Saturday, November 05, 2011


"A funicular, also known as an inclined plane or cliff railway, is a cable railway in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails moves them up and down a steep slope; the ascending and descending vehicles counterbalance each other."

So says Wikipedia. Seems funicular is an oft abused term. Its meaning is very narrow. Now, I wonder if these ever so cute trams in Lisbon meet the definition?

This one photographed by Herman Silbiger clearly does not. It appears to be a normal electric tram.

This rather interesting photo by Peter Ehrlich shows tracks that appear not to have any counterweight mechanisms.

This can't be one either. Can someone pass me a gun and I'll take out a few graffitists.

Oh, this one, by Pedro M, is a good possibility.

Might that be one going up and the other down. We may well have a funicular. Photo also by Pedro M.

They are rather cute, aren't they. Pedro M.

It must feel a bit odd if they ever sit on level tracks. Pedro M.

All I really wanted to do was show you this gorgeous little thing. I'm not sure who took the photo.

So who has been to Lisbon? It looks very nice. Now facts? You want facts? Oh. Well, it is a funicular, it opened in 1892 and climbs and descends Rue de Bica in Lisbon, distance 245 metres. You can see a one minute You Tube video of it here. Lads being lads the same all over the world like to indulge in risky behaviour.

Strolling the Botanics

It was a few weeks ago now that R and I took a walk in the Botanic Gardens. I especially wanted to check out how the 'volcano' site was progressing. It was April last year when we last took a look.

We walked past the charming and unusual St Thomas Aquinas church in Bromby Street.

Things have grown at the 'volcano', but I am not overly fond of cactus and nor is R.

Briefly, the volcano was designed by a director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, William Guilfoyle, for water storage. It fell into disuse and became overgrown and filled in. A couple of years ago it was uncovered and reinstated, a very worthy albeit expensive project. On the last visit, it had floating islands. I wonder what happened to them? It looks rather sterile now

Being the highest point in the gardens, it has good views.

Damn, I was a bit slow with the camera to capture the bare topped backpacker.

If you are at a high point, there is only one way to go and down leads you to the cafe, where we had some tea, noted the birdlife and entwined eels in the lake. The flag is flying on Government House, so Victoria's Governor is at home. A couple of weeks later he was to host the Queen for lunch and a reception.

We exited the gardens at the north east corner and across the road is Morell Bridge, perhaps better known as the Anderson Street Bridge.

I can remember when you could drive across the bridge, but now it is for foot and bicycle traffic.

We walked along the river bank for a while but we found the car traffic overwhelming and unpleasant. As soon as we could we crossed into the Queen Victoria Gardens and made our way to the St Kilda Road tram at the Arts Centre. This building is new and I believe it is mainly for soccer playing. I have no idea of its name, but some on ABC Radio refer to it as the Not Round Ground rather than its commercial name.

If you want to see more photos of the Botanic Gardens and along the riverbank, I recommend Gleeful as Frisky Librarian walks along the way to her place of work.

The Greeks v. German and French Banks

'The Greek problem is essentially cultural. Their culture is just so different to Western Europe, it is fair to say that they should never have been admitted to the EC.

Papandreou is really going out on limb, with delaying an agreement that will see even more austerity imposed on its citizens. Of course, as it is around the world, the austerity hits the poorest the hardest. Only your very basic wage earner in Greece pays tax and they are the ones who are suffering the most. The rich Greeks pay little tax, and nor does anyone who does not have tax deducted from their pay including tradespeople.

It excites me to think a democratic vote in Greece could possibly cause the collapse of greedy French and German banks who lent so irresponsibly.

Of course if Greece doesn't pay, then possibly neither will Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Meanwhile back in ole Blighty, PM Cameron is not for stumping up more money to the International Monetary Fund to cover other countries' misdeeds. What? Australia is? Australian taxpayers? Like me? Oh Julia, I don't think so.

Friday, November 04, 2011

A Spike in the Studio

Spike Milligan first came to most people's notice by way of the BBC's Goon Show. I've listened to a few episodes over the years, but the rapid fire delivery and accents made it difficult for me to understand. I do have a recording of the episode called The Last Tram, which is about the last London tram not making it back to the depot for the closure of the system and being stranded in a tunnel. As is often the case, I find I have mentioned the The Last Tram before.

Spike was a frequent visitor to Australia and usually pretty good interview value, but Spike being Spike, would take advantage at times.

In the studios of ABC Radio 3LO, newsreader Rod McNeil battled valiantly on while Spike interrupted the news broadcast. Spike was then banned from live ABC studios when he was not personally part of the programme.

