Saturday, May 15, 2010

That'll be a tick Jess

By the time you read this, all being well, Jessica Watson will be standing on land, albeit probably in a wonky manner, after completing a solo round the world sailing trip.

I recall when Sir Francis Chichester, an older and very experienced salt, sailed solo around the world to huge acclaim.

For the cynics among you, yes, Jessica had a lot of modern and high tech equipment, things Sir Francis would not even have dreamed about. She had regular contact with many people including her family. Advice on tap, you might say. She will go on to make heaps of money with television and magazine deals, and of course product endorsement. She will always be remembered for her feat and must now deal with fame.

But what you can't forget is that she is a sixteen year old kid who sailed around the world on her own. Well done Jessica.

Dave and Nick

Oh that Pants is naughty. From the safety of Larrikin's End here in Victoria she disrespectfully refers to the new British Prime Minister as the Decameron (I read the book a long time ago) and the Deputy Prime Minister as Foghorn Clegghorn. I bet Pants would have been a little more circumspect had she not been run out of departed Hackney.

Given their relative youth, I am surprised that I don't find either of them attractive. Should I have the chance, it would be only a oncer with either of them, just out of curiosity you could say. Who knows, I might be surprised by their talents.

Must say though, they are new and fresh looking, unlike Cameron's predecessor, the Scottish Stodge. Even their voices sound bright, modern, airy and energetic. Of course energetic politicians can be dangerous beasts for their constituents . With apologies to Sir Humphrey; Minister, you want to do something? Why?

I like my politicians to make me angry. The Scottish Stodge never did. Blair never did. Major just made me laugh, at him. No, not since dear, now gaga, Maggie has an English PM made me angry. Thatcher taught me how to hate, her.

Slightly perverting the Chinese curse, we live in interesting times.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Myki Tram Readers

I suppose they are Myki equipment testers I have seen out and about on trams of late. Armed with clipboards, they test each reader with their card and make notes. Over the last month I have noticed that the card readers are generally working, unlike in the past when they seemed to be always shut down, or some of them.

What alarms me is that it seems to take between three and four seconds from when the tester puts the card up to the reader and for the reader to register the ticket. Multiply that by fifty people getting off a tram and touching off and fifty people getting on and touching on at one stop and then maybe the next stop twenty on and twenty off, well, someone did not really think this through did they.

I don't know if it was a improper use of a train Myki card or one given to select people, but already I have seen a bit of tram driver rage at a passenger who was obsessed with touching off with his Myki card. The driver shut the door, reopened at the passenger request, closed it again yet still the passenger wanted to get off, all the while trying to touch off with his Myki card. "Are ya gettin' orf or not mate?", yelled the the driver.

Something has to give. I suggest we just wait for the government announcement. And where is Jean Kerr Walsh when she is needed? Have the public seen her CV where it prominently says, spin doctor? MS Kerr Walsh may be seen as a little tarnished by too many people.

Bottoms up, but hold your nose

Oh, I could give you a lovely list of the ingredients in our sewerage water, but not much imagination is needed for you to conjure up your own mental list.

Instead of running short of water, building expensive and power hungry desalination plants and stealing water from other parts of the state, why don't we just recycle sewerage water? Some of you are saying why not and some of you are saying yuk, I won't drink it.

If you have been to Singapore or London, you have already, or if you only drank bottled water, at least bathed in it. As well as being fully treated, it is also diluted with much larger volumes of fresh water, which seems to be standard practice.

Everytime I hear someone say they will never drink recycled sewerage water, I cast my mind back to The Age's Kenneth Davidson column written on Feb 12th 2009, shortly after Victoria's fires. Here is an extract.

Ironically, the one-quarter of Melbourne households that have been using recycled water since 1980 now have the most secure potable water supply. Most of those in the northern suburbs who use this water are unaware that it is recycled sewage produced by other Melburnians living around Lilydale. The Winneke purification plant has operated without customer complaint for almost 30 years on the principle that what the people don't know won't hurt the politicians.

Mr Davidson is a very clever man who I admire muchly and trust, so I am prepared to accept his word.

But just in case, I researched for thirty seconds to verify his statement. Well, someone is not talking. Melbourne Water tells me it does recycle water collected from non pristine catchments, that is downstream of farms and towns. From the Winneke Treatment Plant, the water goes into the Sugarloaf Reservoir. But it is not quite the same thing. I can't find anything about directly recycling sewerage water for use as drinking water. Perhaps they see no need to tell the punters.

