Thursday, December 18, 2014

Out with the new and in with the old

When we changed our telephone plan to save $8+ per month, we eventually received the promised T Box. I won't say how many hours between us we spent on the phone to Telstra trying to sort things out. We were eventually directed back to Australia when it all became too hard for the Filipinos at the Manila call centre. The whole process went on for a couple of weeks.

The upshot was we did receive our T Box. I wondered if it could record? It can, with dual tuners. Does it have a programme guide? It does. We had a choice of two free movies on a Thursday night but how does one choose between two rubbish movies? But yes, it had free movies. It could readily access a lot of movies, some of them interesting to me but for a fee, added to our phone bill. We chose none. I wondered why it was so light compared to our not so old Topfield digital recorder. I think the Toppy has a spinning disk like hard drive, whereas the T Box, some sort of solid state drive, like a flash drive.

We don't have pay tv and don't really want it but the T Box was really an encouragement to sign up and pay, but it did not work for us and Telstras cunning plan did not work either.

The T Box took the place of the Toppy recorder and I immediately wanted the Toppy back. It took R a while to click but eventually he asked me to put the Toppy back. The Topfield is a dedicated digital tv recording machine and while with older and quite expensive versions of the machine when we had issues, I think to do with overheating, the latest one works flawlessly. I note they are now quite cheap to buy.

But if you don't have any sort of digital recorder and you like what Telstra has on offer as a plan, then the T Box does do the job of recording tv adequately.

Before all this T Box nonsense, we bought a new tv. Only by sheer luck, it can do Free View Plus. When we change channels, as well as the station number popping up the the screen, we also have the option of pressing the green button on the tv remote to use FVP. I recall trying to watch a commercial tv station catch up service on the computer and it was hideously peppered with ads that you could not skip through. It is one thing for ads to come on tv where you can have a chat, pour a drink or go to the lavvie. It is quite another thing to sit through minutes of ads when watching on the computer. ABC iview worked flawlessly on the computer. I haven't tried ABC Free View Plus on the tv yet, but I will bet it is better than the commercial offerings which are rubbish. Something I was watching on FVP had the end of it chopped off, after all the absurd spinning of a symbol after one ad. R had the same happen to him.

Just to clarify, the tv picks up this Free View Plus signal from our modem/router internet connection. There is always a bit of delay, as you experience with computers, no, slower than a computer, ours at least.

In summary, the bundled plan from Testra is not bad, but oh what a headache it was for us to get. I will also go so far as to say, it was misrepresented to us when we were cold called from the Philippines.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On and off the balcony

The petunia improved a lot after its haircut but given how hard the roots are in the pot, it is quite old and tired now. It cost no more than a bunch of cheap flowers, so we will get another plant.


Other years have seen us put up some elaborate balcony lighting. This year we bought two strings of LED lights and wound them around the balcony railing. These are the solar collectors to power them. Long way down, Grace. What? You really want to see the lights? They are just two strings of lights coloured lights, nothing special.


The other balcony plant has been with us for a very long time, maybe a couple of decades. It went on holiday to a friend's house for a few months, but we missed it and brought it to its new home at The Highrise. It nearly died earlier during our winter when I did not water it for a long time, but it revived and as you can see it is thriving. The red is quite brilliant. The long branch needs cutting off, but I haven't the heart to do it. Next winter I will.


I was sitting at the desk and looked at the temperature indicator thingie and it showed blank. Ah, batteries on the outdoor measuring unit must need replacing. Out I go to check and where is the unit? Only the bracket remains. Oops. It was a very firm clip. I don't know how, but it must have fallen and bounced on the balcony and over the edge.


Somewhere way down here, smashed to smithereens I guess. In my effort to take a scary photo for Grace, I scared myself for a moment. I can look down at something but not just look down at nothing when I am right at the edge. Grace is probably quite ill now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gum Trees

Not always welcomed around the world, but one of Australia's most successful export is the humble gum tree, or Eucalyptus. "Look R", I nudged him, "Out the window, it is a forest of gum trees", and so it was, in Vietnam viewed from our train.


Gum trees are the most wonderfully evolved species to suit our climate. From the swamp gums which like to have wet feet, to gums that survive in some of the driest of our land, to gums that can withstand intense bush fires and recover. They form hollows in the trunks where branches break off to provide nesting sites for birds and animals, but only when they become quite old. Note politicians, stop the felling old growth native forests.

I could talk about how they breed and grow, but instead I will point out something about their leaves and bark, which are just so well designed.

Now here is a small gum tree branch with the leaves. The first thing to note is how they all hang down. If they were more conventional when rain hits them much of the water would bounce off and some stay on the leaf to quickly evaporate. But with the leaves pointing down and being the shape they are, every drop of precious moisture from rain or even dew is directed straight down to the ground to be taken up by the tree's roots, so necessary for their survival on the driest continent on earth.



