Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's good night Vienna for Muffin

Muffin last year

Merisi sent me an email to say – as politely as possible – that there appeared to be something wrong with the white balance in the photo on my blog yesterday. She said that as an academic challenge she had downloaded it and  tried to do something with it - but that it was beyond redemption.

Ah well – I said – this is because it was in fact taken the day after I had fallen off the dog sled onto my camera and smashed it and my ribs to pieces.

So this and all the other photos that were taken on the trip were captured with Gwenyth’s camera which was made in 1992. No – I am not kidding – 1992. And it took really shitty photos. They were mostly out of focus and there was nothing you could do with them in either iPhoto or Aperture.

Now some bad news for cat lovers. Muffin merged with infinity yesterday.

She became really distressed the previous evening and was no better in the morning. I don’t think she was in any pain but was obviously suffering from extreme anxiety – which had been developing for some time.

She had been very restless and roaming around the house – not sleeping – just lying starting into space. And I looked at this scruffy 19 year old cat yesterday morning and knew it was time.

I would have waited until Cate came back but Muffin was obviously very distressed so I took her to the vet straight away and that was that. It was a sad day but I was glad to see her finally at peace because she has not been a really happy cat for some time now.

So we are down to two cats.  Cate got back this morning and has been on the phone since she got back. As soon as she has a moment she will start talking about kittens. Spare me!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

You can also drink its blood and it eat parts raw

Cate rang me at 4:30 AM her time in Bangkok  - which was 11:30 PM my time – as I had just sent her a cat photo. I do this every day – with a lie attached that the cats are thinking of her and want her home. Of course the cats don’t give a rat’s ass about her – or me – or anyone else.

I do this in the hope that it might provide her some small comfort because I know how difficult these trips are for her – for one thing she sleeps very badly – hence the 4:30 call. So she has to get up at 7:00 after very little sleep and work all bloody day and on and on it goes.

She is currently planning Christmas. I mean the part of Christmas that happens after Christmas. Of course we will do our usual thing here and Gwenyth and Molly will be here for the Goose and the usual festivities.

This year she has decided that she would like to try to get me eaten by a Polar Bear. She is thinking about Norway and a place called Svalbard. There are apparently 4,000 Polar Bears – and the Northern Lights – which we did not see when we were in Finnish Lapland where I did my rib thing.

I have checked – we will be on Snowmobiles. Polar Bears cannot outrun Snowmobiles – the odds are good.  In any event I can surely outrun Cate and Gwenyth because they run like a girls. I know – you think I should stay and throw myself in front of the Bear to allow them to get away – and maybe I would.

She was also going to take me skiing for the first time in my life but I took her gently through the range of likely scenarios – crashing,  screaming, paramedics, ambulance, hospital, surgery, traction, months of physiotherapy - plus she would have to empty the kitty litter for months (this was the clincher) so she canned that idea. 

She is pretty damn sick of my ribs (but not as sick as I am) so knows what to expect if anything else goes wrong.

I am not going to be cold in Norway. I damn near froze to death on the Reindeer ride in Lapland. I have ordered a Jack Wolfskin catalogue so that I can get some proper gloves.
I should also get a Bear Grylls knife. He says that if you really have to you can cut open a Reindeer and climb inside it to get warm and survive. I assume you have to kill it first. I have seen him do this. I don’t think it was a Reindeer he climbed inside but it was large and dead and warm.

You can also drink its blood and it eat parts of it raw. I might skip that bit. Of course I am hoping it does not come to this but I am providing for all eventualities.

I am not sure that I could convince the man who owns  the Reindeer that this would be a good idea. I may also have trouble convincing the Dry Cleaner in Vienna that he should not charge me extra – and that he should not call the Polizei.

But we can have Reinsdyrgryte afterwards – trust me it - is delicious if you can cope with the concept. We had it in Lapland – every night.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The mystery of the missing toner

Maria Island

We have solved the mystery of the missing toner cartridges. Well – after a fashion. The ever reliable Rozalin put her skills to work on this found that UPL had not in fact sent them to Australia.

They had been torn from the grasp of the people who were frantically trying to send them to Sydney and were then sent direct to Austria where they had been apparently delivered to us. Well - we had not received them.

Further enquiries elicited the information that the parcel had been signed for by Katzenjammers – was this name familiar to us?

Katzenjammers? Of course - the Katzenjammers are our neighbors. We always sign for each others packages – I will go and ask them if they have it.

Hmm… they don’t have it. We have a problem.

A few days later Frau Katzenjammer sees me again. Her husband signed for a package and left it on my doorstep – the usual practice. (He travels a lot and is not there very often.) 

Did I by chance sign for a package for them and leave it on their doorstep.

Well – yes I did. Oh No! This was his birthday present from his mother Frau Katzenjammer in Deutschland - and it has also gone missing.