For mine, I don't care, so long as it is clean. I will just add the proviso that I have a recollection from our Northern Territory when a plumber made some wrong pipe connections and not very highly treated contaminated water was coming out drinking and wash basin taps. Why was everyone suddenly getting sick? It is always the human element that screws things up.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Failing Highrise Electrics

2010, so far.

Clothes dryer belt $20
Balcony door bolt $40
TV repair $400
Dishwasher repair $320
Three bedroom overhead fans and lounge dimmer switch $1240
Non standard light bulbs $50
Dead lock replacement $100
Range hood light repairs $?
Electric kettle $60

Total $2,330, allowing $100 for range hood lights. Probably something I have missed too.

What happened? Two cases of power supply units failing, tv and dishwasher. I am sure in the olden days appliances did not have a power supply unit, or if they did, they never failed. You fixed your tv or radio by taking the back off it by removing a few slotted screws, not Philips heads, and looked for a valve that was either glowing red hot or not glowing at all. You took it out, went to the shop and bought a replacement and plugged it back in. No power supply unit nonsense.

The Lockwood 001 deadlock has been around for three decades or more. This is the first one of ours that has gone wrong. When I removed it there were lots of brass shavings and a bit of metal. What a fail.

Clothes dryer belt, fair wear and tear.

Light bulbs, we use a lot of unconventional lighting. It costs.

Kettle, total extravagance. Nothing wrong with the old one except it was so noisy.

Range hood lights. Don't know yet. Not high priority. No evidence of burn marks. Maybe in the switch.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Five Degrees of Blog Separation

I shan't use names, because I can't recall who, but don't bloggers you know turn up in the strangest places? Mostly I work out the connection but sometimes one smacks you out of the blue. You might be looking at a new blog and there you see a comment by someone who's blog you regularly read. The regular blog world seems so intertwined at times.

During the week I had the pleasure of meeting three long term blog mates for lunch. The three bloggers know each other quite well, so I was the odd one out, and yes, I was nervous. Oddly, my usually shaky hands were quite still though. We had a nice lunch special with a glass of wine at a spacious cafe at So Cross Station and of course they were perfectly nice people. Nice can be boring. They were interesting too, but I knew that already.

I had to go South Yarra afterwards and so caught the train with two of them who were going home in the same direction.

So, if you get a chance to meet Copperwitch, Lord Sedgwick or the trivia queen of Melbourne music, do so. They don't bite, well not too hard.

Seems Melbourne has a bit of a problem with public place roofs at the moment. So Cross temporary repairs are failing too.

Charging phone, ipod, camera

Plugging my mp3 player into the pc is the only way I know to charge its battery.

I was transferring some photos from my phone to the pc and I noticed the battery charge indicator showing that the phone was charging. I left the phone connected and the battery charged up. Learn something every day.

I tried to test if the normal camera does the same when it is plugged into the pc, but as the battery is charged when out of unit, how can you tell? I then charged the battery normally and it seemed to charge quickly, so I am just not sure.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Catching a Melbourne Tram

I am writing this with some collaboration from someone who has inside knowledge.

Once you know how to catch a Melbourne tram, they are incredibly easy to use.

The first thing to know is that, surprising to many, they move, so once you are on a tram, there is a fair to even chance that it will move, so you need to hang on. If you are a young, lithe and a supple boi or lass, you can probably dance back and forth with the motion of the tram. If you are not young and lithe, you need to read up about osteoporosis before boarding a tram and once on the tram, hang on. Having pointed this out, trams are much smoother than buses, just not quite as smooth as trains.

You need to have a ticket before you get on a tram, or coins to buy one from a machine on the tram. The tram driver never buys a ticket to travel on a tram, and probably knows less about tickets than you do, so don't expect him or her to be of much help. The ticket system is nothing to do with the tram driver and his or her pocket is not weighed down with change for those don't have any. Maybe a fellow passenger will help you with change if you are short. Best to buy a ticket before you get on. Look for the Metcard sign at small businesses such as convenience stores and newsagents. If you buy your Metcard from the machine on the tram, it is already validated, unlike when you buy a ticket from a train vending machine. You are supposed to validate your ticket each time you use a tram, but if you have done in once or bought it from an on board machine, few people do.

The new Myki ticket system for Melbourne's public transport has not yet been commissioned on trams. Don't try to use it. Your Myki ticket is not valid on trams and you can argue with a ticket checker, sorry, Revenue Protection Officer, about that point if you wish. Speaking of ticket checkers, one just checked my ticket today. I find them unfailing polite, as does R, but then we do have tickets, unless on the odd occasion the system has failed us and we take revenge by not paying. I hear reports that ticket checkers are not always so polite. While I haven't seen this, there may be some truth to it but I suspect they won't wrestle you to the ground and sit on you without some provocation on your part.

