Saturday, January 08, 2011

What is it?

What might this be? If you open the door, the purpose is clear.

Christmas Gift

I was struggling to think of something to buy R for christmas. I did some online looking and The Good Guys had this machine for a very good price. We have often talked of getting one but we had also heard tales of the food processors getting put away in the cupboard, along with the breadmaker, the George Foreman grill and the sandwich toaster, and never used.

R did not have a clue what was in the large box under our modest christmas tree. It wasn't until Boxing Day night that we were home to exchange gifts. Unwrap it yes, I said, but think about whether you really want it before removing it from its box. I can return it and get something else. He has used it a few times since christmas but the jury is still out as to whether it will remain on the bench.

On the odd occasion I cook, it will be a marvellous toy. It takes me forever just to chop up an onion. Whereas R is quite skilled with vegetable knife and I would guess he could cut a small amount of vegetables just as quickly as using the machine.

There wasn't enough wrapping paper left over to wrap the gift properly, so I cobbled together sheets of the free Leunig wrapping paper from the newspaper. R wraps gifts very well. I don't. It took me half an hour just to wrap that one box.

What I like about the machine is the tilt out blade storage area. There are six different blades for various purposes. All of them would slice your finger perfectly well.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Water: Someone should bottle it and sell it

I don't bother checking prices in movie theatres or at live shows. I know I am going to pay a bomb for anything I buy, be it a snack or a glass of wine or an ice cream. I bought R a bottle of water when we recently attended the Regent to see Le Grand Cirque. I think it was $5.50. Lalalalalalah. I am not listening.

R still had the bottle when we arrived home the brand was Aqua Panna, imported from Italy. Like tinned tomatoes, I cannot understand how such heavy items can be shipped from Italy to Australia and sold here competitively. Perhaps Australian mark ups are huge. I should think the technology and labour costs in producing and canning tomatoes would be much the same in Italy as here. As for water, well even Australian water bottled from the downstream Yarra River will cost more then petrol.

City Living

Fancy living in the City? I don't really. I like it where I am on the outskirts. Parking for visitors is hard enough here, but surely nearly impossible in the City. Perhaps it was fifteen years ago that friends of friends lived in an apartment in Spring Street. They moved after a while as they were quite social but no one would ever visit them because of the parking issues.

Of course living in the City is not new. Pre 1930 possibly, certainly in the 19th century many did. Whores, pimps, thieves, and god forbid, Chinamen did. Some of the City residents were even quite respectable and had decent houses to live in within the City boundaries. Now that would truly be luxury.

Naturally most of the houses have gone. Progress is one of those words that I always worry about. There is nothing wrong with progress per se, but when it comes at an expense of our history, care should be taken.

I know of at least two houses left in the city, although I am sure they are no longer used as houses. One is quite grand and the other a bit more modest.

I took this snap as I passed by in the Latrobe Street tram. No tram tracks, so can't be William Street. I went past on the tram, so not Queen Street where I would have alighted from the tram. It must be King Street.

I remember this a bit better. It is in Queen Street, just south of Latrobe Street. It is very very nice. Below is another snap. I reckon I could live in this one. Now where is the bell for the servants?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Car Oil

My car engine was making an odd noise. It is noisy tappets, I convinced myself. Modern tappets automatically adjust themselves. But if they get quite worn, they can no longer do so. The noise was only when I started the car and it would quickly disappear.

R advises to always turn the car radio up if you hear strange noises. I followed his advice in so far as it was only clattering when I started the car. On the off chance that Mutton Chopped Mutant is still around, I expect he could guess where this is going.

The last trip my car made was to Pakenham a week before christmas and the car then sat idle for two weeks.

Sadly I had to work today and R did not, so a car change over in our carpark was necessary. What a racket my car made when I started it. It sounds like it has no oil in the motor.

Modern cars are so good that you don't really need to check the oil between services, but I suspected my engine oil was low. Why did I not think of this earlier when I started to hear clatter? I checked and poured three litres of oil into it as there was not any oil registering on the dipstick. My car does not noticeably burn oil and the engine doesn't leak. Where has the oil gone? Well, with any car the oil slowly burns away in very small quantities. I guess the long freeway trip to Pakenham burnt off some oil, water and muck.