Gott in Himmel! We have a thief in our Stiege.

Trust me when I say this is unusual. We have not lost anything since we have been here. 

Our part of the building contains only about  20 apartments and we all know each other – at least by sight. The Katzenjammers and us are the only ones on the top level and we never see anyone else on this level.

But you could hardly say the building is secure. There are many offices in the complex and hundreds of people have keys – and there is a – ahem – massage parlor  on level 2 but I don’t suppose that after a wax and polish the patrons are going to pop up and steal stuff from our doorsteps. So it may be people delivering advertising material – or workmen – there always seem to be renovating going on somewhere – but it is very disappointing.  

So the Katzenjammers and I have agreed that we cannot leave anything on doorsteps anymore. Ah this modern world.

Rozalin has told the Parcel delivery people and the Toner people - who have now said that if I sign a statement that the package was stolen they might send me some new toner and claim in on insurance.

That woman is a wonder. So I have signed this with alacrity and sent it off to Rozalin and await the outcome. I do hope that if they give me more toner that they do not send it to Australia.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's that Viennese White Wall Random Dab style

Maria Island - Tasmania

Well I achieved the most extraordinary result with my painting. It actually looks like a patchwork quilt. I have never seen anything quite like it. 

It looks like someone has gone around and made random short dabs with a roller all over the walls. But I just do not know how I did this because I gave every part that I painted two full coats – and I mean good coats – with a very high quality paint and roller.

This just takes the biscuit for me. I have never seen anything like it.

The good thing is that no one will ever think that it is not supposed to be like that. They will think wow that must be the new ‘Viennese White Wall Random Dab’ style I have heard so much about. I expect that soon I will be in Austrian Vogue. I may take the style to Peoria and create a sensation.

Cate has been very good about it and has said that she cannot notice it. She has the ability – when faced with some particularly hideous features of her existence – to switch off.

She is – for example – able to ignore piles of cat vomit and other types of feline excretions. Ignore is not the right word. She does not see them. They register on her radar to the extent that she can step over them or segue around them but other than that – and a slight shudder – she is oblivious.

(Except on one memorable occasion long ago when she stepped out of bed into a pile of fresh, warm vomit deposited by Muffin. I am still slightly deaf in my right ear from this incident)

It is this way with the walls.

But I have hung up my rollers. It is all over with me and painting. I have demonstrated that any knack I had is long gone. Any future painting in the apartment will be done by a skilled tradesman.

Anyway – Cate is in Bangkok so the cats and I are on our own again. We are planning the usual knees ups and I am out on the town tonite with my friend Yum Cha. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

I am so not good at painting!

Synchronized cats

I missed yesterday’s blog because I was painting and things just got away from me. Cate is in Moscow and I lost track of time.

There are many things at which I am not good – and there are things at which I am particularly bad.

One of these is painting. I try to avoid it but in an apartment that is entirely white the walls do get marked so I try to – every now and again – do a spot of painting just to keep it looking good. Marks get on the walls for all sorts of reasons. There are numerous cats who live here and they knock things over – well one of them does.

Cate has a candle fetish and it often looks like Stephansdom on All Saints Day in here – and these leave black marks on the walls. The furniture gets moved around and there is just the wear and tear of life – you know how it is.

So I like to occasionally take a pot of paint and a small roller and dab at marks on the walls to cover them up as best I can – which is none too good. Well – I had not done this for a while and there were quite a few marks and scruffy bits that needed sorting out so I set out with a pot of paint and roller and spent a good two hours pottering around the lounge room.

After half an hour or so I look at the trail I had left behind me and thought that the it looked a bit conspicuous – I had a left a bright white trail behind me and had a horrible fright for a moment – thinking I was using gloss paint. But I checked and it was definitely matt paint. So I thought well it will be OK when it dries – it always has been in the past.

But it wasn’t.

Now there are thousands of different whites and this was not the same white I had used in the past – because I could not get that – but it was just plain old wall white for goodness sake – but it got no duller as it dried. It was terrifying and could not be viewed with the naked eye for fear of snow blindness.

So I hurtled off to Bauhaus and got another tub of flat matt white and this time used a larger roller – thinking that this may have been the problem.

This time the paint was not quite as conspicuous but it had left clear roller marks all over the walls and is quite clearly a vastly different white from the existing wall color.

So I did it again with another paint and a bigger roller and it was worse.

So it has turned into on of those goat things. I cannot paint all the walls in the lounge room because they are gigantic – and eight meters high. I have had to create discrete areas and cordon them off cunningly with masking tape so that the joins of different white hues are not so noticeable. If people do notice I will tell them it is art and part of a static installation I am creating.

So yesterday I had to embark on quite a gigantic painting thing and mark off parts of walls and re-paint them and pray to the Fuckup Fairy that when I woke up today it would not be so bad that they would not need multiple coats.

