Saturday, October 27, 2012

Election Rant

I cannot remember a council election like this one. Aside from the friction between candidates, its administration has been poor. The Victorian Electoral Commission is responsible for running the election and it has failed.

We crossed the mighty Kingsway to the girls school known as MacRob where there was a polling booth. The distance from home might be 300 metres. Why are all these people handing out Junction Ward leaflets when we are in Emerald Hill Ward? It was a voting booth for Junction Ward residents of course. I had checked on the VEC website and the list gave no indication of which booth was for which ward in the list I looked at.

No, we were supposed to travel on a further kilometre to South Melbourne Town Hall to vote. We didn't have time for a long walk, nor time to return and get the car from home, and so chose to vote absentee, meaning we had no pamphlets about each candidate. I would have like some to reassure myself, but I knew who I was voting for. R did not, and so randomly numbered candidates.

Surely someone at the VEC looked at a map and thought about hundreds of residents in the nearby highrise apartments who might want to come and vote at the by far closest booth to where they live, rather than pass it by, on to a booth much further away.

Further, I understand from a person I spoke to that the 'system', had crashed and the back up system would not do what she needed it to do. Everything she had to do had to be done manually.

This farce just tops off the ridiculous amount of electioneering rubbish that has turned up in our letter box for  wards and municipalities that have nothing to do with us.

And how is this for a nice piece of reverse racism? Ad Rad, who was born and grew up in Australia and does not read Chinese,  gets election paraphernalia in his letter box in Chinese only because his family name is Chinese. There are disgraceful assumptions going on here. Even our friend Manny in Malaysia, who is Chinese Malaysian, does not read Chinese.

Someone at the VEC needs to do a bit of stomping with a heavy boot and keep things under control in the future. The VEC also needs to use some common sense when choosing the location for voting booths. This election, VEC fail.

Melbourne's Train Types

A Tait, or red rattler, 1910 to 1984. Yes, I rode in them and I do not have romantic memories of them. They were draughty, noisy, rough and they lurched. I believe they last of them ran on the St Kilda, Port Melbourne and Sandringham Lines, as being made from wood, they were considered to be too much of a fire risk to run around the City Loop tunnels.

A Harris, or blue train, 1956 to 1988. With the only alternative being a Tait train, I was always excited to catch a 'quiet and comfortable' newer Harris.

Some Harris trains were very heavily modernised but because of concern about the asbestos they contained, they were quite quickly scrapped and ended up as landfill.

Hitachi, 1972 - . Only half a dozen or so still operate. They seemed incredibly modern when they were introduced and they were the first to have heating, though I can remember they made a terrible racket when travelling in City Loop tunnels. Air conditioning for the driver was added to the remaining trains a few years ago.

Photo by M Wong.
Comeng train, 1981- . Positive luxury, with air conditioning and they were blissfully quiet. Unfortunately the air conditioning was unreliable if the weather was hot...yes, some irony there. The air con was upgraded a few years ago.

4D, or Tangara, 1992 - 2002. Yes it looks like a double deck Sydney train and it was made in NSW. There was only the one made and it could only run on one train line because of its height. I never travelled on it. Looks nice though. It was cut up for scrap.

X'Trapolis, 2002 - . Very nice and comfortable trains, but not significantly better than the Comeng, in my opinion. This train marked the beginning of buying our trains from overseas, in this case from Alstom of France. This train was the first to have a flexible rubberish joint between carriages, instead of doors.

Siemens, 2003 - .  It too is a comfortable train, but its two doors per carriage, rather than the three in the X'Trapolis, makes for slow loading and unloading. A few years ago, Siemens trains started to overshoot platforms. Drivers were blamed. Eventually management recognised that there was a braking problem with the trains. They have a disconcerting concertina rubber like connection between carriages that mesmerises me as each carriage moves independently.

The future? New trains from Alstom will be appearing on our rails soon. I've tidied up What Tram is that, if you  would like to identify Melbourne's trams.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another Day, Another Funeral

While we had not met him, it seemed as if we knew our friend's father well. We went to the father's memorial service today, to support our friend. Ninety five is a respectable age to reach. While it was a longish service, with a civil celebrant, it was a good funeral in that it was both interesting and entertaining.

