Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Sun, Free Tibet and Aborted Landing

It was not a nice morning. The smoke haze hangs around and while the smell of burning gum leaves evokes pleasant childhood memories for me, I am sure the odour strikes terror into others. The sun rose starting as a ghastly bright red and slowly paled.

Arriving on the gentle easterly breeze, easterlies are unusual for Melbourne and usually mean humidity or rain, four balloons came into sight heading for a landing in Fawkner Park. The first dropped out of sight behind a building, presumably making a clean landing, the second, emblazoned with Free Tibet looked to be a bit higher on approach than the first and sure enough, it aborted its landing and quickly gained altitude.

It moved on to land at Albert Park......yes, the island again? Into the drink? Don't think so but as it was partially obscured, I could not see exactly what was happening. It rose and sank a few times, swivelled a bit, moved right and then left. It seemed to be manouvering to get a correct position. After over twenty minutes, it finally stopped and deflated. I expect there was some high drama involved.

The beast arises from its night time slumber.

Free Tibet approaching Fawkner Park.

To the lake.
Up and to the right. Almost like wathching a yo yo.

Eyes for the Guys

Some time ago, a blog mate posed the question of whether gay guys look for the same in men as women do. I have pondered a little over this in the subsequent weeks and the easy answer is yes.......and no.

What one person finds very appealing about a person may not appeal to another. It is just such an individual thing. As I have said in the past, I first look at the way someone carries themselves and then perhaps grooming. By grooming I don't mean super neat, just some care taken with personal appearance, even if the image being is of rough trade. Gay guys can do a rough trade look better than any straight guy can. I like a nice open smile of course, and naturally, the sexual spark in the eyes. Am I doing your head in yet Reuben? I'll try harder.

We are led to believe that built into a female is an instinct to look for signs of a male being a good potential breeder when choosing a mate. This probably doesn't count when you are talking about gay men checking out other men, although, the idea of a guy who is fertile and capable of producing offspring might have some appeal. I have heard the theory that some men chase after men who are HIV in belief that they can be 'fertilised' by the HIV man.

One area where I think many gay men focus strongly and women do much less is physique, that is muscles. I don't care much for muscles. A hard, or soft, lean body appeals to me much more. Regardless, body shape or size never indicates the quality of the sex you may have.

In a complete reversal, I have gone from when I was young to finding hairy men very appealing to now preferring smooth. 'Gay society' has gone with me. I am not so sure that women have. I would guess many more women like their bloke to have a nice hairy chest.

What can I conclude from thinking aloud above? Probably that gay men and women look for much the same in men. Looks, personality, sense of humour and MONEY!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Not a holiday destination

My maternal grandparents worked very hard, my grandfather in his market garden in South Oakleigh and my grandmother, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes in a copper, heat rain or shine. That was how it was for many of their standing.

They had never taken a holiday until they retired and once a year they spent a week to ten days at different Victorian locations. It was nearly always late summer or early autumn when they took off in the Zephyr, later the Valiant.

It was nearly always a stay in a guest house or private hotel. Beachside Rosebud was a favourite destination, but also Mount Buffalo, Bright and Marysville. No doubt wherever they stayed in Marysville has now been burnt to crisp. They worried terribly about us and fire when we lived in Gippsland foothills of the Great Dividing Range. They would be very sad to learn of the almost total demise of Marysville.

It was many years ago when R and two friends and myself took a drive to Marysville. My memory of the day is hazy, but I recall it was a damp day, ironically as it often is in Marysville. We visited Steavenson(sic) Falls and then had high tea at the Cumberland. I think it was called Cumberland Guest House then. It was certainly not as upmarket as it is now, or was. We sat near a cozy fire with our tea, admiring the pretty view below as birds flitted about their business. I can recall little of the town except that it was pretty and I liked the feel of it.

No doubt the township will be rebuilt upon its ashes, but I don't think it will ever be quite the same, for me or for others.

How things were this time last week.

And the message on the Cumberland's main page today. Just more sadness.

The Cumberland Marysville and Villa Day Spa

On Saturday February 7th, 2009 a bushfire destroyed The Cumberland, razing 90% of the town of Marysville.

Clients who hold bookings with The Cumberland should investigate alternative options.

This message will be updated with more information as it becomes available.

When contact phone numbers become available they will be listed on this page.