I was surprised how long the engine took to settle down once it had its fill of oil. I thought it would be instantaneous. It now sounds very sweet.

But again, why did it run out of oil? I am sure it was only mid last year when the head gasket blew and it was replenished with new oil after its repair.

Open drawer of filing cabinet and go to Andrew's car file. Head gasket repair and replenished with oil, July 2009. I can recall writing about it at the time. You can check back. I don't have the energy.

So, it is eighteen months since my car was serviced. Seems like just yesterday. I'll book it in tomorrow while R is home on holidays and I can steal his to go to work.

I was discussing someone at work today with workmates. He left about five year ago, I suggested. No, I was firmly told. Ten years ago. Golly gosh, before I know it, it will be 2011. As you get older, time seems to compress itself.

Later note: I don't think double overhead camshaft engines have tappets. They certainly don't have push rods.

Dear Mum

This is probably something I should send to Mother, but I am not sure if I will.

Dear Mum

While we kids of yours understand your medical problems, I am concerned that you will taint the memories of your grandchildren.

You did wonderful things for Dreaded Newphew, Oldest Niece and Chainsaw Niece when they were kids. You and Late Step Father took them out to so many places on Sundays. You showed them a good bit of Victoria, its forests, beaches and attractions. You played the silly and so earned the title of Nanna Fudd. It is obvious to me that they love and respect you. They are grown up now and have their own lives.

Regardless, they have indelible memories of Nanna Fudd and Step Father.

Mum, please don't spoil the kiddies memories of you with your health complaints. We, your children and their partners, can wear it and it may only be for selfish reasons, but I want them to have only good memories of you. I don't want them to remember a Nanna who was always unwell and complaining. You can do that hey Mum?

Your loving son,

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Scared Macca Staff

Scared staff can skip shifts: Macca's

Let me get this right. Three different McDonalds take away food places have been robbed three times by axe wielding ne'er to do wells over three nights. R tells me he heard the aggressors are possibly of Asian appearance. I suppose if they are of petite stature and have black hair, there is a good chance. Of course my favoured source of news, our ABC, would never mention anything about their appearance if it involved ethnicity. Apparently they are from New South Wales, so I heard.

I would suggest to McDonalds staff ought not be scared because there are processes and infrastructure to protect them. Let me suggest that in the pursuit of profits, McDonalds tolerates ne're to do wells so long as they buy a Macburger, never mind the angst of young teenage staff and 12 year old store managers.

But let us praise McDonalds for their magnanimous gesture that staff can skip shifts it they feel afraid. Of course it comes with a reassurance that there will not be any repercussions for them for not showing up for work. It is great that McDonalds have such control over the twelve year old franchise store owners.

Le Grande Cirque

Remember when Dreaded Nephew was living and working in Glasgow, and his mother, Sis in Law went over to visit him? Sis in Law must have maxxed out her cards and Dreaded Nephew had moved to London and did not realise how expensive it was and then they travelled and of course ran out of money.

It was a good bit of botheration at the time and only because we had just sold our flat, we were able to help them out with some cash and air fares home, $2,400. Had it been a couple of months earlier, it would have been cash advances on our credit cards to send them money.

I'm think it was last year, 2010, but I think it may well have been 2009. A month or so ago Dreaded Nephew repaid all the money. He is a good lad and of course should he be in need of cash in the future, the gay uncles will be good for it.

Sis in Law mysteriously asked me over the phone before we met at Sorrento last week what I was doing this Tuesday. Working I said, and I was immediately afraid and cautious. What about the weekend she said? Hesitantly I said, nothing planned. Tell you later, she said and hung up.

When we met up with her at Sorrento, she handed us an envelope and contained within was a nice thank you note for lending her and Dreaded Nephew the money and two tickets to Le Grand Cirque. The tickets were for Sunday night at the Regent Theatre, so convenient for us. Though it was not something I would pay to see, the performance and talent were very good and the time passed quickly. Of course it would not be me if I didn't whinge. So much clapping gave me a headache. Can't people just clap at the end of a performance and not along the way? Never mind, watching lithe young men contort themselves and perform extraordinary physical feats is good to watch.