Rumour has it that upon Spike's headstone are the words, 'I told you I was ill'. Not quite correct. It is written in Irish, 'Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite'.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Responde siv your plate, if you will Julia

I have made in clear in the past that I care not two hoots about gay marriage. But over many years, I have learnt to my surprise that it is not all about me, and many gay people, including lesbians as gay, do care very much about the right to marry their loved one. It is not for me to understand, but it is for me to judge. So why shouldn't they get married if they want to? If my fellow gays are silly enough to get mixed up in religion and antiquated practices, why shouldn't they get married in a church?

Our PM Julia Gillard was handed a somewhat poisoned chalice and I fully understand that she has to play politics. I can even understand her reluctance to address the matter of gay marriage. But when she was directly asked, point blank, her opinion, she clearly stated that she did not approve.

What? She is my age, she grew up in my time. She is educated. She was even once a lefty and a bit radical. She mixes widely. Cheap shot yes, but she lives in sin with her partner.

Sorry Julia. I understand politics, but I can't get past your firm statement. Maybe you will explain it in your memoirs.

Shuffle the Deck

Victor doesn't mind a game of cards, especially bridge. I have never played bridge and so I have no idea of its entertainment value. Apart from children's card games, I can play 500 and euchre and perhaps, is it black jack? I am not a bad player really, for the first twenty minutes and then????

My father could also play cards. He chose not to. I never saw him behave petulantly unless he was forced into a game of cards. I think he suffered in the same way I do from cards, sheer bloody utter boredom. My Tradie Brother has no time for a hand either.

Once on the way home from a family event much later than had been planned, R told me I was in a bad mood. 'It doesn't always go your way you know.' It certainly did not as I was forced into playing cards until I could find someone to stand in for me and then had to sit around just as bored while R continued to play cards, and play more cards, then even more cards.

Best to not ask me to play a games of cards.

Vote for me and I'll do the same

At the Qantas annual general meeting held just last Friday, the day before Qantas suspended all its flights, CEO Alan Joyce was in line for a very substantial pay rise, subject to a shareholder vote.

While you and I may fume about the obscene amounts of money executives pay themselves, there is little else we can do but vent our anger, verbally or in writing.

It is not that Alan Joyce's payrise went unchallenged, with a shareholders association representative, who held many proxies, opposing the payrise and speaking passionately against the rise, as did individual shareholders.

The problem is a 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'. This needs to be addressed by our lawmakers, as there is no limit to how high executive pays can go.

While smaller and not so small shareholders may not want to increase the CEO's pay by huge amounts, invariably the institutional shareholders do, they perhaps being your superannuation fund. Should Qantas have holding in a large company, at that company's AGM, Qantas would vote for the a payrise for the CEO. I am not sure that I want my bank and my superannuation fund to continue to do this. It is all very cozy and really needs to be smashed.

An argument is often put forth that you need to pay world prices for the best executives, rather that paying peanuts and getting monkeys. To me it seems we pay gold, and still get monkeys.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


While I can't say I thought too much of The Slap in book form, I am enjoying it very much on tv. The production is excellent and the acting pretty good. To my knowledge the author of The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas', first book was Loaded and published back in 1995. It was made into a film called Head On. There are two books of his that I have not read. No doubt I will in time.

Back in pre electronic days, after reading an Australian book and enjoying it, I often wrote to the author, expressing my approval and perhaps with a comment or two. I did so with Loaded and Christos was nice enough to reply. Wise people are generally nice while they are on the way up and hopefully remain so once they have reached certain heights. I think he probably is still quite nice.

His letter only makes vague sense, as I cannot remember what I wrote and did not keep a copy. I should have pulled out a sheet of carbon paper and made a copy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Stopping the Nation

I am not sure that our horse race, The Melbourne Cup, does stop a nation but it certainly creates a stir. For the record on our personal annual horse betting day, my outgoings $22 with one win and one place. R's outgoings $38 with one win. That is far from breaking even, which we usually manage.

We had some breakfast at Fed Square while the second race was running.

Race day patrons get to the Flemington course by car, coach, plates of meat (one for Dina), tram, train, bus and possibly bicycle. Some even catch a double decker, perhaps an ex Hong Kong model.

Many arrive at Flinders Street Station by tram from the inner suburbs and then catch a train to the race course, the train having its own dedicated track once it leaves the larger city area. The service is usually excellent, although back in 2008 things did not go so well on Oaks Day, in fact it was a debacle. But it normally works extremely well with plenty of allocated resources.

There are always people around to make money on a day of cheer.

People gather on the concourse to meet their friends.

Once they are hooked up with who they know, they descend to the dedicated station platforms, 8 & 9.

Between nine and noon there is a train every four minutes to the racecourse. The train will pick even more people at Southern Cross and more again at North Melbourne and then run express. Four minutes can seem like a long time.