In the meantime, urgent messages can be sent to our email.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Very cool

While I want to bore you senseless with tragic tales from the fire fronts, I reckon you have probably had enough. Can't promise for the future, but here is a go at distraction.

The grey pole is the mobile phone tower. Given that there is an Optus one nearby, I would guess Telstra. Could be Vodaphone I suppose, but I don't think so.

It also strikes me that it could be just a phone tower, aren't they such a gorgeous thing?, with an electric substation below?

But after studying the architectural merit of the building, I reckon it was built in the early days of mobile phones.

Now we want our backbone equipment that our mobiles depend on to function well. It clearly needs to stay cool. But I would have thought four air con units for an area of perhaps two metres by four metres was a bit of overkill. While I have tried to distinguish the sound of each one from the other, it is impossible. I reckon one works really hard and the others just bludge. Perhaps the bludgers had to step up to the crease last Saturday when it was 46 degrees.

Of course it is good to have backups, but if the power fails, well, they all stop.

I should start a new file, ugly buildings in back lanes with no phone number to call for graffiti removal.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fight or Flee, take two

Will you know in advance that an approaching bushfire is slow burning or one that explodes your house? If it is an exploding fire, get out of there, without doubt.

Sprinklers saved some houses, not all. I haven't paid much attention to fire coverage by our newspapers. Radio and to a much lesser extent tv, has kept me informed. I will turn to the newspapers when I am up for some analyzing of what happened.

But I did take 15 minutes or so today to read through some of tales at The Age and the Herald Sun. Tales of running through fire. Tales of failed but approved fire plans. Tales of idiots caught out and tales of clever and prepared people caught out. There is no end to the variations.

Below is an edit of tale by a neighbour of a respected, retired, newsreader who, along with his wife, died and a perfect illustration of why to flee not fight. It comes from the Herald Sun and is quite a poignant read.

JASON Lynn used what he thought was his last breath to tell his wife and children he loved them.

The father of two and neighbour of deceased newsman Brian Naylor lay on the muddy banks of his dam, clinging to life, as the Kinglake bushfire raged around him.

His harrowing ordeal began on Saturday afternoon when the Kinglake fire descended on the small town.

Mr Lynn's wife, Ruth, 39, fled with their two children, Joshua, five, and Julia, three, hours earlier for the safety of Yea.

But Mr Lynn, 35, stayed behind using fire pumps, generators and sprinklers to protect his cedar house.

But when he saw the flames crashing through the trees Mr Lynn knew he was in for the fight of his life.

"You do fire guard meetings and they show you what it (fire) is like", Mr Lynn said.

"It comes along the ground but this thing just came in the sky on the trees.

"When I was in the fire I thought 'this is just like hell'."

As the fire advanced Mr Lynn tried desperately to save his home, throwing buckets of water on the flames after his fire pump and hose exploded in the heat.

Gas tanks at his house exploded around him before the fire finally reached his house and caused it to erupt in a ball of flames.

With nothing left to save, Mr Lynn made a break for the safety of the roof of his shed.

"I burnt my hands, even with gloves, just opening up the door to get in the shed," Mr Lynn said.

"I got a ladder and climbed up with buckets of water. The fire was all around and I was trying to put that out, but the shed caught on fire from inside. It just exploded."

Mr Lynn's prized racing car and cherished tools his father left him before his death were consumed in the fire ball.

A wall of flame pierced the roof of the shed and blocked Mr Lynn from escaping off the roof and down the ladder.

"I just hung on to the spouting and the spouting fell down and I just collapsed down on the ground," Mr Lynn said.

"I still had enough energy, so I just started going towards the paddock.

"I just got to that point when you are running and running and you can't run anymore. There was just no air, it was like you were breathing vapour."

Crawling on his hands and knees through thick smoke Mr Lynn felt his way along the ground to the dam at the back of his property. It was then his boss Ziad Ghobril phoned him and urged him to use every last ounce of energy to make it to the safety of the dam.

"I just kept going and I could feel the bank of the dam," he said.

"I felt like passing out so I didn't go in the dam very far, I just lay in it and put my head in the mud on the side."

Mr Lynn laid in the mud in the dam for one hour waiting for help to arrive. He kept his mobile phone pressed against his head as friends and his local minister Shane Lepp prayed for him and tried to keep him conscious.

