Monday, February 28, 2011

The Hurt Locker

We watched The Hurt Locker last night - nothing great about the plot, standard US of A Army in Iraq but found the flow of the action 'compelling', in that one was always waiting for the next anticipated event.

Essentially: "... Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb. ..."

Storyline: "... An intense portrayal of elite soldiers who have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world: disarming bombs in the heat of combat. When a new sergeant, James, takes over a highly trained bomb disposal team amidst violent conflict, he surprises his two subordinates, Sanborn and Eldridge, by recklessly plunging them into a deadly game of urban combat. James behaves as if he's indifferent to death. As the men struggle to control their wild new leader, the city explodes into chaos, and James' true character reveals itself in a way that will change each man forever. ..."

Guy Pearce as Staff Sergeant Matt Thompson had a very short role. Main cast were Jeremy Renner as Sergeant First Class William James and he played a believable role as the 'bomb tech'. Anthony Mackie played the 'Mother Hen' of the bomb disposal group in the role of Sergeant JT Sanborn. Brian Geraghty, who we were waiting for to get killed (but didn't) was the 'baby of the team as Specialist Owen Eldridge. Geraghty ends up getting his leg shattered by 'friendly fire' when an attempt was made to kidnap him. Ralph Fiennes and David Morse had a brief appearance as security contractors.

6 out of 10 for something to watch on a slow night - a few "F..."-words, not any real sex scenes, some gratuitous violence and lots of bangs and a reasonable shoot out in a desert ambush!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What’s in a name?

In "Going Gently" John Gray wrote of Names and titles . Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

My mother’s family name was Walker and it is said to be the third most common first, third or middle name in the western world. Walker’s were ‘travellers’ – tinkers, tinsmiths, cloth pullers (a Fuller), carpenters and joiners – so you can see how many ‘Walker’s’ got assigned different names – Tinker, Smith, Puller, Fuller, Carpenter, Joyner, etc. Walker is also an occupational surname for a fuller, or one who "walked" on raw, damp cloth in order to thicken it. Derived from the Middle English walkcere, meaning "a fuller of cloth," and the Old English wealcan, "to walk or tread."

What name you got depended upon how insistent you were on what it was and how determined you were that it was spelt and pronounced correctly – otherwise some government official, a magistrate or a tax collector for example, would write what they felt disposed to call you and how they chose to spell and pronounce it. Usually what you got stuck with what they recorded (happened a lot with Australia's early convicts, many of whom would not have known a 'family' as we know it!) Often you were given some means of ‘Identity’ that was common to all officials – your ‘Mark’ –  and 'Marks' were very common in trades, especially 'smithing', so, if you did not have a ‘mark’ you were assigned an ‘X’ as your mark!

As an occupational name, a "fuller" was the regular term during the Middle Ages in West and Northern England, but now the surname is fairly widespread. The highest concentrations are in a patch of Northwest England centred on Leeds, and in the Grampian Region of Scotland. As a Scots surname it has also been used as a translation of Gaelic Mac an Fhucadair. Walker’s are still common to Northumberland and it is reported that the origin of the name may also be from Middle English “wall + kerr” (Roman) wall + marsh.

In the period somewhere around 1100AD the descendants of my mother’s family made their way to the coast of Wales, across Mount Snowdon and settled in a place called Aberystwyth in the County Ceredigion, where Wales' heart beats strong. This is a steadfastly nationalist area, with a spirit forged through the 11th-century Norman resistance. Here, far from the English border, Welsh remains the first language of three out of every five inhabitants. Aberystwyth is the county capital, an old seaside town of traditional values fused with modern university verve. (For steam buffs, it's also the place to ride one of the country's best railways.)

Our current family name is "Daley", another name which has been very Anglicised - Daley, Dalley, Daly, Dally, even D'Oyley and Doyle. Its origins are Celtic Irish O'Dálaigh -descendant of Dálach'. (Dál meant `assembly'; the modern Irish word, of course, is dáil.) The "O" was dropped by the family when the English invaders recognised the way it was used (something like the same way the Scots used "Mac"). Our family male elders were, reputedly, 'counsellors' within the clans, tho’ it depends on who’s story you listen to as some said they were clever connivers, tricksters, even 'con men', who were able to twist men’s minds with words - they were renowned for having "the gift of the gab" and to have 'kissed the blarney'! Some also say they fled Ireland and dropped the “O” as they had made too many enemies of opposition clan chieftains who often came out on the ‘sticky end’ of the O'Dálaigh’s negotiations. Others say they were hounded and hunted by the English because of the influence they had over the chieftans for other clans. They were men of importance amongst the clans and reputed to have set up a series of intricate non-verbal communications that allowed clans people to give 'pre-warning' to others, particularly travellers, of some risk or peril ahead - a marking on a gate, a cloth slung from a window, an open gate, etc. Some were so hunted that they fled across the Irish Sea from Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford to Wales where they found a receptive cultural group who appreciated their song, verse and wisdom and they integrated into the Welsh community, changing the name of O'Dálaigh to fit in more with their locale.