Not much in the way of loyalty around now. Work place loyalty seems to be history.

I like to be loyal though, but only up to a point. I was loyal to a Glen Iris service station for many years because they served me for petrol and maintained my car well, so I did not mind paying a bit more for petrol from their pumps.

I have used our local chemist across the road almost from the day we moved here. We have a relationship. I am the customer and they serve me well.

But recently R was told by a workmate about a prescription medication that they both take and is available for a decent bit less at Chemist Warehouse. I went in one day and checked for him, and sure enough, a good saving.

I spend $83 per month on prescription medicine (so much for free health care) so I thought I better check my medications at Chemist Warehouse. They have a very easy to use online price and brand comparison facility. Just look for the pharmacy tab. I can reduce my prescription cost down to $54, a saving of $29. 29 x 12 is nearly $350 per year saving.

I like to be a loyal customer, but sorry, I can't afford to be that loyal. I expect to pay more at the chemist because I get premium service, but the gap is too large.

As an aside, in the middle of the year I asked our chemist about the prescription threshold, which once passed, you get your medications at a much reduced price. I did not meet the threshold and I must have looked disappointed. The chemist said to me, 'It is not something to aspire to you know Andrew'.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Floods

I know some of you who read my blog are familiar with Bush Babe. She lives on farming property in Queensland and has been affected by the devastating floods of late. Her blog has a blow by blow account of the last couple of weeks as the waters rose and are now subsiding.

Bush Babe has published some extraordinary photos of the floods and what a great read is her tale of swimming cattle stranded on a small island in floodwaters to safe ground.

Her blog is here. If you have the time, go back a couple of weeks and read forward. It won't be a waste of your time. If you click on the 'floods' tag, you should see all the relevant posts.

Not quite spaghetti

View Large Map

Driving through this intersection, unless I am on the motorway above, terrifies me. Yet so many do it. The intersection must work well enough, but it is very intimidating to me. While I don't think one party is to blame for such ugliness on the edge of our city centre, City of Melbourne, Vicroads, the previous Labor state government and possibly even the evil VCAT can take the blame. Click the View Large link to see it properly.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tohoku Shinkansen

As was planned, the extension of Japan's Tohoku bullet train line from Hachinohe to Aomori went ahead as planned on the fourth of December. I watched a Youtube video of the event. It was ever so exciting. The train arrived and the train left. Perhaps you had to be there.

This is a good map to show where the new train service travels. The old Tohoku Shinkansen went to Hachinohe on the east coast and from there to Aomori which meant a change to a quite fast express train. The old train route is shown in solid green and it is easy to see why even if the Shinkansen wasn't faster, it follows a much more direct line.

By 2015 it is planned for the Shinkansen to continue on from Aomori via the undersea Seikan Tunnel to the northernmost large Japanese island of Hokkaido. The Seikan Tunnel is the longest and deepest undersea tunnel in the world. We can only look north with envy at such luxurious travel.

It is planned to have the train service operating to Sapporo on Hokkaido in the extraordinary time of four hours from Tokoyo, using this E5 train.

Net friends of the past

In my very early days of the internet I came across Craig and John who were a gay couple of non racist skinheads and they lived in Caboolture Queensland. They came to mind because of the Queensland floods and Caboolture was mentioned. Using ICQ I suppose or MIRC I chewed the cud with Craig for a good while. We even tried voice communication over the net, which then was not so great. I only communicated with Craig and our discussions were many and varied but of course of lot of it was about sex but also politics. While I never saw Craig in a particularly sexual manner, even though he was very free in sending explicit photos, his partner John sounded interesting to me. Down the track I learnt that John had some lust for me. They visited Melbourne and I met them for coffee at the now closed Cafe 151.

As I am wont to do, I made an only slightly sarky comment on chat one night to Craig. He did not take in the humorous manner meant, but told me to eff off eff face. So I did. I now realise he was probably affected by drugs. A few days later an email arrived querying why I hadn't been online of late. Of course I had but I wasn't appearing to him. I ignored the email and while I felt sad, it was right. So ended lesson #1 about chatting on the internet.