"I thought I don't know how much longer I can breathe for. He said "I don't know if they phoned again . . . I was sort of delirious.

"They were trying to tell me stuff and I just said 'just listen to me. Tell my wife and my kids that I love them'. I said I can't hang on much longer."

Mr Lynn doesn't remember much of the next few hours except for the sound of voices on the other end of the phone, and the howling and screaming of animals burning to death in nearby paddocks.

"I could hear horns and stuff buzzing but I couldn't shout out", Mr Lynn said.

"The next thing I heard someone say 'I found someone down here'.

"I just remember feeling their glove on my face.

"He said to me 'if you are still alive now you'll be all right'," Mr Lynn said.

"He said if you have made it this far you'll be right."

Mr Lynn's saviours carried him out on a blanket. The father of two spent the next three days in the Northern Hospital in Epping.

Mr Lynn yesterday thanked the fire fighters who saved his life and the staff at the hospital.

He said it was a miracle he was alive and it was by the grace of God that he survived.

Practical Help, Fleshed Out

I wrote Practical Help in 3 mins and was nearly late back to work. In our modern times, many people use the mobile phone as an address book, or at least have a phone number stored for everyone they know and many businesses they deal with. I would suggest you really need some sort of paper back up or at least a computer based back up.

I have, but it might be a little behind the mobile phone that just had a new phone number added today.

Lose you mobile phone, and all maybe lost. Drop it down the lav, and all may be lost. Bolt from a fire, you still have your mobile with all the phone numbers, but it is useless once the phone goes flat. For some, it might be now the most precious thing they own.

Many of the surviving victims of fires will have old phones and although I am not a Nokia person, I would reckon Nokias would be in the majority. Did they think to copy all numbers to the SIM card as they fled? Probably not.

Now, all they need is the electric to plug their chargers into. Should I ask Origin/CitiPower/PowerCorp for help? Probably not.

Practical Help

You may think that there is not much we city folk and those afar can do help with the victims of the Victorian bush fires but there is. Jayne is off manning staffing telephones.

I just came across this link at Telstra. Yes, people are in need of mobile phone chargers, so if you have any lying around unused, send them off. I have found two I don't really need and they are shortly on their way. The postal address is

Telstra Country Wide
Locked Bag 4670
Melbourne Vic 3001

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Great Railway Journeys #77

I have no idea what a Jacobite is but I now know what The Jacobite is. It is a steam train that travels up the west coast of Scotland on the West Highland line. Glasgow to Fort William in about five hours. Let the gif go through its paces to especially see what must be the most gorgeous viaduct in the world. I know little of Harry Potter, only having taken notice when the star was naked astride a horse, but there is some connection.

Later note, ok, the gif does not work, but the relevant photo is showing.

Power Corp CitiPower Origin Energy

When did the power go off here? I can't remember, but I sent an email to PowerCorp / CitiPower and a reply came back with a direct telephone number to call to discuss the matter, the matter being when I rang our power supplier Origin, the call went to PowerCorp / CitiPower and the phone menu would not accept me as a customer after entering my post code, 3004. This left me nowhere to go with the phone menu.

3004 is the post code for St Kilda Road and the parallel Queens Road and Queens Lane and the short streets intersecting them.

After checking my address and some further verification, I was told that it was probable that the system did not accept 3004. There was no indication to me that this would be fixed, rather the suggestion that I use the post code 3000, which is pretty well the Melbourne Central Business District. A curious question was, did you try 3000? Why would I try a post code that wasn't mine?

Bah, I have an exclusive post code and I can't use it. How will PowerCorp know I am a VIP and deserve to have my electric supply uninterupted, and not your basic city dweller, if I can't use my 3004 post code?

New Computer Annoyances

The new computer works perfectly well now. Except for two areas which I have managed to fix, I think.

One I certainly have. As you know, I am occasionally involved in blogging, just very occasionally mind. But Firefox would not remember me. If I closed Firefox, that is the browser window or restarted the computer, I was forgotten. This meant constant logging in to sites, including my blog, blog reader, blog comments, porn sites etc etc.

I sought info on the net and it came good. I am not sure why I had to do this to make Firefox work like it used to on the old computer, but I went to my Firefox profile via the run option, pasted in a long address I found at another site, renamed something like squilcookies to tempcookies and it worked. Firefox now remembers me at my own site and yours too. It was getting very laborious to log in to so many sites to make a comment.