The O'Dálaigh were a literary family and the males, especially the eldest males, were always well educated. Cuconnacht O’Dálaigh was a 12th century poet in Meath; Donagh O'Dálaigh, known as `the Irish Ovid', died in County Clare in 1244; and Muireadhach Albanach O'Dálaigh is remembered for his spirited poetic defence of his action in killing of a tax collector.

It appears the O'Dálaigh males and the Walker females were well matched from Aberystwyth to Llandudno!

So I have no worries about 'continuing the family name', 'cos, in many ways my ancestors are like the Romany Gypsies - you never know where they will pop up or in what guise but they have their own ways of making themselves known to each other - a trait derived to aid survival! Here are a few examples of key phrases by which our family recognise each other - by statement and response and always, as educated people, using Latin!

Cura et industria By care and industry

Dum spiro spero While I have breath I hope

Honesta quam magna How great are honourable things

 In Domino confido I trust in the Lord

 Juncti valemus Being joined we are powerful

Nec sperno, nec timeo I neither despise nor fear

Nil conscire sibi To have a conscience free from guilt. (To be conscious of nothing of one’self, i.e. against one’s self .)

 Nil desperandum Never despair

No sine periculo I swim without danger

 Non est vivere sed valere vita Not living, but health is life

Passibus œquis (Walk) With measured tread

Per varios casus By various fortunes

Prœsta et persta Promise and persevere

Semper vigilans Always watchful

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Just back and on the road again.

The "Three Sisters", Katoomba

Went to Sydney on Friday, back Sunday. Had cystoscopy on Friday and given the green light for my surgeon to proceed to my total knee replacement .

We drove up to Lithgow on Saturday (for and ‘outing’). The Great Western Highway over the Blue Mountains is a mess – massive reconstruction, major job, converting that horror road into a four lane divided highway – lot already done and the harder parts now being undertaken with many 'small town' bypasses and railway overpasses being installed.

Indigenous 'busker', Katoomba

First time back to Lithgow in many decades. Went to the Small Arms Factory Museum. Very interesting display. They were left 150 pistols from a private Queensland collector to add to their exhibition and have them all on display as well as their many ventures into military weapons, sporting rifles, target rifles, sunbeam blenders, sewing machines, machine parts, etc.

Small Arms Factory Museum, Lithgow.

Memorial to Marjorie Jackson, Olympic Gold Medalist
sprinter - a.k.a. "The Lithgow Flash"

Amazing to discover that the factory STILL operates – not the old one, long closed because it fails to meet modern standards and full of asbestos roofing -  but a new one built behind the original where they still refurbish the military’s current weapons and are ‘dabbling’ in rockets but would not say much about that. Coal mines still working and Kandos cement factory still running so they have several ‘niche industries’ to keep the town viable.

Arrived back at our hotel and sat on our balcony in the late afternoon and watched the first three quarters of the last two races at Rosehill being run. Rhonda was fascinated as she has never seen/been to the races and was full of questions.

We bought a Garmin Satellite Navigation device for the car – by golly jingo it makes navigating places like Sydney dead easy!

Off to "The Camp" shortly (today) for four days then home for the weekend and then we fly to Adelaide next Tuesday! Already have heaps of photos to put up - including some of artist Norman Lindsay's residence in the mountains which was an artists retreat for he and his Bohemian friends in the early 1900's and is now an National Trust building - look HERE for more information on Norman Lindsay and the gallery and be prepared to be shocked by his approach to very bold art!

Statue on exhibition at the Norman Lindsay Gallery

The Norman Lindsay Gallery

See you all soon!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cowboys and reality

"The Naked Spur" - A bounty hunter trying to bring a murderer to justice is forced to accept the help of two less-than-trustworthy strangers.

Director: Anthony Mann
Writers: Sam Rolfe, Harold Jack Bloom
Stars:James Stewart, Janet Leigh and Robert Ryan

Just finished watching this very 'black' western - probably a classic of its genre and period.` What drives me mad is how these guys survived all their ill-treatments, beatings and wounds to get up off their bed the next day (or close to it) and perform marvelous athletic feats.

Must be better breed of men in those days compared to today!

Last November (2010) it was pissing rain. We had over 200mm in two days. I went out to Peter's place, a sheep property at the back of Boorowa, between Frogmore and Cowra. He had 250 weaned lambs in a gully that was filling with water and they were getting wetter and wetter, weaker and weaker as the rain, wind and cold took effect.

