Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tram Screen

I am not sure what is supposed to be shown on this screen on only one tram that I know of, but I would guess it is for advertising. It doesn't appear to work and has been scratched and marked already. I could either suggest Sydney is very civilised or not very civilised because I recall buses having scrolling advertising in the 1980s.

Maybe the screen is to give passengers a visual of the people from the tram control centre who are so frequently heard to say, more often than not with a thick accent, Yarra Trams apologises for any inconvenience caused. It would be interesting to put a face to a voice.

A similar picture to the one below of Yarra Trams control centre was often featured in promotional advertising a couple of years ago. This one is from It shows how modern the system is and how they have cameras out on the street monitoring the tram system. It makes it seem very odd that while they have a camera at the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, a very busy intersection, that they do nothing about cars in Flinders Street blocking the intersection and delaying trams. Do they just watch the trams on the screen or do anything about problems they see?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wine Glass

We don't have a good record with wine glasses. We favoured rather attractive glasses with thin stems. Thin stems snap very easily and we were lamenting our shortage of decent glasses to our dyke friends. So for my birthday they bought me a set of these thick stemmed glasses. The glasses are quite heavy and very robust. Not one has broken some months later. But gee, they are big glasses. I am not saying a whole bottle of wine would fit in one, but it would be close.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And then it rained

I had two consecutive weekdays off last week so we decided to spend a night on the Bellarine Peninsula at Sister's house. It just rained and rained and rained some more. Mental images of frolicking on the sand at the beach in the sunshine with Little Jo were abandoned. I am sure it was the same damn bird that woke me the last time we stayed there that woke me again in the morning. The mosquitoes were fat and juicy and no doubt looking forward to some great breeding in all the water lying around.

We decided to go to Barwon Heads for morning tea with Sister. It was drizzling by then. By the time we had eaten our muffins and drank our coffee, it had stopped. We set out for the rocks in the distance and lo, the sun came out and it was quite nice. Not expecting sunshine, none of us were dressed for any water activity. Never mind, it did not stop R and Little Jo rolling up their pants and getting quite wet.

Now this is a bad outcome. Locals and many others wanted the bridge across the Barwon River to Barwon Heads saved. It was a dual lane timber bridge and had a load limit placed on it. A ghastly new pedestrian bridge has been built next to the historic bridge and the historic bridge repaired, but look what they have done. A hideous concrete deck sits on the old timber foundations. There is another route further up river where a new bridge could have been built and the old one remain as it was with minor repairs. I am not sure who is responsible for this site, but I can guess. Reportage more to my liking. The Greens have a go. No surprise that ex Planning Minister Madden was involved.

From inside the cafe looking out. I don't know what the cafe is called.

Part of the cafe was Diver Dan's boatshed in the ABC tv series Seachange.

Looking towards Ocean Grove, a town that is having a huge growth spurt.

And a happy 21st birthday to Owen. Apparently Owen is Jewish. Is it important that this is noted in his birthday greeting? Apprarently Owen is a Satanist. Is it important that this is noted in his birthday greeting?

A cliff top rises along the beach and a caravan park sits atop the cliff. For Mother's seventieth birthday, Sister paid for a weekend cabin for Mother and late Step Father. It was beautiful with great sea views and the sounds of waves lapping the beach. Mother loved it. Gosh, that was six years ago. Rather a lot has happened since then.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tram to town

I was sitting opposite her on the tram today. I did not really look at her but summed her up as a daggy middle aged Euro woman in black. After a bit I looked at her face, from behind my sunglasses. It was creased but she wasn't as old as I initially thought. I was quite preoccupied with texting. But I glanced at her again and thought, ah, you are not so old. Then I noticed she had a large back pack on her lap. She was holding it with both hands wrapped around it and hmmm, she had each of her fingernails painted a different colour. I looked more intently at her face and noted that her eyebrows were drawn on quite perfectly. Foundation on her face, yes, but no lipstick or rouge or eyeshadow. Her hair was black and short and kind of krinkly.

My, what would her toenails look like? I looked down and her feet were wrapped in black leather shoes, that looked respectable and with a small heel.