The other problem was computer forgetting power saving options. We never turn the computer off, only restart but it is set to shut down the hard drive and monitor after five minutes of no usage. About once a day it just forgets the setting and stays on and we took to turning the monitor off. To get it power saving again, I change the settings to three minutes and restart. When it happens the next time, back to five minutes and restart.

I started writing the above several days ago and all seems well now, including the power saving options. I have no idea why that has started to function properly. Maybe the same cookie problem.

Monday, February 09, 2009


I don't give to charities normally. I don't give to beggars either. Maybe it is my Scottish blood, maybe I am just mean, but I don't like supporting charities doing the basic work that our governments should, funded by our taxes.

The last time I gave money was for the Tsunami Appeal. I made sure it did not go to a religious organisation, but still, much of the donated money eventually seemed to disappear into administrative costs.

I will make an exception again and donate generously to the appeal for bush fire victims. R has already agreed to match mine and I just discovered my workplace will match all donations by anyone who donates via them. Sorry, no names. Gee up your employer to do the same.

While there will be some well off people on the receiving end, or at least some of the money will be poorly distributed, it has struck me that the majority are not rich people, in fact many of them are clearly your pretty basic working class or social security recipients who have tried for an inexpensive life in the country.

I vividly recall 1983 fires and I never really expected to experience anything like that again, let alone worse. Before that, I think my father drove us through serious grass fires. As a kid on a farm with a fire approaching, we had our wetted down hessian sacks and ready to get into the dam water.

I just cannot imagine the situation some people found themselves in. The dead are dead and past help. Help those who lost and are feeling very lost.

Fight or Flee

I have believed it is possible to stay at your home and face a bus fire, so long as you are well prepared.

Well prepared by my standards would be no native trees near your house, a good perimeter of cleared land and most importantly, a petrol driven pump, a back up petrol driven pump, a decent supply of petrol, a good supply of non town water and sprays rigged up over your house, preferably with metal fittings. You also have to be fit and properly attired to fight spot fires and embers. Of course you have to be there and not at work or elsewhere, and, you have to be very brave.

I thought if I lived in the country, that is how I would protect my house.

In a complete about face, I now think that I would ensure that I had the highest level of insurance cover on my property and get the hell away early. It is just not worth the risk to human life.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

We Was Wrong

What a weekend. What a terrible weekend. Friday night R said, 'Looks like it will be bad tomorrow'.

'Wait for the anti climax,' replied moi.

I really wish I correctly predicted the day, but alas, I did not.

I called ABI Brother who lives on the outskirts of Pakenham to make sure he was watching for flying embers.

Later I called Mother, who had been in somewhat of a panic, but was ok when I spoke to her. She has some very kind friends who like to assist a helpless widow. I suspect at least one has designs on her.

For the half the night I listened in horror to the marvellous coverage by ABC Local Radio. They even flew in broadcaster Tim Cox from Tasmania to take a turn at the mike. Noticeably absent from the team was Red Symons, though some fronted up for multiple shifts including producers. Of course they will get paid, but they don't have to do it.

Who I did not consider was Sister and Little Jo, who was with the Bone Doctor in the hospital provided unit in a large central Victorian town. Behind the unit is a large paddock covered by dry grass, at least slashed. A fire came within one kilometre and Sister had the car packed, which she had only just unpacked the night before, ready to head to the centre of town. Fortunately the wind direction was good for Sister, albeit not for others.

Poor Little Jo hated being cooped up in the unit all day with sporadic air con as the power went off and back on. She could not understand why there was no outing at all for the day. She would not sleep in the afternoon, but finally did at six o'clock. At nine, the Bone Doctor and her boss rang them to come and join them for pizza at the bosses palatial house. They were offered an overnight stay, but as the Boss already had a fire refugee guest, they declined. Priority for today was a visit to the local pool for a swim for Little Jo. She just loves a swim.

Of course I can't not have a go at someone in a post. So a brick bat to all the stupid people who clog up telephone lines and websites with their pathetic minor concerns and offers of $2 or a smelly old blanket or half a bale of hay. Worse they call 000 (999 or 911 or 112), to ask stupid questions. What part of emergency don't people get?

Emergency broadcaster! Emergency services! Emergency telephone! Look it up in a dictionary.