Oh my Dawg

Minnie dozing  20 June 2012
What a cold, rotten winter afternoon. It seems colder and wetter and harsher than I remember in previous winters.
Minnie has been inside all afternoon since the thunder at about 1pm. She seems happy, as shown in the shot above, dozing, snoring, noticing every move I make, but happy. I gave her the bone she expects at 5pm and this time, I let her eat it inside (very unusual) without moving. She chewed it all up and seemed happy. I gave her a small meatball as well.
But 20 minutes ago, just when I was thinking of providing her 6.30pm dinner, while the wind is blowing and the rain is drizzling and the cold is clamping, she went to the door and wanted to go out. Maybe she wanted a poo, but she hasn’t come back. I saw her poo earlier. It’s better, of course, if she eats less, just like me!
I tried to keep her in, but she wants to be outside, no matter how cold, no matter how bleak. I give her her wish, but it hurts me. She hasn’t come back into this warm room. I hope she’s OK.

7:15pm – aah, not so bad. I went out of the room then came back and there she was, lying on the cold concrete outside the back door in the rain. I opened the door and she came in and accepted her dinner. I will try to keep her inside for the night, but she’ll almost certainly insist on going out again soon. She does it by going to the door, panting, grunting and looking back at me: “Let me out.” I can’t insist.

Looking on the bright side

We’re just near that little Rottnest Island in the middle.
I read an American (he’s in Wisconsin) photography blog every day and the author put up a quite personal item a few days ago about houses, mortgages, credit and living in the USA. I found it fascinating and started to respond by email, then had second thoughts when I realised I wasn’t really talking about the same topics.
But I think it’s worth posting what I wrote:
I’m in Oz and many Australians use the term “the Lucky Country” here in a self-congratulatory way, but it was actually coined (by Donald Horne) as irony, meaning things just fell in our laps. It’s not all luck, but this dry, dessicated, mineral rich, harsh country treats us well, provided we treat it well. For most of us here, it is pretty easy to do well.
I’m 65 and retired now, and I have been since I took a voluntary redundancy payout from my job as an electronics technician at age 52. Yes, I have not had to work since late 1999, and I’ve lived well: it’s been easy. Why? Because I had a secure, fairly well paid job* (electronics technician*). I bought my first house in 1982 with a fairly small saved deposit, sold it after renovating it for three years and bought my present house later in 1986 in a sort of distressed sale but in a top area.  “Worst house in the best street.” Boy, it paid off.
I cleared my mortgage in 11 years by paying a bit more each month than I had to (ie by paying 26 fortnightly payments rather than 12 monthly ones), plus making extra payments very occasionally. I’ve seen its value increase x11 fold since 1986! 
When I was made redundant in 1999, I had zero debt, because I was always careful not to go into deep debt. My payout plus my savings saw me through to age 65 and now I get the Age Pension which will see me through to my grave. It’s not quite enough to live on with my beer tastes, but my father lived on it. It can be done. I have other money to supplement it, but the pension is good.
Australia is nowhere near as wealthy as America, as you know, but it’s easy to do OK here, especially now. I have some US friends of (a bit younger age) but they are not doing nearly as well, and I don’t quite understand why. I think it’s because they never got a solid qualification in some vocation, instead, working at a variety of less skilled jobs.
Especially at this time of massive global wealth disruption, Australia is cruising. We never had a recession in 2008/9. Our housing market didn’t crash. Unemployment is less than 6% and falling. We had GDP growth of about 3.5% last year and my state, Western Australia, is booming. Unemployment is less than 3.5%, growth is about 6% and employers are in despair at being unable to get workers – in fact labour shortages are stopping our growth.
Yes, it’s not all good: cost of living is high, accommodation is scarce, youth crime is bad, drugs are just as much a problem as anywhere else, etc etc. But generally, we are doing OK.
Sorry to crow, but we have universal top quality free health care (by an income levy, of course), excellent pharmaceutical benefits (my prescriptions cost $5.80 each), and no-one need fear falling ill or being out of work for a prolonged period. The dole doesn’t stop (provided you play by the rules, keep looking for work and take jobs when they’re offered.) If you’re sick or disabled, you’ll be OK. You will get the care you need. We generally don’t have beggars on the streets, unlike America.
We have reasonable tax rates (tax-free threshold is $18,200, then 19% for each dollar over that to $37,000 etc etc.) The average wage is about $1400 pw (approx. $70,000pa). The housing loan interest rate is 6.8% and falling. Banks have money to lend and there’s no such thing as, what’s it called, “lock up and leave”? — mailing the keys back to the bank and losing your equity if you can’t keep your payments up? If you have to sell up, which can happen, you don’t lose your equity.
We don’t allow guns, nor do we worship them. You can own guns, but you have to jump through hoops and prove to the police that you have a good reason to own one. No-one can carry a gun except the police and armoured car guards.  We don’t need bank guards.
We also don’t kill people. We banned capital punishment decades ago and we don’t kill people just because we don’t like them or their government, or because we want revenge.
We don’t attack other countries. We don’t feel we have the right to invade other countries.  Yes, we’re in Afghanistan and were in Iraq and Vietnam and Korea with the US, but that’s because we were supporting America. Other countries don’t hate Australia as they do America, except for our association with America.
And shock, horror, voting is compulsory in Australia. You don’t have to actually vote – no-one sees whether you do or not, but you do have to attend the polling booth and be counted off or cop a $20 fine, that’s all. It’s not hard.
*All I had to do was get  a good qualification (by putting in the hours at tech college and getting my Diploma)  when I was young, and do my job well. I was lucky to be bright and have generally good health, but the rest fell into place. A few years ago I could call myself a millionaire in assets and savings (in fact, I even have a share of a luxury villa in Bali), but I’m just an ordinary tech! It wasn’t that hard.
So with all America’s wealth, all America’s population, all America’s skills, talent, resources, why is life so tough in America for so many people? Australia is not as wealthy, but the wealth we have is spread so much more evenly. Yes, there are poor people here, but nowhere near as dirt poor as in the USA, that hugely wealthy country. I don’t understand America.

