Tuesday, May 31, 2011

7 things about myself that other bloggers may not know about me.

Hi Jim,  I'll take up your challenge from a  A few things :

1. I was stupid once and had a couple of light beers and got 'done' for DUI - most embarrassing process I've ever been through and do not recommend it to anyone who thinks that they are 'under the limit' after a couple of drinks.

2. If I had my time over again , two things I'd do - firstly, not marry my first wife and, secondly, get an engineering degree.

3. Not waste so much time with my life and get more serious about serious study!

4. I absolutely adore seafood - any kind, any time - as long as its fresh, well cooked and well presented.

5. Wine is the nectar of the gods - good wines compliment all good meals and good friends.

6. I am intolerant - only my true and loyal friends tolerate my lack of tolerance towards fools!

7. Kids are precious and need nurturing in the right way to live, learn and grow!

Encounter with a redbelly black snake

Red-bellied Black Snake (RBBS)

Scientific Name: Pseudechis porphyriacus

"The red-bellied black snake's head is barely distinguishable from the body as there is no obvious constricted neck area. This snake is dangerously venomous but bites are rare because it is usually a placid and fairly docile snake, preferring to enact a lengthy bluff display with flattened neck and deep hisses rather than bite. It grows to a length of 2.5 metres, and is a very distinctive snake because of its simple and unvarying coloration. The upper surface of this snake is glossy black while the belly is light pink to brilliant red. The only other snake with a similar appearance is the small-eyed snake (Cryptophis nigrescens), but in this species the red belly colour is not visible unless the snake is turned over, where as the red of the red-bellied black snake extends up the lower flanks.
The red-bellied black snake is commonly associated with streams, rivers, creeks, swamps and other wetland areas. They may wander into well vegetated private gardens which are adjacent to water courses.
The red-bellied black snake specializes in eating frogs but they will also eat mice, lizards, other small mammals, birds and occasionally fish."

Source: Australian Reptile Park
My neighbour shares a property with a friend at Murrumbateman - an attractive area well known as a grape growing area that produces the best of Australia's award winning cold climate wines - about 25 klms from Yass. While his friend runs it as a small allottment farming venture, my neighbour does a John Gray Going Gently and runs a menagerie of animals out there.

They have a couple of ex-race horses that never made the grade at the tracks which they use to ride around the property and then there is "Bruce", the adopted ram raised from a lamb.


"Eric" the black miniture pig who was obtained as a mate for "Piglet" their other miniture pig. As well, there are assorted chickens, a rooster, some geese and ducks.

"Bruce's" mate is  "Nikki". She is a huge but adorable hound and as strong as an ox:


There are also two small terriers - the latter two who spend every waking moment tearing around barking ceaselessly at anyone or anything that wakes them from their slumbers.

Anyway, with 'fall' well and truly upon us my houseyard is rapidly getting a coverage of leaves, especially from my flowering pear tree.

I've been raking these up and adding them into my compost bins located behind the shadehouse and against the rear fence - the trelliss, barely discernable in the front of the bins grow three thornless white miniture rose vines:

That's my shadehouse with my black olive tree in the foreground and you can just make out my new lemon tree behind it and to the right of picture is a native shrub, a crimson bottlebrush - a good 'nectar' flowering shrub which attracts the native bees in the warmer weather.

My bins were full of leaf mulch and over-brimming, so I asked my neighbour if he could fetch me a couple of bags of horse manure from the property at Murrumbateman. I would use the weight of the semi-decomposed horse manure to push the leaf matter down and allow me more room in the bins. He brought me three bags on Sunday night and they have been sitting in our alcove next to the driveway gate until today, when I decided to wheel them down the yard to top up the compost bins.

The last of the three bags of horse manure

All went well as I emptied the first bag into a few of the bins and then I collected the second of the three bags. The twine he used to tie this one off with was knotted, so I sliced it with a Stanley knife but I overdid it and cut into the top of the fibrous oaten chaff bag. I felt something move under my hand and when I looked closer a large area of the under-surface of the bag was 'squirming'. I slit the bag a little more and prepared to jump out of the way. Sure enough, out slithered a redbelly black snake, about four to five feet long. It must have made a home in the stable compost pile and had been shovelled into the bag without being noticed. Fortunately for me, although the RBBS is not a seriously venomous, its venom is capable of causing significant morbidity but it is not generally fatal and less venomous than other deadly Australian snakes.

