Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Southern Hemisphere 'Flu Season is underway - get your 'flu shot!

The Southern Hemisphere 'flu season is upon us. I had my 'flu shot a couple of days ago, and would recommend it for all adults (baring contraindications).

Available from your friendly GP or from many chemists. For instance, Chemist Warehouse is offering the trivalent for $8.99 and quadrivalent (what I had) for $11.99. A small investment potentially to prevent an extended period of illness and absence from work/study etc.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: "The Girl in the Spider's Web" by David Lagercrantz (continuing the Stieg Larsson 'Millenium' series)

As a fan of the original Millenium trilogy, I was sceptical about a new book by a different author to continue the series, which was brought to an abrupt and sad end by the premature death of Stieg Larsson. I had also read about the unpleasantness between Larsson's father and brother, legal heirs to his estate, and his widowed partner, who had an incomplete draft of his next book on a laptop. This book could never see the light of day without the involvement of his family. Reading the acknowledgments at the end of this new book it is clear that only Larsson's father and brother had a hand in its creation, and it is not the untold sequel held by his partner.

The book is long, and slow to get going, and the second half is much more interesting than the first. It has a labyrinthine (and somewhat implausible) plot, largely centered around out-hacking the hackers, and an interesting familial twist for Salander, who is once again an improbable heroine, ably aided and abetted by Mikael Blomkvist. It is clever and complex, and all the things one would expect from a Stieg Larsson novel.

Interestingly, it is also clearly set up for a sequel. On the last page, Blomkvist and Salander appear headed for a rapprochement, and the dastardly villain behind all the trouble is still out there ...

In the end, I didn't regret reading it, but I was glad that I had read a borrowed copy and not shelled out my hard-earned dollars for it. It is going to be hard to replace the Larsson books and the excellent Swedish tele-movies based on these books. Is this going to be another 'pulp fiction' factory churning out new books every year or so - time will tell. Meanwhile, I wonder what story is yet untold on that laptop???

Book Review: "Northern Lights" by Andrew Scott

This compact book by academic Andrew Scott sets out how Australian policy makers could benefit from the examples of the Scandinavian countries. It is a marvellous read, and looks at a number of key areas including education and industrial relations. There is surely a lot that we could learn, and have had many opportunities to learn, but haven't. One can only hope that policy makers take the time and trouble to read Scott's small tome. If they do, Australia could become an even better place ...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Calling all cat lovers - please help to save Runty the Magnificent!

Calling all cat lovers with a generous heart - this beautiful and affectionate 10 month-old rag-doll cat belonging to my sister needs urgent and expensive surgery to correct a rectal prolapse, which his loving owner is unable to afford. It would break her heart to have to euthanase her adored pet, so all and any help appreciated! My family has loved watching Runty and his five brothers and sisters grow into just the most gorgeous kittens you can imagine, and having Runty around has made a wonderful difference to my sister's life. We have had cats around since we were children and love having them as part of the family.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Handy Household Hints No. 8 - Roll up and stack your towels and sheets to save space

I think this one was inspired by a shop display, but I now roll up my towels and secure them with a couple of sturdy rubber bands (thanks to Australia Post) and then can stack them neatly in a very space-efficient manner. It also allows you easily to see exactly what is there, and to take fresh ones from the bottom and put clean ones back at the top after they have been washed. This technique can also be used for summer sheets, as in the top photograph below.

Handy Household Hints No. 7 - Using recycled CD containers to tame your hair ties

These plastic spindles and covers from bulk packs of blank CDs have proved to be perfect for keeping hair ties and scrunchies organised, and also free from dust. They don't take much space, and can be kept out on top of a bureau or dresser.

Handy Household Hints No. 6 - Use an old sushi container to tame all your cords and chargers

A couple of years ago I went to a conference where I ended up with some of the leftover food, and as a result I had several sturdy plastic sushi containers. Rather than putting them into the recycling, I had one of those 'light bulb' moments when I realised that they would be perfect for storing the cords and chargers that I use frequently for electronic devices, mobile phones, etc. The compartments are large enough to take one or two chargers, and then I also wind up the cords so that they do not get tangled up, and are ready for use. Initially I was using hair ties and rubber bands to keep them neat but then hit upon the idea of using small bulldog clips instead, which works even better! Another cheap and environmentally friendly solution!

Handy Household Hints No. 5 - How to tame your small receipts ready for tax time!

It is always a challenge to tame all those small receipts from your purchases, but here is a really simple and cost-effective method to consider. First collect some of the return postage envelopes that you receive from banks and other organisations. Then using a marker pen write an envelope for each month in the year, and put your receipts in the envelope in chronological order. Then bundle them together in a (recycled or other) plastic bag either loose or with a rubber band around them. When it comes to tax time, everything is beautifully organised and hopefully nothing has been lost!

Handy Household Hints No. 4 - Make your own spice jars!

Having adopted the principle of avoiding plastics for the storage of food where possible (being an avid watcher of medical docos), instead of putting all my glass jars into the recycling I have been reusing them where practicable. This small fruit juice bottle is just the right size for a spice jar, with a DYI label cut from the packet!

Handy Household Hints No.3 - Store your leftover filter or brewed coffee in a glass jar

Often I will end up with left-over plunger coffee that is still perfectly good to use, so I store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator and reheat it as needed. This preserves the quality of the coffee and also has the added benefit of letting any sediment sink to the bottom so that you have a clearer brew to drink!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The venerable art of reading the coffee cup - interpreting coffee art

Probably most people have heard of reading tea leaves to predict the future, but it is also possible to get some pretty interesting designs when adding milk to a freshly made espresso coffee. Perhaps it is a little like the Rorschach inkblot test, but use your imagination to see what you can find in these images!