At last!

That guy who pushed a man through a window at the Ocean Beach Hotel in Cottesloe, resulting in the man dying a horrible death, has been found guilty of murder.
At last a jury in WA has done justice. I’ve been wanting to comment on this for the past week but didn’t dare because of sub judice rules.
Now I can. If you’ve seen the pictures of the scene, it was the upper window that was smashed! To me, that shows that the thug, the murderer as we can call him now, pushed Andrew Marshall so hard that he lifted him off the floor and propelled him through the upper pane of a window, where he fell to the street below and died of the fall and glass cuts.

He pleaded not guilty and said he didn’t plan to kill him. Bit late, mate. For once, for once, our court system has returned justice.  I’ve long felt that in this state, you can get away with murder, but if you’re innocent, you’ll be found guilty. Proven in five separate, terrible cases. Shame, WA, shame!

Rain, beautiful rain

Misty rain
That misty look is rain! Compare that with the previous golden afternoon light views. When it rains here, we love it. Bloody cold, though. I’ve just had to put the heating on in the middle of the day, first time I’ve done that in years.  Of course, I could put my cardigan on … hadn’t thought of that.
Poor Minnie is huddling near me right now, panting with fear from the thunder outside. She tried to pull the gate open just now. There’s nowhere to run, she just has to get away from the thunder.
Here’s what it looked like about 10 mins ago:
W-I-D-E angle thunder clouds
Those are thunder clouds. It was rumbling.  But notice how wide the view is? I’ve just this morning received my Sigma 10-20mm super wide zoom lens. I’ve owned this lens before in Canon mount but sold it last year. Now I’ve got a Pentax version at about 40% less than I paid in 2008. One of those on-line bargains, not eBay, not from HK or China, from Brisbane. Happy to support local businesses.
Having said that, I was surprised to see a ResMed CPAP machine in the window of a chemist’s shop at Innaloo yesterday. They were never sold at retail level in the past – doctors only, at high prices (my machine cost $1600. Even the plastic mask alone costs over $200). If you wanted spares, even as recently as last year, I had to make an appointment for a week ahead for them to access my records and assess whether they might deign to supply me. After all, it might need fitting …
I went in and enquired about getting a replacement tube for mine. I don’t actually need it yet, but I was just asking.
They don’t keep stocks, of course. Not a tube, anyway. The woman got out a ring file and started to look up the part and price.
Five minutes of this and she still hadn’t found it in the list. I was just about ready to say forget it and walk away. I explained that I bought one last year from the hospital and it cost $22 but I had to make an appointment a week ahead and collect it at Northcourt, Karrinyup. I’d subsequently found that I could order it from a US web site, supplying the same ResMed product, for US$10!
Oh yes, she said, we hear that these days, and continued searching her lists with no result. Eventually I said I’ll come back another day. Oh, just let me ring the distributors. OK, she did and after much questioning (for Dog’s sake, I’m using one of the most common machines, a ResMed S8 Autoset) she finally got the price: $35. And when she mentioned my US$10 price they said, no, we can’t do anything.
So I carefully explained that I’m not necessarily going to buy from the US, but how can the same part, from the same maker, ResMed, an Australian company, cost $10 there and $35 here?
If they’d been able to produce the item in the shop, on the spot, or even given me a price without such hassle, I would have paid the $35. But probably not now. What a pity.
The same applies to software. I got an email this morning offering me something I want for $49.99. I thought, YES, I’ll have that so I followed the link. It took me to the US website, but that’s OK, I can download it. But no, it has to be supplied in a box. But they won’t ship to Australia.
OK, sigh, I’ll buy it from the Sydney web site. But the price is DOUBLE! $99.99 if bought here. No way. I’m not putting up with that. I’m trying to find a way to express my displeasure but they don’t make it easy.