She stood as we approached Flinders Street and arranged her long black skirt so that it sat well over her fairly large hips. Her top was almost a cheese cloth fabric, also in black. She adjusted that too. No one could describe her as hot or glam, but she made the best of what she had. The different coloured nails made her a bit of a rebel in her middle age. I liked her look. She seemed like an interesting person.

But then I was distracted by a big nosed eastern European looking lad with lovely coloured skin who was standing with his crotch about 6 inches from my face, with his hand on an overhead strap I could see his armpits because of his gaping tee sleeve and a tiny bit of his stomach with a nice snail trail of hair up it.

Sometimes I have my doubts about myself, but truly, I know which side of my bread is buttered.


Sister's attempt at growing carrots is not too successful. Too much fertiliser is my diagnosis. But she just can't stop the zucchini plant from producing at least a couple of fruit a day.

Christmas card

One of R's sister's sent us this card. Our three cards from England were all excellent. So much nicer than the ones we get here.

This week's flowers

Actually they were christmas week flowers. Bought very cheaply for $6.

New net for lappie Pt 2

All was well with R's lappy. The internet service worked brilliantly at home but was a bit marginal when I carted the lappy down to the Bellarine Peninsula. We had successfully changed from 3 to Vodaphone. But then the auto generated bill arrived for 3 after we had changed to Vodaphone, 3's sister company. I wasn't home, R called Mumbai. Lucky that he was on holidays and had five hours of spare time to sort the problem out.

It would seem that the lappy was still using 3 as well as Vodaphone. Eventually he got quite cross and told the Mumbia lass to cancel his 3 account. She could not do that apparently. R became very insistent. A battle went on between Mumbai lass and R who was insisting she cancel the account. R was escalated to someone back in Australia. He was told he still had five months to go of his contract with 3 to go, and the cancellation fee would be $100, which was the remainder of what he would have paid up until May, the end of his contract anyway.

I refer you back to Part 1, where the flyer we were sent said, As part of this we are offering you the option to switch to Vodaphone - at no extra cost to you.

R has his own tolerance levels and needed to draw breath so it wasn't until the next day that he called Vodaphone. Lordy, Mumbai again. He was quickly escalated again to someone in Australia. He must have had a certain tone in his voice. Upshot is a $100 credit to his Vodaphone account to cover the 3 billing until May. Vodaphone was free for the first month and at $15 per month with a $100 credit, it will be a while before we pay Vodaphone anything. But will it all happen as stated? Who knows. Not large amounts of money but why were we told no extra cost to you? Why do I think there will be another over the phone battle about this. This is an abridged version of the five hours R spent on the phone. Add to that the around five hours I spent on the phone to get the Vodaphone connection right...........well maybe we should let it be. Yes, Vodaphone is spelt wrongly. I can't spell phone with an f. Lucky them as this post won't come up in Vodafone search. Ooops.

Added later: A bill from Vodaphone just arrived via the email system and it appears to be all correct with a remaining $85 credit. I am impressed. Someone actually got something right. It is such a surprise these days.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trust Me. I'm from the government.

There are just so many things wrong here. From The Age.

A FAULTY train and problems with its emergency intercom contributed to the death of a passenger who was killed after he forced open doors and became trapped outside, a government safety report has concluded. Is it worth risking the ire of fellow passengers because you were too slow getting off the train?

The man was dragged under the train and the driver continued for a further 1.1 kilometres before becoming aware of what had occurred.

On October 20, 2009, Peter Johnston, 36, forced open doors on the rear carriage of a Frankston-bound train as it left Melbourne Central station around midnight.

He had taken the prescription drug Valium and had been drinking cask wine over an extended period with a friend on the train shortly before the accident happened. That would do it.

Mr Johnston forced open the train door, and his friend leapt from the train but tripped, sustaining minor injuries. Mr Johnston followed, but he too slipped and got stuck in the train door. Two fools for the price of one.

''The door closed and the man was left in a seated position on the platform edge, with his body against the side of the car,'' a report into the incident, completed late last year by the state government's rail safety investigator, Ian McCallum, found.