But I am an emotional soul. I miss a few bloggers from the past such as Robyn and Jo from Bitches Closet and Mikey the cyclist who both come to mind but I just perused my 'Resting, Dead or Infrequently Upadated' blog roll list and there are many I liked. They stopped blogging and so the connection and the bonhomie ends.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Public Transport Whinge

1/ I am not sure what possessed me, but today I found myself at Waterfront City, or is it Harbourside? Waterfront Harbourside Harbourfront? I dunno. It is the northern part of Docklands. I looked at the at the rear of big tin shed and guessed it was Costco. Ah, so that is where it is.

In spite of the broken ferris wheel, the Southern Star Observation Wheel, the shops were busy enough and plenty of people around, although if a couple of tram routes weren't routed to there, I doubt the shops would have good trade.

I needed to travel back to the city along Latrobe Street. I know the free City Circle comes here which will take me along Latrobe Street, but it is not a real circular tram route anymore. The trams do a loop of the city and then arrive at Waterfront City on a single line. The City Circle trams that arrive could be going via Harbour Esplanade and anti clockwise around the city or clockwise around the city along Latrobe Street. A City Circle tram arrived and I carefully checked if there was any indication of which way it would go. Nothing. Instead I waited for an 86 tram which went to the corner of Latrobe and Spencer Street and changed to a Latrobe Street tram. I did what I had to do in Latrobe Street and caught the bus in Queen Street home.

As I was travelling home on the bus, I texted a friend who is very knowledgeable about trams. He replied that there should be an auxiliary board indicator on the front of the City Circle tram and if not, pester the driver to find out. I dislike asking question of public transport staff. I like to work these things out myself.

So Yarra Trams, it can't be too hard to have an indication on your trams to inform the public which way the tram is going, free or not. May I suggest different route numbers for the different directions? The present route number is 35. What about using route 34 for the anticlockwise tram? I don't think route 34 is used for anything.

2/ R has a defective multiple trip Metcard. There are a few trips left on it and he wants to exchange it for a Myki credit or whatever can be done. We needed to be up near Lonsdale Street to get photos developed and then return to collect them. While we waited, in almost forty degree heat we travelled down to the Town Hall where the Metshop office is located. It was closed and has been since christmas and will not open until the 04/01 I suppose. I have no problem with businesses closing down at this time of the year. It is often the only break that shop owners get. But public transport is not a business. It is a service. I assume it employs staff and like most places where the staff don't have fixed holidays, holiday rosters are juggled around to hopefully suit all. Why would a public transport ticket office shut down for ten days? I suppose you can get ticket problems sorted at large railway stations, but a specialised place is preferable.

3/ I don't really hear the trams that rumble past the highrise. It is just a sound that is there. We barely hear them at all with the doors and windows closed, except one beast of a tram that sounds like it is going to collapse into a heap of nuts and bolts. I write of tram 5021, one of those horrible big trams made in Germany by Siemens. It nearly always runs on the 16 route to St Kilda. We were chatting to a friend in our lounge room when his chat stopped midstream and he then said 'Jesus, what was that?' as 5021 slammed around the curve in the tram track below. The beast has even woken me at 5.30 in the morning. Towards the end of the twentieth century new trams were becoming quieter, now they are becoming noisier. Progress, bah.

4/ I am tired of buses being so hot inside on warm days. Melbourne Bus Link and Ventura, have your drivers turn the airconditioning on. That is what it is for. It has a thermostat. It won't work any harder than it needs to.

Sorrento Photos 2

Boats, boats and more boats.

The Spirit of Tasmania was out doing daytrips. I think the Spirit and the Queenscliff to Sorrento ferry are friends.

A departing seaplane.

There was a little eye candy around, but not a lot.

A tram, wow. Jayne tells you about it here.

While I knew about the steam train to Sorrento back beach, I did not know its old platform was still there half way up the steep hill near the jetty and nor did I know that there used to be a bridge for passengers to get from the jetty where they had alighted from a steamer to the tram.