Well – it’s OK – sort of – if you don’t look too closely.

There is quite a bit more that needs doing but I am on the right track. Of course I am not painting high up the walls  and I am painting around the large pieces of furniture – simple because I cannot move them – with my broken ribs this is impossible – so when we move out this is going to look very strange indeed.

I can imagine the painters coming in and thinking – WTF?

Anyway – Sissi helped as best she could and I kept a damp cloth at hand to get the paint off her paws. But I am so not good at painting. I get more paint on me and the floor and everything else than I do on the walls. It's just tragic. 

Anyway - I am off to do it again. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pecked to death by enraged Ducks?

Blogger won't let me load a photo today!

Well – just as soon as I talked about Cate’s relatively few trips she announced that she is off again tomorrow morning to Moscow. Then on Sunday she goes to Bangkok.

And on Tuesday there was a plane crash in the wilds of Russia - but Russia is a dangerous place in which to fly - and especially if you fly on Russian domestic airlines. She seems unperturbed by any of this but can be a bit inscrutable about these things.

Indeed I am not at all worried about Cate being killed in a plane crash.

Let me put that another way. Ducky Pharma has certain standards about which airlines can and cannot be used internationally. And Cate also has standards. There are airlines on which she simply will not fly. Sure there are sometimes no choices when you fly domestically in Russia but in Cate’s case she is usually always able to fly with an airline that has a reasonable chance of getting there and land on something that fairly closely resembles a runway.

Sure – there are exceptions – look at that Air France goat thing - but as it turns out that was pilot error and they were just unlucky. These days it is rarely something wrong with the plane but if the pilots are going to have a punch up about what’s amiss well you are all pretty well fucked and may just have time for one last Tweet before merging with infinity.

I think everyone should have a last Tweet ready just in case. This is the opportunity for that one last great thought to share with the world before the inky blackness sets in – or you meet your maker – whichever takes place. Not everyone would take advantage of it of course.

Hi Mum – The pilots are shouting at each other - I think I left the iron on.

I read a while ago in a science magazine that future airplanes will have only one pilot and one dog in the cockpit. The pilot to watch the instruments to make sure they are all working properly and a dog to bite the pilot if he tries to touch anything.

But while 99.999% of the planes are going to get there – you would not think so by looking at the insides of some of them.  When I fly with Cate on Austrian – for example – some of the planes are positively ancient.

I have been on planes where – and I am not kidding – there is duct tape holding the toilets together. Ah – duct tape! I am sure one day they will find duct tape in the pyramids.

I am sure if you scraped the paint off the wings on some Austrian planes you would find the old Luftwaffe markings underneath and possibly some holes made by Spitfire machine gun bullets. 

But they get there – and that’s all that matters – and the food on Austrian is brilliant. It is done by Do & Co and is the best food I have ever had on any airline. They have a chef on board in business class – well he wears a white chef’s hat – he might be a mechanic – but he looks cool!

But I too have been feeling a bit mortal in recent times after a number of people have shuffled off the mortal coil.  

I had always imagined that and I would go by being pecked to death by enraged ducks – sick of this particular Paparazzo in Stadtpark who never has breadcrumbs – or perhaps by being torched on our front lawn in Peoria by Christian  Fundamentalists who discovered that we were Atheists.

But after last weekend I have started thinking that I may somehow be savaged to death by William’s donkeys. I have started leaving carrots on the steps up to the apartment to give me time to make my getaway over the terrace.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do you have a bug up your ass?

I was much taken by an expression used by Vicki Lane in a comment on my blog. She said the old goat from Gamone probably had a ‘bug up his ass’. It is a wonderful expression which I had heard many times before but had forgotten  about – and of course describes the situation perfectly.

I can just imagine him siting there on Saturday with his cup of Cocoa realizing – suddenly – that he is reading what for him is tripe – and has been for years. It is like discovering that the original painting you had on your wall – and admired for so long is a –gasp – fake! Why – he splutters – but this is rubbish! It is all rubbish. It is – as we say in France – bof!

Now normal people would move – fairly calmly - on to the next blog of their choice but it is the bug up the ass factor that causes some readers to rain down the nuclear holocaust of emails onto the offending blogger(s).

Perhaps it is the thought of all those wasted hours reading what he has suddenly discovered was absolute rubbish. Those hours that could have been spent communing with nature or photographing linden trees, or roses or trimming the donkey’s toenails.

Instead this filthy swine in Vienna has stolen those hours from me. This bastard must pay. I hate him so much. He is such a talentless little whore. Where is my flame thrower? Where is my death ray? Why is my ass so itchy?

I was thinking about this last night. I have stopped reading - as we all have – literally hundreds of blogs over the years and have never once felt the need do turn a flame thrower on the writers.