''He was dragged along the platform with his right leg extended in front and holding a bottle in his right hand. He slid on his buttocks in this position for the remaining length of the platform until striking a safety handrail post [and then falling] beneath the train.'' He got his priorities right and did not spill a drop.

The report found the train would have been travelling at more than 50km/h when Mr Johnston struck the handrail.

The train driver, who had 23 years' experience, did nothing wrong, the report concluded, because he had received no warning that the door was stuck open. Nothing more wrong than being a train driver who has to deal with idiots.

A safety mechanism on the train was meant to alert the driver - via a flashing blue light on his dashboard - that the door had been forced open or had been obstructed. But it failed to work, the report found, and ''did not provide a warning indication to the driver.'' We are getting serious here. What is the point of safety warning systems if they don't work?

Had the warning system worked, the driver might have stopped rapidly, the report found. Wouldn't the system stop the train if doors were forced open?

At the time of the accident, the report notes, ''no daily process existed to check the integrity of the door monitoring [system] prior to a train entering service''. Safety checks should be obligatory I would have thought.

The incident happened while Connex was running Melbourne's rail system, and 43 days before Metro took over.

Connex, the report found, was aware of the defect on Comeng trains that could lead to drivers being unaware if doors were not properly shut. But ''there was no daily pre-service procedure to check for such a fault condition''. The train company was quite aware of the problem.

A Metro spokeswoman said door warning systems on every Comeng train were now tested every time a new driver boarded a train. Why was it ever not like this?

While the intercom in the carriage where the man was trapped did work, so many passengers pressed it at once to talk to the driver that he could not hear what they were saying. ''The repeated pressing of the passenger emergency intercom by the passengers resulted in the constant sounding of the alarm tone in the driver's cabin,'' the report found. That is what happens in an emergency, unless there is someone talented who can quickly take control. Why would the driver need to receive multiple alarms anyway? The first one should be enough. Did anyone really think this alarm system through and what would happen when a serious incident occurs? You are not going to get one calm and rational person press the button and speak clearly to the driver. I think this is the most serious matter the report found.

The CCTV in the carriage also failed to provide the driver with a view of the incident because, the report found, it had earlier been obscured by three youths travelling on the train. Just gets worse and worse.

A coronial inquest into Mr Johnston's death is scheduled for May.

What a amazing series of events. As the article states, a different train company now runs our trains. Thank goodness for that. The old company clearly wasn't great at protecting idiots from themselves. Of course much as our state governments like to have a private companies to shift blame to, ultimately the government is responsible for the safety of our rail system.

Monday, January 17, 2011

R U Insured?

Australians don't have a scheme like the eminently sensible New Zealand disaster insurance scheme. We are dependent on private insurance companies and every time there is a disaster, such as our present floods, it gets messy. People don't know if they are insured or not. Insurance companies are evasive, although Queensland largest insurer, Suncorp, has promised all its customers that they will be covered. Well, what about Suncorp subsidiary insurance companies that trade under a different name?

Insurance companies use definitions like whether it was rising water or running water to decline paying out. Customers are generally unwilling to pour through the fine points of their insurance contract and they would be lucky if they understood what they were reading anyway. Like to try to pin someone down at the insurance company for a straight answer about whether something is covered? Good luck. I tried once and failed.

After the disaster politicians start making noises about the insurance companies acting decently and fairly.

Why? People forget insurance companies, banks and other commercial institutions are companies who are there to make money. That is their reason for being. They are not charities and they are not in business to irresponsibly distribute their shareholder profits.

What politicians need to do, if they won't set up a disaster insurance scheme, is simply to make sure all insurance policies have a water damage clause. Damage by water? Covered. Damage by fire? Covered. Damage by earthquake? Covered. Yes, we will all pay a bit more, but spread over every insured person, precious little.

It is called regulation. Time has proved that free rein capitalism does not work for the greater good and capital needs government regulation.

New net for lappie Pt 1

When R bought his laptop we connected it to 3. While the internet was slow, it was ok for very occasional use. The clincher was it was cheap, at $20 per month for 1gb broadband. We never even came close to using 1gb.