This guy was still pretty 'drowsy' from his disturbed hibernation, so I was able to throw a bucket over the top of him and after checking for any holes I emptied him into a bag which I tied off thoroughly.

RBBS in a bag - a 'take-away'!

As we currently have a problem with field mice multiplying and occupying homes, sheds and outhouses, I'll give him back to my neighbour tonight and he can return it back to his own home environment.

Australian Actor, Jon Blake, dead

Jon Blake (26 June 1958 – 29 May 2011) was an Australian actor of the 1980s. He appeared in several TV shows and films before a car accident in 1986 left him severely disabled.

Monday night’s episode of 6:30 with George Negus featured a story on actor Jon Blake. Blake was a handsome, rising star in the 1980s set for stardom when a tragic road accident during filming of The Lighthorsemen left him with permanent brain damage.

It remains one of the most tragic showbusiness tales of the last few decades.

Blake had previously featured in television dramas including The Restless Years and the ANZACS miniseries.

But as if his disability wasn’t enough, Blake has had to endure unbelievable hardships during the years that followed.

Anglea Bishop presented a moving story on 6:30 in which a former actor finally gets some better quality of life thanks to the devotion of his son Dustin -and at long last he sees his movie on the big screen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

No art, but plenty of frost!

Traffic was too busy for me to stop and photograph much of Canberra's objets d'art but I did snap this one of Danish sculptor Keld Moseholm’s “On the Staircase”, 2005. It was installed (“launched”) in 2009, having been bought, sadly, on a shopping spree at Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea. But look closely…

Someone has stolen the smallest figure! The artists' concept was 'as i read and climb the stairs of knowledge I get smaller!

The official line is:
"..... artsACT is ..... in the process of organising a replacement little man for ‘On the Staircase’ in Petrie Plaza. While the artist has been fabricating the new little man, we have been organising security lighting for the work. artsACT has also been working with the artist and a local artist/fabricator to ensure that when the replacement little man is re-installed he is permanently secured. ....."

But, it was still cold this morning.

Frost at the Mugga Way as Canberra hit minus five degrees. Those really keen people were out and about doing their exercise routines by Lake Burley Griffin.

Off to Canberra this morning

First of two trips this week. Today its to see the Dermatologist and fortunately the episode of Bowen's Disease I had on my hand seems to have cleared up with her treatment. Going to ask her to look at a spot on my back that I cannot see or get to but is quite irritating.

Then I'll do some shopping - want to get over to Seere's Workwear at Fyshwick and see if I can locate some woolen work shirts.

Forecast is currently 1C with a top of 15C and some late showers forecast, so Denny-the-Dog is going to have to be a 'real dog' and find a warm spot outside this morning - I'll leave his coat on him.

Taking my pocket camera with me so I'll be on the look out for some interesting photos. Canberra is home to some rather contentious exhibits of public art, not without stirring up some controversy over both their cost and subject matter.

C'ya's all later!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Goonumbla NSW

This is how the locals describe Goonumbla:

We're a bumpy road out back
Half bitumen and half dirt track.
There's roos to dodge
and dirt in pot holes to lodge
all before you get to our shack.
Out here there's cropping and mining
For sustainability we are all pining.
There's not a solar system in sight
Energy efficient hot water systems - yeah right.
Green power, green gas - what a silver lining.
Goonumbla was nothing, a dusty speck of poor grazing land on the great plains of Parkes - then copper (and later gold) was discovered. At first the gold was not profitable to mine, too little locked into porphry silicon deposits - not viable - then the price of gold went through the ceiling and suddenly it became viable and profitable.

Goonumbla Gold Mine, Parkes

Look behind this mining structure and see the countryside - long, wide and 'flat as' that stretches seemingly forever.
Northparkes Mines is a copper-gold mine near the remote Australian town of Goonumbla, about 27km north-north-west of Parkes, a regional centre in central-west New South Wales.

Following an initial open-pit operation at Northparkes, underground block-cave mining has been undertaken since 1997.

That's a solid block of gold that this miner is holding.

I only had one day at Goonumbla but it was quite spectacular. There is a thorough security process - everyone going in produces a urine sample and any prescibed medications must be declared up front and verified by your own doctor to the mine owners consulting medical team. You change into supplied workwear in the locker room and your street clothes are taken away in a basket. When its time to leave you go back through the locker room, shower, your work wear is removed and your basket of clothes are waiting for you. There are X-ray screens, like the airports use, at all access points to the mine workings. No cameras are allowed - if consultants like myself need to take images they supply a camera and email me any images that have been approved for release and inclusion in my report.