I was reminded that when I was young, my father was treasurer of the local country football club, a primary school committee member, a member of the local rural fire brigade, a position on the local tennis club committee and a voluntary active member of the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association.

My father had nothing on the bloke whose funeral we went to today. He was local councillor by the age of 32, served four terms as a Shire President, Rotarian, local progress association member, business owner's association member, chair of a local hospital board and so much more that I have forgotten.

Rich bloke? No, from Paisley in Glasgow, sold newspapers in Williamstown as a kid to support his family, night soil carrier, share farmer, fruit and vegetable grower, seller at Vic Market, grocery shop owner, council contractor for street and public toilet cleaning.

Did his humble ways of earning a living matter? Not at all. He met the Queen, dined with Lord and Lady Casey in Berwick, met Prime Ministers, Melbourne Lord Mayors, met Prince Charles and Lady Dianna. Again the list is too long.

Did he get a couple of awards, yes. Did he get an award from the government, like an OAM, no. He did the hard yards in setting up a hospital yet the fellow he worked with to do it, went on to be a Sir, who had what surely must be the shortest and most modest highway named after him (well, it is the same name, and I should verify that, but I haven't).

Was he generous with money? Selectively. One successful grand slam tennis player would have thanks to him for paying his way. He helped so many people, not always with cash but in practical ways.

In his older age, could he be grumpy and obstreperous? Yes, rather like our friend, his son. Was he political, very much so. He could not bear the Labor Party. He was very much a 'get yourself out there and work your arse off' person. If you were really disadvantaged, 'I and the community will look after you. You'll not go without a roof over your head or food on the table'. (That almost sounds appealing, until you think it through. It only works if you are an 'approved' person in the local rural or semi rural community. I think I like the government to decide who is deserving of largess)

Our friend, his son, is very involved in the community and has certainly done his bit in the past as a politician, a policeman and continues to, now as presenter on an old person's radio station, one of those people who hand out how to vote cards and scrutineers vote counting for a political party I hate, Rotary, Neighbourhood Watch organiser and on and on, including gay and lesbian associations.

My contribution to the community is........umm, well, ah, I'll think of something in a minute. Yes, ah. I lack the confidence to do things like that and being a rotating shift worker means I can commit to very little, even things for my self benefit. I may have made small changes for the betterment of society by Biro and foolscap, and latterly the keyboard.

While we, well me, are talking about volunteering for the community, can we put our hands together for Daniel Bowen, just retired president of Public Transport Users Association after nine years of service in that volunteer position and more years as an active member. I don't agree with everything that comes out from the PTUA, but if you live in Melbourne and listen to radio news or watch television news, you must know who he is. Well, apparently not as he is often enough asked by the great unwashed if he is the Transport Minister. Daniel has made a positive difference for us public transport users and less directly for motorists in Melbourne. We thank him.

Who nicked me start button?

Hmmmm, Windows 8 is released in Australia today. I don't know that the Windows 8 operating system will be for me. I'll wait for Windows 9 when the start button is put back. What do you think?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It is all great fun...

It is all great fun, until someone loses an eye.

This is very disturbing and similar to things I have written about in the past. It is no good at all to have regrets after an event has occurred and  people have died. We place our trust in these organisations to have things safe and it is appalling that they put us all at such risk.

Melbourne’s underground rail Loop is a disaster waiting to happen and the city’s busiest railway station had no effective fire plan until very recently, the state’s public sector watchdog has said.
In a report that has harshly criticised the Department of Transport for failing to act after years of warnings, acting Ombudsman John Taylor wrote that the department took ‘‘little effective action’’ to fix a host of safety problems in the Loop, despite receiving seven detailed engineering reports between 2001 and 2011.

My birthday cards

I am so fortunate to have kind and caring friends who are always there for me.

The inaccurate map

A chap by the name of Mark Noad has designed a new London Tube map. A couple of years ago an official map was released that did not have the River Thames on it. Useless! Public pressure ensured the river was quickly put back as it was important for people who used the river to orient themselves, as I did.

But why did Mr Noad design a new map? For mine, if it ain't broke, it don't need no fixin'. As I was reading a little about the map, it became personally very clear to me why a better map was needed. The piece gave an example of where many go wrong because the reality and the representation do not match, and we did exactly as the example said.

We studied the map as we wanted to go from Trafalgar Square to Paddington. The nearest station was Charing Cross and we would then change to another line one station away at Embankment to get to Paddington, and this worked fine.

