Saturday, September 25, 2010

London commuting means Redlands computing

Image of Poole, Dorset, UK, posted by Barret Bonden at wikipedia.

THE name that computing trainer Tracy Robson awarded to her fledgling business enterprise less than one year ago sums up her outlook with six catchy syllables.The message that using a computer can be as "Easy as A-PC" quickly found a market for the Thornlands mother-of-two's training service, which uses her experience in information technology in the United Kingdom and Australia.

TRACY worked for 20 years with the IT departments of insurance companies. She and husband Martin, with their then two-year-old daughter Emily, migrated to Australia in 2005. Tracy says they lived in Poole, Dorset, and after closure of her employer's local branch she had to commute to London to work. While suffering the two-and-a-half hour train trips, she said to her sales consultant husband: "Let's go to the other side of the world."

THEIR family has grown in Queensland; their son Zac is now two years old. Emily, as one would expect from a daughter of a 'tech-savvy' mum, started her computing career at age three, using a cute little mouse, half the size of the standard and shaped like a bumblebee. Tracy worked for a Brisbane computer consultancy as an IT project manager before starting her own business. She offers "patient and professional" training for people to "learn on your computer at your home and at your pace". Her clients range from beginners to professional computer users who need to update their skills.

A QUALIFIED IT trainer, she has found that many senior people dislike 'classroom type' group training. "There is a lot of free training for older people but many feel silly asking questions and do not really learn what they want," Tracy says. "They need assistance one on one." Tracy gains great satisfaction from empowering people to overcome their fears of computing. She says many find great benefit in the notes she writes to detail the specifics of each session.

HER oldest client has been a 90-year-old woman. "She had bad arthritis in her hands, so I had to show her ways she could use the keyboard and the mouse," Tracy says. "I wrote the full notes on how to do things and what we did and she had something she could always refer back to. After a week or two she loved going online, even just looking for holidays, and she found benefit in checking the train and film times."

EASY AS A-PC offers to beat any written quote on "all aspects of computer training" including email, MS Office, web, shortcuts and photographic programs.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lions thrive on 'leftovers'

AS the wave of bargain hunters subsides and weary householders count the cash from weekend garage sales, a team of dedicated volunteers kicks into action. The Lions Club of Redland Bay-Victoria Point stocks its monthly flea market stall partly from garage sale "leftovers", which otherwise would often be discarded. The club's weekly advertisement for such donations produces items including furniture, bric a brac, clothing, books and toys that help finance a wide range of Lions programs and projects.

ANN Reed, in her second term as club president, says the donations account for a large proportion of the club's annual earnings from the flea market. She says the market raises about $9000 a year for the Lions, who share stallholder fees with Coast Guard Redland Bay. The next market will be on October 10. The most popular items include books, which the Lions sell for 20 cents each or $2 a bag. Some regular customers get a month's reading at a time, and donate the books back for resale. The club, with 31 members and a long list of beneficiaries, must be one of Redland City's most active service clubs.

ANN says the movement's accounting system ensures that funds raised from the community go back to the community. "We have two accounts: one for administration costs, all of which come from our members; and the community account, of which 100 per cent goes back to the community," she says. The latest disbursement list includes wheelchairs, donations to the aged, a computer for a boy who needed to study at home for health reasons and donations to Mount Cotton Scouts, the YMCA learn-to-swim program, and STAR Transport.

AFTER the Lions read that Stradbroke Island's Yulu Burri Ba Dancers needed costumes, the club donated $1200 for the material. Ann says the club provides annual bursaries of $300 to each of five primary schools to award to students on their transition to Year 8. It has paid cash to help sport achievers and others doing voluntary work. The club also donated $2000 to two Victorian clubs in areas affected by the recent floods. The Lions Club of Redland Bay-Victoria Point is now working towards one of its major annual fundraisers, a baby show at Victoria Point Shopping Centre on November 13.

WITH all this activity and more, the club always needs new members, Ann says. Looking to the future, she says her club hopes to establish a Leo club to introduce those aged 18 to 30 to the service movement.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

'Dogalyst' becomes business catalyst

Image: Microsoft clipart.

CONGRATULATIONS are in order for a small business that has just completed its first year in providing a special service in Redland City. Today, we say "happy anniversary" to Debra's Mobile Dog Grooming, which is a one-woman enterprise for Alexandra Hills mother-of-three Debra Brehmer. Business advisers counsel that the first year in any business can be tough but Debra says she has been having a ball pampering the city's canine population. "I love working with animals," she says. Debra grew up on a Beenleigh farm with "cats, dogs, horses, chooks, ducks and cattle".

