Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 6 July 2017

One Unhappy Chappie

I think he's trying to tell us something.

If you live in Toowoomba, you will have seen this ute.

For quite a few years, now, it's been parked in prominent spots around town. The owner is obviously very unhappy with ANZ bank, and is letting everybody know about it. I don't know the details of his beef with the bank. Maybe some day I will catch him in the vehicle and can ask.

He must live somewhere on the Eastern side of the escarpment, because that's most often where you will see his mobile billboard.

The other side.
Generally, he picks places that are well-frequented, and constantly re-positions it. It certainly gets noticed. I'm unclear as to how ANZ feels about it, or if they have any legal recourse.

They probably don't because, as far as I know, it's legal top drive around with messages on your vehicle, as long as it's roadworthy and registered.

I'm sure they wish he would go away.

Monday, 26 June 2017

On the Road Again

Appearance is good.
I've succumbed again.

After suffering from severe MX5 deprivation for the last four years, I've found the cure.

In this case it's a well-used 2000 NB. When I say "well-used", I'm talking 240000 km.

That's a lot, I hear you say. Isn't that a recipe for disaster - I hear you say.

Perhaps not. The previous owner was meticulous when it came to servicing, and the receipts were  there to prove it.

Soft top's in good nick.
It looks very much like my first one, but has a roll bar fitted. This seems to add a bit to chassis rigidity, and doesn't, to my mind, spoil the originality or appearance. It just means you have to get out of the car to raise or lower the soft top. 

Amongst other things, the timing belt, the soft top, the clutch, the brakes, the shockers and the air conditioning compressor have been replaced or overhauled. It's a bit like grandfather's axe.

It has a good set of Yokohamas, and a $800 Alpine stereo fitted.  Everything works with the exception of the heater, which has been blanked off because the previous owner saw this as a better option than removing the dashboard to fix it.
Interior needs cosmetic repairs..

It's a hoot to drive, feels as tight as a drum, and cosmetically looks pretty good. I see it as a project car, because it didn't cost much, and I'll enjoy restoring it slowly and carefully.

The wear is there, but it results from use rather than misuse. It also has an interesting patina. Because it's well-used, I don't have to worry about getting too many kms up.
Alloys need work.

When you've done a quarter of a million, why worry about a few hundred thousand more?

I'll start some restoration jobs when I finish work, and will post about it here.


Taken after a bit of detailing.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Denim and Diamonds

Entrance to the conference dinner.

Last week I attended what will probably be my last ever professional conference.

It was a good one to go out on, being the annual conference of the ICPA*, held in St George.

During the last ten years, I've been working with bush kids with disabilities. This conference was attended by the parents of isolated kids, and the people, mostly from schools of distance education, who help their parents school them.

My conference accommodation

For all the guff that's spoken about home schooling of late, the process has a long and successful history in outback Australia.

Times have changed, of course, and the lessons are no longer delivered by radio. It's all done using the internet, and most of the issues canvassed at the conference were about connectivity.

Telstra seems to be attempting to wriggle out from under, when it comes to their universal service obligations. There was a motion at the conference protesting the notion that once either satellite of wifi connections were established through the NBN, all hard lines would be removed.

This is OK in an urban environment, but when your nearest neighbour is 50 kms away, and the nearest medical assistance hours away, a reliable hard line is essential.

Wifi and satellite don't work all that well when it's coming down with cats and dogs during (for example) a rain depression, which is precisely the time when the road in is likely to be cut for weeks or months.

This is my stamping ground - not for much longer.

Another issue relates to the amount of data that needs to be sent when the students are in the later years of secondary. To put it crudely, in many cases it ain't up to the job.

There were resolutions passed on the conference floor related to this issue, and many others. These people have enormous political clout, and know how to use it. Present were a full range of federal and state pollies, including Pauline Hanson who looked very uncomfortable most of the time.

Chilly sunrise.

People from the bush know how to enjoy themselves, and the conference was a hoot on the social side, as well as being a great expression of the energy and loyalty found out west.

Dinner in the pavilion.

I've resolved to continue my association and advocacy for bush kids post retirement. They're inspiring people.

*Isolated Children's Parents Association


Tuesday, 6 June 2017


Happy pup at Horseshoe Bay. Lots of dogs on Maggie.

I turned 70 yesterday, so to celebrate, my bride and I flew up to Townsville and caught the Sealink Cat across to Magnetic Island.

This place has a special place in my heart. We lived in Townsville on and off for years in the eighties, and two of our kids were born there.

We holidayed there when the kids were small, and I sent groups of school children across on camps from time to time. I remember setting up an emergency evacuation procedure for some of the kids with dodgy health conditions. Helicopter evacuation was the only option.

Fortunately we never needed to use it.

The Sea Cat that got us there - taken through glass.