Except, as the article says, Embankment is a three minute walk from Charing Cross. So, to get to Paddington in the minimal time, we should have just walked to Embankment and caught a train from there.

We were tourists, so it didn't matter to us, but why didn't we realise Embankment was so close? Because it did not look close on the Tube map, and this is the problem that Mr Noad has attempted to address with his newish map.

This is the traditional Tube map, based on Harry Beck's 1931 design.

And this is Mark Noad's design. A more accurate map it may be, but it makes me feel a little queasy in the stomach. From what I have read, it really is a much better map if it is to be judged by how close to reality you can get with a stylised map. I hope there is soon an Adroid app so I can play with both.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Visit Melbourne

If you plan to visit Melbourne for the first time, there is no end of online help for you. I expect the same goes for most big cities and Melbourne is a big city by any standards, with a population of over four million people.

But not everyone is a tech type. Some like the personal touch and communication with real people. Melbourne serves its visitors well enough in this area too. 

Down underground in this building at Federation Square is the Melbourne Visitor Centre. There is no end of information there and you can also make bookings. Two of our building's residents are volunteers at the centre.

On the surface at the major intersection of Flinders and Swasnton Streets, opposite the main suburban railway station, you can find the Redcoats(my name for them) who are there just to help you and they have good local knowledge and they carry some information with them.

More Redcoats can be found at the corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets. I believe some are also present at Station Pier when cruise liners arrive at Port Melbourne.

Yet even more assistance can be found at the Melbourne Visitor Booth in the Bourke Street Mall, between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets. I expect to get the best out of these services, perhaps the best question not to ask is, 'What can we do?' Have some idea of your interests, maybe your budget and how much time you have.

Around the bay by bike Part 2

We were going to take Little Jo to the Queenscliff Primary School Enviro Expo. We were taking Sister's car because it has the child seat, but the battery was flat and we had to change the car seat into R's car. It was bit of a hairy drive while sharing the road with hundreds of cyclists. Look out, here comes a police car and I am straddling a double white line. Policeman moved over to the road's edge to allow me to pass. We decided on brunch first, in spite of cereal and fruit toast earlier. The Expo did not open until 11, so we had time to kill. Why has Little Jo been saying panache all morning. Ah, that is where she wants to go for brunch, Panache. Food is good, but service always perfunctory and not too welcoming.

I was contentedly reading the cafe's A3 sized booklet about maritime disasters off Queenscliff, mostly copied newspaper cuttings, when Little Jo changed seats and knocked the booklet which in turn knocked my coffee and so I spent the rest of the day with a nasty stain on my front.

Little Jo was not enthused about going to see the 11 o'clock ferry departing. Suffer ye child. It is about me for a change. We
climbed up the many stairscaught the lift up to the top of the tower which has wonderful views. The car/passenger ferry to Sorrento is closing its hatch and is about depart.

Port Phillip Bay to your right and Swan Bay to your left. Further along Swan Bay is open to Port Phillip Bay after Swan Island. Swan Island has a golf course and some prohibited Commonwealth land, which is used by one of the armed forces.

This channel to access the marina runs through to Swan Bay and at tidal changes, the force of water coming or going is immense. A Port of Melbourne pilot boat is entering the channel.

The marina was busy enough with quite a few dollars worth of boats moored.

A supplementary passenger and bike only ferry running for the cyclists arrived as we were about to leave the tower. The cyclists just poured off.

Down below a farmer's market was underway, but circumstances prevented us from perusing the, no doubt very pricey, foods.

There is often a Sunday market at the park in the distance, but today it was awash with tired cyclists taking a break and some nourishment.

Down below, we were back mixing it with cyclists.

This is the tower we climbed. There are some fine dining places at 'The Harbour', as it seems to be called.
Scarily, I was briefly alone with Little Jo. We went into a shop. A cheap fridge magnet did not appeal to her, nor did much else but books, as if she does not have enough. Ok, you can have a $10 book, but not a $15 book. R reappeared and a $15 book was bought.

On to Point Lonsdale Primary School for their Enviro Day, centred on Swan bay, but including other areas and ecological issues. PLPS sits right on the edge of Swan Bay in a beautiful location. The exhibitions were very impressive. Clearly a lot of work had gone into the day, and all for the price of a gold coin donation.