A group of us mustered up every animal transport we could find and headed over there - at $250/head there was a lot of cash crop involved as well as the lives of some stupid, defenceless lambs who did not know how to fend for themselves. They just stayed stuck in that muddy gully as the rain poured down.

I ended up with a double Bogey tow-trailer with added steel mesh sides and towed it with my truck. We dragged those lambs out one-by one - four of us - and loaded them onto trucks and trailers in pouring, freezing rain and wind. It was blowing that hard the rain was coming sideways and stung like the beejeezus (apologies to those offended by the term). anyway,I had got about twenty or so on board - wet wool, saturated, stupid sheep/lambs. kicking and bawling - when I noticed three had fallen at the front of the trailer and were in danger of being trampled by the rest.

I jumped up on the draw bar, reached over the wire and hauled those 'mothers' up off their Rrrrsss's and made sure they were secure. I turned and jumped off the draw bar, hitting my calf as I went but paid it no heed as I had to get the truck and trailer out of there before we were bogged in.

Later, back at the house, we all trooped in for a well earned drink when Brian, my mate's son-in-law said:
"Who's bleeding?"
What do you mean?" someone said.
"There's a trail of blood from someones left boot,right through the back and into the kitchen!" he said.

We all stopped and looked around. Peter said:

"It's you John!" and I looked down and blood was seeping out of my left boot. I sat down and someone pulled up the leg of my 'Trakkie-Daks' and there was a deep gash in my calf. No damage to the material of my 'Trakkie-Daks' but a gash that later measured 3cms long, 2cms wide and 1 cm deep with blood oozing out of it, a large vein exposed and you could see the top layer of the muscle sinew below.

Jump ahead - Its now middle February and I've just had the last dressing removed by the practice nurse who has pronounced it "healed" - that was 12 to 14 weeks for that wound to heal and required dressings two to three times a week after  an initial two courses of antibiotic and a tetanus shot.

Yair! OK! I'm going close to 70 years old, am a Type II diabetic and that calf muscle was on the same leg I had my total knee transplant last June.

Thing was, I didn't even know at the time I had done the damage and was OK until we discovered it.  That leg wound hurt like hell for the first 6 weeks and I was really limping.

So ... what price Hollywood screen heroes?

Canberra and Salmonella

INVADER: A colour-enhanced scanning electron micrograph
showing Salmonella typhimurium invading cultured human cells.

Its enough to make you sick! Salmonellosis, an infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella can cause patients to become seriously ill with symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Australian Medical Association vice-president Steve Hambleton said Salmonella could cause patients to become extremely ill. ''It's one of the invasive organisms that can cause you bloody diarrhoea and a high temperature and make you systemically unwell,'' Dr Hambleton said. People became ill after swallowing the bacteria after eating inadequately prepared food or via contact with faeces of a person who has been infected. Dehydration could be a complication in young children and the elderly and occasionally the infection spreads to the bloodstream or other parts of the body.

As the ACT Government considers ''naming and shaming'' restaurants and other food businesses which breach food safety standards, it has been revealed there have already been 31 notified cases of salmonella in the ACT this year.

Salmonella infections (usually linked to poor food hygiene) reports in the ACT * [i.e. "Canberra", the National Capital]:
  • 2010 there were 217 
  • 2009 there were 221 cases
  • 2008 there were 131 cases
  • Back in 2000 there were 101 cases.
It is a staggering increase considering just 18 ACT cases were notified in 1991. It is not known what proportion of infections were linked to restaurant food.
(* Actual infection rates are believed to be much higher this year because many cases are never officially notified to authorities.)

Unlike other Australian jurisdictions, which publish online registers of businesses which fail hygiene standards, the ACT does not name offending eateries.

ACT Health Minister Katy Gallagher said this week the Government was considering "... the most effective method for publicly naming food businesses which failed to comply with food safety standards. ..."! Come on Ms Gallagher - just name them!  That's the most effective way of getting compliance - that and shutting down repeat offenders!

Acting ACT chief health officer Paul Kelly said it was not clear why infection rates had risen in recent years.

Durrr!  Try poor hygiene, pest infestation, and spoilt food being allowed to be prepared and served Dr Kelly.

Not good enough!  We are not a third world country and restaurant and other food establishents/manufacturers need to recognise that fact!  Hit them hard Ms Gallagher!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Harry Brown

I adore Michael Caine's acting and have seen so many of his movies since his Blockbuster success as Lt Gonville Bromhead  in "Zulu" and his marvelous portrayal of Garth McCaan in "Secondhand Lions".

There have been so many great Michael Caine Movies - this will be one of them:

Saw this Michael Caine movie last week and could not leave the TV until it was complete. What a shocking, compelling movie that is brilliantly played by (IMHO) one of the top five drama actors still making movies.

