Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hot Tip

Hot tip for the 2.13 at Monee Valley today. Sorry, there may only be a couple of you who read this, but I am not shortening the odds by telling you which horse.

I have a bet on the Melbourne Cup if I am not working that day, but normally I would never go near a TAB, (betting shop).

But a rel told us about someone she knows who has a horse running at Monne Valley today. Always being the retentive, plan in advance person, I called into a TAB yesterday. There were details on the walls of races all around Australia, but only for that day. I asked at the counter and the nice man went to the back of the shop and brought out the sheets for the next day. I promised I would return them. I wonder if that was really allowed? After skimming through the sheets, I recognised the horse's name. I noted down the race and horse number, returned the sheets and grabbed a couple of betting cards. It didn't look like you can place a bet in advance, so I will have to go to the TAB today. The local is just a short stroll away.

I it wins, I will be happy. If it doesn't, I will have more amunition on the evils of gambling.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Public Transport Split

Splitting Melbourne's railways and tramways into two competing companies and then privatising them was a rather odd idea. Chickens seemed to come home to roost when one company who owned the operating lease for half of the trams and half of the trains bolted back to the land of fog and rain.

The government subsidy for the singly owned trains and trams has continued to rise massively. Well before privatisation of our fixed rail public transport, my mind had huge problems with the subsidy that went toward private buses. It was cheaper than the government providing the service, 'they' argued.

I am unsure why it has not really occurred to me before, but think of the huge duplication of providers when say the trains were split in two. Two payroll companies, two or more train maintenance companies, two lots of head office staff, two complaint handling offices. The full list would be very long, and yet it was supposed to be more efficient, provide better service and save money. If I have learnt something in life, a square peg does not fit into a round hole and nor do two square pegs fit into a round hole.

Competition was another reason given. Haha, it is almost laughable. One tram company having east west routes and the other north south routes. Ha, I don't like that tram company, I will use the other one. I will have to drive to other companies tram route to use it though. The spin doctors worked hard on this one, but there was a basic truth. As a customer, you did not have an option. Ditto trains.

Pre privatisation, trams and trains seem to be designed with the user in mind along with efficiency. The last government bought train, the Comeng is brilliant for passengers and I expect so for drivers. Extra nice after their renovations. The last government bought tram, the artic B class is great too. Smooth, quiet, comfortable and air conditioned. The same company supplied Sydney with disabled friendly trams. I have ridden in them and they are very good.

Instead the companies, probably at the then government's behest, bought cheap and nasty European trams and while the trains aren't bad, there are issues.

I am probably wasting my time here and preaching to the converted. Pause here while I blast away ex premier Kennet with a Kalishnikov.

But here is the real point. We are promised effiency by the private sector. The privatised public transport system shows that it it is not necessarily so. There is no inherent reason why government owned and managed public transport can not be efficiently run. I think in parts it was was pretty poor in the past, but that is not a reason why it can not be done now. Good management equals a good business, private or public.

Moving the people around

Trams move people around. Sometimes people move around in a tram a lot.

The humourous side of it stopped us throwing up. Board a tram at Lonsdale Street heading south in Swanston Street. Comfortable tram and good driver. Enter an old bearded male at Flinders Street. Windows slammed open along the tram. He stank. I expect he had........yeah in his pants, nice and fresh.

He sat in the middle of tram. All in the middle of the tram surged to either end. Many were holding their noses. R looked behind the tram to see if there was another behind but there wasn't.

At Domain Road he went to the front of the tram to question the driver about the direction of the tram. All at the front of the tram surged to the back, but avoided the seat he had been sitting on. All eyes were on him watching to see where he would move next. He sat on a front seat. We left the one half packed tram two stops later and gulped in fresh carbon monoxide laden air to our oxygen starved lungs.

It is a real hazzard when using public transport. Last week I had to move seats on a a tram because of a stinking person, although he was not nearly so bad.

