Saturday, February 23, 2013

Schadenfreude #42

I was travelling at the speed limit, well slower really as the traffic was heavy. I was keeping up, shall I say. I noted an older man in a car behind me. He saw a gap on his right and pulled out, zoomed ahead and squeezed into the small distance of space between my car and the car in front. The manoeuvre was more in the character of a young female probationary driver than a middle aged man. It seems he had gained some advantage, well he thought so. I am long past fuming at such silly driving. I too was hot and bothered and anxious to get home, but clearly his need was greater than mine.

Ah yes, a Saab, I noted as we became stationary. His head was bowed forward, perhaps taking a moment for prayer, but more likely doing something with his mobile phone. At that point, with his head down, he was not noticing wisps of steam emanating from under his bonnet. He must have noticed when he looked up and moved forward, only to become stationary again. Now, it is a little more than a wisp of steam. Steam is billowing out from under his bonnet. Perhaps his car has a steam engine? No, the large tell tale puddle of green coolant on the road the next time he moved forward told the truth. I expect a radiator hose had burst. He blithely ignored the steam and continued on.

Around the lake I trailed after him, feeling as if I was following in the wake of a Stanley Steamer. I was prepared for him to pull over somewhere but no, he continued on and by the time we reached Albert Road, the steam had stopped. Should there be relief at the steam stopping? No, it means the coolant has completely gone and there is nothing left to condense.

He turned right into Albert Road, then left into suburban South Melbourne. For his sake, I hope his home was close by as much further driving would surely 'cook' his motor.

Do you think I took pleasure in his misfortune? Well, a tiny bit.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Duck your head

Melbourne has quite a number of bridges which are regularly struck by trucks, the best known one being the railway bridge in Spencer Street at Flinders Street. This bridge has tram overhead wires running under it and is on the route of some half a dozen different trams. Not only is there massive traffic disruption when a truck hits the bridge, invariably tram wires are damaged and trams can't pass, causing even more chaos.

As has been discussed here before, it remains a mystery to non truck drivers as to why it happens, when there are warning signs everywhere, often height detecting warning lights, yet still truck drivers plough into the bridges. I hope Vic Roads has cameras set up at the bridges so that at the least, the truck drivers can be prosecuted.

I am reminded of a few years ago when an elderly couple in their brand new campervan arrived on the ferry from Tasmania. They left the terminal and within ten minutes drove under the Montague Street rail bridge, and demolished most of their campervan.

Is it a defect in Australian genes that causes such stupidity?

Apparently not, as this video from Durham in North Carolina demonstrates. Unless you are fond of the theme from Rocky, I suggest leaving the speakers off. The Benny Hill theme might have worked better. I particularly liked the removal of some sort of container at 1.50.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beware, sad animal story

Last week, I think, a woman was found guilty of, or sentenced for, leaving her child in a hot car, leading to the child's death. What really shocked me was that the woman regularly used to get her children to sleep by putting them in a warm car. One just went to sleep permanently I suppose, to be flippant, and I shouldn't be.

The Australian sun is hot. Even in winter, if the sun is out, leaving a child in a closed up car will put them at risk. Many children are rescued from cars every week, usually from being accidentally locked in the car. To deliberately leave children in a closed up car in the sun is almost sentencing them to death. How a jury might judge such an offence when they have the details might be very different to the very severely judging public opinion.

Like babies, animals can be quite defenceless in response to what humans do to them.

I normally read the newspaper with great equanimity at our often disastrous human condition. Umpteen wiped out in a flood in China, a bomb blowing people to bits in an Afghanistan market and much more. I can't take the weight of the world on my shoulders. Good and bad things happen to good and bad people. I will read the newspaper story and move onto the next. Local disasters and incidents of course grab more of my attention. Never in my years of reading newspapers have I stopped dead, slammed the paper down and said, 'Oh fuck'. I didn't finish the article as I knew what was coming.

Martin Flanagan has been writing for The Age for 132 years, well it seems like it. At times I don't agree with him, but he is fine writer. I was reading a piece he had written about his dog. It seemed light-hearted, describing his dog's maturing from the puppy stage to a young adult, you know, the usual puppy mischief stuff, the growing love between a family and a pet. Just another happy pet story, the like of which I have read many times before. I suppose I only bothered because Flanagan wrote the story.

I am not going to search the article out, but towards the end it went along these lines. It was a fine and hot day and we met up with friends. Kids were running around everywhere. No one saw the dog jump in the open car door. No one knew he was in car with the heavily windows when they shut the door. It was a couple of hours before he was missed...

I feel very sorry for all those involved in such a horrible event.

