Saturday, March 20, 2010

The kid

Oh how I worry that Little Jo is too smart and too advanced for her own good. Extreme cleverness can often come with mental frailty. She does not always understand, but I am able to have a conversation with her. Her timelines can be wrong, as can the details, but the essence of what happened is there. I have learned that she can be very manipulative, but I think that is par for the course at her age of two and three quarters.

We bought her some wooden blocks with pictures to make up on each side of the blocks. It was rated for three year olds. It took R five minutes to put the blocks together to make a picture. Little Jo is more interested in stacking the blocks.

She stacked some blocks for Nana Fud (Mother). This is Uncle Andrew's and Uncle R's tall house, and the proceeded to knock the blocks down. Ouch! I questioned Sister. No, I have never said anything about you living in a tall house. She has worked that out herself.

It is not easy, even for us at times, to see exactly where we live in the building from the outside, and once I was tempted to try and point out where we lived in the building from the outside to Little Jo, but nah, too hard. However, it seems she has at least worked out that where we live is very tall.

Little Jo refuses to go out unless she has a dress on. Sister very occasionally wears a dress. The Bone Doctor, never. We would laugh if we saw Bone Doctor in a dress. Boys don't wear dresses.

Sister is very indulgent with Little Jo. I would be a good bit harder. Not an option Little Jo, do as you are told. Seems parenting has changed since I was parented. I have mixed views on the way children are brought up now, but when I see young children hugged and cuddled and receive so much love, that can't be wrong.

Tram Smash

People do some really silly things in front of trams. I guess quite some credit is due to tram drivers for saving many people from the foolishness of their actions. What car drivers, and pedestrians for that matter never think about is the impact on passengers inside the tram when the driver has to brake hard to avoid an errant motorist or pedestrian.

I think a front facing camera on trams would be a marvellous idea for Melbourne's trams. It is proven technology already as you can see by this Youtube clip. Its pretty hard to believe how stupid the motorists are in this clip. The edge of the tram line is clearly defined with humps and line marking. Although the clip is not in English, it is from the US of A.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Camping it up

What do many Australians do when they get to a certain age and retire? They buy a caravan/motor home or some other wheeled accommodation vehicle and do a circuit, with detours, of Australia. Someone once calculated the time saving that would occur if you travel anticlockwise, on the inside of the circuit rather than the clockwise. I forget the answer but it was a bit of whimsical fun.

Maybe we would like to travel Australia in such a manner one day? So off we went by tram to the Caravan and Camping Show at Caulfield Racecourse. Yarra Trams cannot provide a sufficient service to St Kilda on Sundays, so they have diverted a direct tram to the racecourse to run via St Kilda, adding ten minutes to the trip. Ah well, no rush and there are worse places to be diverted via.

I was astonished at how many people were at the show and how many exhibitors there were. We did not bother with the accessory stalls, but there must have been a hundreds of them.

We saw big and tiny caravans, motorhomes, something newish called five wheelers, poptops and camping trailers that have tents that fold out into twenty bedroom houses (a spa is an extra).

Generally I wasn't too surprised in advances in RVs, as they seemed to be named now, since we hired a motor home in New Zealand. They don't seem to use dual voltage anymore. Things run off the battery mostly and so you plug in to charge the battery, rather than run things. I expect air con is an exception. For around $60,000 you could get a decent sized van with a separate shower, separate toilet and small washing machine, plus an exterior pull out barbecue. A small van without extras might have been $25,000.

Motorhomes are quite expensive, mind you many of them are Mercedes motorised. Our NZ motorhome was based on a Bedford van, so it was quite spacious and well equipped, even by today's standards.

Oh look, a nearby pub. A thirst quenching gin and tonic while we decided whether to get the tram home to the door or the train and have a twenty plus minute walk in the heat. We caught the tram. The time would have been the same.