Parkes is home to the largest radio-telescope in Australia and was the first point of contact for Apollo atronauts with Cape Canaveral as they came out of the 'shadow' on this side of the world.

This is an image of the Radio-telescope I took on a previous trip out west.

Parkes has long been associated with Australia's mineral wealth but is also home to the Goobang National Park

Goobang National Park, one of the state's newest National Parks is located 30 kilometres north-east of Parkes. It is approximately 42,600 hectares in size, 55 kilometres long and ranges in width from 200 metres to 20 kilometres, forming the largest area of remnant vegetation in the Central West of New South Wales.

Parkes was also home to one of Australia's earliest gold Rushes and this very pretty area is well worth a vist by any prospective tourist.

Located just 400 metres from the main street of Peak Hill, Caswell Street - this open cut gold mine provides a great example of mining techniques used historically and today. The historic Peak Hill mine operated between 1893 and 1917 producing about 60,000 ounces from 500,000 tonnes of rock. Alkane re-excavated for gold on the site between 1996 and 2002 retrieving 145,000 ounces gold from 4.9 million tonnes of rock.

While most of the historic operations were consumed by the recent mining activity, some of the old workings have been preserved. The Open Cut Experience includes both the historic works and the more recent mines with several walking paths and viewing platforms having been constructed

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Flood repair work progresses

We made a trip out west - I had a days work to do for a gold mine out near Parkes - and on our way we had to detour cross-country to get past this bridge that had a complete span taken out by severe floods late last year. The pylons have bee replaced and now the debate is whether to build a causeway with a retaining wall to abutt the existing bridge, or, to replace the span?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Going away

We are hitting the trail and heading out west for a week - raining at present and more forecast , but, that's all part of the adventure.

See you next weekend. 'Bye!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I am, You are, We are, Australian!

Yes!  We are a small nation, however, what we lack in numbers we make up for in pride of being who we are!

Farmers Market

Every third Saturday of the month we have a "Farmers market" up at the showground from 11am to 2pm. Today was the day and as the car wash wasn't working I decided that, seeing as i had the truck out, I'd drive up and see what the action was.

It was a slow day with not many stall holders present. I bought a locally made bottle of Cherry Port, a plastic container of chestnuts grown at Tumbarumba (we say "Tumba-bloody-rumba!") and  loaf of fresh baked whole grain bread.

Here are a selection of images.

Looking towards the market area

Poultry on sale

Lady spinning yarn at a craft stall

Craft stall - all natural coloured local wool

Native Flowers for sale

Roundhouse exhibit area

Baker's goods inside the Roundhouse

Jams and Preserves inside the Roundhouse

Handcrafts inside the Roundhouse

Showground Grandstand facing the Rodeo ground

Oh!  I forgot the circus was also in town and also at the showground - no wild animals, just ponies, dogs, clowns and acrobats

Saturday's Scribe - Gardening by plots

Combine Street Community Garden, Coffs Harbour

Kincumber Community Garden plots

Let’s talk about crop rotation. Generally speaking, the longer you can leave between planting the same crop in the same bed, the better. The reasons for this are quite simple and the two most obvious are:
• pests and diseases will build up, and,
• soil nutrients that the crop fed on will be depleted and need replacement.

Crop rotation is not rocket science, however, at the same time it is not a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes, if the seasonal conditions are right and you have good soil bed nutrients you will get away with repeat season crops. For rotation purposes, however, if you want to fallow the rotation method and your soils are not good and need lots of nutrient replenishing, you should rotate between 3 beds, but obviously, your method of rotation will depend on how big your garden is and what you choose to grow.

I tried a two plot rotation and only got moderate success until I changed to three plots and changed what was in those beds once a year. But, regardless of how many beds you have, it's a good idea to put a green manure crop in every year or two and to also fork in some good compost.

For a cheap green manure gather up all your old and out of date seed packets - they can be anything as long as they're not woody plants not root vegetables – and lightly fork the bed to loosen up the soil and then broadcast the seed generously across the whole bed. Water the seed in well and in about 6 to 10 weeks, when the plants are approximately 1 metre high, cut them down and dig them through and this green manure crop will revitalise your soil, in situ. Now take your compost and fork that through your beds and give it a good watering. Leave it for about two weeks.

