Saturday, April 01, 2006

Keeping me out of chat sites, but not necessarily trouble

Just a bit of listen to the wireless before sleeping. Older Women's Peforming Circus is putting something on. Hmmm, yeah they are all dykes? and incredibly talented. North Melbourne Town Hall is where they perform. I have not been past there for years, maybe twenty. I will goand have a look at squalid North Melbourne tomorrow. It is an outing and away from the internet and domestic tasks.

I know it is is the 57 tram from Elizabeth Street. I chose the bus rather than the tram to get to town as I was unsure if there was some disruption to tram services due to the Formular One Grand Pricks being held nearby. I know saying Pricks is a bit silly, but no sillier than you rev heads who pronouce one word with a French accent and the other English.

It is only one city block to Elizabeth St from either the Swanston St tram or Queen St bus. I caught the Elizbeth Street tram and fortunately most of the crowd alighted at the Victoria Market.

It was such a short time before the tram swung into Errol St and I was there. I alighted at Queensberry St and walked down the western side of the street. It is not very long but ever so charming. I recall it as a dead shopping centre, but not now. It was busy enough with people but not overwhelmed by cars. There were plenty of places to eat and as it was quite early, the cheap raisan toast and coffee tempted me back to where I left the tram. There were a few questionable types at nearby tables and I caught some 'interesting snippets', while I read, ate my toast and drank my coffee. It just has a wonderful 'village' feel to it.

I walked down the other side of the street and noted that I went past a well known comedy venue, the Comic's Lounge, and the Lithuanian Club and then spotted on the opposite side of the street what I reckon must nearly be the narrowest hotel in Melbourne. I think the Comic's Lounge is part owned by Charlie Pickering who writes a column in one of Melbourne's weekly give away mags. He is the only thing in one of them that is worth reading.

I knew the tram was a few minutes away yet, so I rounded the corner into Victoria Street and noted the elaborate decoration on this much wider hotel.

I was walking slowly and noticed a car pulling up in the left hand turn lane just a bit ahead of me. What? I thought. The idiot is parking so close to the intersection in a turn lane and getting out.

He came straight towards me, an older man, Italian perhaps. Very dapper, including a sharp hat and tie and he didn't have much of an accent.
"Please", he asked, "I cannot find Victoria Market. I have been there many times but I am confused".
"Straight ahead," I advised him.
"Please, you come with me to show me."
"You are in Victoria Street. Just drive straight ahead."
He was very jovial and very touchy feely.
"I am so counfused. Please."

Short of him having a syringe full of a tranqualizer, there wasn't much danger, apart from being driven by an old Italian man, so I obliged for what was a couple of hundred metres I suppose.
You know where I am going don't you. His hand went straight for the grope as he drove. I did not make a fuss for the brief time I was in the car, but once we reached Peel Street, I told him this is it and opened the door and got out. He was effusive in his thanks and gratitude. Jokingly friends have been known to say I have a word that starts with s and ends with t and has an l in it stamped on my forehead. I thought they were joking.

I was a bit dazed as I walked on towards Elizabeth Street thinking I would catch the bus home. No Queen Street is back that way and not sure of where the buses enter Queen St and I just left Peel St, which was where I could have caught a tram almost directly home. Stupid. Not thinking clearly.

Wander on to Swanston Street in a very thoughtful state of mind and caught a St Kilda Road tram home to play with my newly purchased toy. More on that later.

Friday, March 31, 2006

New toy New toy

We have been looking at new cordless phones for sometime, like a couple of years. Although ours works well, it is an ugly beast with large clunky handsets. We were strolling around a large office supply store and there were some good buys, so we chose one
although only with one extra handset.

Waiting for the sixteen hours for it to fully charge before you can play with it is very frustrating. A boy just is dying to play with his new toy. It took about two hours to set up and enter all the stored numbers. It is full of features that we will never use. They are so much more like mobile phones now, which does make for easier settting up. I have a fixed line phone in my bedroom, so R gets the extra handset for his bedroom. Handy for when 'confused' overseas relatives call at 3 am.