The tram driver will generally answer a question you have about directions, but remember, he or she is driving the tram, so make your question concise and not a vague query or attempt to play a game of twenty questions when one succinct question will give you the information you need. I am just guessing, but I expect the drivers get quite annoyed when you get on a tram and pester them with questions when there were customer service people standing around not doing too much where you boarded the tram.

Alerting the driver that you want the next stop in principle should be easy, however many struggle with the concept that the tram driver cannot read you mind. While Sydney's trams pretty well operated that the tram stopped at every stop, Melbourne's did not and do not. You must alert the driver that you want to get off at the next tram stop by pulling a cord or pushing a button. Which you do depends on the model of the tram. Some have cords to pull and buttons near the door and a visible indicator light at each end of the tram. Some have buttons that have indicator lights on them, and some have buttons and the indicator light is displayed in the internal destination display. Confused? I don't blame you. A cord to pull on all trams would be so useful and simple. Don't ring the next stop bell when the tram is still at the last stop. The driver will just think you want to get off where you are. Don't ring the bell just as you leave the last stop, the driver may forget by the time the tram gets to the next stop. Don't ring the bell too late, the driver may or may not be able to stop and won't be happy. Ring the next stop bell about half way between the stops or when the tram picks up a decent bit of speed.

I can't recall that it has happened to me on a tram, it certainly has on buses. You need to time you ringing of the next stop bell. Yesterday, the bus I was on stopped at the stop before Punt Road. It started off and a lass rang the bell for the next stop. The bus stopped at the Punt Road traffic lights for a couple of minutes and then took off and had some significant interaction with traffic. The driver then totally forgot that someone had rung the bell and went past her stop. She didn't react and just got off at the next stop, Prahran Market. When we first moved here and I wasn't used to buses, I did a similar thing and was carried past my stop. Coming home tonight, some stupid cow rang the bell almost as soon as the bus left the last stop. We sat through a full set of traffic lights at Toorak Road and then the driver almost did not stop, only realising at the last moment that someone had rung the bell and she made a dramatic stop.

As for the internal displays and automated announcements on trams, they are so unreliable for anything more than the ultimate destination, so just ignore them.

Exterior route numbers and destinations should display clearly on the outside of the tram, front and rear and on each side of the tram and sometimes inside. To get on the tram and ask what the destination is or what the route number is must be very annoying to the driver. Sometimes different destinations can be displayed for the same route, especially the very popular route 16 to Kew via St Kilda. Don't ask me why. I don't know but it is the case. Route numbers are usually a better indicator.

My source tells me that the most complaints received about trams is that they don't stop to pick the complainant up. In spite of the tram having people on it, indicating a general willingness by the driver to pick people up, the tram has left this person behind. Why are they being so victimised?

From my observations, when walking past a tram stop and suddenly flinging your hand up as the tram sails by will not stop a tram. You need to be ready to catch the tram at a stop. Sitting on a seat at a tram stop is not a clear indication that you want the tram either. You may be comfortable and engrossed in your book, but the tram may well sail right on by. Generally I find most Melbourne tram drivers generous in their interpretation of this, unlike in Sydney where you really need to step out from the bus stop and stop the bus.

You may well to do a pirouette to attract the driver's attention to you wanting the tram, but normally a hand signal will do. This method has failed me only once, probably because I did not turn to face the tram and perhaps I signalled when the tram was too far away. I think if you eyeball the driver and put your hand out to stop the tram, it is close to fail safe.

This brings us to my local street, where the most complaints about trams not picking people up come from. The lesser number is about trams going to the city and not picking people up. The tram could be full already, or more likely, there is another tram close behind. This is called load sharing and it means that the front tram and the one behind share the load and both get to the city more quickly. The opposite is a bunch of five trams together, held up by the tram in front overloaded but still stopping at every stop. There is a very old joke that no longer works because trams now come in many colours, but it was, What is yellow and green and comes in bunches? Melbourne's trams was the answer.