Frogs in the Bush

Sis in Law and her beau have a bakery in a country town. As well as there being accommodation within the main building, there is also a simple newish four bedroom house attached. It used to house women on some sort of gaol release programme to ease them back into the community. We were going to take R's sister and brother in law for a visit and stay a couple of nights when they are here in a couple of weeks. Instead Sis in Law has found us accommodation in a B & (do you see amp after the &?) B in a nearby town.

We can't stay at Sis in Law's as four young Frenchman have rented the house for two months while they 'learn English' and do seasonal work. Do I have your attention Grace? Two of them are expert pastry cooks and have been rather useful in the bakery. The locals,  Farmer Brown and Tree Logger Trev have become rather fond of fine éclairs.

A couple of weekends ago Oldest Niece and Chainsaw Niece took the lads out for a night on the local regional town. Well, the nieces did not really know the local town, but they seemed to find  their way around well enough and did not arrive back at Sis in Law's until daylight, still with the Frenchies who did not pick up, if that is what they were hoping.

Of course we will be forced to meet the Frenchies when we visit. I did perhaps mention that they were young, but they are also into body building and are drop dead gorgeous and feature prominently in the nieces' Face Book photos. Nay, I will go further. Two of them are male model material. Sis in Law managed to spank two of them on the bum with her wooden spoon (settle Andrew) when they disappeared for a day and did not tell her where they were going. Bush fires were not so far away.

Unfortunately their English is not great and is not improving.

Anyways, excusez-moi. Je dois faire mes leçons de français.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stand for the lady

Menfolk, do you politely hold a door open for a lady? I don't, I just slam the door back in their face.

Of course I don't. The Hoopla is quite a good site for stimulating a ponder about things. Do you teach, or have you taught your son to be polite to women, just because they are women? You did a wrong, if you did.

Holding a door open for someone just because she is of the female sex is absurd. Holding a door open after you have gone through a door for anyone is right, as is holding a door open in advance for someone who has their hands full.  If they are old or infirm, or are struggling in some way, of course you hold the door open. If they are visibly pregnant, you go that extra mile with doors and offering a seat on pubic transport.

But don't play the door attendant. If there is a line of people coming through a door, hold it open for the next person and pass it on.

Having been a victim of being offered a seat on a tram by a woman in her mid thirties, it really is a nice thing to do. While I did not accept her offer, we subsequently had a nice chat. So yes, younger people offering their seat to an older person is a good thing to do. Tip: Don't sit near the front of a tram or near the train door and you won't see anyone who needs a seat. I can never understand why old people want to sit at the front, when down the back, you can view all the happenings of humankind on a train, tram or bus.

So, no, you don't teach your son to hold open a door for a a woman because she is a woman. Surprisingly to some, women seem to be able to open doors well enough on their own. What you do teach your son, and daughter, is consideration for others without being over the top about it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lighting our lives

We liked our old lamp. I had to rewire a new transformer into it once, no actually twice. I realised by basic arithmetic that the wattage of the globes had to reduced to match the new transformer. 25w halogen bulbs worked well. Originally the lit parts were clear, but they were too bright. R painted them red and blue with enamel to match the other colours and baked them in the oven.

But finally they just wore out. Two of the lights were out as their non accessible wiring broke. Time for a new lamp. R saw this handmade one for sale, reduced from $400 to $100 and he rather liked it and so do I.

Little Jo lamented, Andrew, I liked the old lamp. So did we Little Jo, but it was old and broke down (rather like your Nanny is doing, Little Jo)

Since I took the photo, we have put smaller wattage bulbs in the new lamp and it works better. While the red is fabric, I don't know what the whitish part is, but it is very fragile and not to be touched as it flakes off.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Expensive Australia

 I feel a little uncomfortable about this post as it sounds like I am going against what Diane said. I expect tourists from overseas may well find Australia expensive and Diane's point stands. If you are staying a Melbourne city hotel and pop off to the local convenience store to stock up on goodies, you will be paying less than what you would be if you were buying from your hotel, but a lot more than local people would normally pay. The post is somewhat unfinished, but I am over it.

I don't consider Melbourne to be an expensive place to live. I know housing is expensive, to buy or rent, but day to day living is quite ok. You can live expensively but with a little effort, you don't have to pay high prices for food staples and there are just so many places to eat where you will get tasty, cheap and wholesome food.

Partly because of the high value of our dollar, electronics and clothing are unbelievable cheap; clothes are criminally cheap. Of course they are made in foreign sweatshops where people are paid a pittance, but it does seem to be the way of the world. Mind you, in America things are even cheaper again, but then do people generally have the income to buy them? Britain has never been known as a cheap place, but I think at the moment, it is considered cheap. It is five years since we have been there, but I found similarly priced cheap clothing there of better quality than what it sold here.

