Saturday, May 04, 2013

Death not suspicious?

This story has received a little coverage, but not enough in my opinion. In a nearby highrise apartment block, Balencea, a young woman died when she fell down a rubbish chute. The Highrise has a rubbish chute, and it is very hard to imagine how you could fall down it. Even if you wanted to commit suicide, it is just so not the way to do it.

A tabloid current affairs tv show even tried to show how difficult it was for an adult to fit down a rubbish chute. Certainly as far as ours goes, only a small child would fit and then would have to be lifted.

Very oddly to me, the police homicide squad found that it was most likely she committed suicide.

Our building has a log of tradesmen who visit the building. They must sign in and sign out. They hate doing it, but the committee of management is constantly on at the building manager to ensure they do. Balencea also had a log book and tradesmen were in the building on the day of the woman's death, and had signed in. Strangely the log book disappeared. It would be easy enough to grab ours and remove it. Our building also has lots of high quality cameras and every operation of remote control door locks are recorded against the number of the remote control. You would have to be clever to avoid all this to do a wrong.

Frankly I just don't believe she suicided and it is extraordinary to me that the police so quickly judged it was a suicide and again in my opinion, did not properly investigate. I smell a rat.

Sad business and I feel for her family and her boyfriend, who happens to be the son of a retired Supreme Court Judge and stepson of a County Court judge.

Friday, May 03, 2013

A missive from Mother

Mother's letters of late have been so depressing, but I did get a laugh from this week's effort. The poor mouse. Normally in Mother's handbag would be a selection of biscuits, barley sugar, Minties and a banana. I was looking in the letter for a sentence, 'don't worry about a Mother's Day present. I need the money, so if you could spare ten dollars, that will be nice'. We'll probably give her $100.

Crossing the road Pt 2

Last Friday we looked at Oxford Circus and how de-cluttering of the busy intersection improved the intersection immensely for pedestrians, and to a lesser degree cars and buses.

Some discussion in comments about diagonal intersections arose, which I found very interesting. Apparently in Australia, one such intersection at the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth Streets in Melbourne, is know as 'The Barn Dance'.

The Shibuya district in Tokyo is a very fashionable area to be seen in on a Saturday afternoon. It has shops, lots of shops, very smart shops. Neon flashes in all all directions at the Hachiko exit of the Shibuya Station as it pours people out onto the intersection. All your preconceived notions of stylish Japan come true in this area of Japan. It is very trendy but unfortunately, with our limited time in Tokyo, we never got to see it. I would have so like to see all the Japanese kiddies in high and extreme fashion.

You know, I never felt like Tokyo was crowded or overly busy. Yes, there were a lot of people, but I have felt more crowded in Swanston Street Melbourne than I ever did in Tokyo, even when we caught a train on a busy train line in evening peak. No one pushed us into the train. There was space inside. People seemed to know how to move among many.

In Australia, have you ever been walking in a not so busy street as someone walks towards you? You go one way and they go the same way. You both change and again you are on a path to collide. In Shibuya, hundreds seem to be able to cross and not get in each others way.

Not too soon after Anzac Day to mention Japan, isn't it?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

I don't write right

I think school teachers of the time I went to primary school were sadists, some of them anyway. My headmaster seemed to be one such person. We were lined up to have the cleanliness of shoes and fingernails checked. Mother always made sure our shoes were cleaned, but she failed on the fingernails. Whack over the hands with the cane. I think every boy got the cuts for one reason or t'other that day.

Yet when the school inspector visited, Headmaster ingratiatingly urged us to do our best. I recall him saying, "It not you who will get into trouble. It will be me."  He was not a young man but he genuinely feared the school inspector.

I am trying to adjust my thinking to current school teachers fearing a school inspector and it is not working.

