Saturday, August 07, 2010

New Monitor

We were almost at the cutting edge of technology a few years back when we paid over $400 for a 14" LCD computer monitor. But it was looking very dated and small. We decided some time back to buy a new larger one but there was no urgency. We will wait until we see a good special.

After our Open House experience a few Sunday's ago, we decided to have a look in stores to see what was around. We went to Office Works at QV and saw some agreeable units. We went onto the normally cheaper underground Dick Smith store at the corner of Bourke and Swanston. No bargain to be had there. Back to O W. We ummed and ahhed, compared sizes to resolutions to appearance to brands and prices, to giga pixels and megahertz. We chose one but it was not in a box, only shelf stock. The lad was about to get the box, when it occurred to us that it did not have speakers, whereas our present one has them built in. Our built in speakers are great, if you like sounds like a bat being tortured by a darning needle, but they did the job. If I want quality music, I'll use my AM Sony Walkman. (A work acquaintance laughed at me the other day when I pulled it out and stuck the buds into my ears. What is that, he exclaimed?)

Ok, buying speakers is not something I or R had even considered. We put it into the too hard basket, yet next Sunday, we went back. The same monitor was still the same price and we chose speakers to go with it. The speakers cost $30 and I don't think they are too bad, considering their price. I assured R that I would not be busy all afternoon setting them up. It was just a matter of plugging the monitor and speakers in. Of course, that proved to be untrue.

As I write this, where I am writing takes up the top left hand quarter of the screen. The rest is mostly just white, which was so glaring, we had to turn the brightness right down. The new screen is great for watching 'movies' but little else. We chose a minimal letter box shaped screen of 22", but what we actually would have liked was a more square screen of that size. The only positive is the speakers. We don't need them so loud to actually hear what is being said. Oh yes, the monitor does have some handy extra control features.

While I loved this wallpaper of Melbourne, I had to ditch it as I could not see the desk top icons easily.

Friday, August 06, 2010

I just don't get it

'Angry and very aggressive' baby killer jailed for 10 years

August 6, 2010

A Sydney man has been jailed for at least 10 and a half years for the "brutal" killing of his girlfriend's baby son, which a court has been told included stomping on the infant's chest.

You don't want to read anymore than the above. The story gets worse. It is quite distressing. I just cannot for the life of me understand why this bloke was not locked up permanently. What possible mitigating circumstances could there be? What would have possessed the mother to try and cover up for him. Actually, that is easier to understand than what he did.

Perhaps the only good thing out of this is that the child was saved from a miserablellife, but even so, some can rise above their upbringing. While we go about pretending everything is ok, we really do live a crap world.

New Shink

Am I being obsessive about Japanese trains, especially the Shinkansen? Probably the reason being that I am jealous. Why can't we have such trains in Australia?

We travelled on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hachinohe. You can see the line in red on the right of the map, up the top on the east coast. From there we changed to a limited express train to Aomori and then on to Hirosaki. Aomori is further north of Hachinohe in about the middle of the main island. For the purposes of this, let us just say we are travelling to Aomori only.

The one way fare costs around $220, which is why every foreigner who is going to use the trains buys a Japan Rail Pass for under $380.

We departed at 10.00am from Ueno in Tokyo and arrived at Hachinohe at 1.00pm, so trip time of 3 hours to cover 630km. We changed to the Limited Express at 1.10pm and arrived in Aomori at 2.10pm, just on another 100km. Total time, just over four hours and about 730 km covered.

On December the 4th this year, the Hachinohe (Tohuko) Shinkansen extension will open and run on new track to Aomori, bringing the time down to 3 hours and twenty minutes, a full forty minutes less and without a change of train.

But wait, it gets better. When this beastie below, the E5 Shinkansen, starts running in March 2011, it will cut the time even further. Once it is really let loose in 2013, it will be running at 300km/h or about 190mph. The E5 has a very spacious interior and can carry 731 passengers. Planes and airports, bah. Cars and buses, bah.

Btw, if you think it is too expensive for you, there is the option of the overnight express sleeper train or a road coach.

Later edit: A feasibility study has been proposed for a high speed train in Australia. By the time it is feasibilityised, discussed ad infinitum, planned, postponed and constructed, I'll be too old to ride on it. I have heard too many proposals of high speed trains to Sydney, or even a quick train to our airport.

Here is a vid of the new Shink in action.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Letter to brothers and sister

Sorry for the lack of formality brothers and sister. This is a problem we need to solve. To string it out endlessly and pretend it will go away cannot go on. Of course this is not for Mum’s eyes and not to be spoken about to her until we have a workable plan.

I directly confronted Mum, suggesting that her financial situation is not sustainable and had she thought about moving into a unit or a retirement home. She pooh poohed both ideas, as I knew she would and has in the past at any mention of such. Between us we have endlessly discussed her options, often with a good laugh, as it should be. We know all know what Mum is like. A friend suggested that if Mum has never had to budget before, she is not likely to start now. She hasn’t and she won’t now.