Now it must have been a significant bug up the old goat’s ass. Maybe it was giving birth to little buzzing bugs.

There are a lot of bugs buzzing about at the moment.

The current bug up of a lot of asses is that they have seats in airplanes that recline. You now read almost daily stories about people assaulting each other because the seat in front of them reclined. Well – that is what they are supposed to do. They make them that way. Suddenly people are taking great offence when the people in front of them recline their seats.

In Sydney they are talking about making some railway carriages ‘silent carriages’ so that people can escape the cell phones and the music. These are guaranteed bug inserters into the asses of some people.  I am not sure how these people would go on the Metro in Paris where to get in and out of carriages you have to fight your way through hordes of musicians – with varying degrees of talent.

I read recently that a woman on an inter-city train in the USA was assaulted by other passengers because she spoke on her cell phone for 13 hours non-stop. Well – that would probably do it for me too. Some phone battery! WTF could you talk about for 13 hours.

I have no significant bugs up my ass (joke!).

My main ass bug at the moment is the crazy Michele Bachmann who is - believe it or not – a leading contender for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. 

This nincompoop says global warming is a gigantic hoax perpetrated by all the world’s scientists (for reasons unknown). You can argue about the degree that humankind may or may not be responsible - but not that it is actually happening – that is indisputable.

She also says – amongst many, many other very crazy things -  that Intelligent Design (creationism) should be taught in schools and that gayness can be cured.

That someone this crazy can even be a contender in a contest this serious sets my bugs a buzzing something fierce. There is something seriously wrong in the Home of the Brave.

I have – of course – many more ass bugs. I shall reveal some more soon.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Capitalism 101 Smike!

A couple of older but quite gorgeous ducks in Stadtpark 

We worked out recently that Cate has about 7 more trips this year. Most of them are fairly short – so this is pretty good. 7 Trips over 6 months is not many trips at all – considering what she has done this year.  

Of course there will be goat things or even cluster things that happen in far flung places that necessitate her throwing things in a bag and shooting off but this always happens.

And we have a number of trips together but these don’t count – as they are supposed to be holiday type things – even though Cate will always do some (or a lot of) work. It’s just getting there and back that is the problem these days.

Whenever I tell Mrs. Moneypenny where Cate is she says ‘Miss Cate is so lucky!’

I could try and tell her how so not lucky Miss Cate is but there would be no point – it would be like telling her how so not believing in God I am - and would make her brain go funny.

There are people at Cate’s office – who do not travel – who also think she is lucky.  They think it is fun and glamorous and exciting to travel.  And it is fun to travel if at the end of it you are having a holiday.

It is no longer ever glamorous and exciting. The realities of air travel in the modern era – and terrorism – have taken care of that.

And it is no fun if all you ever see of the place you are visiting – as Cate does – is what you glimpse out of the window between the airport and the hotel. But then – when you go to Algiers……..

She does her usual routine wherever she goes by working from 8:00 AM until 1:00 AM and then after some days of this she comes home exhausted but with an excruciatingly bad back from strange hotel beds and the Olive presses they use for ‘beds’ in the airplanes.

In the process she eats lots of average food or awful food. If she gets really unlucky someone will hide a crustacean in her dinner and she will yodel into the big white telephone for hours - instead of sleeping.

She will drink a lot of bad coffee and get to wait for hours in airline lounges – waiting to get onto airplanes where she can eat more bad food and drink more bad coffee and sleep looking like Quasimodo.

And why is it that airlines don’t know whether or not you flew with them?

You buy a ticket and then you go on board the aircraft and your boarding pass goes through a little machine that goes beep.  This is connected by wires to something that tells them that everyone is on board and they don’t take off until everyone is on board.

This information must go somewhere. I mean they don’t take this machine and open it up and empty it into the trash can.

I was checking to see that we got the credit for our excruciatingly awful flights to the Maldives and they have only credited us only for one leg. We are collecting these points because if we get to 100 million we can get an off-peak flight to Salzburg.

So to get the credit for the points I have to print out my original invoice from the airline and then mail it, together with the actual boarding passes - yes – the actual boarding passes – to Rapid City, South Dakota – then allow two months – yes - two months - for processing.

When I booked the ticket it took them about 18 hours to debit the cost to my credit card – and that was 8 months before we were flying!

For this I got to fly Air Poxy  - road kill class - have my seat allocation totally stuffed up - eat their shitty food - drink their shitty coffee - have no in flight entertainment on the way home – and now to get my fly-fly points I have to mail off the original boarding passes to South Dakota.

And why not. I am after all the passenger.

It’s time we had a short lesson on airlines. You - Smike – in the second row – you seem keen to answer a question – what is the purpose of airline companies?

Please sir – to swiftly and safely convey passengers between two points as cheaply as possible.