Set in modern day Britain, HARRY BROWN follows one man's journey through a chaotic world where teenage violence runs rampant. As a modest, law abiding citizen, Brown lives alone. His only companion is his best friend Leonard. When Leonard is killed, Brown reaches his breaking point. HARRY BROWN is a powerful, character driven thriller starring two-time Academy Award® winner Michael Caine in a tour-de-force performance opposite Emily Mortimer and Charlie Creed-Miles.

Harry Brown was shot on location in and around London's Elephant and Castle, and at Elstree Studios. The supporting cast includes Liam Cunningham (Hunger, The Wind That Shakes the Barley), Ben Drew aka Plan B (Adulthood), Jack O'Connell (Eden Lake, “Skins”), Lee Oakes (“Two Pints of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps”), Joseph Gilgun (This Is England) and Sean Harris (24 Hour Party People). David Bradley (Harry Potter, Hot Fuzz) and Iain Glen (“The Diary of Anne Frank” Kingdom of Heaven) also star. Written by Gary Young (Shooters, Spivs), HARRY BROWN is directed by Academy Award nominee Daniel Barber (The Tonto Woman).

The director of photography is Martin Ruhe (Control). The film is produced by Kris Thykier (The Debt), Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Layer Cake) and Matthew Brown (The Tonto Woman).


Boston Herald review

"You'll have a blast with Dirty 'Harry'... makes bad-boy Russell Crowe's Robin Hood look like a sissy!"

The New Yorker feature on Caine
Michael Caine on the movie vigilante: Make My Day!

Film Jabber review
"Every scene is carefully crafted to pack the maximum punch. Great direction, great performances and a lot of violence. What more can you ask for?"

Screen Spotlight review
"Harry Brown is a stunning and dizzying movie that will leave you shocked and awed."

Maxim video interview with Caine
Caine explains his personal ties to the storyline of Harry Brown.

LA Times Feature on Michael Caine
Michael Caine Says To Look Past the Violence In 'Harry Brown'.

Caine's AV Club interview
"Jack Carter was a very much younger man, but he’s a professional criminal and a killer. Harry Brown is a very, very old man who’s completely innocent. He has no interest in killing anybody until he’s forced into it. Jack Carter would kill anybody. "

The Epoch Times review
"Might come to be considered Caine's definitive film role... highly recommended!"

New York Post review
"The great Michael Caine kicks some serious butt in a wonderfully nuanced performance."

USA Today review
"Intriguing and unnerving entertainment with grave intelligence and contained ferocity."

Los Angeles Times review
"A smartly done killer thriller!"

Roger Ebert review
3 stars!

CHUD review
"A tightly wound, well-made revenge thriller with great action and terrific performances."

Huffington Post review
"Endlessly fascinating, with an award-worthy winning performance by Caine!"

4 star Cinema Blend review
"There's nothing more fulfilling than seeing a compelling story brought to life by standout performances and then further enhanced by stellar directing."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Horse's Tale

With acknowledgement to: “The Waler Horse Society of Australia"

The Waler Horse Society of Australia

Horses first arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. They were picked up in Cape Town, South Africa together with other livestock and supplies needed for the new Colony. It is believed the breed of horse was the Cape Horse or Barb, they consisted of one stallion, a colt, three mares and two fillies which travelled to Australia on the ship “Lady Penrhyn”.

Over the next years, horses arrived on many of the ships coming to the colony of New South Wales as it was soon realized the importance horses were going to have in the development of this remote and vast continent.

Some of the breeds to arrive over the years included Thoroughbred, Arab, Suffolk Punch, Clydesdale, Shire, Cleveland Bay, Welsh Cob, Coaching breeds, Hackney, Percheron, Timor Pony and many of the British native ponies.

Horse owners began mixing many of the breeds in an attempt to come up with a strong versatile horse that could fill the bill as a riding horse, cart horse, coach horse and to be put into the plough when needed. A wonderful uniquely Australian horse, which became known as The Waler, evolved - a horse capable of fulfilling all these roles and soon to be sought around the country and subsequently in many other parts of the world.

Because horse breeding was widely successful it was soon realized there was a ready market available with the British army in India , always in need of remounts for their Calvary and for private use. The first shipment of Australian horses left Sydney Cove in 1816 for a private sale to a British family in India . This trade of horses to private owners continued until it became noted around the mid 1830’s by the British army that these horses had the attributes needed for remounts; strong bone, athleticism, courage, intelligence, versatility, excellent temperament, a good riding horse. The lucrative remount trade to India began.

By mid-1840 there was a steady flow of horses leaving our shores for the British Army in India as remounts and eventually into countries of South East Asia and the Pacific. This trade would continue up until the 1960’s and would see well over half a million horses leaving this country as remounts for armies around the world.