I have taken a look at her finances and from what I can work out, her fixed bills, electric, water, phone, rates, and insurance work out to about $100 per week. That should leave her $250 per week. Then there is the lawn mowing, $15 per week, less in winter. I expect the chemist does very well out of her, although she now buys many things at the Chemist Warehouse. Cigarettes and cat food must cost too. We all dislike the cats, but they give her some pleasure. Breeding season is about to happen. Maybe she will realise that one pet cat is practical, rather than a colony of them. Regardless, on paper, she should have enough income to survive, but life is not always like the theory.

Mum has been nagging me again about looking up about reverse mortgages and while we all dislike the idea of them, she owns her house and why should she go without when she has an asset than can be partly be liquidated?

She stated that she can manage but there is nothing spare left to ‘fix up the house’ or ‘if something breaks down’.

Given how quickly she went through Bone Doctor's $5000, I am not so sure that she can manage on a daily basis. Don’t forget that Bone Doctor will need to be repaid at some point, plus interest. Also note that Sister has been extremely generous with money for Mum. Sister, present your accounts to us at an appropriate time. Should the value of the house be eaten up in nursing home costs in the future, the debts to Sister and Bone Doctor stand.

Enough blather, here is what I propose.

The house rates have been paid not too long ago. We will pay the next, a bit over $1000. Round to say $300 each, perhaps next due about February 2011.

The electric bill is a killer. I am not sure of the hot water component (later update, it is a minimal part of the bill), but I know the old air con unit is burning money. I hate the thought of Mum being cold in the winter yet cold she is. I suggest we put in $500 each in the immediate future to buy an energy efficient split system. It will give her quieter and more economical heating and reduce her electric bill considerably and give her much more comfort. It will also be much better for cooling. If you don’t have the funds, I can wear the cost until you can repay me or it becomes a standing debt to me. We should look at getting the unit installed in spring. The only place I can envisage for it to be installed is above the existing unit. Tradie Brother, will the power supply be up to it? I think it will as it will draw less power than the existing unit.

She worries about appliances breaking down. Well her fridge did break down and a cheap one was sourced by A. So, can we reassure her that if a major appliance breaks down, we will pay?

Mum has realised how bad the northern side of the house looks. There are some spare weatherboards already there and some may need to be bought, but at the end of the day, it will be Tradie Brother's job to replace them. Perhaps we have a family working bee to paint them. So, Tradie Brother puts in the labour and the cost of more weatherboards and additional materials is divided among the remaining three of us. This, of course, is not so urgent.

If you think my suggestions have merit, then there is a quick upfront cost of about $500 each for the air con unit, and $300 next year for the rates. The rest we will work out at the time.

Mum is very determined to stay in her house, and if we don’t come up with a good option or assist her to get a reverse mortgage, she will get a reverse mortgage on her own. She is old, always fuddy duddy, but never stupid.

Email, phone, text or write your thoughts, but don’t wait too long. I need to present Mum with a sustainable solution to her financial problems.


I have full agreement from them all. Tradie Brother has teed up a friend to supply and install the aircon for $1800. ABI Brother says her rates are under $1000.Now I just have to inform Mother.

Be afraid kiddies

For good or bad, I frequent the more salubrious parts of Melbourne. I saw some Josh Frydenberg supporters at Camberwell Junction encouraging people in the street to vote for Josh. Then just a wee bit later, I spied Kelly O'Dwyer supporters canvassing in Malvern. A lass with an Irish name a Tory? Extraordinary. I suppose Irish Tories must exist, but I didn't think they ever came to Australia.

The scary thing about the canvassers is that some of them seemed quite normal. A few were archetypical but some were hidden behind a cloak of being your average person who could even be your friend. Still, they are supporting Tories who are in safe seats, so no need to worry there.

It is the outer areas of Melbourne I worry about, areas where my Tradie Brother lives. In fact people in his occupation are the most susceptible to political bribes (note to self, must remind him that his father would never have voted Liberal). The outer areas may well give us Mad Monk Anthony Abbott as our Prime Minister.

My local ALP bloke Michael Danby is ok, for a politician. At least he is prepared to stand against the party line at times. Media monitors, pass on to him that as big a compliment as I can give to a mainstream politician. As for the last election, I will vote Green and direct my preferences to Labor. The idea of a conservative bible bashing Catholic as our Prime Minister horrifies me.

Worse than that, can you really trust anyone who gets up at 5am to ride a bike? For pleasure?

Another note to self, make sure Mother does not have transport to a polling booth. She'll be looking for the Country Party candidate on the ballot paper, or even the DLP.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Moving Sister

It was moving weekend for Sister, Bone Doctor and Little Jo. They were moving into their newly bought house on the Bellarine Peninsula after they sold their Geelong house. It seemed ages since we saw Little Jo, so I arranged for us to visit them and 'help' with moving. Their new house is only five minutes walk from their rented house. We inspected the new house and while it needs some work, it is not bad at all. It has a classic seventies bathroom, which they dislike, but I found it quite attractive. Was it called Marbletex? Sheets of faux marble. The tap fittings are chocolate brown and wonderful shapes.

We met with them in Geelong for brunch at the Wharf Shed Cafe, then Bone Doctor went off to attend to football business and we took Sister and Little Jo back to their abode.