The gum trees must also be able to survive fire and generally they can. Only the hottest bush fires seem to kill them. How do they survive?

Many gum trees have a thick fibrous bark and some have smooth bark that peels off in long sections and just hangs. Along comes the fire and the hairy bark quickly takes the fire up to the top of the tree as does the long pieces of very dry hanging bark of the smooth barked gum. Once the fire reaches the leaves, rich in eucalyptus oil and giving off strong fumes, they quickly burn and because of their long and hanging shape, the fire quickly reaches the top of the tree and away from the trunk of the tree. The end result is a tree with no leaves and burnt branches, but the trunk of the tree has been protected. From the trunk, new growth will quickly appear. Note, in the Australian state of New South Wales not far from Sydney are the well known Blue Mountains, so called because of the blue haze that hangs over them, which is eucalyptus fumes from the trees.

Photo from helsieshappenings of a Eucalypt with a thick and protective fibrous bark.


Photo from Clareges.blogspot.com of a smooth barked Eucaplypt with long tendrils of dry bark shed at the right time of the year for bushfires.


And just when I haven't seen anything at shorpy.com lately to point out to you, how is this photo from 1910 of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, California. Our gum trees certainly began their journeys around the world very early.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Such botheration before Christmas

Should I say anything about the siege underway in Sydney? I have not been to Martin Place since the early 1980s. It was quite horrid then. There is little to say about the siege yet media has given us a rolling coverage since the event began, and essentially said nothing. Politicians have spoken and essentially said nothing. Police have spoken and also said nothing. If it is a Moslem attack designed to garner publicity and create fuss and panic, it has worked.

While it is a huge event of great interest, I wonder if it would be better if we read about the event after it happened. Yes, impossible in these instant media days. If you tweeted to #martinplacesiege with 'my prayers are with you', I hope you get struck by lightening. Neither God nor Mohamed will help those inside against a nutter.  If you retweeted an unconfirmed rumour, I also hope you are struck by lightening.

Our police forces and special type police cost us a lot of tax money because they are very highly trained. I will leave the resolution up to them. I think they know what to do better than I do, and better than most of you.

Kapow! Got him between the eyes with my .22 boss!

Communication Breakdown

It was going to be a dinner for our Fijian Indian friend's birthday and then it turned into a catch up for friends pre Christmas. For some reason R ended up with the task of booking a table at The Dick, the Dick Whittington Tavern. (all Dick jokes and puns were just deleted)

The number of people coming grew. We started with eight and every couple of days the number would increase. R called the hotel each time and increased booking number. After a stressful Mother day for him, where he takes Mother out to appointments and shopping, two more requested to come to the dinner. When the telephone failed R, the air became rather blue. I suppose I must have posted about it at the time when we bought the phone and it wasn't a bad choice. But it is getting on a bit and the batteries go flat quickly when it is in use for a while. R has the second handset in a cradle in his bedroom, but he never uses it. Handsets were swapped over when the batteries went very low on one handset. ABI Brother complained earlier in the week he could not hear me properly on the phone. The last straw was when R was talking to the Dick, already stressed, and the phone cut out. He did not throw it, but was probably justified in doing so. He ranted for a bit and then used his mobile to complete the updated booking to 18 people.

Ok, the phone must be more than five years old. It was cheap but worked well enough. Let me look online. I like the look of this one. Of course my darling, you can have a new phone, as long as you don't want a second handset that you will never use. Go and get it. The next morning he did. The only reason we keep the landline is it does not cost us anything to have.

Apart from it only ringing six times before the answer system kicks in, it is great. It came with a detailed manual but I haven't had to use the manual as menu system is just so instinctive. It Bluetoothed our mobile phone books and downloaded them, but the system for using that is a bit clunky and so I manually entered our call list of about 25 phone numbers. As well as ringing it speaks who the call is coming from, such as me, Andrew calling, Andrew calling. If the person is not in the phone's system, the voice reads out the number. It has a good speed dial system of nine numbers.

I think we can use our mobiles through the phone to make calls using Bluetooth, but as I always say, take from technology what you want and need and don't worry about the rest.

The old phone. If you are wondering what the dangling cord is, its the handset cord for the building's front door intercom system.


Buried in depths of my wardrobe, this old beast was dragged out for temporary use. It was once white. Plastic doesn't age well. Bring back the Bakelite I say. The buttons at the bottom were for pre-programmed numbers. I wonder who's numbers we had there some twenty plus years ago? I was tempted to press them to see who would answer, but then instantly became afraid, very afraid of ghosts of the past. They probably would not work anyway as an extra digit has been added to Australia phone numbers since this one was in use. Later edit: I've given this further thought and I think this phone was left behind at our rental flat and we kept it when we cleaning the flat up before we sold it. What happened to our original white table phone?