Really Smike you are not going to pass Capitalism 101 with answers like that.

Now true - that may be an occasional and accidental by-product of the activities of airlines but they are actually there as a vehicle to make a handsome return on investment for their shareholders.

There are to parties to the transaction in the airline business Smike. These are the:

Airline. (Fuckor) They collect the money, make the customer’s life miserable and make a profit for the shareholders. When they do not make enough money they increase prices or reduce services until they do make enough money.

Customer (Fuckee) The customer pays the money, has his/her life made a misery, has no rights and dies when the plane crashes. If this unfortunate event takes place it usually does not do so on a runway so there is minimal disruption to service. The plane is fully insured so there is no loss to the shareholders. The fuckees breed like rabbits so are readily replaceable.

Simple really. Who could not understand that? 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What happened to the missing blog?

Cate is back from her latest trip and we are all mightily pleased to see her. Well – the cats have not shown much interest but you know what they are like.

With cats you can be gone for a months and they will feign indifference upon your return and not come near you for days.

So I have been getting some emails about a blog that came and went on Saturday.

We had one of those Goat things on the weekend when out of the blue I was subjected to an attack by a ferocious blogger from wilds of France. It started off with him leaving comments on Merisi’s blog asking why she had watermarks on her photos. The comment was:

Your Viennese rose is esthetically pleasant (although a little wilted on the edges of the petals), in a similar to your urban linden trees. These splendid vegetal creatures are better appreciated in a setting such as Gamone… where there are no annoying (insulting, money-evoking) copyright watermarks on my photos.

He then sent that comment and another couple of emails to me and in the process I was called a ‘little nothing…… talking fake shit to fake folk.’ I am apparently a ‘little nothing’ because I have a copyright clause on the bottom of my site - but this is pointless because I am devoid of talent and have nothing to protect.

I thought that the emails were so creatively, gratuitously and hilariously, venomously offensive that they deserved publication – so I did this. But being as dopey as I am I forgot to turn off comments and then went out shopping to see if I could buy some talent.

My fake friends came to my defense and were then attacked by my real enemy. It all got a bit nasty so I deleted the blog. But there is always a trail somewhere – and keen eyed readers were anxious to know the story.

Well – you cannot read the emails until the book comes out. But believe me they are worth paying for – he is a wonderfully creative insulter. (See – I do have something to protect.)

And no – I have no idea why he did this except that he apparently finds me so offensive that he needs to let me know – and I guess Saturday is as a good as any other day to do that.
Incidentally – on his blog he refers to his venomous and spiteful attacks as:

 “it was also a fine day to say that "enough's enough" to certain would-be international Internet friends whose pretentious dullness was starting to bore me. They may not have understood what I was trying to say (they certainly don't), but I feel liberated.”

Me? I would have just stopped reading their blogs rather than sending frighteningly offensive emails – but still – who can say what’s in the mind of a old man who lives in the mountains of France with only dogs and donkeys for company.

And enough’s enough of what? WTF does that mean? Do our blogs creep of his iMac at night and bite him on his ancient wrinkly nuts?

On a happy note – as I mentioned in the banished blog – there is a mother duck with 6 very small babies in Stadtpark. Nature at it’s finest. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Which church do I go to in Vienna?

Today I took Melissa to see the Bridge at Andau. This is a photo taken from the bridge today.

Mrs. Moneypenny asked me today which Church I went to in Vienna and I answered quite truthfully that I had not yet found a church in Vienna that I wanted to attend. This applies of course to every city and town on the planet - but still.

Well – as I have told you before – there is no point in telling Mrs. Moneypenny that I am not religious because her eyes would glaze over and she would simply not understand.

Now I could have tried to explain things to her. I could in fact have shown her the article I am currently reading in the June 2011 edition of National Geographic. It is entitled ‘The Birth of Religion’ and talks about an 11,600 year old temple that has been discovered in Turkey where ancient religious ceremonies were conducted. These people invented their gods many thousands of years before her particular God was invented – but of course there have been many, many thousands in the intervening period.

She is from Latvia and she has been brought up to believe certain things and she will bring her son up to believe certain things and unless he can escape the clutches of the church and get a non-religious education he will probably also believe that stuff forever.

I myself was guilty of giving my three children a Catholic education.  Fortunately this is the best Atheist creating machine in the world and my children are now committed Atheists – and they did this without the slightest assistant from me.  I am so very proud of them.

Indeed if there was a Global Atheist Association and it awarded Gold Medals for recruiting – the annual prize would always go to the Pope.

Cate has gone very quiet in Peoria and I can only assume that the lack of proper Espresso coffee has deprived her of the will to communicate. I am sending her a constant supply of photos of Cats and Ducks to keep her strength up but this is hardly a substitute

I am not sure how this problem can be overcome. You can get really small Nespresso machines now but still not small enough to fit in a suitcase with a supply of pods.