It was cold and the wind was blowing and then showers arrived, but even so, how great is the Geelong waterfront! I was very impressed and we will visit again.

Wharf Shed Cafe with the much posher Le Parisien restaurant above. The cafe was very pleasantly heated and the staff friendly and the food was fine.

Here comes a bus. We declined but may on another day.

The Geelong waterfront is renown for its bollard walk. Here is one group and the music for the Geelong polka. You are lucky I don't have a piano to record a rendition for you. Actually, it would take me hours to move the notes to my fingers.

I suppose it was always called Cunningham Pier. It is covered by railway lines, pointing to Geelong's history as being a busy port. The entrance and the buildings towards the end of the pier looked a bit tacky. Seaplane was non operational because of the strong wind.

This was a rather nice water feature, but the water was shut off.

More bollards, this time I think referencing Geelong's local produce and restaurants.

As did every civilised city of a certain size, Geelong had a decent tram system. I suppose this tram conductor bollard pays homage to it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Blues Point

Melbourne has if fair share of ugly modern buildings but as we don't generally have the spectacular views that Sydney has, bad buildings perhaps don't impact on us as much as Sydney's do on their lands.

I think of a block I have mentioned previously in Kings Cross. There aren't too many places in inner Sydney where this building doesn't dominate the skyline. Let me see if the this link works.

View Larger Map

Victor recently posted a photo of a doozy in Darling Point. Check it out here.

But what inspired me to write this post is Blues Point Tower. It is a Harry Seidler designed apartment tower situated on this prime piece of land at McMahons Point on Sydney's north shore. What a location! What views! What an outrage.

View Larger Map

Blues Point Tower was completed in 1961 and is less that a kilometre from the Harbour Bridge. Imagine the impact is. It is said that the only people who like it are those who live in it and therefore don't have to look at it. Famous residents have been Rupert Murdoch, Gwen Meredith, writer of Blue Hills, and BPT was where Whitlam Government Federal Minister Rex O'Connor met Tirath Khemlani to arrange a loan for Australia. The building is also a favourite site for base jumpers. One died in 1993.

Apart from it being widely disliked, as much as for its appearance as its dominant location and dominant presence, it was the first Strata Title high rise apartment building in the world.

Photos from Doesn't flatter the Bridge does it?

It would be nice to live in almost a public park. I always like to judge buildings by how they relate to their surrounds, be the surrounds of a natural kind or a built kind. In my view, this is a non!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Myki - Madness or Modernity?

I have been using my Myki card for well over one week without any problems so far, except one stand alone balance reader would not read my card. I have not as yet used it on a bus, even though I often use buses. That may be a good test for it.

Originally I had the card with other cards and when I attempted to scan my card while it was still in my wallet, I received a message along the lines of 'Too many cards'. I moved the card so that it was on the other side of my wallet and on its own and it scans fine through the wallet.

The scan time seems very variable though, up to a second at times, but not always. It certainly is not instant. Other countries seem to have readers that are instant. Given the money spent on the system, I am surprised that you can't just walk past a scanner with your Myki card in your hand and it is read. The system is smart enough to know that if your card in your wallet on a crush load tram is pressed up against a reader, that it is not multiple trips.

While there will be problems in the early stages, as there was with Metcard, I think Myki will settle in time and future proof the ticket system for a decade or more. But gee, it has cost an awful lot of money that could have been spent elsewhere.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Sqare of the Hypotenuse

A few years ago I met R's workmate's now son in law. He was twenty and pretty as a picture and very effeminate. Some three or more years later, he has shown no signs of being gay. There aren't rules. You can be effeminate and straight. I have known a few in the past.

The lad started an air conditioning/plumber type apprenticeship but has chucked it in. He is now angling for the police force, but evidently the police force entry requirements consist of needing good mathematical skills. He is getting some remedial help from R's workmate's husband.

What maths skills does a policeman need? Trigonometry could be useful for measuring car accident or crime scenes. Aside from that, I would have thought basic arithmetic would be enough?

Maths was a compulsory subject when I was at school. It was the biggest waste of my time and a most uninteresting subject. Lordy, at different times I studied Pure Maths, Applied Maths, Calculus, Trigonometry, Algebra. I fudged my way with most of it until it became so complex that I could no longer work it out with mental or my own written calculations. Algerbraic formulas became the only way to get to an answer and I just could not do it. It was above me and I didn't care as I knew it was pointless. I was left behind.

Then there were logarithms (are they like algorithms?), slide rules, booklets of tables. I haven't a clue why your bloke on the street needed to know them. Our simple electronic calculators that are now part of our mobile phones do a much better job.

With the exception perhaps of trigonometry, none of the above have been any use to me in my subsequent years.

I consider Maths a complete waste of my school time. We had one American teacher who called it Math, rather than Maths. That was weird and we used to mock him.

By the end of primary school at eleven years old, seven years of school, I knew arithmetic. That is all I have ever needed.

I hope the kiddies of today are not wasting time on Maths. Far better to spend time on history, geography, social science, environment. Sport even, but don't make them do sport if they don't want to.