If you haven't got a lot of left over seeds to make your own green manure, you can top it up with some commercial green manure mix.

I also compost my grass clippings in five bottomless bins – the plastic type with a lid where when the material is ripe for use you merely lift the bin off the contents – and I add all my kitchen waste with the exception of fats and citrus waste material. A handful of blood and bone, a handful of complete fertiliser and also a handful of hydrated lime also help to break down the compost material and add essential nutrients.

Australian-made Gedye compost bin made from recycled plastic

Any animal manure you can get access to is also a good additive, particularly poultry manure that is contained in straw floor bedding from poultry sheds, although, sheep dung, cow pads and even horse manure will also do. A word of caution tho’ – do not overuse horse manure as it does not contain a great amount of nutrients but it is a good ‘compost conditioner’ insofar that it does help prevent compost materials from becoming too wet and ‘clogging’.

Let your compost bin fill – it will shrink down as the vegetable matter looses moisture – and when full, cap and seal with some gaffer tape and leave all winter. Come spring, gently lift the bin to check your progress. If the material has composted it will be a blackish-brown semi-solid, holding its shape without the bin to secure it and should fork nice and easily. It should also have that ‘manure odour’ to it.

A local friend of mine is a real ‘green thumb’ gardener who runs a four plot rotation garden bed. This is what his thoughts are:

"The first bed starts off with a mixture of roots crops (carrots, parsnips and beetroot) and vegetables belonging to the allium family (onions, garlic and leeks). The second bed begins with sweet corn and cucurbits (pumpkins, squash, cucumber, zucchini and maybe even some watermelons). The third bed in spring starts with the vegetables that prefer a slightly lower pH (also known as acid lovers) such as tomatoes, capsicums (bell peppers), chillies and eggplants. And the fourth bed can be used to grow legumes (peas and beans) and brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and bok choy).
As a general rule, in a crop rotation method, a leafy bed which is a high nitrogen feeder may be followed by a legume crop to fix that nitrogen back into the soil and then you may want to chuck a crop of corn in to take advantage of that nitrogen.By the following year the sweet corn and cucurbits replace the root crops and onions. The tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants replace the sweet corn and cucurbits (after the green manure has been dug into the bed). The legumes and brassicas replace the tomatoes and their friends. And of course next, the root crops and onions replace the legumes and brassicas. This system continues so that no vegetable group is ever planted in the same place twice over the four year period.”

Like most things, when it comes to crop rotation, don't be too fanatical. As long as you move things around, put in the occasional green manure crop and rest your beds, you can prevent pest and diseases and you'll be well on your way to a rich, well structured soil.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What are you doing this weekend?

If you have been following this news for the past week or so and the controversy surrounding Harold Camping’s beliefs that Doomsday is going to happen this weekend is picking up as the final hours approach before - what thousands of people are calling - the May 21st Rapture.

If Harold has got it right, somewhere around the time as each area of the world gets to that point of 6 p.m. on May 21, then it will happen there, and until it happens, the rest of the world will be standing far off and witnessing the horrible thing that is happening.

New Zealand is the first country to experience 6 p.m. on May 21 and we'll be about 4-5 hours later in Australia's east coast. So ...... If you turn on the TV and there’s no word of an earthquake in New Zealand, you’ll know Harold’s prediction was wrong once again (he was wrong when he predicted the world was going to end in 1994 as well). LOL!

Harold's Prophecy here!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I am cooking today

Indonesian-style Chicken Casserole

Today I am preparing a chicken casserole base for an Indonesian-style Chicken Casserole I'll be cooking on Saturday. I always prepare my chicken base at least two days ahead and then freeze the uncooked base down so that it is ready for cooking on the day.

I use six chicken thigh fillets. I remove all excess fat and sinew first and discard but be generous and allow for some chicken meat to be attached to the trimmings and reserve this chicken meat (I will use this later to make a chicken laksa soup.)

I then cut the chicken fillets up into mouth-sized pieces and place those in a stainless steel preparation bowl.

I add a good splash of extra virgin olive oil – about one and a half tablespoons – enough to give all the chicken a good coating of oil.

Slice and chop half a red capsicum, 4 medium size shallot onions (the slender ones, white base with a long green top) and add this into the chicken mix.

Next I add a good shake of freshly ground black peppercorn, a good shake of chilli flakes and a teaspoon of finely chopped fresh coriander.