We came away with nothing at all clearer in our minds. Motorhome, where you must always take your accommodation with you, or caravan to tow, which is less pleasant to drive and you have to reverse park it. I have heard stories of people gathering at parks to watch how well the newcomers reverse their caravan into a space. I used to be able to reverse a trailer or whatever, but it was a long time ago. I am not sure I want to refresh. I am siding with the more expensive motor home option. Of course I would be looking at used ones rather than new. But we are still young. It is a long time away.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Spell checker does not like the word valeen. It was a word that was around when I was a teen, I guess a combo of vile and unclean. Good word really.

I listened to some chat on the radio the other day about people's cleanliness fetishes. One person who had a fairly extreme cleanliness fetish in one area, could quite happily pick up a twenty cent piece out of a strangers toilet bowl. I will admit to a couple.

Used bandaids, or sticking plasters. Yuk. I hate them, especially bad if spotted in a pool or a spa.

Pubic hair, well any human hair really, if it is not attached to a body. Animal hair worries me not an iota, but detached human hair is filthy, especially pubic hair. Ok, I was forced once to use a shower that had some floating hair in it, but it is so revolting. I'll give you a kiss if you can recall when and where that was. I did write about it and I promise to gargle Listerine first.

Towels, yours specifically. I reluctantly use other people's hand towels after washing my hands in their basins. I just touch the hand towel with the back and front of my hands but no way will I use their body drying towels for drying my hands or my body. I grew up in a household where the whole family shared towels and it never worried me. I just used whichever towel was the driest. Now, even R and I have separate towels, well, we have separate bathrooms, but even so, we have always had separate towels.

Speaking of R, he will quite happily give you a deep toungy kiss but don't ask him to share his glass, straw or cup.

Generally, though, I reckon we all need a good dose of germs, good and bad, to maintain our immune systems.

So come on, tell me about you cleanliness fetish. What a bit out of the ordinary in the area of cleanliness freaks you out?

Faith in the system?

As cynical as I can be at times, I do tend to have faith in 'the system'. I believe, generally, if you do the right thing, all will be well. You may think I am a fool for thinking this, but it is the way I survive. I cannot see much point in anything if I don't have some faith in our society. No doubt some of you now have tingling fingers, itching to start typing to drag me into the realities of life and I won't even mention what one blogmate went through when the medical system failed her so badly with tragic consequences.

If you watch those 'airport' style television shows, there is very rarely a case where the customer is right, but from what I have read on this post below, these chaps did everything right and yet were well and truly shafted by Jetstar. Ok, not life threatening, no one died, but what sheer incompetence by Jetstar, a subsidiary of our Qantas airline. So have a quick read of what Evol Kween and his partner went through at the hands of Jetstar. I can't see that they did anything wrong, apart from perhaps travelling Jetstar.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Inaccurate Forecasting

Bet that gets the staff at the weather bureau going. Settle fellas and fellaresses.

In the eighties, Prime Minister Bob Hawke, referring to Australia of course, by 1990 no child will live in poverty.

In the seventies, possibly Premier Dick Hamer upon the opening of the Thompson Dam, Melbourne will never be short of water again.

And a little more topical, in the teens? Premier John Brumby, Melbourne will never need to go above stage three water restrictions again.

No additional comment by me required.

On yer bike

I was home reasonably early last week, around 4.30pm. I don't like getting home at this time. I don't know what to do with myself until it is drinks and tv news time at six o'clock. I feel restless and unsettled. Of course being at work all day and not home for an extended lunch break meant I was hopelessly behind with matters of the internet, but I have realised that there is little on the net that can't wait.

One evening I sat on the balcony and watching the flashing of the red light camera down below as car after car ignored red lights and red arrows. I find it quite entertaining. More revenue to the state for more services and other things that I can enjoy. I also did a bit of a bicycle count. Between 5pm and 6pm I averaged eighteen bicycles per set of traffic lights through the intersection below. The full traffic light cycle is around two and half minutes. So, with some presses on the calculator buttons, I have come up with the figure of about 430 bicycles in that hour. Most impressive and if that is totally wrong, then it is the calculator's fault.

This is a huge increase in numbers since we moved here eight years ago. Although it can be difficult at times, pretty rarely for me really, to interact with cyclists on the road, I would rather have them on a bike than each of them in a car on all ready congested roads, or as passengers on crowded trams.