Little Jo was well known there as she attends the kindergarten next door a couple of days a week. She had fun on the jumping castle and participated in the treasure hunt and received a tee shirt for her efforts. There was lecture and slideshow by a parent who is a biochemist who travelled on the Aurora Australis to Antarctica over summer. She was very interesting, but after ten minutes Little Jo became bored. The sausage sizzle was up and running by then, so we partook. I did not take photos because of all the kids around. Sad it is, but two older men, one with a camera and knowing no-one there to vouch for us, may not have looked good. I wouldn't care about so much for myself, but I did not want to embarrass R. I did sneak a couple of scenic shots though.

The school is a very fine place, with friendly and committed parents, staff and students. It has excellent facilities too, somewhat different to many other government schools. I mused about how privileged these children are. Many of the parents could probably afford a private school, but instead they put the effort into making their government school a first class institution. Perhaps they are wealthy enough to have the time to commit.

We headed for home and after texting Sister about where the dog leash was kept, we headed off with Little Jo on her scooter and Fuzzy in tow. Big rain drops just as we left meant no beach, but just a play in the local park where there was shelter.

Sister and Bone Doctor arrived home at about three, having completed the ride to the Alexandra Gardens, something over one hundred kilometres and then the one hour and twenty minute drive home. They were sore but very self satisfied, with participation medals strung around their necks.

R and I did not hang around long, but we had to see the beach again, so on the way we stopped off at the beach and sat on the rocks while watching the crashing waves.

I've just written a whole post without a whinge. That won't do at all. The traffic! Congestion both ways on the West Gate Bridge and then again at the Kingsway off ramp. Millions of cars everywhere. Stop start traffic. A Saturday or Sunday afternoon trip used to be a delight. Now it is a miserable experience. There are just too many people in Melbourne.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Vote for Doyle?

Even if I wanted to vote for Lord Mayor Doyle in the forthcoming local council elections, I cannot.

It was bad enough the local Greens leafleting our building, and I assume the two adjacent buildings, with voting paraphernalia for the Junction Ward candidate when we are in the Emerald Hill Ward, at least they knew which municipality we are in.

Not so Mayor Doyle, who also leafleted our building. He is standing in City of Melbourne and we are in City of Port Phillip.

I am surrounded by fools and incompetents.

Around the bay by bike Part 1

Sister and Bone Doctor cycled half of the Around the Bay on Sunday, something like 100 kilometres. They did not really do half the bay as they started at Queenscliff instead of Geelong and finished at the city point and then drove Bone Doctor's truck back to the Bellarine. Sister drove the truck up on Friday and left it in our car space and then caught the train to Geelong with her bike and cycled home.

I suggested to Tradie Brother that he should pop down to Frankston from the swamps of Langwarrin to see his sister pass by. He thought he could sit in one of the pubs that is on every corner of a Frankston intersection and see her pass by. No Tradie Brother, she will be but a flash in the same colours as everyone else.

But what about Little Jo? The Highrisers will look after her. Plans of trains and later, buses, went by the way and we ended up driving down to the Bellarine to look after Little Jo while Sister and Bone Doctor cycled. 

We deliberately stayed a bit hungry on the Saturday so we could call into Corio Maccas for an old man back stretch. A break there is something like a twenty year old tradition. We used to let our dogs have a run there when we were travelling west.

We arrived at Sister's in time for a walk to the beach, via a sporting oval to fire air pumped rockets to the sky. Dog Fuzzy was in close attendance, but would not fetch the rockets back.

The tide was in and so there was no exposed sand. No matter. It is so good to watch the waves coming and going at the Rip.

Sister's and Bone Doctor's house looked quite tidy when we arrived. They had clearly made an effort for us. It is ages since I have been there. They now have the lounge room quite nice, with a large screen lcd tv and a leather lounge suite. The tidiness did not last too long.

Sister cooked us a stir fry. I am spoilt by R's most excellent cooking. We chilled for a bit and it was a very early night, all in bed by ten.

I slept on a bed settee in the lounge room. I closed the windows so that the birds did not wake me in the morning. The birds woke me in the morning regardless. The house was astir by 6. Sister and Bone Doctor cycled off and caught the seven o'clock ferry to Sorrento.