Off our usual track

We had the displeasure of shopping at Coles in Balaclava last night. Just a couple of items were needed. By all means conserve electricity, but it is so dark and dingy. I am not keen on bright lighting anywhere, but to look at products properly, it is essential.

Aside from that, the staff, oh the staff. R used to think it was himself at fault when we lived nearby and shopped there often. But no, they are down right off hand, if not rude. They are not like that at Coles in Prahran or Malvern.

Safeway next door is similar. Why?

I am convinced it is a general re-active response. There are so many loons, difficult old people, nit picking Russians and shop lifters. The staff must just get so fed up and generally end up with an unpleasant attitude to everyone and are extremely defensive too.

Of course they should be perfect people and judge each person on their merits, but for the money they are paid, I don't blame them too much for their attitude. But I won't go out of my way to shop there either.

New hot guy

There is a link to the newest of my hot celebs, Leighton Hewitt, on the right of the front page. Just because you don't like someone, think they are crass, rude and arrogant, doesn't mean you wouldn't want to shag them. Some of the pics of Leighton are from the mag New Idea, although they were posted publicly elsewhere.

Here is a direct link if you can't be bothered going back.

And last weeks, Japanese footballer Hidetoshi Nakata are still stored.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Queen and I

Our Betty is eighty now. Dame M was eighty last year. I think our Betty does a better job as a nice person than Dame M. "Children and animals", says Dame M, "arrrghhh". Betty has kiddies and doggies. Well the kiddies are a bit frightful and the doggies bite. Perhaps Dame M is correct, although she has never tried either.

I am a staunch republican. Australia is a mature country, albeit badly governed, and can well stand on it's own feet. We have no need to continue an association with Great Britian. But nor should we forget our historical ties. We should remain in the Commonwealth.

But while Betty Battenburg remains our head of state, I won't be agitating to get rid of her.

I am trying to think of someone famous in the world who has not blotted their copybook. Nelson Mandela hasn't done a bad job, apart from marrying a very wrong person when he was young.

What about Lizzie? She was a bit a bit slow to respond to the death of Dianna, Princess of Wales. Yeah, that chick who was bolting around gay Paris with an Arab who owned a fast car. Lizzie could have responded a bit quicker. But of course she was under intructions from the Palace staff.

Further back, the Palace let it be known that Liz was displeased about the social disruption that Margaret Thatcher caused when she was Prime Minisiter of England. But she did not do anything proactive that the general public were aware of.

She has tolerated her husband's affairs and speech clangers. Hard to believe that she has done the biz, but there are children to prove it. Sort of a parent thing hey. But I really don't think she would have ever called out, "oh, more Phil, give me more. Deeper, harder. Over my face Phil".

One English daily paper used to include in her personal wealth figures, state assets. Bit unfair on her. But she is very rich regardless. Hey Mam, here is a subject that would gratefully receive a token for his appreciation of you.

Although she did not see the loss of India, she did witness the loss of many colonies. She said nothing but was always happy to visit them and show that she still cared. In fact she may have gone too far by having Unganda's Idi Amin as a dinner guest at the Palace.

But you would really think that a rich woman with such resources at her fingertips could get the drinks right. Ex Australian Prime Minister Fraser's wife, Tammie, complained that the gin and tonic server on the yacht, Royal Brittania, was luke warm and very weak.

The three lots of o/s rels from the UK who have visited us in the last few years, care not two hoots about her. They see her as irrelavant. But they are from the north of England, coal mining, ship building areas.

But all in all, at the end of the day, in the fullness of time, in spite of a glitch in 1975, you haven't done bad by us, so I won't be pushing for the overthrow of you while you are reigning.

Sorry about your sister Mag, but don't worry, she had a great time while she was alive. A very great time it would seem.

Pity you stayed such a short time when you opened the Commonwealth Games. You missed the essence of Melbourne. I am sure a table could have been cleared for you to have a decent cup of coffee in Degraves Street, or a wonderful salad roll at Tran bakery in Chapel Steet. Maybe even a movie at The Astor.