As I have said in the past, my handwriting is appalling, not helped by me hardly ever needing to write now. Something happened in schools just when I was learning to write.  I think it was a change from cursive script to printing. My hand writing ended up being neither chicken nor fowl, possibly foul, and not helped by trying to learn proper writing later when I was in my twenties. I even bought a hand writing copy book from Sovereign Hill in Ballarat to improve my writing, laboriously copying letters and I think that did help.

I can print a lower case f easily enough but I can't recall how to loop it into a word unless I use old style writing. My f has more of an angle. Sometimes I forget But I never really fully learnt proper old style writing with any sort of skill. Now at times I forget how to form an f or a g.

It is fair to say, I am embarrassed by my handwriting and I try to avoid writing at any opportunity. When checking into a hotel, I always get R to do all the writing. This is my writing on a really good day. If I have to print, it is ever so ugly. At least I got every letter correct. That doesn't always happen.

Does it really matter? How bad is yours? Or, how good is yours?  I would love to write nicely but at my age, it is not a skill that will suddenly spring to the fore. I just bless my keyboard and web based fill in forms.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Landing at Williams Landing

Apart from a list of 'shoulds', I should do this, I should do that, I had nothing planned for the day so I decided to visit the new train station at Williams Landing. I deliberately did not look up anything online for two reasons. I did not want look at the PTV website again so soon after my last disastrous visit, and I like to test how user friendly systems are to get around for the stupid and the ignorant who don't look things up in advance strangers.

Curious about the name Williams Landing? Royal Australian Air Force Point Cook base and RAAF  base Laverton were amalgamated to become RAFF Williams. World War I pilot Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams KBE CB DSO is regarded as the father of the RAAF.

I knew I wanted the Werribee line. Ah yes, Williams Landing is listed on the screen at Flinders Street Station, platform nine at 13.01, and I don't have to go through the City Loop. The train departed on time and after Newport Station, it seemed to go for miles and miles and miles at quite a high speed before reaching the next station. The time passed quickly and some 33 minutes later, I arrived at Williams Landing.

Wow, that is quite some walkway, crossing Princes Freeway, the road to the second largest Victorian city of Geelong.

I like the look of the station building. It looks like a train carriage. I did not go up the long long ramp, but used the fast and clean lift, unlike the lifts at Flinders Street Station and Laverton Station.

Plenty of room for developments, and maybe more carparking, although I have just read that the station is in ticket Zone 2, so parking may not be such a problem.

Not only a long walk, but not great if it is raining, which apparently it does very occasionally in Victoria.

The Geelong bound VLocity has its own track.

The car park is large. This woman and perhaps her daughter were taking photos and then heading to the platform to catch the train. I asked how full the carpark was and she said it wasn't full but they had to drive a bit to find a space, and then a long walk up the ramp to the station. I used another lift up to the concourse.

You can have a rest along the way up the ramp.

Buses coming and going. These poor lasses walked all the way down the external ramp, back past the five bus stops to the first stop, almost right where the lift comes down from the concourse.

I used the ramp to get back down to the platform from the concourse, following the ladies who I had spoken to earlier.

Metro fail.

The station does look futuristic. I like the design.

Parkiteer bicycle parking. Parkiteer. Get it? Not open yet. Three bikes were chained up outside, a good sign on the first proper day of operation.

I was a bit hungry and there appeared to be no local shops for local people, let alone a visitor. I know. I will go to Altona. That is a nice and quiet little place with local shops where visitors are welcome. But how to get there. No, I won't check on my phone. I will look at maps and time tables on display. There were none (Metro fail).  I had to do something I dislike doing, ask. The staff at the ticket counter was behind thick perspex with slots to speak through that seemed to not allow audible speech to be returned (Metro fail). The staff had a significant accent too. I managed to catch the word Laverton. I did know Altona Station is on a diversion from the mainline which sometimes sees through trains and sometimes a shuttle service. It must be a shuttle service during the day and I guessed I had to change at Laverton.