The train arrives and people spread over two platform surge on to the train from where they will be quickly delivered to the race course to eat, drink, gamble, display and make merry. Melbourne Cup, there is really nothing quite like it in the world. Not even the Kentucky Derby or Royal Ascot can match it as a day for the rich and poor alike.

Flu Shot

River made me think about flu shots a while back. I have had a few. I have had a flu shot and gotten a flu and not gotten a flu.

If we are to be sensible, the flu shot protects us against a specific flu, usually a very bad and debilitating one. So, I suppose it follows that there are a large variety of flus that you can get except for the one you have been vaccinated against.

I have not had a flu shot this year. Yes, I realise it is hardly the time to discuss such things as we head for summer, but not everyone is heading that way.

While I thought there may have been a little truth to the reports of people getting flu after having a flu shot, I thought it was probably a bit exaggerated. But the last flu shot I had, yes, I was quite unwell with flu like symptoms for three days afterwards. I decided until I am perhaps old, I won't have any more.

So what do you reckon? Flu vaccination? Good? Bad?

Oh, this one became a bit stale, original date 26/09.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It's a war out there

A pair of very innocent trees, you may think. Not so. Every evening there is a war happening within the foliage. Like all good wars, there is a long lead up period.

We go back to 2004, a time of drought in Melbourne. A nearby cypress tree favoured as a roosting place for Indian myna birds died and it was removed. It was somewhat of a relief to be rid of the racket they made in the evening and morning. The mynas decided to roost in a London plane tree across the road. All was well for the introduced pest bird, until winter when they tree lost its leaves. They moved on elsewhere for the winter but returned to the same tree once it burst into leaf again.

All was well for the aggressive myna birds for a couple of years. They arrived for the summer to roost and wintered elsewhere.

But come the end of the drought, birds I know as mudlarks, and I've heard them called mudjays, seemed to breed rather prolifically this year past. This year they decided to occupy a tree on our side of St Kilda Road. So on one side we have the mynas and the other side the mud larks. Now mud larks are not shrinking violet birds either. Just watch them in spring as they attack glass where the see a competitor for a lady bird's affection, their own reflection.

Wars are usually about expansion of territories and that is what is happening and it has broken out in direct attacks.

While the war is not yet over, I feel the battle is almost won. The mud larks have moved into the myna's tree and are slowly driving the mynas out, now occupying both trees on either side of the road. Many of the mynas have retreated a smaller adjacent tree, but I fear this will be temporary fall back position before a full withdrawal. Naturally I side with the native mudlark, rather than the foreign pest. I'm sure there is an analogy to be drawn there somewhere, but who knows what.

Hands orf 'em

As if it is not bad enough with all the kiddie fiddlers in the catholic and protestant religions being protected by the hierarchy, now the jewish religion has proved itself to be not above such matters as protecting the accused. God knows what would be found if moslems were delved into. Well, we already know a bit.

There are some things in life you can overlook, but no matter your religion, or lack of it, you can't overlook the abuse, sexual or otherwise, of children.

Although it no doubt has some high faluting name, our child welfare departments seem to be failing too.

It would be nice to be able to focus on the welfare of animals with the knowledge that our kids are ok. Sadly our energies must be expended in many directions.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


The emails have started to arrive from all corners of Australia, friends of friends, acquaintances of acquaintances, all oozing sincerity. Sponsor me for Movember please. No, I shan't and I am strongly pointing out to R why he should not. Not while the homophobic and evil Jeff Kennett has anything to do with Beyond Blue, the principle recipient of the funds raised.

The brazenness of ex state Premier Kennett fundraising for depression when he, and what he did still hangs on, caused so much mental anguish to so many and now he fundraises to repair some of the damage he caused. Reagan, Thatcher and Kennett, all the same in my book.

The board of Beyond Blue recently had an opportunity to get rid of Kennett, instead they chose to let a respected CEO who Kennett bullied leave.

Not one cent of my money will go to Beyond Blue. Besides, isn't that what we pay taxes for? To look after those in need? Physically, mentally or in whatever way?

Our taxes ought to be paying for animal welfare too, but I do realise there is only so much money and not everything can be done for all.

Down Barwon Heads way a fire started and set back a koala and wildlife park considerably. Sadly five koalas died in the fire. I reckon Jirrahlinga is deserving of my largess for this week.

Wild Ride

The finest American engineering; Exhibit A. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the state of Washington opened in 1940 and disintegrated just four months later. The wind speed was only 64 km/h. I wonder why the man did not just reverse his car off the bridge? Don't you just adore the melodramatic newsreel reader. Of course your Aussie designed bridge is built to last.