The extra handset has an alarm function, so he thought he might use that instead of his bedside clock, but it is far too un-user friendly. The sms feature is a bit laborious to use too. One real disappointment is that, unlike the old one, the second handset does not pick up the phone book from the first handset. There is a help number to call, so I will ask them at some point. I am not spending an hour entering them all again. The phone book is larger than our old one, so I have entered many more numbers and it works like a mobile, enter the first letter of the name of who you are calling and then scroll a little if needed. The old one was either just scroll through, or remember the assigned 2 digit number for that person.

The main thing of course is sound quality, and it is good.

They're back!

I should have guessed yesterday when I arrived home and the media were in front of the building. I haven't caught up with the full story as yet, but it seems the (in)famous bearded media person is in trouble again.

When I walked out this morning, they were back, one lounging against what was clean glass. "I think this part is private property", said I. "You should be out on the footpath". "I wasn't aware that it was", said one. I was waiting for a bus and sure enough, they had moved to the footpath. Whether I was right or not, does not matter.

It is nothing to do with the subject, I just hate the intrusive way the media operate. They are still there at noon.

So far as I know, the person who they are interested in, normally doesn't leave the building until mid afternoon to go to his workplace. Temp building manager says they have the car park staked out too. There is another less known way out but I aren't saying.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Hallmark

We took a gander at The Hallmark in St Kilda Rd on Sunday. It was known as the Travelodge but in it's last incarnation, Holiday Inn.

It was somewhat of a disappointment. The public areas were nice enough, the entrance ok, although I have noticed in the last couple of days that the water feature has failed. Bad sheng fui.

The landings were just long passages. Original hotel corridors perhaps. The kitchens were well fitted but small and not much bench space. The bedrooms were tiny. Balconies very small. Small sized individual air con units. We did not see one bedroom that had a proper door and we looked at four different units. The bathrooms were pretty good, and wow, what I huge shower. That is until I realised it contained a combined washing machine/dryer. Electricity and water are an interesting mix. None had any more than roll up interior screens as window blinds. No chance of a dark room.

Although the pool looked nice, it could only really be described as a plunge pool, not big enough for laps.

I am afraid there was not much bang for you buck, and quite high bucks at that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fun on a bus

I haven't had fun on a bus since I was a teen. No, I am not telling. My fun today was a little more mundane but it amsued me none the less, for a short time before becoming tedious.

The buses I catch are mostly quite new and have the suspension arranged so that the bus can tilt when at a stop to allow easier access for the less able bodied. The suspension also adjusts itself to what the bus is doing. Once stationary, with a bit of a hiss of air, a tilt forward, a tilt to the side and it levels it.

Today the bus I was on must have had faulty suspension. When the doors opened, it tipped to the left hard, then when the doors shut, it levelled out. But worse was when it was just staionary. It went up and down side to side, tilted at the front, righted itself. It was in stop start traffic and it distracted me and amused me enough for me to stop reaking and watch how people were reacting. In the stoic Melbourne manner, they refused to notice the obvious. No one will ever comment on a defect on Melbourne trams. The only time you see any reaction is if there is a lot of smoke, usually from a tram.

Most of us now becoming seasick travellers alighted at Chapel Street.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Half route trams

There is a proposal by Yarra trams to run St Kilda Road tram services only to St Kilda Rd and passengers then change, at I assume an interchange, to a St Kilda Rd shuttle. These shuttles would run every two minutes. See Tuesday's The Age.

I haven't given this a lot of thought yet and I hope the PTUA can come up with a thoughtful analyisis but I instinctively don't like it.

1/ Loss of green space, that is the media strips where interchanges would be built.

2/ It will do nothing to help if a tram breaks down in St Kilda Road. This is a specious argument and it makes me cynical. Trams will break down, and it matters little whether it is a suburban bound tram or St Kilda Road tram. You will be delayed, just the same.