Using a plastic kitchen spoon stir all the ingredients in the bowl to ensure that they are well mixed. Empty the contents into a resealable freezer bag, flatten and store in the freezer until required.

Now, for the actual Indonesian-style Chicken Casserole you will need:

Your prepared chicken mix, defrosted and ready to cook
I packet Dutch curry and rice soup – (I use Continental brand , but any brand will do!)
¼ of tomato sauce/ketchup
1 Apple cored and sliced
2 cups of water
2 onions thinly sliced
¼ cup of unsalted cashew nuts (optional)

Brown the chicken, and add onions and cook on a medium heat until the onions are softened. Add water, tomato sauce/ketchup, soup mix and apple. Stir lightly to mix ingredients together, cover and simmer gently for 1 hour.

Serve sprinkled with cashew nuts, if desired, and a side serve of steamed green beans and bok choy leaves.

Chicken Laksa Soup

Oh! That’s right, I told you to reserve the chicken trimmings for a Chicken Laksa, didn’t I? OK! Place chicken meat trimmings in a colander or strainer and pour boiling water over them. Shake off excess water and repeat two more times – set aside. I do this to remove most traces of any chicken fat that may have remained attached.

In a pot bring 1 litre of salted water (to taste) to the boil. Add half a chopped red capsicum, 3 medium chopped shallot onions, two fresh baby corn stalks finely sliced, a dash of chilli flakes and freshly ground black pepper, a chicken stock cube (dissolve this in a little hot water) and a teaspoon of good India curry powder. Allow to reach the boil and then drop back to a simmer. Add your chicken trimmings and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add 200gm of rice noodles and allow these to soften.

Place some loosely torn bok choy leaves and a handful of bean sprouts in a colander and pour boiling water over these to blanch them. Drain and add to your soup, stir in lightly then allow them to sit in the hot soup mix for a minute.

Serve while steaming hot!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saturday's Scribe - Inside our Parliament's hidden vaults

Last friday it was a bleak day. The skies were heavy with misty rain, visibility was down to a few 100 feet and it was bitterly cold. We reached a top of 12C from a -1C minimum. I had an invitation from an old friend to acompany him and journalists from The Canberra Times, the capital's premier broadsheet newspaper as they explored the hidden depths beneath our Parliament House. I was advised that this was a "one-off" invitation and that others present were led to believe that I was a Parliament House staffer and I was to deflect any questions as to my role, using 'security reasons' as an excuse (I had done some Risk Management consultancy work for him at Parliament House in the past, so it was not as though I was a 'stranger' to the place) but here was an opportunity to see an aspect of the House that very few have experienced. I could not let the invitation pass unaccepted.

I had lived in Canberra during the construction of what is referred to as New Parliament House and I was aware of the enormity of its construction. I had friends who worked there, one being the Principal Safety Officer, and I was aware that it was the first major construction of its kind that was undertaken where tradesmen were multi-skilled  contractors and sub-contractors and that workplace safety was paramount. There was an ACT Ambulance Services ambulance and crew permanently stationed 'on-site' during construction and it was the first construction of its kind and size to be built in Australia without a single fatal incident on-site.

Of course I jumped at the invitation.

The drive over to Canberra was hazardous, with snow sleeting as I crossed the flats of the Barton Highway, past Jeir Creek Winery, Capricorn Park Stud - resting home in Australia to three times Melbourne Cup winner, Makybe Diva - and up the rise past Kaveneys Road with its gravel quarry surrounded by the groves of olives of small lot hobby farms before the haul across 'the mad mile', a single flat straight stretch before one entered the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

I arrived at parliament House and went to the staff parking area that had been indicated to me and announced myself to the Australian Protective Services Officers on duty. I was taken into an office in a portable building and issued with my ID for the day, given a temporary parking permit and, as I drive with a National Disability Permit, I was directed to an adjacent car parking spot and told to come back and wait for my escort.

An assistant from my friend's office soon arrived and I was led through a side entrance into the Parliament House structure and taken to my friend's office where a bevy of journalists and a photographer also waited. We sat in a small meeting room and were briefed on safety and security, shown diagrams and given a 'Day Attendance' sheet to sign-off stating that we had been so briefed.

If you are not familiar with Australia's Parliament House, Canberra, it is an amazing structure, a feat of engineering marvel, that is, in the main, built underground and most of the exterior built surface was covered with turf and gardens to complete the image. What you see on top is about one fifth of the total structure.