DEBRA has had a range of jobs including window tinting, rustproofing and servicing on-site commercial waste separators. However, a fluffy Maltese terrier was the catalyst – or, in this case, the "dogalyst" – that brought her mobile dog grooming service into reality. The business plan started to come together as Debra groomed her own pooch, Tammy, now about five years old.Debra says she started a dog grooming service on weekends at her home, then late last winter she launched the mobile service, with all the gear for the job.

HER eye-catching pink and blue ad often features in the Classifieds' Pets & Pet Supplies column, listing all the essential services – Hydro Bath, clipping and coat stripping – with delicate attention to all the sensitive areas, like the nails, ears and certain other places of which dogs are highly protective. Debra says she has had some difficult assigments but if a dog gets snarly she just chats to it and calms it down.I f that doesn't work, there's always the muzzle. She had found some nervous dogs behave better if their owner takes a dog-less stroll ands leaves her to communicate directly with their pet, one on one.

SHE works according to the principle that "every dog is different". The Classified notice is the firm's only promotion, apart from word of mouth – and, of course, "bark of jaws". Debra is pleased with the response to such advertising in her local paper and says setting up her own business was "probably the best thing I have ever done". The Classifieds in The Redland Times and Bayside Bulletin are part of a proud tradition of local papers sharing in the hopes and dreams of people who are turning their ideas into business success. Debra supplied her artwork and picked the colours for her highly successful Classified advertisement. It is an inspiring fact that this business started "from scratch".

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Prayers are answered as cat finds new home

Image: A chocolate Burmese; photographer Vik Olliver; courtesy wikipedia.

THE potentially heart-breaking experience of giving away a much-loved pet cat became heart warming for Birkdale's Marja and Lawrence Opperman. Marja and Lawrence worried about the fate of the desexed 'chocolate-point' Burmese male, Lewis, for many weeks as they organised their affairs and put their their home on the market to allow them to travel. As she prepared a classified advertisement offering Lewis free to a good home, Marja prayed for the ageing and deaf cat which was suffering a bout of the flu.

THE Oppermans owned Lewis about a year after he was advertised as a giveaway in Logan City. "When we picked him up we were told he was about 12 years old and he had been neglected," Marya said. "He was skinny and had patches; he had no whiskers. But he was a fantastic cat. He was very sweet and very good natured. He started purring as soon as he came near you. It was a rescue mission but I have had cats all my life – I stabilised him and his diet and got a vet to look at him."

MARJA said Lewis became "part of the family" as she nursed him back to good health. He loved to sit on her shoulder. A Jehova's Witness, Marja said: "I prayed and prayed: Please let him go to a good home that gives the attention he deserves, maybe with someone in a wheelchair." On the day the ad appeared, the first caller was a woman who said she had suffered a stroke, was paralysed on her left side and now needed a wheelchair. "I told her that he was old and deaf and had been sick but he was sweet and loved attention, and she said, 'That's just what I want'." Marja and Lawrence delivered Lewis to the woman's Victoria Point home that afternoon. "She was so happy she burst into tears – it was very emotional," Marja said. "She offered us a cup of tea and she called herself his mum." I think she will suit him and he will suit her perfectly. Her carer also seemed to think it was a good match up."

MARJA said Burmese cats seemed to have long lives. She owned one of the breed for 20 years from its kittenhood.The Oppermans, who have lived in Redland City for the past 13 years, plan to see some more of Australia. With Lewis's future now secure, they are plotting a route that will include visiting friends in Cooktown but still have more preparation to do before they hit the road for the trip of a lifetime.

This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Boating community gets active

Image of storm over Moreton Bay, courtesy

SOFTLY spoken Janis Clarke, who grew up in the land-locked English district of Essex, will always remember her first experience in a sailing boat on Moreton Bay.
"It was quite beautiful really," says Janis, who describes herself as "very unboaty" and "a non-swimmer".
Luckily, Janis has a very boaty husband, John, who also hailed from the English countryside at Surrey, but nevertheless has seawater in his veins.
Janis says it took time after the couple bought a Farrier trimaran for her to build up enough trust and confidence to venture out on the bay.
WHEN she took the leap of mind and spirit the reward was memorable: A beautifully clear day with the sun shining.
"We motored out then, John put the sails up and the wind caught them," she says. "That was my first experience with sailing - it was quite relaxing, quiet calming, no noise, just pleasant.
"I felt very very safe; the boat rode the waves beautifully. On another occasion we even went through a storm and I wasn't worrried at all.
"It is very stable because it's a tri, but I wear my life jacket at all times."
The Clarkes live at Birkdale. They had two teenage children when they migrated to Australia 17 years ago; now they have two grandchildren.
"We are very settled and very happy here," Janis says.