The four types of remount horses sought from Australia included:

§ Artillery horse – heavy type with more draft influence used for pulling the gun carriage and carrying ammunition;

§ Officers horse - light type with more Thoroughbred influence;

§ Troopers horse - stocky type, versatile, strong and fast with some draft influence used for carrying a Trooper and his equipment, often weighing upwards of 130kg; and

§ Scout horse – agile pony type used for relaying messages, polo and sporting.

When this Australian utility horse, or bush horse, left Australian shores for India around the 1840’s they became known in India as the "Waler horse” a nickname given to horses arriving from the Colony of New South Wales.

Many of the local princes in India began to seek them for their own private armies, also as sporting and carriage horses. By the 1860’s they were known as the finest Cavalry horses in the world with their courage and stamina unsurpassed.

During the time of the “Great War” 1914-18, once again Australia 's finest men and horses were to prove themselves in the desert sands of Northern Africa against the German and Turkish war machine, this time as the Australian Light Horse. The Australian Light Horse with their New Zealand counter-parts, formed a mounted Infantry Brigade which became known as the famous "Desert Column" - a fighting force that was to become a legend for its courage and horsemanship where it fought the Turkish army in its own playing field and triumphed.

Poems, books and feature films have been made and written about these men and their wonderful Waler horses that stir our national pride. None greater than the last great cavalry charge in history when the Australian Light Horse, after riding in the hot desert sand for two days and a night, was given the order by Lieutenant-General Chauvel to take the wells of Beersheba. To do that, they had to charge over an open plain of three miles (5 km) against the Turkish cannons, machine guns and the German bombs being dropped from overhead planes.

All day the allies had tried unsuccessfully to penetrate the enemy lines. At this time close to sunset, as a last resort the Australian Light Horse Regiment was called upon to try something so out of the ordinary that the Turks were taken by surprise. The Australian Light Horse was mounted infantry. Normally they rode in sections of four, three dismounting to become foot soldiers and take the fight to the enemy and the fourth taking the reigns of the three horses and leading them back to safety, ready to bring them up for the men to mount when needed.

Just before sunset on the 31st October, 1917 the surprise order was given by Lieutenant-General Harry Chauvel to mount a cavalry charge against the enemy lines, and take the wells of Beersheba.

The men and horses of the Australian Light Horse lined up in formation of three long lines with their Officers in front, 800 men and horses in total, stretched across the plain facing the enemy in trenches guarding the town of Beersheba. The Light Horse began at a walk, men feeling the moment of battle upon them, itching to get into it and mix it up with old Johnny Turk. Horses were champing at the bit buzzing with anticipation and sensing the excitement of their riders. Down the line came the order to trot still holding formation, the nerves built at what they were about to do dawned on them. The formation reached the point where the Turks expected the order for dismount, holding their fire until the last. Instead, the order was given, “Charge” at the gallop, bayonets drawn, men screaming like banshees with the blood lust of battle. Charging down on an enemy caught so off guard they did not adjust the sight of their rifles or lower the guns. The Light Horse were out numbered 3 to 1, the order had been to secure the wells before nightfall so that the allied army, men and horses could have the water they needed to continue, without these wells the allied army would know defeat.

Against all odds these brave men and horses secured the wells, over 100,000 allied men and horses quenched their thirst that night. This is the legend of Beersheba and the men of the Australian Light Horse and their much-loved Walers.

For three long years the battles raged in the desert and the Light Horse was there when the allied forces triumphed and the battle in northern Africa was won. Many of the Light Horsemen and their courageous horses continued on, going with the men to the battle fields of France where the allied army were battling the Germans in mud and slush, their job to carry supplies, the wounded, the big artillery guns, and ammunition to our allied forces in this dreadful war.

At the end of the war when we were celebrating our victory and there was much jubilation the order was given that the horses would not be returning to Australian shores. The reason being the expense was too great to bring them home as well as our quarantine restrictions in Australia made it virtually impossible. Australia being a continent surrounded by water was free from many of the equine diseases found in many other countries, it was felt the chance could not be taken to bring them back from the Middle East. This was very distressing to the men who had come to know their beloved horses as mates, they had fought this war together, relying on each other. There were 12,000 Waler horses left at the end of the War of the 160,000 that had left Australia . Some horses were too old and battle weary and the order was to shoot them for humane reasons. The soldiers were heart broken to leave their horses behind on foreign shores to a life of hardship in Egypt and felt this was not on, so many of the men defied orders and quietly shot their horse, the officers sympathetic to the action turned a blind eye. Others were bought by the Indian army and would return to India , some were bought by the British army and British Officers and taken back to the British Isles.

The Last Parade
Andrew Barton "Banjo"Paterson

With never a sound of trumpet,
With never a flag displayed,
The last of the old campaigners
Lined up for the last parade.

Weary they were and battered,
Shoeless, and knocked about;
From under their ragged forelocks
Their hungry eyes looked out.