I think I need to write to NestlĂ© and ask them to put their best minds to work on this. It is important to people who need coffee to get through the day. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Vegemite sticks to the screen

I have had a further report from Cate who has said that she had forgotten how nice it was to have a Sunday paper to read and can we please have the New York Times.

I told her that this was not possible but that she could have the London Sunday Times - but not until Monday at the earliest and probably not until Tuesday – and it would probably cost about €30 if she wanted the full edition – and as it was published by Rupert Murdoch she would need to read it wearing rubber gloves.

I do however make a single exception for Rupert and in fact subscribe to the iPad edition of The Times and the Sunday Times – at a cost of €13 per month – because I think it is good value and because I have no interest in British politics so don’t care how biased it is – if in fact it is – because I take no notice.

But I would never go anywhere near any of his US publications for obvious reasons.

I told Cate she could read The Times on my iPad but she said it is not the same which of course it isn’t and if you ask me the one thing I really miss about Australia it is reading the Sydney Morning Herald with my tea and toast in the mornings.

You just cannot rustle the pages of an iPad – and the vegemite sticks to the screen.

But you will have noticed that there is not much interest in blogging here in Vienna at the moment as Melissa and I are frying other fish.

However I have provided you with a picture of a Duck taken in Stadtpark today.  Also a picture of what is probably a Heron which is actually eating my fish in Stadtpark as I am taking its picture!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Starbucks stopped making coffee long ago

It was a public holiday here today for Whit Monday which is of course a religious festival. I make no comment about this lest I offend anyone. It appears that - for reasons which I cannot fathom – some people who believe in God actually read my Blog.

Cate is once more in Peoria from whence she rang to complain that she has to drink Starbucks coffee and could not catch a taxi.

I corrected her and pointed out that Starbucks stopped making coffee a long time ago – although they have recently started a chain of coffee shops – which are not branded as Starbucks – which are selling actual Espresso coffee – on the basis that there are people who want to drink that sort of stuff instead of coffee flavored milk with a range of syrupy additions and cream toppings – plus nuts.  Amazing!
Melissa is here from Paris so we are planning  a few excursions and a few outings to Sushi restaurants.

I have posted a photo of the newly potted plant. This is as good as it will ever look. I will post subsequent pictures of it in its death throes and as a corpse.

I have also posted a photo of Vienna today and one of Monika who I disturbed in the process of taking the photo of Vienna. She was not pleased and wished to be left in peace to finish her grooming. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Today I was humiliated

Many years ago we bought an Italian designed kitchen implement rack designed to dangle 8 new fangled kitchen implements. Each a work of art. It may have been Alessi. There were spaghetti wranglers,  fish basters, cheese gritters, noodle blasters and all sorts of things and we have probably never used them for what they were supposed to be used for  but the implements in general have been very useful and have been adapted for a wide range of purposes – including paint stirring.

The implement holder on the other hand was completely useless. It was designed so that each implement would stay put only if it was delicately balanced on the end of the hook – and this took some doing and required the dexterity of a brain surgeon. The sneeze of a mouse would dislodge it.

I have attached a photo showing what I am talking about. Except this rack has proper hooks. Not itty bitty shitty hooks like my Italian designed piece of crap.

One tremble brought the whole lot crashing down in a cacophony of jangling Italian metal.
My piece of crap was a triumph of design over functionality. On many occasions I wanted to toss this whole lot of Italian metal to the shithouse and I finally did my lolly on Wednesday after the latest cacophony  and said right I have had enough of you I am going to fix you once and for all. So I dismantled the assembly and tried to fix the angles of the hooks but the little blighters are made out of stainless steel and I could not budge them a millimeter.

Typical – you make a piece of shit – and you make it so it will last for 2,000,000 years.

But in the process of bending under the kitchen cupboards to unscrew the assembly I twisted my back and pulled a muscle and damn near crippled myself. See I have reached that age where it does not take much to throw things out of kilter and I did that in spades.  Where is that bloody masseuse?

So on Friday it was time to end the misery of the dying plants on the Terrace and I garroted them before dawn while they were sleeping. I am not a cruel man and do not like to see things suffer.

I went to Dehner and collared a sales assistant and told him to take me to his toughest plants. He grabbed a whip and a chair and took me to a cage out the back and I now have two mothers that are guaranteed to survive the harshest Austrian summers and winters - although I do have to wrap their roots up in winter – but I can do that. Hell they can sleep in the bedroom with us if that is what I it takes.

But the worst part of the whole thing was that I had to get some bags of potting mix and you know what these things are like. They are big bags – like 60 liters – and they are floppy and difficult to move because they sag -  I imagine it is like moving a dead body – or even a live comatose body.