Good on yer bike riders. But please stay off St Kilda Road footpaths especially if you travel fast, lest you suffer a kick to your spokes from my partner as you pass by. He has been in the wrong place at the wrong time twice and had 'interactions' with cyclists travelling on footpaths at speed.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In brief

OMG, teen niece has just obtained a chain saw license. I worry about her with a knife cutting up an Iceberg lettuce.

Spotting a cuckoo

I am not sure if it is still the case, but come the season of Spring to England, a letter would be published in The Times informing the readers of a sighting of the first cuckoo for the year. (Wonder where they winter? Costa del Sol?)

Come Autumn in Australia my favourite spotting distraction is watching or listening to the media for the first mention of an INDIAN SUMMER. Last night a television weather presenter announced we are now having an Indian Summer. He is possibly correct but in years past the definition has been applied very loosely. Two warm and sunny days do not an Indian Summer make, besides, successive days of 30 degrees is rather more like a normal summer and given we have not reached the Autumn Equinox, it really is still summer.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bad Australia

Adelaide had and extensive tram system but most of it was closed except for the line from the city to Glenelg. We took a trip on the Glenelg tram in eighties. It was fun. The tram line at the city end has been extended, new trams bought and it was overwhelmed by new travellers. The line has been further extended and with more success and more new trams bought. Build it in the right place and the people will come.

Both Brisbane and Sydney built railway lines from the centre of their cities to their international airports. In both cases, in spite of high fares, the people came. Brisbane city to airport train is profitable. I am not sure about Sydney. I would suggest that the high prices for train travel compared to normal suburban train travel deters some people. Just as well perhaps, as I think they would be overwhelmed.

Jayne sent me a link about a plan for a cable car to Mount Wellington from Hobart. If it is discreet, I think it would be great. A decade or less ago Hobart had plans to build a tram line in their fair city. It would have travelled exactly where people wanted to go, the waterfront and to Salamanca (I should check this bit of information. I am just going by memory). Provisions were made for the tram, but it was cancelled. You can see where the tracks were to go, the spaces filled in with rubber. I thought I had a photo of them, but I can't find the non-digital photo. Fool Hobart.

Bendigo is a nice enough place and it has remnant historic tram system. There was a proposal to extend the tram, but the locals put the kibosh on it. Fool Bendigo.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars have been spent on the West Gate Freeway and I imagined that the work, of which the plan seemed quite sound to me, would have reduced congestion on Queens Road and Kingsway. I cannot see why not, but it hasn't. If anything, it is worse. Build them a road and they will come.

A couple of years ago we travelled by train from London to Paris in 2.15 hours. High speed trains are the norm in Europe. Almost unbelievable speeds of trains are being achieved in China between major cities, departing and arriving right into the heart of the cities. They are planning for high speed trains to Singapore and Europe.

So, how is Melbourne going in the race for high speed rail transport?

Not terribly well, I am afraid. We don't have a fast train or even a slow one to the airport and there are no plans for one. You can get a bus though and it is expensive. It just travels on normal roads so if there is road problem, you will be stuck in traffic.

I have heard that one of the busiest airline routes in the world is between Sydney and Melbourne. Ah, the airports are some 20 km from Melbourne City and 10km from Sydney City respectively. Don't quote me on that, but really, why don't we have a high speed train from Melbourne to Sydney terminating at Southern Cross Station and Central.

I will suggest that a fast train from Melbourne City to the airport would be very popular and pay its way. I will further suggest that a high speed train between Melbourne and Sydney such as the Chinese are building would be overwhelmed with the number of people who prefer to use it in preference to flying. Just by being there would create it its own train traffic. I would go to Sydney more often if it wasn't for having to deal with airports.

It is all very well to blame politicians, but other countries have politicians too, just as short term focused and vote watching as ours, yet these other countries are actually doing things. There must be something wrong with Australia and Australians.