And they watched as the old commander
Read out to the cheering men
The Nation's thanks, and the orders
To carry them home again.

And the last of the old campaigners,
Sinewy, lean, and spare --
He spoke for his hungry comrades:
"Have we not done our share?

"Starving and tired and thirsty
We limped on the blazing plain;
And after a long night's picket
You saddled us up again.

"We froze on the windswept kopjes
When the frost lay snowy-white,
Never a halt in the daytime,
Never a rest at night!

"We knew when the rifles rattled
From the hillside bare and brown,
And over our weary shoulders
We felt warm blood run down,

"As we turned for the stretching gallop,
Crushed to the earth with weight;
But we carried our riders through it --
Sometimes, perhaps, too late.

"Steel! We were steel to stand it --
We that have lasted through,
We that are old campaigners
Pitiful, poor, and few.

"Over the sea you brought us,
Over the leagues of foam:
Now we have served you fairly
Will you not take us home?

"Home to the Hunter River,
To the flats where the lucerne grows;
Home where the Murrumbidgee
Runs white with the melted snows.

"This is a small thing, surely!
Will not you give command
That the last of the old campaigners
Go back to their native land?"

They looked at the grim commander,
But never a sign he made.
"Dismiss!" and the old campaigners
Moved off from their last parade.

Lest we forget those who also served.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sepia effects on images

Kodak's EasyShare Software v8.2 program does have provision for saving your photo images and editing those.

For example, load your images, select an image, choose edit, select 'scene effects' and you have a choice of editing in six various effects, including sepia tones.

for example, I took this image of my grandsons on a bush trek:

And then I edited it to 'sepia effects':

Once I've edited my images to where I am satisfied I then upload them to a web based photo storage site such as Photobucket.

You can scan in sepia tone images and then reverse the process and add colour to them as well.

KODAK EASYSHARE Software v8.2 is a free download - just google Kodak Easyshare for the website!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

No Post for a few days

Heading up to the camp - back friday!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hope and Glory

Watched this last night - a well presented movie that is reasonably true to the post-war years that I remember:

Lots of poignancy in the scenes. I was especially taken back by Billy's school friends who roamed the piles of rubble that were bombed out houses and in what was almost reminiscent of a scene from "The Lord of the Flies" they had their induction ritual, their clubhouse with war memorabilia and most of all, the destructive savagery with which the smashed and destroyed any remnant of the world the war had torn them from amongst the ruins.

Ian Bannen's role as the irascible Grandfather George - who must of 'known' every young woman in the district and delighted in reminding others of this - was a treat and I really enjoyed the closing scene as he and Billy drove away from Billy's bombed out school and headed back to the river cottage that they loved.

Sammi Davis in the role as daughter 'Dawn', who you felt like smacking her backside as she flaunted her 15 year old self amongst the Canadian soldiers. I had the suspicion that mother Grace had done a little bit of two-timing on Dad Clive and that Dawn was really fathered by Dad's mate 'Mac'. All worked out well for Dawn in the end, heavilly pregnant to Corporal Bruce and married while he was AWOL with the MP's standing by to take him back to his unit.

A very enjoyable movie that vividly captured all the feelings of life in middle-class England during the war! Well worth watching!

Kangaroo Casserole

Tonight we are having Kangaroo Casserole for dinner. Kangaroo meat is a 'gamey' meat and is harvested from 'farmed' kangaroos - not wild kangaroos. Current populations for kangaroos in Australia stand around the 25 million mark. This means there are similar numbers of kangaroos in Australia as there are cattle (28.7 million).

Kangaroo meat is lean meat being 98% fat free and comes in hygienic packages and is available from most supermarkets in Australia

It is affordable, costing around $20/kg for fillet steaks.

This is the contents of a package of 495gms of fillet steak, costing just under $10.00

As you can see, its a rich red meat, loaded with natural iron and zinc and has no fat attached to it.

For this recipe I am going to 'silk' the meat, which involves slicing it into thin pieces to begin with.

These pieces need no tenderising as the 'silking' process does that. I take the white of two eggs and two tablespoons of cornflour, add a pinch of salt and place these materials in a 'zip-lock' plastic bag. I then add the sliced meat and 'squish it' around until all the meat is evenly coated and then place the bag into a refrigerator - minimum 2 hours, the meat must cool down for the egg white and cornflour enzymes to soften up the meat.

This is a bag of meat that has been refrigerated for 4 hours:

The content of this bag are added to my skillet and lightly browned and once that is done I return my spiced onions (which I have previously cooked and set aside) to the pan with the meat.  I then add my two types of mushrooms and a tomato sauce mixture that I had previously made some weeks back (and usually use for spaghetti bolognese, or, seafood marinara ) - about 300 to 400mls of this sauce. I bring this to the boil in the pan and then reduce it to a simmer for 30 minutes.