New Parliament House, Canberra ACT, Australia viewed from the public forecourt precinct

The two Parliament Houses - Old Parliament House on the foreshore
of Lake Burley Griffin and New Parliament House on the rise behind it.
View over the Australian War Memorial and looking down Anzac Parade
from Mt Ainslie

True to my security brief, I was told that I could make no notes of what I was to see and photographs were absolutely forbidden, however, I could use any of the 'public domain' material, which included the images and article set to appear in the Sunday Canberra Times
Inside Parliament's hidden vault

By Sally Pryor, The Canberra Times Staff Reporter
14 May, 2011 12:00 AM

Like much in central Canberra, Parliament House is a triumph of symmetry, all elegant curves and right angles. But the hill into which it is built, Lord of the Rings-style so that we the people may trample the smooth green slopes while our elected representatives toil away beneath, was not always so symmetrical.

In fact, the hill on which the house is perched is something of a trompe d'oeuil; the green slopes running up the sides had, in fact, to be moulded to perfection, and what you can't see is the three large cavities tucked away beneath them. In a rapidly expanding city where all forms of space living space, office space, storage space is becoming ever more coveted and hard to come by, it's odd to imagine there are still these massive, empty voids in the symbolic heart of the nation.

Passing Parliament House as you drive along Canberra Avenue, you would never guess that beneath the velvety green slope is the largest of these spaces.

Known about the place as The Cathedral, it's a massive vault with columns three storeys high, and a solid concrete ceiling. To get there, you have to wind your way through the building's endless, and endlessly functional, basement corridors (they're so bewilderingly alike that they have been given street names), and finally, through a seemingly innocuous locked door.

The place is filled with rubble we were warned to wear flat shoes and has only temporary lighting, but it's still spectacular.

Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Alan Thompson said much thought had gone into this space over the years, although nothing had ever actually been decided.

''Offices could be one, storage could be another, but at this stage, there's no one pressing demand here,'' he said. He admits that the notion of using The Cathedral as function space had been considered, but the cost would probably be prohibitive.

''At this stage we're just well and truly aware that the space is here,'' he said. In the meantime, the second-largest of the voids, behind the staff dining room, is in the process of being converted into office space, to bring some of the staff out from the ''submarine-like'' basement.

When all's said and done, though, The Cathedral is likely to remain empty and magnificent for some time, or at least until Parliament expands significantly in size.

''If you've got the right architect at the time, you could do something very spiffy here,'' Mr Thompson said, looking around. ''There's got to be a purpose first, that's the catch.''

And that sound of weeping you hear is coming from archivists at the many chronically space-deprived national institutions throughout the city.

(The Canberra Times was founded in 1926. Its motto ‘To serve the national city and through it the nation’ reflects on the importance its original owners placed on serving the needs of what was then a town focused around Federal Parliament.)

New Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, Australia, viewed by night

I was truly priviliged to have been allowed this experience and it was one that I will cherish forever, however, I also know that "you get nothing for nothing" in this world and in Canberra's highly politically charged environment that "there is no free lunch"! I'm expecting a call in the next six months to a year, 'cos I recognise that Friday's 'tour' was, in fact, a 'site induction' preparing me for some future consultancy work.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Winters here ....

Clear nights with foggy mornings - got down to minus 4 C last few nights.  I took Denny down to Riverbabk Park for a run - the bugger found a rotten carp to roll on that some ignorant fisherperson had left on the bank, Phewwwwww! - swore at him all the way home to his obligatory wash.

Anyway, they've finished the new bridge over Chinaman's Creek and they've erected some sort of Iron arches at each end - not sure why or what they are s'posed to mean. Will try for a photograph of them today.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mums out there!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday's Scribe - Myth of Male Menopause

The myth of “Male Menopause”

It's bad news, fellas - after fifty, it's downhill all the way. Falling sexual drive, declining muscle strength, irritability - just some of the symptoms of the so-called 'male menopause'. But is the term a myth? What's really going on, and can testosterone supplements fix it?

Some doctors claim that the fall in testosterone levels causes the range of symptoms just listed - in a similar way to the symptoms caused by the sudden fall in female sex hormones when a woman reaches her forties or fifties. Hence the term 'male menopause'. Some men's health clinics in the major capital cities are advertising testosterone replacement treatments - given by injection, tablets or skin implants - as a 'cure'.