And I still have trouble with my 5 broken ribs and now I have this problem with the pulled muscles in my back so I am struggling with this sack of potting mix trying not to damage anything and trying  to put it on my trolley and this young guy – like 50 years old – bounds up and says – here let me help you and scoops it up and  dumps it on my trolley and says is there anything else I can do for you.

And I say ‘Nein – Danke’

I am like a little old man because I was stupid when I went dog sledding with a camera in Lapland and I am still suffering 6 months later. But I am getting better. In another few months I will be fine. I am not letting any more 50 year old men humiliate me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh No - all that shit in the basement!

 One of the things we discovered a while ago here was that we were liable for anything that went wrong in the apartment – except for the air conditioning.

That is – when the water heating system – or anything else stops working – it is our problem. We thought this was a bit unusual at first – but so was everything else here – so paid up a few times because we were told this was the normal thing. But then we got a fairly large bills because one of the 3 toilets clagged out and the water heater exploded and we dug our toes and we said this is ridiculous.

We (i.e. Ducky Pharma) pays a colossal amount of money to the Landlord each month and we are being stung for repairs and maintenance – and I mean WE - Cate and Badger! (well Cate – Badger does not actually earn anything but contributes in oh so many other ways.)

So frothing at the mouth Badger got Rozalin to check the lease – which of course is in German – and probably runs to 600 pages – and sure enough is says in there that the tenants – US – are indeed liable for anything that happens in here.

And BTW – Rozalin is Cate’s faithful assistant and Girl Friday and is married to the delightful Holger who pretends not to speak English so he does not have to go out on double-dates with us. But we know he does speak English. He will go red when Rozalin reads him this.

She is a wonderful woman who speaks perfect English and is probably the worlds most fanatical AC/DC fan. Which of course is justifiable given that they are the greatest rock and roll band in the world and will shortly be declared a World Heritage Site.

I saw Angus Young interviewed a little while ago and I think he has reached the stage he will not be up to this speaking out loud caper much longer. I am sure he does not do drugs any more but many years of alcohol and head shaking have taken their toll. Still -  he could probably be a spokesman for the Tea Party – maybe even a leadership position awaits him.

Rozalin was once married to an American soldier and lived on an army base in one of the Carolinas but recovered her wits and fled back to Austria.

She is the owner of Sissi’s sister – Balu –and to embarrass her I have attached an appropriate photo of her with Mogli and Balu. 

Where TF was I?

Oh yes. So some nitwit in Ducky Pharma signed a lease that said we would pay for anything that went wrong in the apartment. Brilliant!

Now it is a sensational apartment. It is a Penthouse. It has 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and a gigantic lounge room and 2 terraces with a view over the city and Stadtpark and I am guessing that if we wanted to buy it we would need about €3 million.

It is the sort of apartment that companies provide for expatriates who have to spend a few years in place – work their butts off – and move on. It is twice the size of our little house next to the city in Sydney and we are very grateful to live in it.

But it is old.

And it is starting to fall to bits. And the last thing I would have in a lease for an apartment like this is that I would pay for things that break. We simply do not want to be responsible for stuff that does not belong to us. Indeed we cannot imagine why anyone would put us in this sort of situation. Well we can but I cannot write why.

So I thought I would find when the lease expires to ensure that we fix the problem when  we renew.

Uh Oh!

The lease expires in August. The Landlord has not contacted us. I am guessing he is not renewing the lease and we are going to have to find another place to live.

That means I am going to have to move all that shit in the basement.

All those fucking towels.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time to put the chocolate in the fridge

From our Hotel Room in Berlin over the Tiergarten

When we saw our apartment in Vienna for the first time it took our breath away both because of how beautiful it was and also because of how hot it was.

It was in July and it was a hot day in Vienna – but not ferociously hot. When we entered the apartment we thought it might be on fire and started looking for buckets - but were greeted by the existing tenant and invited – together with the relocation agent with whom we were on our voyage of discovery – to sweat our way around.

The guy was working at home – in the lounge room downstairs - not in his study upstairs. We remarked at how steamily hot it was and he said that they had turned the building air conditioning off to make some repairs. He pointed at the truck in the courtyard below.  We looked at what indeed appeared to be a truck that could be making repairs to a building air conditioning system. Ho bloody ho!

This of course turned out to be a lie. The system in our apartment is  not connected to any system in the apartment building.  It is self-contained, big, noisy and does not work very well at all. You will find a description here.

The man worked for IBM and was going to live in Dubai on one of those Palm Leaf thingies with his wife and child. I suppose he lied because he had some liability for the apartment and needed to get a tenant for it. It is not something I would have done but still.

So then we moved in. Reality moved in with us. We commenced our intimate relationship with the air conditioning people. Our current man – some have moved on – retired – that sort of stuff – is very nice. He comes for Christmas dinner.