We are quite happy with the new phone, with the exception of it only ringing six times before the answer machine starts and we are not keen on the heavy American accent of the voice.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

One should get out more often

An old Jewish woman, a Greek fisherman, a young Irish backpacker, a 44 year old very drunk Aussie and a really hot gay dude, moi, walked into a bar and how interesting was the conversation.The drunk Aussie was holding court and mostly talking the crack about music, but there were discussions of fish by Greek fisher Nick and the Irish backpacker was incomprehensible. Three times he told me his name before I picked it up, but I have now forgotten what it was. The Aussie swayed forward and back and but did not fall over and was most emphatic that while he loved fishing, he had never fished from St Kilda Pier. The old Jewish woman loved The Doors and for her age, she was surprisingly conversant with modern music and with Greek Nick's favourite traditional songs too.

At the same bar, I watched horse racing and soccer on screens. I minded my own business and how lovely that when I left the area a long haired bearded hipster stood up from his seat and opened the door for me as I departed. I waxed between how kind, and so you should open the door for me. I gave him the most brilliant smile I could muster.

Such are nights at The Dick. Dinner was good and with sixteen people joining us, there was always someone new to chat to once I was bored with the previous person.

Tomorrow River will publish her Musical Monday post. My inaugural Musical Monday post is of my favourite Doors track, Love her Madly, coming to you on Sunday because of a backlog of posts.

I am sure it is blokes like Jim Morrison that made me gay.

 


Oh my O-Bahn

Adelaide in the Australian state of South Australia has a curious form of public transport known as the O-Bahn. It is a guided busway. Special buses operate between Tea Tree Plaza in the north of Adelaide and can cover the 12 kilometres to the city in 15 minutes, travelling at 100 km/h. The buses are guided along the track without the driver having to steer.

Around four cars a year get stuck on the O-Bahn after entering by mistake, in spite of there being plenty of signage. One feature of the O-Bahn is a sump ripper, which rips the sump of  car when run over and hopefully stops the car when the oil runs out from the engine. While that may sound extreme, a head on collision with a bus travelling at 100 km/h could be catastrophic.

Yep, it really looks like a road for cars to drive on to me. Photos from the electric newspapers.






Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Libs love to Slash and Burn

Managing Director of the ABC has decreed;
The Health Report
The Law Report
The Media Report
The Science Show
are probably safe from the cuts at ABC Radio National, RN.

Not so
Rear Vision (brilliant, and should be broadcast to the world. Oh, it is already)
By Design
360
Bush Telegraph (a terrible loss to country people and people who interested in rural matters)
Hindsight

I expect they are all gone.

On the Media Report boss bloke of RN, Deb Leavitt, tried to play a role as as spin doctor about the cuts and she failed miserably. I hope she is a better boss than she is a spinner.

The loss of these programmes are due to funding cuts to our ABC by The Abbott. As usual I was a bit behind on podcasts but on my way home from work, stuck in traffic, I listened to Communication Minister's wife Lucy on the podcast By Design. Once home, I heard on our ABC Communication Minister Turnbull try to explain why PM Abbott's promise to not cut funding to the ABC had been fulfilled. The duplicitousness of Turnbull explaining away cuts to our ABC when his own wife appeared on one of the shows to be cut, galled me.

Ultimately it is up to the boss of our ABC to decide how the ABC budget is spent. The decision to cut certain programmes seems quite political to me, and good on him, in some ways.

Another of Mark Scott's decisions was to end the local state editions of 7.30 on Friday nights. I have seen it now, but the last edition of 7.30 Victoria was seen as it was broadcast by R. Did he blame Mark Scott over ABC budget allocations? No, he said that ****ing Abbott needs shooting. I hope everyone thinks like that, justified or not.

I will remain sanguine about the cuts to ABC RN and watch and see, no, listen to the new style of content, promised by Ms Leavitt.

The loss of ABC TV local editions of 7.30 is a tragedy and I will write about that separately.   

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bus Update

How bad is the running of Trandev's buses past our place? Last night I noticed two buses travelling together at 10.17pm. Were the buses the 9.50, the 10.09 or the 10.14? I would guess the 10.09 and the 10.14 running 8 minutes and 3 minutes late respectively.

Meanwhile, our tram system seems to be near collapse with constant breakdowns and tram arrival times bearing no relationship to the posted times at stops or the online timetable. Even the live time indicators at stops can't seem to be anywhere near accurate. An inside source at Yarra Trams tells me that for the pre Christmas rush and extra traffic, Yarra Trams has cut the timetable running time for trams. Nice work Yarra Trams, not.

Perplexed in Paddington

 What is this thing called, love?


Is it a wheel like sculpture? When we exited from the wrong end of Paddington Station and became slightly confused, I saw the 'sculpture'. Ok, while I've showed you the Rolling Bridge in Paddington Basin before, there is a better video now. The bridge raises to allow boats access to a mooring area and operates for tourists one day a week.