Never mind Maam, I wish you a happy birthday with many more to come.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Write anything

I feel the need to write. But I have not worked out anything in my mind to write about. What did I do with my empty shallow life today?

I downloaded a couple of hundred megabytes of porn. Not that I really watch it. I flick through it and get no stimulation from it. I now only do it because I can.

I puzzled over what to do about my threadbare pillow slips and then remembered that there were a pair of matching pillow slips stored away. They were musty and needed washing. I did and changed them.

I spent a little time labelling hard copy photos.

I went to the post office and bought a first day cover and a cd envelope to post niece's cd that she left here back to her. The Waifs are ok I suppose.

I washed bedding of bed niece slept in and washed odd towels that she used, we used when swimming and our brief trip away.

We walked through Fawkner Park to Prahran for shopping and ran into a nurse from the Alfred who used to be a neighbour of ours in Balaclava. He now lives at QV apartments. He came to our apartment open day when we first moved here, and argued with a friend about racism against Asians in Australia. He is loopy as ever.

I cleaned mirrored wadrobe doors and bedroom windows.

I et dinner, frittata, mashed spuds, brocolli, carrots and peas. Ta R.

I sat down to watch the Inventors and fell asleep and totally missed Spics and Specs. Furious about that. I have never missed it.

Now I sit here half listening to Lateline and the terrible happenings in the Solomon Islands. R has gone to bed without saying goodnight.

While I dread going back to work next week, I think I need work to keep me on an even keel. I seem to be so much better organised and achieving when I am working.

Tonight I just feel fed up, very sad, alone and lonely. Tomorrow it will be just more of the above in a slightly different guise.

Overheard snippet #45

"I am not happy. I have to pay a speeding fine and two parking fines. Bastards".

Moi standing next to her in the post office refrained from saying, "You don't think someone is trying to tell you something?"

One night not in heaven

We decided to visit a friend in western Victoria and stay overnight. It is a two and a half hour drive, a bit much for a day trip. We called into my sister's in Geelong who was absent, so we left her easter eggs in her letter box.

I used to work with this mentioned friend. He has lived and worked in London and Amsterdam. His last location in Melbourne was Armadale. When he retired at an earlyish age, with his small retirement benefit he bought his first house, a modest old bakers house in a small town near Camperdown. The bakery, sans fittings, is still at the rear of the house and a vet operates from there once a fortnight.

It is hard to believe how well he adjusted to country life after always living in very built up inner suburbs of wherever. But he did and is thoroughly integrated. His vices of drinking and smoking keep him poor and he barely scrapes by. He had such grand plans when he first moved there. He opened a business which lasted about twelve months. He planned renovations to his house. He planned the garden.

It all came to nothing. Now a corner of the house is falling away. Wallpaper is falling off the walls. The living area is a delicate shade of greasy brown where it used to white. Another friend put in halogen lights in the living area. Only one now works. It is lit by a fluorecent tube plugged into a power point and screwed onto the wall. He cannot afford wood for heating. The hot water pressure is so low that you shower under a trickle, not that you would want to hang around for long in the mouldy bathroom. The newer tv has failed and now he just watched a tiny old tv. The garden is totally overgrown.

He has been in and out of hospital a few times of late with various complaints, the last being an eye operation. He is taking ten different medications a day. He owes the local store, chemist and plumber money. He will pay, eventually.

There was a time when we could have helped him, but it is too late now. We have helped a little financially, but it does not have much impact.

But he is the eternal optimist. Beneath a surviving rose, among the weeds, he pointed out a yellow crocus that was about to flower. Weeds have almost covered his lavender bush, but he said it was wonderful this summer. His lemon tree is so overgrown and crowded, but it did have a good crop of lemons. The bed where he used to proudly point out his Dutch flag Irises seems to have gone. A huge willow tree is taking over half the garden, but at the back, pine needles have built up to height of about six inches along his back fence. Weeds have nearly overtaken the gravel driveway, but at least the dogs don't crap there. They crap everwhere else you may tread, but not the driveway.