We stayed at Peppers Blue on Blue. It was a very pleasant place, but I have no idea who named it. The inventor of a sobriquet like that should forever remain anonymous. The resort is built on the littoral on Nelly Bay, and there is a very swish marina attached. There were some interesting pieces of maritime kit moored there.
Lots of expensive hardware.

 I found myself wondering what was the point of keeping all this expensive hardware moored. Surely it should have been cruising. But then, there are people who keep beautiful classic cars in museums and look at them, rather than drive them. Strange.

We hired a strange little jigger with the title "Rebel". It was actually a cut down Daihatsu Cuore with a Targa top (without the top, if you get my drift). It was a lot of fun, but the seatbelts were decorative rather than functional.

Once we removed ourselves from the posh accommodation, the charm of Magnetic Island emerged. It remains a unique environment, a combination of laid back charm and millennium chic. There were lots of dogs, all well-behaved and content. Their owners were the same.

Maggie dog. Her name is Tuesday.
The place has an interesting history.

Long before Magnetic Island had its current name, it was known as Yunbenun. It was called that by the Wulgarukaba people who lived on the island for thousands of years before European settlement. One of their popular camping spots was Cockle Bay near the island's southern tip.

Maggie from the air.

It was named Magnetic Island by Cook in 1770 when he believed the magnetic compass on his ship the Endeavour was affected by the island. 

During the 1800s the island became a popular picnic area and by the late 1890s the first resort was established in Picnic Bay.

Magnetic Island became an important defensive position during World War 2, because it was close to Townsville, which was an important military base.  Its views over Cleveland Bay were valuable, as the bay was a significant anchorage and assembly point for large fleets and convoys operating in the south Pacific.
Horseshoe bay mooring.

During the war, Magnetic Battery, an artillery battery and observation post, was built in the hinterland of Florence, Horseshoe and Arthur Bays. Picnic Bay also became a popular defence force rest and relaxation camp following the commandeering of a resort in the bay in 1939.

The remains of this battery are fascinating. The whole Eastern side of the island reminded me of the Long Hais in South Vietnam. The rocks, the heights, and the proximity of sparkling water are all present.
Our trusty steed.

It's a great place for a short break. Unless you simply want to do the beachcomber thing and chill out for a long time, you can see everything on the island in a day or two.

There is an amazing variety of accommodation, from basic to posh.

Check it out, gentle reader - preferably during winter.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Motoring - Gangnam Style

When it comes to meeting the needs of Oz drivers, the Koreans have pretty much aced it. Hyundai  sales in Australia across the market tell the story.

After three days and 1000kms in a Hyundai Tucson ActiveX this week, it's easy to understand this market success.

The car was brand new, and I was the first hire. It was head and shoulders above what they usually give me - the stodgy but comfy Outlander.

The ActiveX is actually a bit of a curate's egg. the good parts are the interior fit-out, the standard kit, and the user friendly nature of most of the equipment (except the Bluetooth - but more about that later). It is also a very refined vehicle in terms of ride, noise control and driver comfort.

These last features put it a cut above the Outlander and X Trail. I can't compare it with a Mazda CX-5, as I've never driven one.

 It also drives and handles very competently.

The not-so good bits are the engine, which needs to be revved to get the most out of it, and a wheel tyre combination included for appearance rather than practicality.

The ActiveX spec comes with front-wheel drive, six-speed auto and is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 121Kw of power and 203Nm of torque.

The front wheel drive bit is funny, as AVIS contracts to provide four wheel drive vehicles for the routes I travel. Maybe this one just slipped through.....

You can buy a diesel with four wheel drive, but that moves well into thirty grand plus territory. There's also a turbo charged 1.6 litre available. Maybe that version has the torque lacting in the ActiveX.

Don't get me wrong. The 2 litre does get up and boogie on demand, but it is a long way from effortless. I saw 5500rpm overtaking a road train.

Sometimes it's the little things that count. The extension on the sun visor is just the thing when heading west with a northern sun belting on your face.

The Hyundai Santa Fe has the same feature. I've driven plenty of these in the past, and the road feel was similar. The Santa Fes have a grunty diesel. Based on my experiences with Santa Fes and this Tucson, I'd go for the diesel if I was buying one.

As for the Bluetooth - it worked fine except that the phone had to be paired every time I started the car - a nuisance, to say the least.

And the low profile rubber might look great, but it is out of place on a vehicle that has pretensions to handle gravel roads. Don't even think about off-road...

In summary, this is a very competent, comfortable and user friendly vehicle. Expect to see lots of them on the road.


Saturday, 20 May 2017

Dust of Uruzgan

Reviewing music performance is a novelty for this humble blogger, but I'll  give it a crack.

You, gentle reader, can give me some indication of whether I should do it again. 