Not withstanding the above, we down under hate the way we pay up to double for imported books, cds, dvds and electronics than what they can be bought for overseas. We also hate the way we are geo-blocked from buying them direct and having them shipped here, hence third party shipping agents are doing rather well.

Lets have a look at Diane's post from last August. There are so many variables in supermarket prices, but this is just how I call it.

Tip Top 9 grain bread for $4.60. Helgas grain bread is now $4.70 I think, but of the two big supermarkets, it is  usually on sale at 2 for $6 or $7. If it is an unlucky week, Abotts Bakery bread will have a similar deal on similar bread. At an Asian run bakery, you can probably get a plain white loaf for $2.

Three litres of quality fresh milk for $5.19. Too cheap. The farmers barely make a profit at this price. Think of how much water goes into producing a litre of milk compared to a litre of bottled water that might sell for a similar price. See what you pay for a litre of fresh milk in Asian countries.

Grapes, imported from America, poor quality and selling for an outrageous price of $13. Our friend from Japan bought some beautiful Australian grapes yesterday for $2 a kilo at the supermarket. Buying fruit and vegetables when they are in season means you get good quality at a cheap price.

Tomatoes. Diane saw some at $10 a kilo. Up north, I would have thought tomatoes would be cheaper, even in winter. So many things affect the price of tomatoes, with the biggest being our weather. The recent floods in Queensland must be responsible for high prices at the moment, when the prices should be at their cheapest. Oddly, South Australian tomatoes are expensive at the moment. This morning we found some edible, but not first class tomatoes for $3 a kilo. We only bought a couple and lashed out on some Australian vine ripened cherry tomatoes, 250 gram for $2.80.

Diane did not mention oranges. In winter navel oranges are imported from California. They are beautiful looking fruit, but their taste often pretty ordinary compared to our wonderful locally grown Valencia oranges. Our Valencias don't have the stunning looks of a Navel, often with some of the peel being green, but they are deliciously sweet and keep for a very long time. Why we need to import oranges to sell fresh and for orange juice when farmers are letting theirs rot on the ground because it costs more to harvest them than what would be their financial return, is just so wrong. You can buy a five kilo bag of delicious Valencias in season for a few dollars.

It is clear to me that Australia is not able to compete with third world clothing manufactures, which is why so little clothing is made here. It was a battle fought and lost some time ago, with any remaining Australian manufactures sticking mainly to the high end.

Our car manufactures, which do produce good cars and export them, only remain viable because our governments prop them up.

Very little in the way of electronics are made here, but where something like the manufacture of electronics can be highly automated, I think quite a lot could be made here.

But primary production, growing things and producing animal products can be done exceptionally well here, and at relatively good prices. I really don't see why we need to import vast quantities of food.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Selections

Each Sunday River posts her Sunday Selections, a display of photos she hasn't otherwise used in her blog. My Sunday Selections are photos I get rid of when I start to get an overflow, a backlog.

Always reaching for the sky, a third storey has been added to this old city building. While it suits the building, it is noticeably different from the lower storeys.

Casper the Friendly Ghost? Dunno. Seen in a city lane.

I was having coffee in Albert Park when I noticed Combi Garage across the side street. Beside the actual garage is a fake grassed staircase and then the cafe. Very cool.

Three buskers dancing, and they were rather good from what I saw from my passing tram.

The salvias and begonias are back again this year. They are quite labour intensive to maintain. No expense spared in front of Melbourne Town Hall.

The MacPherson Robertson Fountain. I've taken a few photos of it over the years but never a good one. One day....

The Stanford Fountain off Spring Street, designed and carved by William Stanford, who spent more of his life in gaol than out.

I am not liking a Qantas plane flying near the Highrise. We never see them. Why was this one an exception?

We don't actually see the sun set, just the results of the sun setting.

Becalmed yachts in Port Phillip Bay.

An exhibition of posters of trams in the old Treasury Buildings. The trams were in service in the 1980s and 90s and were hand painted by local artists. A couple created offence, one being painted all over and having the words Mother Knows written in places on the bodywork. It did not last long on the tracks. Another had an image of what looked like a Japanese flag. The Returned & Services League took exception to that one and it was altered.  The bottom one left was done by Mirka Mora, who interestingly, I heard the other day, bankrolled Unchain St Kilda to the tune of $250,000. Unchain was a protest group set up to stop an inappropriate development at the St Kilda Triangle site. They were successful and some of the members were successfully elected to council and existing councillors were booted out by the electors.