There was an announcement on the train to change for Altona Loop service, but once on the platform there was no information and no announcement (Metro fail). I saw a train sitting at another platform, so I climbed the stairs. On the concourse, a man was telling woman that the train I was heading for was not the Altona train, as it normally leaves from this platform, as he indicated one without a train. He added, the trains only go that way on that track. Oh. She looked unsure about what to do and nor was I sure. The electronic display on the concourse certainly wasn't indicating the the Altona Loop train was sitting where I was heading (Metro fail). As I reached the top of the stairs down to where the train was sitting, I could see the train headboard displaying Newport. So that is the right train. It was 14.03 and the platform display indicated the train was leaving at 14.26. Surely that can't be right. It wasn't (Metro fail). The train departed at 14.06, as I guessed it would.

I looked around the carriage once we departed and there was the woman, who had clearly not taken the advice of the chap up on the concourse. It was a decent hike without a stop across some swamps to the next station, Westonia. The following was Altona where I alighted and found a cafe for a sandwich and coffee.

This is the kind of area I am a bit more used to, the Altona shopping strip.

Almost unbelievably, Melbourne still has some single track train lines, rather too many. Even more unbelievably, a dual country rail line was replaced with a single line.

 This breaks the functionality of a train station.

You can't really see the numbers, but take it from me, this is another Metro fail.

I had noted the time I left the train and less than forty minutes I was back at Altona Station to go home. There was no train time indicator on the station platform, but I had noticed one outside that I thought was only for buses. I went back out and sure enough, next shuttle train to Newport at 14.52, however the display said 30 minutes before the next train to Laverton, and 1 minute for the next train to Newport. It was 14.48 with four minutes to wait for the Newport trains and less than 30 minutes for the train to Laverton (Metro fail).

The train stopped at Seaholme Station, a nice looking place and I could see the sea through the trees, and then we journeyed through industrial areas and across more swamps for some time, where I saw a lot of ducks, a wading bird I did not recognise and even a rabbit fleeing from the travelling iron monster.

The train is arrived at Newport and there was nearly ten minutes to wait for the Flinders Street train. Bit of a painful process for people who use the train regularly (Metro fail). Once the train reaches Flinders Street, it goes on to Frankston and not via the City Loop, so if people want a Loop station, they have to change again (Metro fail). No wonder the local MP rails against the government. (Note, services were very disrupted that day and I may be wrong about the train not going through the City Loop and on to Frankston.)

Why are all those people on the opposite platform? Ah, waiting for the Williamstown shuttle service. Hang on, that doesn't operate during the day on a weekday surely. The reason became clear to me from the evening television news service.

I was a bit far from the platform loud speaker but I did hear an announcement that the train I was waiting for was delayed. I missed how late it would be, but I could see train headlights approaching. A less formal announcement was made by station staff that we should ignore the auto announcement and that the train was on time and approaching. (Metro fail)

The rest of the journey was uneventful, but even if you dispute some of my Metro fails, there are rather a lot of them.

I love passing by Buddha standing serenely at the unfinished temple in Footscray.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Old body, healthy brain and a new toy

You know you are getting old when you ask each other each morning how the other slept. When you are young, it is assumed you sleep soundly and long. "Sleep well dear?" we now ask. That would be a tick for us.

You know you are getting old when you frequently comment on the weather. "Been a shower overnight, but not much in it". "When will this heat ever stop". "Bit chilly tonight". "Check the rain radar before we go out will ya ducks". "I am so over summer/winter." Another tick for us.

You know you are getting old when you both do the hands on hips and leaning backwards treatment for the health of your spine, as the disc cushions in your back decay.

Yes, we are getting old. But I am determined that I will exercise my brain at least. I do so in many ways, and writing here is just one of them.

Another way to keep the electrons firing in the head mush is to BUY A NEW MOBILE PHONE. So we did, one each, the same.

Samsung Galaxy 4 is about to be released, so I thought we should be able to get a Galaxy 3 at a reasonable price.