We gave Little Jo a bath, cleaned up as best we could and put the dishes into the Bosch and turned it on, and watched some kids tv. Ok, I may have had the notebook machine with me, connected to the net via my phone.

A typical beach side town residential street. It was very pleasant evening walk.

Little Jo's secret tunnel.

The tide was in and waves were crashing into the rocks.

It is a very nice and safe beach for swimming, but the beach disappears at high tide.

Sister has a gardener who comes every so often. He has improved the garden quite a bit.

It is said that high achievers have messy desks and Bone Doctor could be put in that category. Our desk is neat as a pin, which clearly makes us low achievers.

It was very pleasant to sit at the new outdoor setting in the back garden under the vine covered pergola. Unfortunately, the vine was dropping seeds or unformed grapes?, millions of them. No sooner did I sweep the table off, and more fell. In the distance, the crashing waves can be heard.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fire Show

My photographic skills are not great, but superior to my filming skills. There are about twelve towers along the south bank of Melbourne's Yarra River. Close up, you feel the heat, but the show is best viewed from a distance.

Birthday Mother Rant

(This was just venting and I wasn't really intending to post it, but hey, warts an' all)

Dear Mum,

I will say your performance last Sunday was quite good, but as R commented later, an actress you are not. Yes you shake, as do I. It is in our genes, but that was a bit over the top and the public display of being too scared to open your electric bill, with shaking hands, half opening it and then then handing it over to R to open was quite pathetic.

Tradie Brother reported back to me that you were somewhat annoyed because I said you need to budget. I suggested that $100 per week put away would cover your bills. You intimated that I did not understand, because you don't have any money and so cannot budget. Mother, that is when you do need to budget. I don't have to now, but I have in the past. When you don't have enough money, that is when you need to budget.

Mother, it was great for the kiddies to attend for my birthday. It wasn't  the best choice of venue. The weather was so lovely, it should have been a picnic. But all in all, you made my birthday a fucking well lousy day.

Do you think your grand kiddies are going to want to continue to see you when all you do is moan on about being lonely, having no money and your medical problems?

I had already put $100 on you bench to cover your plumbing costs, that Tradie Brother spent four hours investigating today, crawling around under your house and working out how the leaking pipe can be fixed.

Then I was presented fait accompli with your electric bill to pay. Ok, you did say you will pay me back at $50 per fortnight, but if you really intend paying the money back, why not borrow the money from ABI Brother who you see daily and who it would be easy to repay? As wonderful as he is to you, he is smart enough to not go down the road of lending you money.

There will be no more Mother. Yes, we agreed to pay council rates, health insurance and pay if a major appliance breaks down and that is it. There will be no more filtering quarterly council rates notices for payment through me either. First notice goes to me, second to you second born and so forth.  Do not pretend you don't understand the connection between the order of your rates notices and the age order of your children and send the rates notices to me to sort out whose turn it is to pay. You worry about passing on to them and not me? Let me assure, you now need to worry about passing them on to me to send on.

Mother, you have never actually had to go out and earn money to live on. Women who stay at home to raise their children, and nowadays often go without extras in life, have my full respect, but it is clearly unreasonable of me to expect you at the age of 78 to start managing your money wisely. Nevertheless, you could give it a shot.

Not only for the reason that I lack oratory skills, I'm afraid I would really struggle to speak of your wonderfulness at your funeral. This is not how I want to remember you. I will have to conjure up much earlier memories when you were much more fun.

(I thank all who have offered advice in the past. Your wise words were seriously noted. Mother is sound of mind and still physically able and makes her own decisions. We children can advise her until the cows come home, but she will do what she does, on her own terms. We are trying to make her 'harden up' as Tradie Brother expresses it, but without a lot of success.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Anti American Middle East

Perhaps this graph I found at The Hoopla explains why around the world there are strong anti American sentiments. It would certainly explain why so many people aspire to live in the US. But for the many, it would be disappointing experience.

The wealth of the United States is very unevenly distributed and it is quite disturbing that there is such a huge number of poor and underprivileged who don't even get the proper health care that the citizens of many less wealthy countries receive.

Slowly slowly, Australia is drifting to the way of the United States, and it is not good. The Abbott, who may become Prime Minister and who stands up for big business, excessive private profit and the trickle down wealth theory, will only hasten the process. God save us.