3/ A two minute service interval in St Kilda Road is inadequate in the peaks. It would be very good at night time though.

4/ Passengers get settled in the seats for a long journey. Close your book, take reading specs off, change trams. Old ladies lose their favourite seat that the have scheemingly obtained.

5/ Much delay is caused by the Domain Road Interchange. It does not work well and trams can face a red light upon arrival, load and unload at the interchange and face another red light as the tram is about to depart. Drivers using the toilet facilities seem to be a major cause of delay at this point also.

6/ Yarra trams has requested funding for 250 new trams. If there are not to be more frequent peak services added these will replace all of the Z and A class trams and some will be left over. I understand that Yarra Trams is presently experimenting with aircon for the newer Z trams and A trams. Why, if they are to be replaced?

7/ A major rework of St Kilda Junction would be required. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it would require a lot of sympathetic co-operation by VicRoads.

The cult of So

What is going with Melbourne's Lord Mayor So? He is applauded and cheered everywhere he goes. I understand that a commercial radio station takes the mickey out of his fractured English, but it is more than that. He has become a cult figure.

I believe he received resounding cheers at a music festival when he was on stage. He certainly did at Midsumma Carnival. It became almost embarrassing at the Commonwealth Games. A popular Lord Mayor. I have never heard of such a thing.

It is infectious. Go, go, go. So, So, So.


Wonder if any of you know that lift mechanics have been on strike for over two week. It seems like forever and of course as soon as they went on strike, one lift broke down. R goes for the conspiracy theory. That is they immediately sabotaged one. One lift company, Kone, did send out an email for buildings to be aware of strangers who may interfere with the lifts. We were told if the other one broke down, they would repair one.

So I have spent a lot of time staring at foyer walls and landing walls while waiting, waiting. Vry rarely, some idiot will push all buttons in the lift and it has to stop every floor. But it has happened three times to my knowledge since only one was working. I had narrowed it to a floor and R says it is kids. There are hardly any kids in the building so I was a bit sceptical. But when two girls got in the lift and went to the floor that I had worked out, R said in front of them sotto voice, 'Ah, the button pushers' and boy did they look guilty.

But oh bliss, the lift was working again today. I understand that the company, Tyssen Krup, wanted to cut the mechanics wages by $120 per week as part of an enterprise agreement. Not sure what the result of that was, but I hope I didn't suffer without cause. I was tempted to email the company and suggest that their employee relations and negotiation skills were deficient.

Highriser Abode

Things are not good at highriser's abode. Our building manager and his wife have departed to better shores at Docklands. We have a temporary manager who does very basic stuff. There has been over 100 applicants for the position, but so many are just proving to the government department that they are applying for jobs.

The best applicant that I have heard about comes from Geelong and applied for the gardening and cleaning tasks only. Her, I am assuming it is a her, interests include shoes and her ambition is to work in a shoe shop. Wonder if she would clean and garden in glitzy high heels? That might be interesting to some residents.

Meanwhile the body corporate committee slave over applications, have endless meetings and the residents show their appreciation by accusing them of sacking the last manager, receiving reduced body corp fees and failing to authorise the repair of a lift. If you are conscientious in a volunteer role, don't expect thanks or appreciation.

It got a bit nasty this evening when a committee member physically barred someone from entering the lift. It was what we call an 'illegal move'. They were moving in, at peak lift usage time, only one lift working, lift not having protection canvas put up. We hung around to offer support, but it felt a bit like white people in control of the building and barring Asians.

On the up side, we are now employing a professional gardening company so things in that area should improve.

I am so glad to not be on the committee anymore.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Naughty highriser and electro

I shouldn't do it. I know it is illegal as well as potentially dangerous. Today our paper shredder failed. Perhaps it was because the thick old greeting cards that I was shredding. I could still force a card into it, but a sheet of paper just would not work. I established that it was a problem with the trigger switch. I pulled it apart and sure enough, the electric trigger switch was not working properly. It had lost it's sensitivity.