Update: An interesting piece I just came across at The Age online, My Kingdom for a Train.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bellarine Peninsula Pt 2

Where were we, ah yeah, R's jeans. He hung them under cover. The rain teemed down and the drains failed to cope. Water started lapping around our feet. Then the house gutters overflowed and poured all over R's nearly dry jeans. We laughed muchly.

We adjourned inside. The visitors were very nice and their teenage kids great with Little Jo. The daughter is very clever and often called upon as a school age media spokesperson. I will look out for her name in the future. The husband was the nominated driver and behaved. Can't say the same for the rest of us. It wasn't a late night though. We were in bed by 10.30.

I love the warbling of magpies, but hey there are a lot of them down that way and gee they were noisy in the morning. R dried his jeans in the clothes dryer.

There were two water tanks outside. Previous rain had filled one that was connected to the gutters and with a syphon hose we moved half the water to the other tank. The overnight rain should have filled the first tank up to the top and with the syphon we could have equalised them both at 75% full, except the syphon hose fell out of the second tank and emptied it onto the lawn. Best laid plans.......

After cereal and toast we went to Queenscliff. If you are posh, Queenscliffe. We were not unfamiliar with Queenscliff as a few years ago when Sister lived in Geelong, we and our Brother Friends visited her and then went to Queenscliff and caught the ferry to Sorrento. There are some lovely old buildings in Queenscliff and it is a terminus for an historic railway line. Of course I wanted to see a steam engine depart. But first,

I am over typing Qcliff. So Q. Q has a new marina, lots of smart buildings. It is controversial, but I don't know enough about it to comment, other than there are now lots of smart and sleek boats and nary a beaten up fishing boat or a 'cuta boat to be seen. Sister told me I must research the 'cuta boats. Does sound interesting. One restaurant has opened but it was a bit too early in the general construction process for it to be thriving. Nevertheless the viewing tower was drawing the people. I must say, it was great and free, and with lifts for the lazy or old. I did not argue when R headed for the lift, while Sister, Bone Doctor and Little Jo took the stairs. The views were good.

Onto the historic train station to see the steam engine depart. Nope, steam engine damaged by rain or hail. Substitute by an old diesel electric. Still good to watch. What is that noise? A starter motor, and then the diesel engine burst into life. The engine started, slowly taking up the slack between the carriage connections and away it went with much waving.

A bit before a white van had come along the railway on train wheels, stopped, raised the train wheels and drove off the track on rubber tyres.

We walked up to the Queenscliff shops and kind of separated, rejoined, separated and rejoined again. R and I took in a couple of galleries and took Little Jo into a lolly shop where we scooped up a bag full for Little Jo, much to Sister's disapproval. I scooped up my own bag full, chocolate covered aniseed rings and chocolate covered liquorice bullets.

Religion is dying off, as proved by the church we sat outside of and took coffee and cake. The adjacent church had turned their vestry into a second hand book sale. Plan was to buy rolls for lunch to go with some left over meat, but suddenly we felt chilly and ended up buying pies. We were no sooner out of the bakery and it started to rain. Back to Sister's and et lunch and then while Little Jo was taking her afternoon nap, we left and headed for home.

Now the photos. The observation tower. It is not tall, but nor is anything else, so it doesn't need to be.

The marina with Swan Bay in the background. Note how fast the water is flowing in the channel between the bay and the open sea.

The Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry had just arrived and was starting to reload cars and folk.

Sister, why is the light house a dark colour? It should be white. Brother, there is a white lighthouse too. Line the white one and the dark one up and you can navigate.

Just because it is a sparkling pretty picture.

At the Station. Shall we round that to say 68 miles.

An old sign at the Station. Outside of the boundaries for the old sign project.

Why did the steam engine fail because of the previous nights heavy rain? Did the coal get wet or the funnel fill with water? The ever reliable diesel was ready and raring to go. While some of you will know, some of you won't, a diesel electric train is powered by electric motors. The electricity for the motors is generated by the running of the diesel motors. The diesel motors do not drive the train wheels.

They make very good coffee at this redundant church. Like niece, like uncle, another Cameraface in the making.