Of greater concern is trams from the city bound for the suburbs and not picking up people in my street. Let me count. Yep, seven different tram routes pass by my door. How does the driver know whether you want his or her tram, or one going to another destination? He or she knows because you indicate to the tram driver that you want the tram. Do you really expect every tram passing by will stop and open the doors on the off chance that you want to get on? You could want any tram on the seven different routes. Clearly indicating to the driver that you want the tram will ensure you catch it. It may normally stop anyway to let people off, but it won't always. Indicating that you don't want the tram by a hand or head movement, or turning your back to it might a good thing to do, but not necessary. I tend to turn my back to the approaching tram if I don't want it.

As previously mentioned, there are different trams, some normal size, some long and some mega long, so to gather at the front of safety zone and single file on the tram at the narrow front door is dumb as. There are always two doors, sometimes three, sometimes five and maybe there are more on the very new trams. Spread out. Some trams are thirty plus metres long. Why gather in a one metre space to catch a tram?

Many complaints are received along the lines of the driver shut the door on me. It is more likely that the door automatically closed and this applies mainly to one type of tram. Throwing you arm between the doors will not work. They are not lift doors. There is an ankle level beam to detect passengers getting on or off the tram. This is what you need to break. Even so, I have been hit by a closing door, usually on very busy trams.

What about getting off the tram. Some tram drivers are ever so nice and wait while you stand up, walk to the door and get off the tram. Most tram drivers are not so nice and thank god they aren't because it wastes a lot of time and I sit there stewing about why is this driver waiting for these idiots to dawdle to the door and slowly alight. You need to be at the door and ready to get off the tram when it stops. It can be difficult when the tram is packed and I suggest a commanding use of your voice to clear the way. Your fellow passengers are pretty good about this if they know your intention. Another reason to be at the door and ready to get off is that people start getting on the tram as you want to get off. Politeness and impoliteness interact with a result of confusion and entanglement.

I have been using trams regularly for most of my adult life. I will do my best to answer any reasonable queries you may have.

So enjoy your tram trip. I mostly do.

Yarra Trams


Gosh, I started writing this in early April.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Highriser has sabotaged the best efforts of Australia's electrical safety regulators. This is only to accommodate R's laptop charger when we are in Japan. It is not a wise idea to use an high current device that has an earth prong in an unearthed socket.

R was telling me that when he was a kid growing up in England, there were so many different types of plugs and sockets, that appliances did not have plugs on them when they were new. You chose a plug to suit your house and the plug was fitted at the shop. His mother used to plug the clothes iron into the light socket.

Mother's Day

Why is it that anything we ever do with Mother leaves me feeling totally drained and exhausted?

Mother was transported by ABI Brother to Tradie Brother's abode, a granny flat in someone's back yard. It is certainly superior to the tent he was living in in the bush after he and Sis in Law separated, but still, quite modest. Tradie brother lived in the granny flat with his g/f for a bit, but reading between the lines, she was lazy and too fond of sitting in front of the tv, day or night. She was very pleasant to us and very good to Mother and he still sees her, but doesn't live with her anymore.

It was the first time we had been to Tradie Brother's granny flat. I kept my tongue still, except for a slightly unkind comment about faux timber wall board from the seventies.

Mother, ABI Brother and Teen Chainsaw Niece were already there. Some time later Dreaded Nephew arrived and in three separate vehicles, we journeyed to The Briars at Mount Martha. We ate sandwiches, crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks in the weak sunshine. Mother regaled us with tales from her youth and it was all very pleasant.

The Briars looks wonderful. Unfortunately Mother had slowed us to the point where the day was getting late. I did take a quick walk on my own. There is so much to see.

We left, with Tradie Brother going to see his ex g/f and us going to Sis in Laws. As well as being Mother's Day, it was her birthday. My fault, but we did end up taking a detour through the shopping streets of Frankston and the Lloyd Park football ground.

There was the usual mayhem at Sis in Law's, with two of her sisters and a niece being there to see their mother who lives in an attached granny flat, and of course kids in abundance. One was born the same month as Little Jo. I said hello to her and asked her how she was. I received a blank stare back. I guess she is not a super indulged and over educated child such as Little Jo.

Dreaded Nephew is so family oriented at the moment. Remember he came with us to the Botanic Gardens and came with us today. He bought a lemon meringue cheese cake and stuck some candles on it and brought it in to sing happy birthday to his mum. Perhaps he thinks by doing family things he won't have to repay the gay uncles the $2,700 it cost to get him back from England. He did ask for my bank account numbers a while ago to deposit some money, but no dollars have appeared yet. We will make sure it is deducted from his inheritance, but if we time everything right, there will only be a mortgage to repay.