When it is cooked, thus far, I set the casserole aside in a covered casserole dish to cool at room temperature.

Later this evening I will place the casserole in a moderate oven - around 150C - and allow it to warm for about 30 minutes. I'll then serve the casserole straight to the table to be eaten with fresh steamed green vegetables and a spiral or shell pasta. Tonight we will be having baby bok choy ( a leafy Chinese form of spinach) and snow peas

A nice crusty bread roll and a bottle of red wine really sets off the meal.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ain't it the truth .....!

Australian Letter of the Year....

This letter sent to the DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and our Immigration Minister. The Commonwealth Government tried desperately to censure the author, but got nowhere because every legal person who read it nearly wet themselves laughing!

Dear Mr. Minister,

I'm in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe this.

How is it that K-Mart has my address and telephone number, and knows that I bought a television set and golf clubs from them back in 1997 and yet the Federal Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date? For Chr*st sakes, do you guys do this by hand?

My birth date you have in my Medicare information, and it is on all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 40 years. It is also on my driver's licence, my motor vehicle registration papers, on the last eight passports I've ever had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off planes over the past 30 years. It’s also on all those insufferable census forms that I've filled out every 5 years since 1966.

Also... would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother's name is Audrey, my father's name is Jack, and I'd be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and when I drop dead!!!...

SH*T! What do you people do with all this information we keep having to provide??

I apologise, Mr. Minister. But I'm really pee’d off this morning. Between you and me, I've had enough of all this BS! You send this application to my house  and then you ask me to provide my postal address!!

What the hell is going on with your mob? Have you got a gang of mindless Neanderthal R-soles working there! And another thing, look at my damn picture... Do I look like Bin Laden?

I just want to go to New Zealand and see my new granddaughter. (Yes, my son interbred with a Kiwi girl). And would someone please tell me, why would you give a sh*t whether or not I plan on visiting a farm in the next 15 days? In the unlikely event I ever got the urge to do something weird to a sheep or a horse, believe you me, I'd sure as hell not want to tell anyone!

Well, I have to go now, ' cause I have to go to the other end of the city, and get another effing copy of my birth certificate - and to part with another $80 for the privilege of accessing MY OWN INFORMATION! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot, to assist in the issuance of a new passport on the same day??

Nooooo!!!!. That'd be too effing easy and makes far too much sense. You would much prefer to have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, and then having to find some ' high-society 'wanker' to confirm that the photo is actually one of myself. You know the photo... the one where we're not allowed to smile?! .... You morons, we do smile!  Do you think we all walk around with blank looks on our faces?

Signed - An Irate Australian Citizen.

ps: Remember what I said above about the picture, and getting someone to confirm that it is a picture of me? My family has been in this country since before 1850! In 1856, one of my forefathers took up arms with Peter Lalor. (You do remember the Eureka Stockade!!) I have also served in both the Army Reserve and Regular Army for something over 30 years (I went to Vietnam in 1967), and still have high security clearances. I ' m also a personal friend of the president of the Returned Soldiers League... and Lieutentant-General Peter Cosgrove (Rtd) sends me a Christmas card every year.

However, your rules require that I have to get someone "important" to verify who I am; you know... someone like my doctor - WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN PAKISTAN !!!..... a country where they either assassinate or hang their ex-Prime Ministers - and are suspended from the Commonwealth for not having the "right sort of government".

You are all ferking idiots!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

'Silking' beef

Ever wondered how Chinese restaurants get those thin slices of meat in their meat dishes so tender?

Well, they have a trick - its called 'silking the beef'!  You have to do it the day before cooking but believe me its worth it.  I have a friend who is a chef employed by the Canberra Institute of Technology and is in charge of the cooking school for their Catering Course. I was going to have lunch with them and I was told to turn up early and learn something.

'Silking. beef involves trimming all the fat and sinew off poor cuts of meat and then very thinly slicing them ready for 'silking'. The silking involves the use of egg whites, cornflour and salt and letting the 'pre-silked' beef' rest in a refrigerator overnight until it is considered 'silked beef'.

Here is the recipe I learnt today. It's a good recipe for using cheap cuts of meat that you would usually slow cook as a stew:


600g shin beef (about one and a quarter pounds) , cut in three slices a good 3 cm thick
1 large brown onion
1 220g can of sliced mushrooms in thick butter sauce
1 184g can of champignon pieces and stems
2 eggwhites
2 tablespoons of corn flour
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt for seasoning
2 pinches of cracked black peppercorns
2 pinches of chili flakes
2 pinches of dry basil
Gravox powder (any basic dry gravy powder mix - flavoured if the yen takes you :) )
300ml of water
One large ‘Zip Lock’ bag

Day before, Prepare your meat – Using a very sharp knife, trim all the outer fat and membrane from each slice of shin beef and separate the meaty chunks from their surrounding sinew. Place in a bowl. Take chunks of beef one at a time, place your hand firmly on it and (very carefully) slice it laterally into two pieces about 1 cm thick with a sharp flat bladed knife. Return to the bowl and continue until all chunks are finely sliced.