We visited the phone shop on a Sunday. The boss wasn't there and the lass who attended us was not 'dealing'. She said she would get the boss to have a look at it when he was in the next day and call us.

She called the next day and said she had spoken to the boss and she reduced the cost by $5.

We each have the same plans. $20 a month, which includes $15 free calls, texts and data, plus another $20 to pay the phone off over two years and I pay an extra $10 for a 1gb data allowance. So that is $40 for R, and $50 for me per month. Oh yes, we can call each other for free for 3 minutes. We are very happy with the plan and it suits us well, but it seemed if we wanted new phones, then we were going to have to pay more, $68 for me, $58 for R. The new plan did include $600 of free calls a month! We would be lucky if we racked up $6 of calls a month on our mobiles.

I thanked her for here trouble and said I would discuss it with R, which I did, and we agreed, well, if we are going to pay more, we will wait until the 4 comes out and see what is on offer then.

The next day the boss himself called. In fractured English, you are good customers of Telstra. I can give you Samsung Galaxy 3 on the same plan as you are on. One problem. Data allowance will now cost $15, not $10. I can wear that. Come the Thursday after the Sunday we were in the shop to do the paperwork and collect out phones.

As I never came close to using my 1gb data allowance, I reduced it to 250mb for $5. At home, I can wifi to the router for anything large.

We are ever so happy with our new phones, even though our brains are getting a serious workout as we learn how they operate. There are remaining problems though. R's won't connect to the home wifi and although I connected to the home wifi to download all my apps, it seems to have done it via phone network and I have used half my monthly allowance in two days.  Pffft. Who cares (I normally do, but I am saving $5 a month for data allowance, $60 a year, so if I go over my plan, no matter).

I did mention in a post a while ago about getting new phones and there was a comment along the lines of, yours are almost new. Why do you need new phones if the old ones still work?

It is a fair point and I really don't have a logical answer, only explanations. It is about pleasure (I don't really eat sweets or chocolate often). It is about keeping up with technology. I don't want to be an old man with a 'tradie' Nokia. It is about the stressful yet exciting challenge of learning about something new. I certainly don't want to be behind my grown up nieces and nephew in the tech department. Although they are well ahead of me in Face Book department. We got the latest phones at a bargain price, even though they will only be the latest for a month or so. To learn what these small things you hold in your hand can do is amazing. It is not all about me either. Our Samsung Galaxy 1 phones did not have a flash for photos. I hardly ever use my phone camera as I usually have my camera with me, but R does often and he is very impressed with the photos the new phone can take and that it has a flash light. I may be an ageing person of plain appearance, but hey, look at me. I have the latest phone.

The best thing is, the working system of our new phones is fast, and Telstra 4G is is many times faster than Telstra 3G. BBC World news photos that accompany each story used to load slowly, taking at least a few seconds. Now they load instantly. 

Very happy! Oops, nearly 11am and still in my dressing gown.

Monday, April 29, 2013

You love to hurt the one you love

Our friend is overseas and has left his partner at home alone. The partner is quite self sufficient, but when R spoke to him on the telephone a day or so ago, he was missing his partner.

I know exactly what will happen when our friend returns from his travels and reunites with his partner as Millie did the same to us.

We had dogs, Jessie a West Highland White Terrier, physically defective and died at ten years old, and Toby, a black mongrel who was hale and hearty and lived to be around twelve.

Cats were Tuffy, black female and not so friendly, Thomas, a gorgeous huge black and white cat who could not get enough affection and drooled and purred when given a lap to sit upon, and then multi coloured Millie. Millie was a free spirit and not a nice one at that. I am sure Kath's Milly is much nicer.

I can't remember where she came from but she stayed with us because we fed her. Any thought of a connection with humans was far from her mind, and we grew to dislike her, as she did us. Nevertheless we had her patched up after she was hit by a car and we and we continued to tolerate each other, just. Btw, she was ironically named after Millicent Friendly. Does anyone know who she was?