So-called testosterone replacement treatments are big business in the US where over the last 10 years, there's been 10-fold increase in doctors prescribing the hormone, driven by direct advertising by drug companies, men's heath clinics and by best-selling books with titles like Maximising Manhood, The Testosterone Revolution and Male Menopause.

Over the same period, there's been an increase in doctors prescribing testosterone here in Australia - a three-fold increase in tablets and a lesser increase in injections - according to a study published last month in the Medical Journal of Australia, which tracked prescribing patterns from 1991 to 2001.

Does testosterone replacement therapy work? Studies looking at the effect of testosterone supplements haven't shown any improvements in the grab bag of symptoms attributed to the 'male menopause'. A few studies have shown slight increases in muscle mass and bone density, but the results are inconsistent. There are no long-term studies that show it's safe - and testosterone is known to be a risk factor for prostate cancer - however, some men who get testosterone treatment do find there's an improvement. But this is almost always wishful thinking. They think they're getting better, but the effect is short-lived.

It is normal for men's testosterone levels to fall gradually after the age of 30 years. Unlike women, whose oestrogen levels fall rapidly when they go through menopause, men's testosterone levels fall much more gradually and over a longer period of time. Male menopause is a misleading term. Ageing does affect testosterone levels in men but the effects vary. Only men with proven androgen deficiency will benefit from appropriate treatment. Other terms used to refer to a decline in testosterone levels include andropause or viropause.

Testosterone deficiency is a condition in which a man has lower than normal levels of testosterone in his blood. In ageing males (those over 40 years of age) it is sometimes also referred to as late-onset hypogonadism, andropause or male menopause. Testosterone deficiency in ageing men is caused by a natural reduction in testosterone production as a man ages.

Andropause refers to a set of gradual physical and psychological changes that men generally go through beginning in middle age. Andropause is equivalent to the menopause that women over 45 suffer from.

What're the symptoms of andropause? Symptoms of andropause can vary from one man to the next. Symptoms of male Andropause may include lethargy or decreased energy, decreased libido or interest in sex, erectile dysfunction with loss of erections, muscle weakness and aches, inability to sleep, hot flashes, night sweats, depression, infertility and thinning of bones or bone loss. When there is less testosterone available to do its work, the testosterone target-organ response decreases, bringing about many changes. Since there is great variability in testosterone levels among healthy men, therefore not all men will experience the same changes to the same extent.

According to some experts, many men who experience these age-related symptoms are leading unhealthy lifestyles - they smoke, they drink too much alcohol, don't get enough exercise and are overweight. Also (and because of these lifestyle factors) as men get older, they fall prone to diseases like diabetes, heart disease and depression - adding to their symptoms.

There is a place for genuine testosterone deficiency. Some men - about one in 200 - do have a medical condition that causes the testes to make less than normal amounts of testosterone. The most common is Klinefelter's syndrome, a genetic disorder in which the testes don't function adequately. These men do benefit from testosterone treatment. Only if doctors suspect a medical condition like this should they prescribe testosterone, and then only a after a series of blood tests shows their testosterone is abnormally low. Treatment should be managed by a specialist endocrinologist.

Instead of worrying about their testosterone levels, men 'of a certain age' should get plenty of exercise, stop smoking and drinking too much, and see their doctors to determine if they have any underlying condition that can be treated.

So, guys, get off the couch and get active – take the kids for a walk to the park and take along the dog and a bat and ball. Start eating good meals regularly and leave that ‘cardiac diet’ of coke and hamburgers behind. Get that weight down and start fitting into some of those clothes that have been hanging in your closet ‘cos you cannot get into them anymore. Go for long walks, stop smoking, lay off the alcohol and watch your sex-life and libido turn itself around. There’s nothing wrong with you that good healthy living wont fix.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's day, 8th May

Where will your household’s “Mum” be this Mother’s Day?

Ours is Rhonda. She is a sixty three year old registered nurse. Her Mother’s day will begin at 5am when she gets out of bed and ready to go to work.

Her work is in a ward for older people – 55 years + - who not only have physical or surgical problems but also ALL of them suffer from psychiatric illness. Mostly this is degenerative ageing illness such as senile dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or, other such diseases of the aged. Some suffer chronic psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia, bi-polar disease or sexually acquired chronic illnesses.

There complex illness pathology must be treated holistically. From basic activities of daily living, such as bathing, showering, personal hygiene, dressing, preparing meals must also be catered for by the nursing staff as well as treating their underlying medical and surgical conditions.