The machine's external switch has an on position, that is ready to go when paper is inserted, an off position and a reverse for when paper jams. There were two wires going to the trigger switch. What if I cut them and joined them together and so then leave the external switch in the off postion until I needed to shred. Switch it on from the off position, shred, then switch it off again. It would no longer be an auto shredder, but it would still work. In some ways, better for the user.

I thought I had a little wire covering junction box, but I didn't. R must have thrown it out as I would never get rid of such an item. I will buy one tomorrow, but in the mean time I taped over the twisted together wires. It works fine, just as I thought. R has stopped talking about getting a new one.

So much paper that used to be thrown into the rubbish bin gets shredded and goes into the recycling bin. It is an astonishing amount really. Greeting cards, paid bills, bank statements, brochures, paper bags, bank teller slips, old tattslotto slips, note paper, getting rid of old papers, envelopes. Some of it could go in the normal paper collection, but some is a bit too private.

The shredder only cost us about $35 I think. We probably should have spent a bit more and bought a decent one, but this one will do for a while.

Take a bow Melbourne

Actually, I am bit fed up with the self congratulations that Melbourne is pouring upon itself. Of course we did well. What else would any one expect?

I am not a sporty person. I know which end of the raquet to us to hit a tennis ball or a squash ball, but that is as far as my personal sporting activity extends and am not really interested in watching sport.

But I did particpate a bit in the games. We saw the baton being passed, watched the marathon runners go past and yesterday, the last day, we went and watched the cycling for a bit. I looked at the course online and wow, they had to go up the Punt Road hill and the Anderson Street hill in South Yarra. But I was puzzled? Why does it take so long. Even I could ride the course in the time allowed. I investigated further and discovered that the women do nine circuits of the course and the men fifteen. I am truly impressed.

Punt Road closed. Must have caused chaos. Doubt that will ever happen again.

While most riders were in a bunch, some were on their own, presumably fallen back. They looked to be a lot slower than the leaders, but good on them. They did far better than you or I would. They went a bit fast to notice whether any were really hot and being hunched over their bikes meant they did not display themselves well.

The fish on the Yarra was inspired. I won't forget them in a hurry. Somehow, I don't think they would work well if not in a long line though. Maybe.

I did not think much of the closing ceremony. A few old has been performers. The fireworks were ok though. While we were watching the fireworks on tv, we could see them reflecting in a glass building to our south.

Today I went to cheer the volunteers, well not really cheer them. The Brighton antique dealer's toy boy was one, so I thought I would go and have a look. Yeah, good, nice.

Nice to have Melbourne getting back to normal.......oh, yeah that bloody car race is next weekend.

Slow net to UK

I think I would rather go without the internet than go back to dial up. I am used to the speed of it and sometimes it is still too slow.

It always seems lightning fast to download pages from the US and Asian countries. But what is wrong with the UK? It is just slow to download pages from there. Click on a link to a UK site, and wait for probably double the time of other countries. Do we Aussies access UK sites much? Perhaps not. Just a bit curious about it if anyone knows or has noticed.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Larry or Katrina?

Miranda Devine, a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald among other things, is not my favourite person. I reckon she is a downright nasty piece of works and I think she should marry the Herald Sun's columinst Andrew Bolt. Oh God, what offspring they would produce.

On the evening news of the day the Cyclone Larry struck, this hideously common and carping woman said, "Effing do something now. That is my message for them. Get off their fat arses and do something," said Innisfail local Shiralee Hazel, standing in a relief queue last week.

She had clearly absorbed the content of the coverage of Cyclone Katrina in the United States.

I shan't go on as Miranda Devine said it much more eloquently than I can.

This is no New Orleans, so stop with the whingeing

March 26, 2006

I'M sorry, but if you live in a place prone to cyclones every 80 years and a cyclone comes along after 80 years, what's the surprise?

We in Sydney are very sorry for the people in northern Queensland who have lost their homes to Cyclone Larry. But, much as we will miss their avocados and bananas on our supermarket shelves, we can live without their whingeing.