We received a flyer from Vodaphone and 3 claiming they were now associated companies and would we like to take up an offer of Vodaphone service, for $15 per month and 2gb. There wouldn't be a contract, just pay monthly. One selling point was 'a stronger network', and let me tell you, it is good. The speed really is broadband as we know it.

But let me quote from the flyer. 'As part of this we are offering you the option to switch to Vodaphone - at no extra cost to you.' No extra cost!

Well there has been a lot of cost if you take into account time spent. The dongle duly arrived in the post, I plugged it in and it worked. But there seemed to be a conflict with the existing 3 connection. I uninstalled the 3 connection and then the new connection would not work. I uninstalled the new connection and tried again. Still would not work. I reinstalled the 3 connection and now neither would work.

I speak to Mumbai. It started working. Good. Until I restarted and then it would not. Everytime I rang Mumbai, they told me to do different things and it always ended up working, but never would once I restarted. I am up to about 2.5 hours on the phone now.

Botheration, I said to myself, or perhaps it was a word with just one syllable. I am over it today. Enough.

Take 2, similar experience except briefer because I now knew how their auto phone system worked. Let me add another 40 minutes to the 2.5 hours.

Take 3 and I was escalated to a chappie in Hobart who was very agreeable. At this point the phone battery started go flat and I realised I did not know how to transfer it the other handset. It is ok, chap said. I need to install ghost Windows ME on my computer so I am seeing the same as you are. I will call you back.

He did call back and had me uninstall the cd version that a previous chap had told me to use, in preference to the programme embedded in the dongle. Dear Victor, have your eyes glazed over yet? I expect you will be in fine company. Still no good.

From the second person I spoke to, I continued to suggest that I had mucked up the Outlook Express mail settings. Hobart man eventually listened and ran through the settings. Sure enough, I had altered something I shouldn't have. Of course had I been told that Vodaphone do not give you an email address, I would never have touched email settings.

Right internet is now working. A couple of days later, at R's urging, I took a look at email again. I restored 3 settings to email and email worked. R like his 3 eddress and did not want to lose it. I was a little puzzled about why we had 3 email but were connected via Vodaphone, but again I was muttering botheration out loud.

Internet worked, email worked and christmas/new year intervened.

At times it pays to be ultra polite and rational and understanding of what the person on the other end at the call centre is doing. At times it pays to be the opposite, so Part 2 will be about when R got on the phone to Mumbai when we realised that 'at no extra cost to you' was not quite what it seemed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Goondiwindi Grey

The town of Goondiwindi has been in the news of late, for the wrong reasons. Floods you know. Bad. For those unfamiliar with the pronunciation, like me, it is Gundiwindi.

I have heard of a horse known as the Goondiwindi Grey. I am guessing it is music related and something my step mother liked. Instead of calling her to find out and bothering her when her nearby town of Rochester is also flooded, the internet tells me it is Tex Morton song about the race horse Gunsynd. I have heard of him/her, the horse, but not for years. R is busy watching tv, so I will try to remember to listen to the song on Youtube later.

Now some seem to be saying Carbine is not an Australian horse, and they have plenty of documentation to back up their assertions. along with its head. I am sure it is an Australian horse in spirit. They'd better not be claiming Gunsynd. If I see a comment begin with, Well actually Andrew... I will cry.

Hand Bags

Women's hand bags are very personal things. I know of some women who won't even let their partner into their handbag. Sister and Bone Doctor don't use handbags. Little Jo does.

Women's hand bags are mysterious things to me. I know a little of Mother's though.

Mother's hand bag can produce a Band Aid, a Disprin, paracetamol, barley sugar, Minties, handkerchief, bills to be paid, tissues both new and used, Kool cigarettes and Redhead matches, newspaper or magazine cuttings, photos, chewing gum, liquid and powder make up, lipstick, an eyebrow pencil, a pensioner card, assorted pills, innumerable spectacles which are always the wrong ones and a disabled parking permit.

Sadly Mother's hand bag can never produce anything like a pen, cash or credit card, a telephone, an address book, a public transport ticket, a taxi concession card.

I suppose none of the above are unusual. But then I don't know what else might be in there.

What unusual thing do you carry in your handbag? Or I suppose pockets if you are a bloke.