Rhonda is up at 5am, drives an hour to the hospital at which she works and with two other nurses she cares for up to twenty patients. She should finish at 3.430 pm, however, she is lucky if she can get away by 4.30 pm and then has to battle the ‘peak hour’ travel home. Rhonda usually arrives home at 5.15 pm. Myself and Denny-the-dog are waiting for her with a hot coffee ready for her to sip on and relax with us while we discuss our various days.

I hope you appreciate the little present I could afford to buy for you as an expression of my gratitude.

Happy Mother’s Day Rhonda, we love you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Operation Pumpkin!

Revealed: Secret security plan should Kate leave Wills at the altar

Police and spooks in charge of security for the royal wedding had planned for every possible eventuality - including that of Kate leaving Wills at the altar. The top-secret contingency plan for a "runaway bride" scenario has been dubbed "Operation Pumpkin", and if put into effect would see hundreds of operatives switch tasks in a desperate attempt to generate a moving security cordon around the escaping future Queen - while simultaneously attempting to preserve Prince William's option to pursue and dramatically win her back.

"Frankly, it's a nightmare scenario," one highly-placed MI5 source confessed yesterday. "But you had to have a plan for every possible contingency, and let's face it, that one was hardly that unlikely, wasn't it? Obviously we had to get together with Clarence House and work something out.

"Naturally, they wanted us to simply make her go through with it - but we said you must be joking: in the UK, in front of millions of witnesses? No way. And the plods would never play ball anyhow.

"So we said, look, if she bottles it we'll just have to get her out pronto, helicopter off the roof maybe, then sort her out with a new identity and young Bill will just have to go on the honeymoon on his own."

However the royal officials were unhappy with that plan. They reluctantly accepted that Ms Middleton remains free to bolt right up until the last moment, but argued that she should be compelled to flee on foot for at least a short distance, so allowing the Prince to pursue her and so perhaps regain some PR benefit for the royal family - and maybe even persuade the absconding future consort to come up to scratch once more.

"That's when it got difficult," says our source. "Now you've got her running out of the Abbey, crowds everywhere, him chasing after her. She's got to be able to run, he's got to be able to catch up if he can. Nightmare."

After protracted, top-secret negotiations between royal staff from Clarence House and representatives from the Metropolitan Police, MI5 and elements of the military, a compromise was agreed. In the event of Operation Pumpkin being put into effect Ms Middleton will be permitted to run out of Westminster Abbey with her bodyguards trailing discreetly at a distance. Plain-clothes undercover police, MI5 officers and SAS soldiers stationed in the crowd will form a mobile flying wedge ahead of her, clearing a path for the fugitive future princess to escape down.

Prince William will then have a limited time, the subject of tense negotiations between Clarence House and security chiefs, in which the path behind Ms Middleton will be kept open for him to go after her, after which the mobile protective cordon will close again at the Abbey end due to lack of manpower and the Prince will have let his bride slip through his fingers.

If Wills reacted fast enough, however, he would've been able to chase after his fleeing fiancee for just under half a mile.

"Clarence House wanted a full mile," says our source. "But we said come on, play fair, she's in her wedding dress and there has to be some limit on the overtime budget."

If the Prince failed to intercept Ms Middleton over that distance, the security team would decide that no on-the-spot reconciliation was possible and a strategically positioned taxi, driven by an undercover SAS operative and unobtrusively escorted by several unmarked police cars, would opportunely pull up to carry the escaping ex-future-princess to safety.

On the other hand if Wills managed to come up with Kate he would be allowed to attempt to persuade her to return with him for a limited period.

"We got Clarence House to cut that by a few minutes by agreeing they could put ringers in the crowd to shout stuff like 'Go on love, give him a kiss'," revealed our source.

It is understood that royal officials were hoping that there will be no need for Operation Pumpkin, but anticipated a significant boost to the wedding's TV ratings if it did go into effect.

We asked our source what plans were in place should Wills, rather than Kate, attempt to flee the wedding.

"Come off it," he said. "We only plan for things that make sense. He didn't want to be back on the dating scene wearing a rug, did he?"

Monday, May 2, 2011

V8 Supercars Perth Inferno

Not a great fan of car racing but - spectacular crash and burn at Perth, Western Australia V8 Supercars race.

Fortunately no serious injuries, minor burns, as all driver s 'walked' away from this!