THE Farrier has featured recently in the Classifieds Boats & Marine column for $21,000, with options to reduce the price by including just the original motor and removing the solar panels.
The column has been looking busy. The boating community, while active year round, seems to spring into action at this time of year, when the Redlands subtropical climate and the glory of Moreton Bay combine in heart-melting splendor.
The view across to Straddie and Moreton, with the multiple layers of the other islands, always evokes in this bay-lover a vision of an English ship arriving here in the 1840s.
If you pick your vista, without channel markers, you can tell yourself it hasn't changed much in the past century and a half.

YET here we are in a modern Redland City, with a vibrant culture of human activity reflecting in every edition of our local papers.
That's how I found out the Clarkes are selling their trimaran. Don't worry, they are not turning their back on the bay.
John has simply bought a new boat, so the Farrier needs a new skipper.

Thanks for joining me today in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Cocos palms 'on the nose'

Image of Syagrus romanzoffiana in Argentina - by Pablo D. Flores and courtesy wikipedia commons.

EVERYONE has a pet hate, and right now mine is the ugly old cocos palm. One of this species, Syagrus romanzoffiana, sent its roots from a neighbouring property to suck nutrients from a garden bed where yours truly, in mid-winter frenzy, has been digging.
During the removal of the roots to allow a crop of veges this spring, the gardener has suffered bomb attacks from cocos seed, which fruit bats have chewed at night, leaving the tree with an amoury to drop on any grounded assailant.
Invasive roots, squealing fruit bats, mushy fruit drops and the tattiness of difficult-to-remove dead fronds are not the full cocos horror story: Across the domestic patch, two S. romanzoffiana shade the house's solar panels.

WATCH for a public notice forming a Cocos Haters Collective. Gillard and Abbott ought to announce their cocos palms policies because the species is undoubtedly 'on the nose'.
The ABC show Gardening Australia must have prompted cheers in lounge rooms around the nation in 2007 when it announced the cocos palm was "now ... regarded as a weed of national significance".
The register of Weeds of National Significance (WONS) is like a rogues' gallery of nasty pests. However, a check on the Federal Government's Weeds in Australia website this week found no mention of S. romanzoffiana among 21 WONS-rated plants.
S. romanzoffiana also failed to get the thumbs down among Redland Council's declared plant pests.

OBVIOUSLY, not everyone feels as strongly as me. It was pleasing, however, to find in the Tree Services section another cocos hater.
Josh Bell, who with dad Chris operates The Tree Musketeers (employing casual workers to make up the trio), gets much pleasure from cutting down a cocos.
He says the full list of problems aside, they're just unsightly. One would expect someone with a company name like the above to have a sense of humour but Josh says the cocos joke is on him.
About 30 of them create an avenue on the family property; his job is to climb high, prune off the dead fronds and try to make ugly palms look good.

JOSH recently worked off some rising tension by removing Washington palms from a Birkdale address. He says that species, also known as the Chinese fan palm, is another pest, with nasty spikes, so the job was "not much fun".
For the record, says the undesirable impact of the cocos is its spread into riparian areas and dry eucalypt forests, not any of those cited here.

Thanks for joining me today in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Knitting toward a better future

Image courtesy African Equity.

THE ancient art of knitting is a handy hobby for many modern Australians but half the world away in Kenya it can be a survival skill. Kenyan families, like those in the town of Nyahururu, near the hometown of US President Barak Obama's family, depend on the garments they knit, not only to clothe themselves but also to earn income from sales. That is why the charity, African Equity, placed a Classified notice seeking hand-operated sewing machines.

THE aim is to equip a Nyahururu orphanage to train its youngsters.African Equity, which Cleveland businessman Chris Anderson founded about two years ago, focuses on "breaking the cycle of poverty through education and employment – creating an environment of self sufficiency and autonomy, not dependence". Mainly supporting Kenya's largest orphanage, Heroes of the Nation, African Equity also runs other community projects such as medical clinics, adult education and vocational training. It has set up business initiatives, including maize grinding and agricultural and mechanical services, and regularly ships containers of goods, many of which are donated.

THE call for knitting machines followed a recent trip to Nyahururu by African Equity volunteers including Alexandra Hills dentist Debbie Leong, Cleveland accountant Derek Grewar and former Rural Press Cleveland general manager Greg Watson. Derek and Greg took their families on the working holiday. Greg returned with advice that the knitting machines are "like gold" in the Kenyan culture. Bayside Bulletin/The Redland Times sales coordinator Gordon Lawrence, who also is an AE volunteer, had good news for a meeting of the group this week at Noci Italian Ristorante, Raby Bay. Three Redland donors are keen to back the cause and their machines will be shipped to the orphanage soon.

GORDON says the warm response points to a big future for the Redland-based charity, which has about 20-30 volunteers and a policy of encouraging direct contact with the Kenyan beneficiaries, whether through visits or other methods including internet hook-ups. "African Equity is helping the kids over there in a myriad of ways," he says. "They have only just received seven containers that were sent about a month ago." He says shipments have included clothing, kitchen utensils, a piano and even an ambulance.