No one was killed, a few people sustained minor injuries. This is hardly Hurricane Katrina. But watching the news last week, it was clear a lot of people with little imagination were trying to recreate New Orleans in Innisfail.

Five minutes after the cyclone hit, locals were whingeing that "they" haven't come and fixed it for them. Do they not have their own arms and legs?

"Effing do something now. That is my message for them. Get off their fat arses and do something," said Innisfail local Shiralee Hazel, standing in a relief queue last week.

Australians, especially outside the big cities, used to pride themselves on their self-reliance and resilience, forged in a hard, unforgiving land. Now, according to images beamed back to Sydney, they have become helpless victims. A category five cyclone comes to town and it's all the fault of Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and Prime Minister John Howard.

No doubt there are plenty of admirable people quietly getting on with rebuilding their communities, but we didn't hear from them. Instead we heard people complaining that State Emergency Service volunteers (who have been working round the clock) were only handing out tarpaulins, not staying to spread them out. God forbid that people might have to do some work themselves.

When Howard first turned up in Innisfail two days after the cyclone, he was jeered and booed. "Come and join the line, Johnny," shouted someone queuing for emergency payments.

The mood changed once he put his hand in our pockets and announced a multimillion-dollar relief package.

"You're too damn late", the Gold Coast Bulletin's headline read, summarising the supposed "anger and frustration" of the community. "Politicians flood North Queensland for photo opportunities as thousands of tonnes of aid sits stranded beside a highway they failed to fix."

Bob Katter, Queensland independent MP, whinged: "People stood in the rain waiting for two days. They had nothing to eat and no cash. It's just wrong . . . There is simply no excuse for that."

Premier Beattie finally caved into his own frustration on Sky News: "When you get a category five cyclone which belts the hell out of the community, you're not going to restore [services] in 30 seconds."

The fact is that authorities gave plenty of notice of the cyclone and evacuated 1000 people from vulnerable coastal areas on Sunday, the day before Larry hit, presumably saving lives. The emergency services could not have been better prepared, having gone through a week-long cyclone training exercise in Cairns in January.

General Peter Cosgrove, who is co-ordinating the reconstruction effort, said drily the only thing that might have been done better was if we had "moved Australia about 200 miles west and avoided the damn cyclone".

The endless whingeing is a reflection on an affluent consumer culture in which people have come to expect that everything they want can be delivered in 30 seconds piping hot and preferably free if they only scream loud enough. No inconvenience is tolerable, not even for an instant, and the consumer is always right. The consumer has become a tyrant.

Two birthdays, two occasions

Rs birthday this week and also highriser's mother's birthday. Advance plan, dinner with friends on Saturday night. Family picnic Sunday afternoon.

Somehow it all merged into one. The one being dinner for 18 people tonight, friends and family combined. It is a fairly recent thing that I have mixed family and friends. For over twenty years, they were kept separate. At some point just a couple of years ago, I thought bugger this, and invited family to Dame M's for a party. It went well and, so where I feel it is appropriate, I combine them. I am too old to bother with other people's issues.

But that makes it seem like I did that tonight. I didn't. It just got so out of my control and grew like a monster, then I had to chase up the loose ends and organising.

It was at the Balaclava Hotel and everyone was very complimentary about the service and the staff and the staff were very good. I am not sure if it was because it was booked in Dame M's name or they recognise us a bit, but a five star restaurant would not have done better and certainly not been so friendly to those who responded to them or put up with the ubiquitous whinger.

I know I am repeating myself, but I cannot believe how good such poorly paid service staff are, especially in hospitality. Perhaps there is something in this 'team stuff''.

The only downer for the evening was Dame M called in sick (hungover? or peaked early? Star guest not present) and brother got into his usual very drunk state and wife who he is separating from him always makes an effort to look miserable when he is around.

I confess, it was bloody hard work, but it went well. I don't think I will have a birthday this year. It is such an interuption to my normally controlled life.