We then understood that the reason the man was working downstairs instead of in his study is that the studies – which have large skylights – were uninhabitable in summer – except as Saunas – and then only if you get then Finns to stop throwing water onto the hot rocks and go out on to the Terrace to barbecue Reindeer steaks.

Mind you we barely survived the first month as I had to rush out and buy fans and the cats lay about the house panting and sleeping was nigh on impossible until we got used to the sound of our sweat dripping onto the floor – and having to remember to put the saline drips in and not touch any metal parts in the apartment without wearing Kevlar gloves.

The only times I have been hotter than this was visiting Cate’s parents in their retirement home in Bundaberg in Queensland - which they kept closed tighter than a drum.

We would go at Christmas and the outside temperature would be maybe 35°. Inside the house it could be – and I am being generous – 40° and you could cook a Turkey in the kitchen sink. 

The blinds would be drawn and there not be the slightest chink through which a breath of air could pass. Cate’s father would probably be wearing a cardigan lest he catch a chill. 

My knees would buckle as I lurched into the oven of lounge room and Cate would catch me and stop me from falling into a dead faint onto the lounge room floor. Cate would prop me up in front of a fan - with a wet towel over my head - with a pitcher of iced water - and tie me to the chair to prevent me from toppling over. When dinner was ready she would mash it for me and feed it to me with the spoon and pusher set from her childhood.

The air conditioning people and the apartment owner had of course trudged this road many times before and did much tinkering and fiddling with screwdrivers – for show purposes only.

They knew immediately that they could do nothing. They have – to their credit – tried many things – including putting pieces of cardboard into the units – but all to no avail. As I have said before – if cardboard could fix it – it should have been fitted at the factory.

We realized shortly after the first visit that we had been gulled by the tenant and would have to do the best we could.

So we hounded them and hounded them – or rather Rozalin hounded them – so that we got them up to there current level of efficiency – which is probably about 60%.

For the upstairs studies we bought separate air conditioning units and the owner of the apartment graciously provided holes in the windows so that we could run the hot air outside.

We manage quite well now – all things considered. Except for the chocolate. At about this time of the year when it starts to get really hot the chocolate has to move from the kitchen cupboards into the fridge – otherwise ghastly things start to happen.

As for the IBM man? I have put a spell on him. Each night he dreams that rats are eating his testicles. He wakes many times each night screaming and tearing at his underpants.

I have always had this power but I use it wisely.

I am currently using it only on the IBM man and to make Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann sound like a gibbering idiots whenever they speak.

Spell Power should be used for good and it should be used modestly.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Germans were thieves on a grand scale

The Germans of centuries ago – like most Europeans – were thieves on a grand scale and brought home vast boatloads of statuary and the like from Greece, Egypt and those countries which were the cradles of civilization.

I am discounting the Australian Aborigines who – while they started more than 40,000 years ago, were not in the business of carting large blocks of stone about the place. For starters it’s too bloody hot – and who is going to live in a stone house and move it every three months when you go Walkabout?

Also they would have had to use Uluru and that would have made a fine old mess of the tourist industry in the 20th century.  They made much better use of their time – dressing up, singing and dancing  and making Boomerangs. A weapon that if is misses its prey comes back to you – how clever is that?  

I am telling you – it is too bloody hot to chase anything in Australia – that’s why the blokes just sit there drinking a cold beer and wait for the girls to come along.
I find it vaguely unsatisfying that almost every figure is missing a foot, an arm, a hand or even worse – a head. I find it even more unsatisfying that virtually every bust is missing an ear or a nose.

Now no grave robber is going to take an ear or a nose so the bloody things must have been there somewhere, I think this shows a lack of attention to detail. The archaeologists should have looked harder.  We now have thousands of busts that make their owners look like ancient boxers – men and women – with mashed noses and cauliflower ears.

Of course many of the men’s penises are missing but that’s often because religious nutters through the various ages of religious nutterdom decided that these were too scary to be seen so lopped them off. I am expecting this to start happening again in America soon.

We saw Nefertiti. The bust is 3,300 years old. She was a bit of a stunner but even she had ears that look like have been chewed by Sissi.
We are all very luck that Hitler was so bat shit crazy that he did not think of destroying all the stuff that was stored safely in tunnels in Germany and other places. He could easily have done this and it would have been lost forever.

Fortunately at a fairly early stage Adolf took complete control of the conduct of the war so shortened it by at least two years and in the process gave himself little time for anything else except dealing full time with the Fuckup Fairy and taking increasingly large amounts of drugs. 

I have had some anxious emails from people worried that Sarah Palin is going to run for President. Relax. She is not running. This is a just a Sarah Palin Brand Promo trip to increase her value to Fox and the Republican party and to enable her to sell more books.