THE website,, says 47,000 pairs of reconditioned prescription glasses from the Redcliffe Lions Club and 300 all-terrain wheelchairs from the Gold Coast Rotary Club were part of the 2009 inventory, along with surplus stock, seconds and clearance items. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars of benefit has been created from products that may have otherwise been left idle in warehouses," the charity says.

Thanks for joining me today in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column appeared in The Redland Times in early August.

Jasmine the mini horse: She's 'almost human'

Thanks for joining me to meet the great people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times. Image shows another miniature horse (courtesy

THE cute creature that won Tony Castelli's heart just a few weeks ago still has him cooing with deep affection. But Tony has realised it's not the right time and place for him to own a miniature pony, so he needs to sell the three-year-old chestnut mare, Jasmine. The decision to place the notice in the Classifieds this week was hard for Lancashire-born Tony, who generally prides himself on his good judgement after 34 years in business in Queensland since he migrated from England.

THIS time, he has had to admit that his emotions ruled and he made an 'impulse buy' after he fell in love with Jasmine at first sight."I just don't have enough grass here," Tony said from his small Thornlands acreage property. "She needs to run around in a big paddock. "The ad said "cute as a button, very intelligent", but Tony said that was an understatement – the horse was "almost human", sticking her nose into his tea mug in the morning and trying to get a nip of port in the evening. Jasmine found her way into Tony's downstairs pool room and had a game with the red balls, and she showed mechanical skill, selecting sockets from his toolbox.

TONY grew up on a farm in the north of England and has owned full-size horses. He first thought Jasmine would be good for his two-year-old granddaughter, Jorja, but had to acknowledge the child was too young for a horse, even a miniature. He is grateful to Jasmine for introducing him to "the lovely people" at the Pinklands-based pony club, from which he sought advice. "When I took her down there, she fancied a big Arab stallion and I had to tell her, 'Sorry but he's out of your league'," Tony said. As the venture into horse ownership unfolded, the miniature proved herself to be out of Tony's league. Still, he marvels at how the local schoolchildren call "Jasmine" as they pass the Dinwoodie Road property. He said she had so much personality he would be very sad to see her go, and his wife Nerida, daughter Jo and Jorja would be more so.

TONY started training Jasmine to pull a sulky that he hopes the new owners will take in a package deal, with the two at $450 each.Tony, who was an award-winning master butcher in England, said he had made many good decisions on buying and selling – he went on to own 21 businesses in Queensland. He is busy improving his Thornlands property, which unfortunately is too small for Jasmine.

Cultural, economic views on the big Australian house

Image of housing courtesy microsoft clipart.

THE Australian obsession with big houses has been a visible social trend while sustainable development and wise use of resources have been a focus.
Some may regard the 'upsizing' as a snub to environmental considerations. Of course, many families need big houses and others do not but whether need, want or greed is the driver, analysts find positives as well as negatives from the big-house trend.
Less than one year ago, statistics showed the typical size of a new Australian home had reached 215 square metres, Fairfax Media economics writer Peter Martin reported.

QUOTING Statistics Bureau data compiled for Commonwealth Securities, Martin said Australians were piling on sitting rooms, family rooms, studies and extra bedrooms, with the size of our homes overtaking those in the US as the world's biggest.
Commonwealth Securities economist Craig James acknowledged that "the biggest homes in the world ... could be better utilised'' but he said the number of Australians living in each home had risen slightly.
"Population is rising, as is the cost of housing and the cost of moving house, so we are making greater use of what we've got," he said. "Children are staying at home longer and more people are opting for shared accommodation ... If sustained, it will save us building 166,000 homes.''

MY research into house size followed a recent Classified notice seeking host families for about 40 Japanese teenagers who will visit Redland City next month under a program involving Education Queensland International and Cleveland State High School.
Yoshie Harris, who organises the annual visit through her study tour agency Speaknow Education, says Australian house sizes are the biggest surprise for the Japanese teenagers.
Website references indicate the average dwelling size in Japan is under 100 square metres – less than half the size of the typical new Aussie home.

ALTHOUGH house size has topped the list of student comments, Yoshie says the visitors also note the beautiful greenery and beaches, and the friendliness of Australians.
She enjoys working with the young people from her homeland. Yoshie and her husband Leon met while he taught English in Japan about 20 years ago. In 2004, they settled at Alexandra Hills with their children, Erica, now 12, and Leonard, 10.
The Redland visitors, aged 14 and 15, from Shukutoku Junior High School will be part of a 162-student group, which will be split among four South East Queensland High Schools.
By Wednesday, Yoshie needed only two more host families for the Cleveland group during the three-night stay from August 26 to 28.

Thanks for joining me in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.