I think it was when we went to Adelaide in 1983, we put her into a cattery in Malvern. I can't remember if it was Miss Plant in Elizabeth Street, or Miss Elizabeth in Plant Street. No matter, she was a cat loving spinster.

We collected Millie when we returned form our holidays and Miss Plant told us that Millie had not enjoyed her stay and that they had not gotten along at all well.

Once home, Millie made it quite clear to us that she was very angry about her temporarily changed circumstances and lashed out at us at every opportunity.  It was more than just a passing slash at our ankles, which she did as well. She would hide and pounce on us, claws extended. The cold but working relationship had gone. We were her enemy. If she wasn't eating or attacking us, she would be somewhere outside.

Shortly after she was hit by another car in Waverley Road and died. A neighbour a few streets away found her. Ah yes, Mrs Millis, who had a gay son. We spent a New Year's Eve with him once and nothing happened except having a good time and drinking lots of Tia Maria laced with cream. Lordy, his mother's house had been renovated and was an early seventies time capsule. Burnt orange was the favoured colour of the time.

In later years we cried when Thomas died, and Toby, especially Toby, and Jessie. We shed no tears for Millie.

Finally I get to point. Our returning from holidays friend's partner will behave exactly like Millie did after we collected her from cattery.  He will be vicsous towards our friend and lash out. He will be angry that he was left alone, angry that our friend had a good time and every thing that has built up over the past month will come out.  Eventually things will settle down, like they never did between us and the cat Millie. Seems humans are a bit different to cats.

Later edit: It's started. "Oh, you're back. When are you going away again?".

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I'll just check the tram time

Kath, an Aussie a broad (note to self, fix the erroneous gap later) may or may not know that now in Victoria, she hailed from Kensington in Melbourne, Metlink had been replaced by Public Transport Victoria. If just talking about the website, it was a painless procedure, a change in name only. But now they have changed the website too.

I read a post from Marcus where he banged on about broken links on the new website. That is a bad, but it won't affect me really.

Well, I didn't think so, until I went to the PTV website today. What a mess.

It was Anzac Day here, a public holiday with a parade along the major tram route we use to get to town. City shops were closed until 1pm and trams were diverted in other directions until 1pm. I had to go to work late afternoon so I wanted to get into town for an urgent, ok self indulgent, errand to a shop that opened at 1pm and get home quickly as I had to go to work. All I wanted to know was what time the first non diverted tram went into the city. On the old website, I would have found the information in a minute and a half.

Between 10am and 12 noon, I reckon I spent a total of forty minutes trying to work out the time from the PTV website. I gave up and went to the still named Metlink app on my phone, and found the answer in thirty seconds.

Never mind Marcus' broken links. The damn site would barely work. I even thought, perhaps not made for Firefox and tried it using IE. Nope.

I could find specific tram times with three clicks before. Many more now. Many links were timing out. No, I don't want route 16. I want route 6. When finally I got something to work about route 6, all I could see was the suburban terminus departure times. Lordy, now I am looking at route 86. Right, you default to city to suburban terminus. Easy, I just click change direction. That was really not happening at all. I spent a lot of time trying to change direction, and it never worked. I opened a  stop specific timetable using pdf. Oh no, that won't work either. Just hanging. What a bloody abortion of a website.

Media monitors for Yarra Trams and PTV, I am sure you are picking this up and passing it on. It is good to create new and fancy things, with boxes that say 'go from here to there' and overloading you with options. But I want a quick link to basic timetables, just like the paper ones I grew up with. No, not even that. All I want is to be able to find out relevant information quickly. Is that so hard?

Truly, I am absolutely astonished that web developers, who get paid a lot of money, have allowed themselves to be pressured to put something like that out for the public. If it was done inhouse, then it raises one of the best arguments I have ever heard for outsourcing. Y'know, some website developers use tester people to check their changed websites before going live. The PTV ever so clearly did not.

Is it fixed now? I don't care. I am no going near it for some time.