A little while ago, my bride and I went to a local concert by Fred Smith, of "Dust of Uruzgan" fame. This bloke has led an interesting life, and he was interviewed on Richard's Fidler's Conversation programme, which piqued my bride's interest.

I had heard and enjoyed his music, so off we went.

He delivers a pared back, low key performance. He is a competent musician, and a great story teller, rendered both through his lyrics and on-stage patter.

He also has an eye for irony and the bitter contradictions of modern anti-insurgency warfare. Much of what he covered had eerie echos of Vietnam.

The stories are stark and the metaphors vibrant. Whilst the delivery was laid back, the content wasn't. 

I'd recommend both his live performance, and the CD of the same name.

If there is no other reason for buying it, remember that a proportion of the proceeds are directed to Mates4Mates, a very worthy cause.

Below are the lyrics.

Dust of Oruzgan

In the ring they called me “Warlord”, my mother calls me Paul
You can call me Private Warren when your filing your report
As to how I came to be here, this is what I understand
In this hospital in Germany from the Dust of Uruzgan

I had just turned 28, just bought a new car
When I joined the first Battalion of the Big 1 RAR
We were next up for deployment into south Afghanistan
To combat the insurgence in the Dust of Uruzgan

It took seven months of training just to get into the joint
There were pushups and procedures there was death by Powerpoint
Then the RSOI course in Ali Al Salaam
But nothing can prepare you for the Dust of Uruzgan

Me and Benny sat together flying into Kandahar
Sucked back on our near beers in the Camp Baker Bar
Then up at 0530 we were on the Herc and out
In twenty flying minutes we were in to Tarin Kowt

We shook hands as the boys RIPped out from MRTF 1
And pretty soon were out patrolling in the Afghan summer sun
Walking through the green zones with a Styer in my hand
Body armor chafing through the dust of Uruzgan

We started up near Chora working 14 hours a day
Mentoring a Kandak from the Afghan 4th brigade
Down through the Baluchi into eastern Dorafshan
Working under open skies in the dust of Uruzgan

It’s a long way from Townsville not like any place you’ll see
Like suddenly you’re walking through from the 14th century
Women under burkhas, tribal warlords rule a land
Full of goats, and huts and jingle trucks is the Dust of Uruzgan

And the Education minister can neither read nor write
And the Minister for Women runs the knock shop there at night
They’ve been fighting there for ever over water, food and land
Murdering each other in the Dust of Uruzgan

There’s nothing about this province that’s remotely fair or just
But worse than the corruption is the endless fucking dust
It’s as fine as talcum powder on the ground and in the air
And it gets in to your eyes and it gets in to your hair

And it gets in to your weapon and it gets in to your boots
When bureaucrats all show up here it gets in to their suits
It gets in the machinery and foils every plan
There’s something quite symbolic ‘bout the Dust of Uruzgan

Still the people can be gracious and they’re funny and their smart
And When the children look into your eyes they walk into your heart
They face each day with courage and each year without a plan
Beyond scratching for survival in the Dust of Uruzgan

But the Taliban are ruthless, keep the people terrorized
With roadside bombs and hangings and leaving letters in the night
And they have no useful vision for the children of this land
But to keep them praying on their knees in the Dust of Uruzgan

It was a quiet Saturday morning when the 2 Shop made a call
On a compound of interest to the east of COP Mashal
We had some information they were building IED’s
So we cordoned and we searched it in accord with SOPs

I was on the west flank picket, propped there with Ben
There to keep a watchful eye out while the other blokes went in
We looked for signs of danger from the TTPs we’d learned
But the Nationals were moving back and forth without concern

We’d been standing still for hours when I took a quick step back
Kicked a small AP mine and everything went black
Woke up on a gurney flat out on my back
Had to ask them seven times just to get the facts

That I lived to tell the story through a simple twist of fate
The main charge lay ten feet away from the pressure plate
You see the mine was linked by det chord to a big charge laid by hand
Hidden there under Benny by the Dust of Uruzgan

I was a Queensland champ Thai Boxer now I look south of my knee
And all I see is bed sheets were my right foot used to be
Benny’s dead and buried underneath Australian sand
But his spirit’s out their wandering through the Dust, the Dust of Uruzgan

Now I’m going back to Townsville it’s the city of my birth
Some go back to Ballarat and some go back to Perth
I’ll be living with my mother who’s still trying to understand
Why we’re spending blood and treasure in the Dust of Uruzgan

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Follow the Finns

This is worth a look, gentle reader, although it is obviously a gross over simplification.

The bottom line, when it comes to the success of the Finnish system, is that it is child/student centred.

The other feature of the Finnish system, is that education belongs to the teachers, not the politicians.

Oh, and there is no system mandated standardized testing (NAPALM NAPLAN).

We could learn a great deal from the Fins.....

Blog Archive