He chastised one of his dogs for getting up on the expensive fabric that he had his two seater couch recovered with twenty years ago. Between drinks, he can still whip up a sumptious classy meal, if you don't mind eating at ten pm. He is on two town committees having just resigned after nine years of being a committee member of a third.

But with all that negativety, he seems quite content. The town has embraced him as one of their own and they help up to a point. Social security assist. A council worker comes in and cleans floors and bathroom once a week. The council provides subsidised transport for medical appointments. Today he was driving an elderly neighbour in her car to hospital to have her plaster on her broken arm removed. The cure could be worse than the disease. He loves his two dogs and cat and looks after them well.

Here are a few observations for you to note when you get older.
Do not move to small country town where there are minimal services, especially medical.
Do not sit there and dream away. You have to actually do something.
Buy yourself a property well before you are old.
Keep your eyes in good health so that you can see dirt and clean it up.

I am not sure if I have painted the picture well. We left thoroughly depressed and R said to me, "Are we going to end up like that?". I really don't think so, but who knows????

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An American Abroad

It would seem some Americans have issues with the way their citizens behave when they are overseas. You don't need to read much more than the headlines. I wish we had the luxury of being able to pile it on to all countries instead of just the US, the country we love to despise.


From the guidelines:

Think as big as you like but talk and act smaller In many countries, any form of boasting is considered very rude. Talking about wealth, power or status - corporate or personal - can create resentment.

Listen at least as much as you talk By all means, talk about America and your life in our country. But also ask people you're visiting about themselves and their way of life.

Save the lectures for your kids Whatever your subject of discussion, let it be a discussion not a lecture. Justified or not, the US is seen as imposing its will on the world.

Think a little locally Try to find a few topics that are important in the local popular culture. Remember, most people in the world have little or no interest in the World Series or the Super Bowl. What we call "soccer" is football everywhere else. And it's the most popular sport on the planet.

Slow down We talk fast, eat fast, move fast, live fast. Many cultures do not.

Speak lower and slower A loud voice is often perceived as bragging. A fast talker can be seen as aggressive.

Your religion is your religion and not necessarily theirs Religion is usually considered deeply personal, not a subject for public discussions.

If you talk politics, talk - don't argue Steer clear of arguments about American politics, even if someone is attacking US politicians or policies. Agree to disagree.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The niece

The teen niece has been transported safely back to the outer burban mono cultural wilds after her two night stay. She is as charming and clever as ever. Friday night she assisted with cooking the evening meal. Saturday we went into the city and had a nice breakfast and then a quick trip through Myer where I bought a shirt and then some food shopping at Safeway in QV.

The late afternoon she was my typist for labels for photos, played some online games, chatted to friends on msn chat and we had a swim and spa together.

For the evening meal, we walked to La Porchetta in South Yarra and met up with old old friends and afterwards they drove us home and we ate some nice cake and chatted while she played on the pc.

Every time I walked past the pc I glanced at what she was doing. At least for this visit, she did not accidentally misspell Disney and end up in a porn site. While our betters blather on about censoring the internet, their energies would be better spent sorting out simple stuff like that.

I told her that the bogan hat she was wearing was a bogan hat and quite unacceptable in a smart apartment in St Kilda Road, the lift, the foyer and the street. We did not see it again until we took her home. I was only kidding.

"Uncle Andrew, did you see that really nice looking guy in the supermarket? You and Uncle R were arguing about which potatoes to buy. He had such big muscles and a really big chest and he was so nice looking and looked really hot in a singlet". This from a thirteen year old.

"No A, and why did you not tell us? Just a discreet clearing of the throat is all that is required to get our attention".

