun off out of the vortex and ended up cowering in the corner next to the entrance. We regrouped and studied the situation with some care and finally worked out what the system was – although it would be wrong to call it a system in the sense of a system being something that functions to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

On one side there are counters with a vast array of food, drinks and coffee. On the other side there are cashiers. These are placed so that the cashiers impede – very effectively – any access to the food by clients coming through the front turnstiles.

So to get to the food the starving patrons have to fight their way through the hordes of people waiting at the cashiers. They must then fight their way to the front of the heaving mass at the food counters to see the delicacies that they would like to acquire. Committing these to memory they must them claw their way back to the cashiers and reel off the names of the delectable substances and drinks they wish to acquire.

Clutching a ticket they then club their way back to the food counter to present what remains of the ticket to the food providers. The same process is required for coffee as each area specialises.

They then consume this where they stand – or outside –or wherever they damn well please – no one cares. They are then free to pay money to visit the toilets or leave by winding through long corridors of the shop past rows of biscuits, drinks, chocolates and everything else under the sun until they are ejected stunned and blinking into the sunlight and thanking god for deliverance from the unholy place they have just survived.

We were better the second time and formed a flying wedge with Christine at the head and Cate playing breakaway to take advantage of any gaps that opened up.

Some people don’t get to eat. We saw a French family get spun around three times shouting ‘Au Secours’ before they were deposited sobbing, still famished and almost lifeless back into the car park. They fired up the Peugeot and headed back to France Tout de Suite.

When we continued our drive we tried to think of a way that we could make the system more inefficient than it is – but failed. I think the Italians have nailed it with what they have done and it is a system from hell that may never be equaled.

But - the food is very good and not at all like the gruesome sludge and curly cheese sandwiches that infest the roadside diners in Australia.

Oh – and we had a fabulous time in Tuscany. More about this soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A large black bird will swoop from the sky!

It was a truly glorious day in Wien today so we went to Melk Abbey. I think this was my eighth trip but I always love it. The weather was perfect and we sat in the sun at outside the restaurant and had an Austrian health lunch – Wurstel and Pommes Frites.

The drive back through the Wachau Valley was delightful and there are already hordes of cyclists out and about. I am pleased to see that they have almost finished the road works that have been going on since we arrived so there were not too many delays.

Cate had a major panic attack getting to the airport in Jakarta. She left the hotel three hours before the flight was due to depart but got to the airport as the flight was boarding – two hours and forty minutes later.

The traffic was TARFU in Jakarta (and indeed every major city in Asia) when I travelled there in the 70s and 80s and it seems that nothing has changed.

I got really cross with the Catholic Church over some things I saw yesterday and today and wrote a long rant - which I have now deleted.

I will pray for something instead. That usually works for me - I mean I live in a Penthouse in Wien with the woman of my dreams, drive a black Mercedes and get to drink the very best Austrian red wine in the company of three wonderful cats.

That is the power of prayer.

Watch during the Pope’s Easter message. When he says “In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti” a large black bird will swoop from the sky and carry him off to be eaten by its children (I’ve forgotten what bird children are called).

Trust me on this – my prayers always work. Remember what I did with John Howard?

Cheers – see you in a week or so!