Hehe, Eldest Niece recently went to Bali. After she returned, a couple of speeding fines arrived in the post. It took her a while before she realised that they were incurred while she was in Bali. Dreaded Nephew used her car and infringed twice on the same day. I am surprised as he is a good and very relaxed driver. Just a mistake I suppose. We all make them.

Eldest Niece appeared briefly. She lives in a bungalow as Sis in Law's place with her b/f. We have never clicked well with her. Her b/f's boss had sent them to the Whitsundays for the weekend for his work effort. Huh, I didn't even get a calendar from my employer this year.

Mother and us went down to the attached granny flat to say hi to Sis in Law's mother. She is losing it and the place stank of piss. She was staring at the tv that was broadcasting Michael Buble music from a dvd one daughter had recorded for her.

Sister has summonsed Tradie Brother to attend a property on the Bellarine Peninsula with a view that Sister and the Bone Doctor will buy and they need his professional opinion. He will go straight from work in Mount Waverley next week, pick up Teen Chainsaw Niece at Huntingdale Station, drive to Sister's and then use the Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry to return home.

Tradie Brother leaves his screen door open and turns on this exhaust fan over his front door. He says it stops mosquitos and flies.

Tradie Brother reckons he has the tallest rose in the area. He has to get onto his roof to train it.

I have learnt to never ask Tradie Brother what something is for. I stayed silent. Turns out this was a couple of pair of fluffy socks for Mother for Mother's Day.

This was my grandfather's wheel barrow bought in the late 1950s. Tradie Brother gave it a rust treatment and repainted it. Works fine.

At The Briars a couple of birds of a species unknown to me and a magpie drank and bathed. The birds chattered at the maggie, and the maggie was wary, but still drank.
Balcombe Creek. I idly wondered if there is a connection to Balcombe Road in Melbourne's south east.

Bird viewing platforms.

Pretty water plants.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Thin Skinned?

Doing the job I do where abuse is par for the course and the moods my partner gets into at times and lets fly, I surprise myself at how thinned skinned I can be at times. We were out for dinner last night at our regular pub for a meal with our Brother Friends. I always leave the nasty bill paying stuff for others to sort out. Just tell me how much I have to pay. Our fave waitress, who we call Shazza, was there. I was not paying attention when Shazza asked R if we wanted a second drink, in my case a house red. But he did not say a house red, he just responded to another drink.

I was upsized to a more expensive wine. It showed on the bill when sometimes we just go to the bar and pay the bill without question. It is a place we trust. Well was. But we had to divvy up the bill, our share and the Brothers share, and so we noticed. R was talking about the upsize when unbeknownst to him, Shazza was behind us cleaning down a table. I am only guessing that she heard something. She did come up to me later and apologise for the overcharge, but no mention of reducing the bill.

The amount of money we are taking about is less than $3 so it is clearly not about the money.

R or someone normally checks bills wherever we eat. We stopped bothering at this place. We might have eaten at this hotel thirty times in past few years, sometimes with friends, often just us and once with a group of ten. Such a simple thing has mega pissed me orf and I have taken it very personally.


Siesta States

Not really siesta states, but siesta countries, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

These are very different countries if compared to Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, the three Scandinavian countries and to a slightly lesser extent France.

Your German is so wondering why they have to prop up a country like Greece. I wonder why too.

How on earth did these siesta countries gain admittance to the EEC or whatever it is now called? They are just not at all compatible. Countries need to have a clean financial history before admittance, not be corrupt and buyers of votes to the extreme.

Why did the EEC pump so much money into Ireland, to the point where it was absolutely booming but without any sustainable foundation?

As for Iceland, governments are suppose to protect and look after their citizens, not open their country to the financial wolves.

Where do we go with Britain? Generally the English don't seem to like being part of the EEC and they certainly don't want Euros as their currency. What they especially don't like is there open borders to Europe, not so much to do with northern Europeans coming and going, but with Eastern Europeans having open access to Britain. It will be interesting to see what the incoming government will do about that problem.

Right, it is not the EEC anymore. European Union is the go now.

Conjecture everywhere, but is Greece really only the first domino? I have heard that even Brussels is in financial strife too.

The EU is often accused of being over regulating and bureaucratic. Seems it wasn't so good with rules and regs when it was investigating Greece for admittance.

I am sure of two things.

The lessons learnt from the world financial crises will be good for up to one generation, and then it will all happen again. It may not even take that long, given how snouts were never really pulled from the trough.

Who pays for the financial mess? The poorest and the honest workers of course. Don't we all love capitalism.

PS This is a draft but it has hung around for long enough and I don't have anything else to quickly post.