She was excited when we suggested a McDonald's breakfast and I was pleased to hear that she had not had McDonalds for ages. We then had a remedial hour on the tennis court and took her home.

A few things about her surprised me.
She accidentally left her mobile in her mother's handbag and did not seem to miss it at all.
She can play on the pc for a short time and leave it along for a long time.
She is quite aware that R and I like guys, although I don't think she has a proper understanding of sex yet.
She is quite aware of the effect that she has on men. When we were out in public, I watching them staring at her. Well, she does look older than 13. One guy starting chatting to in a very forward manner. Later she said that he was being a bit 'heavy'. I was just within earshot and he didn't really say anything inappropriate. It was more his body language but nothing I would really take issue with.
Instead of buying her usual mag, Girlfriend, she bought Dolly because it had a free radio stuck on the cover. She didn't open the sealed section, unlike her uncle who would buy Cleo and rip open the sealed section to see the nude centrefold. I doubt (hope?) there is not much in the sealed section of Dolly.
Her spelling is not bad. I think I may have been a bit better than her at my age, but not that much. Her written possessive apostrophe placement is excellent, far better than mine would have been at her age (probably better than mine is now).

As her father's, my brother, favourite she is about to go through a very difficult time when he shortly moves out of the family home. In spite of her maturity in many ways, she is still just a kid and mostly behaves like one. Good.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Egg Recycling

Five eggs in, two of them 'passed on'.

I hope you are all enjoying your easter, especially shiftworkers who may be working. At least it is quiet and think of the extra $s.

Tram shelters and ads

Melbourne has a few old style tram shelters in various places. They are reasonably well maintained now, although it was not always the case. They are quite good at providing shelter but not necessarily visibility to watch for an approaching tram. They are expensive to maintain and clean and very prone to vandalism and appealing to the homeless and drunks. But there aren't many left and I think they should be kept and well maintained.

Now I am not a great supporter of commercial advertising. I guess we have to have it, but it can be very intrusive at times. I dislike it intensely on tv and rarely watch commercial tv or listen to commercial radio. Perhaps the media is as much to blame for their placement and frequency of ads. Ads on SBS tv do not worry me at all. I do recognise that ads are much better than those in past. I think the eighties was the worst time of television advertising.

Billboard ads on freeways and toll roads should not be allowed. They are too distracting for many people who really need to concentrate when driving at 100 kph surrounded by many other vehicles doing the same. It is enough to have to watch for directional signage etc.

We residents of the publicity hungry City of Port Phillip are about to have a pedestrian overpass built over the traffic sewer known as Queen's Road to provide access to Albert Park. It would seem advertisers are going to pay for it. So we will have advertising stretched across the span of the bridge. Nice, not.

There is a very new bright blue lit advertising sign at St Kilda Junction. Here is what Rob thought of it when he made a comment on my blog. I am inclined to agree.

That blue light at SK Junction is particularly disturbing, especially at night when it is quite bright. I've seen the ANZ ad on it (money, yenom, we know it backwards (yeah, good one)), and that's about it. Octopus Media Solutions (make it bigger, brighter and more irritating than the competition) apparently operate it and frankly I'm surprised that such a blight got approved. Then again, maybe I'm not so shocked...

But just sometimes, advertisers get it right. Melbourne has these very nice new metal and glass tram and bus shelters. They are kept very clean. If the are vandalised, they are quickly repaired. They have decent lighting. They are usually well oriented to protect waiting passengers from the prevailing weather. Usually, but with at least one clanging exception, they provide a good view to watch for approaching public transport.

Now I understand that the supply of and installation costs were borne by an advertising company. Maintenance and cleaning costs are paid by them. For this, they get the right to advertise on the shelters. The ads are usually ok, although the public transport companies and local and state governments seem to have a veto right over the adverting. They are frequently changed.

This is perhaps one example of where a public/private partnership works. There aren't too many of them to be found.