Place the cornflour, eggwhites and a good dash of salt into the ‘Zip Lock’ bag and add the slice meat pieces. Close the bag firmly and ‘squish’ meat around in the mixture until all the meat is fully coated. Place the zip locked bag in refrigerator and save for 24 hours.

Cooking Day - Peel, quarter, re-quarter and separate the onion into fine slivers. Heat oil in a large skillet, add the onion, cracked peppercorns, dry basil and chili flakes and cook onion until translucent. Remove onion from the pan and reserve leaving some oil and spices in the pan.

Take bag of meat out of your refrigerator, empty into hot pan and quickly brown on each side – add more oil if indicated but meat merely needs ‘browning’ and not "stewing". Return the cooked onions to the pan and turn down to a simmer.

Drain the champignons and combine with mushrooms in butter sauce in a bowl, mix thoroughly then pour over the onion and meat mixture and continue to simmer

Combine two tablespoons of Gravox with 50 mls of warm water and mix to a paste, add the remaining 250 mls of water and stir to combine – pour Gravox mix over the pan contents, increase the heat and bring to the boil and then immediately reduce to a ‘bloopish’ simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Stir or shake the pan occasionally to stop the contents sticking to the base.

To prepare for the table, place the casserole and its contents into a low oven – 120C – and allow to warm for 30 minutes. Remove casserole dish directly to the table on a heat proof mat and serve with steamed cauliflower and snow peas.

This recipe works just as well with 'game meat' - Venison, Capretto, or, Cabrito (Kid goat) and Chevon (mature goat meat) or any other local game meats. I'm trying it on Sunday night with 600g of Kangaroo steak and I'll be adding about a cup of a savoury tomato, herb and onion sauce I made several weeks back from my surplus tomato crop.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Away from the cyclone

Cyclone Yasi is impacting on Northern Queensland - we live on the Southern tablelands of NSW, a long way away from the impact area, however, we are feeling the 'flow-on' effects.

Here is the latest  satellite picture of Yasi :
If you look in the bottom-left frame that is the region where we live and you can see the secondary storm development sweeping towards us. Nowhere as monstrous as Yasi, which is now officially a 'Category 5 Cyclone' but it is creating some interesting developments for our region with isolated thunderstorms, with possible heavy rainfall predicted for this afternoon.

Yesterday our temperature here hit 41.7C, very dry and hot. We had the Air Con on keeping the house a cool 28C and brought Denny-the-Dog inside out of the heat. When we went to bed at 10pm the outside temperature had dropped to 28C, so we turned the Air Con off, opened up the house and went 'flow-thru ventilation', but it was still very hot to try and sleep. Rhonda and I just lay on top of the bed, both in singlets and shorts/briefs. It was hot and muggy, one of those summer nights where the perspiration continully rolled off your body.
At 12.15am it was still 27C in the bedroom. Around 1.15am I detected some fresh gusts of air blowing in the window and was hopeful we were going to get a cool change, however, this did not happen and by 2am it was back to dead calm, no air movement at all and still 27C.
At 3am I was finally drifting off to sleep when some idiot wandering the street started barking like a dog which set most of the neighbourhood dogs off in a barking frenzy. Denny walked down to the front security screen door and stood there wondering what in the hell was going on.
At 4am the temperature had dropped to a cool 24C and at 5.15am i heard rain on the rooftop - light shower, lasted about 20 minutes, did nothing for the temperature but set the humidity soaring and a very muggy early morning.

I got up at 7am and made myself a mug of tea and a black coffee for Rhonda. I checked the rain gauge and there was less than 0.25mm in the container but our white Subaru Forrester was covered with brown muddy rain drops - temperature at 7am - 27.4C We went shopping at 10.30am and it was 32C - only good thing about our shopping trip was that the supermarket was air-conditioned. 

Its now 1.20pm here and the temp in the study is 31C. I picked up the digital thermometer and started to go outside. Rhonda said:
"What are you doing?"
"Going out side to see what the current temperature reading is!" I replied.
She said:
I went outside and within a minute the outside reading was 39.2C. I came back in and told Rhonda and she said:
"I told you it was hot!"

Can't beat the logic of a woman!

Eye of a monster

All that needs to be said - the Sat-pix says it all!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011



LIVE UPDATES: North Queensland evacuates as Premier Anna Bligh warns that Cyclone Yasi will hit state with greater ferocity than devastating Cyclone Larry

Cyclone Yasi's Track