Handy Household Hints No. 2 - 1001 uses for old pantyhose (stockings)

If you are bothered by a draught around the top or side of your front door, here is a novel solution! An old or unwanted pair of pantyhose (stockings) can be employed to work in two directions at once and stretched to fit, with the panty section acting as thicker padding at the corner. This works effectively until a more permanent solution can be put in place, and is both cheap and environmentally friendly!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Handy Household Hints No. 1 - Saving the world one coffee pod at a time ...

Attention all coffee lovers - if you use coffee pods, take the time to recycle them as far as possible. Nespresso pods are made from aluminium and can be returned for recycling. All you have to do is collect them and drop them off at your nearest Nespresso boutique (whilst enjoying a complimentary coffee) or other authorised collection point.

All other brands with a plastic pod and plastic or aluminium top can be opened up with a good pair of scissors and the coffee grounds extracted. The coffee makes a wonderful free (yes, free as you have already paid for and enjoyed the pod) organic fertiliser and your plants will love it. You can then choose whether to wash and recycle the plastic pod (if accepted by your local recycling program) or bin it if you are feeling lazy or the pods are not accepted for recycling. You will be surprised at how much free fertiliser you can collect! Even IKEA puts out its used coffee grounds for people to take home and use on their gardens.

If you use an espresso machine, it is even easier to collect the used coffee grounds for your plants (or someone else's). Help reduce waste, encourage plant growth (which helps the environment) and feel good about your actions!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Condolences for Gough Whitlam - Australian Labor Party

If you are a member of the generation who directly benefited from the educational and other reforms of the Whitlam Government, there is still an opportunity to pass on your condolences and thanks:

Condolences for Gough Whitlam - Australian Labor Party:

For many of us from poorer backgrounds, the advent of free tertiary education provided us with an opportunity to go to university and pursue professional careers. I for one will be always grateful for this.

'via Blog this'

SnowSafe: A guide to safety in the alpine areas

For those of you planning a trip to the alpine areas, either for snowsports or summer activities, this is an excellent web site developed by the Australian Ski Patrol Association with loads of useful information:

SnowSafe | A guide to safety in the alpine areas:
'via Blog this'

Snowsports on Pinterest

For keen skiers and boarders, there are a couple of interesting recent postings on Pinterest:

Snowsports on Pinterest:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Things to love and hate about Aldi

Probably like a lot of other people, I have mixed feelings about Aldi.

Firstly, things I don't like:

(a) the credit card surcharge (in general I regard these as being a tax-deductible cost of doing business which should not be passed on to consumers); and

(b) the checkout system. This requires you first to empty your entire trolley onto the conveyor belt. The cashier then passes the goods over a scanner at lightning speed onto a small area (the size of a postage stamp (well actually around the size of an A4 sheet of paper) on the other side of the scanner. There is not enough room to pack the goods into bags, and instead you are required to put the goods back in the trolley in a haphazard fashion as fast as you can in order to avoid the postage stamp becoming overwhelmed. You then need to wheel your trolley over to a packing shelf, take all the goods out of the trolley again and re-pack them into bags to take home. This is exhausting just thinking about it, let alone doing it!

The check-out system might work wiith minimum inconvenience for a few things, but it definitely does not work for a full-sized 'shop', where a full trolley can take up the whole conveyor belt and take a lot of time to re-pack. I tried this once, but never again!!

Moral of the story: if you want to do all your shopping at once and have it neatly packed in bags when you exit the cash register, do not go to Aldi. Go to one of the other supermarkets, which still have people who will help you pack as well as self-service checkout machines (which I also hate, but for different reasons, as their programming is inflexible and they 'chuck a hissy fit' if you put your own bags in the packing area if you have not pre-selected this option, and expect you to pack at superhuman speed, saying repetitively "please take your goods" when you are nowhere near ready to do so!).

Anway, the good things about Aldi are its goods and prices (and the weekly specials wilth all sorts of cool things).

I have previously sung the praises of the Aldi Expressi coffee range, but today I will just mention a couple of other things which are well priced and good quality.

The first is the Bakehouse premium bread range. It comes in a similar range and presentation to the much more expensive Helga's range, but tastes just as good.

The other is the Brooklea Joi creamy light probiotic yoghurt range (Strawberry, Mixed Berry and Peach Mango). For me the pick of the range is the Mixed Berry. It is flavoursome, creamy without being too sweet, and has that lovely slightly 'bitey' tartness familiar to berry lovers. It actually has stawberries, raspberries, bluberries and blackcurrant juice in it. At $3.59 for one litre, this sure beats the competition.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An apple a day can have surprising health benefits!

The Australian CHOICE consumer magazine publishes a great deal of useful health information, both in the main magazine and in the separate Choice Health Reader.

This small article about the health benefits of an apple a day appeared in the February 2014 issue of CHOICE:

For further interesting health news and research articles, see the following board on Pinterest:

Friday, August 8, 2014

St Francis' Choir, Melbourne sings at the Holy Trinity Festival on Saturday 16 August

Members of St Francis' Choir are looking forward to performing at the "Sounds of Joy" concert as part of the Holy Trinity Festival on Saturday 16 August 2014. For further details see:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Opposing the Australian Federal Budget proposed $7 GP co-payment

My own view (and that of many others) is that the introduction of this proposed impost would be a public and preventative health disaster and an administrative nightmare for GPs and other direct service providers.

A website has been set up to collect signatures for a petition opposing the co-payment (which still has a chance of being defeated in the Senate) and to share people's stories as to why they disagree with this measure.

Sign and/or share your story at