Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leningrad Cowboys

The Leningrad Cowboys have been around since the mid eighties. I have never taken much notice of them. They are a Finish band which at times performed with the Russian military Alexandrov Ensemble. I had a bit of a laugh at their combined performance, I think in Helsinki. There seems to be a bit of bonus Piaf thrown in for no apparent reason. If you get through the first track, the second is a bit more traditional, vaguely familiar to me.

Or perhaps you would like some a little brighter? Try the first track in this one. It is rather camp with some sailor boys.

Or just to smile, the second track on this one at 4m.

Never ever again shall I google 'funny song', but I was feeling a bit flat and I grinned the whole time I was looking at these vids.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sexism in the 21st century

Maybe I was thirteen, perhaps a year older or younger. We were on a family holiday. Mother was there but Father was at home tending the farm. Mother had rented a holiday house somewhere on the Mornington Peninsular.

He had long blond wavy hair and was gorgeous looking, the complete surfer look of the seventies. He was using a skiffle board. What is a skiffle board? I think he stood up on the board and rode small waves. I should google skiffle board, but I can't be bothered. The teenage me was just overcome with something. I was too young to feel lust, or maybe I wasn't. I so wanted him, but I had not a clue how or in what way.

Are gay male teens and straight teen girls preoccupied with dicks? I think at that age we already knew what powerful things they are. We just didn't realise that they aren't connected to the reasoning area of the male brain in any way, and only have a very rudimentary brain of their own.

That is the colour for this post, digressing, as usual.  What were those paddle board things called that we held out in front of us while we swam? Perhaps paddle boards? Got it, Jiffy Boards. Google does not seem to know what they are.

A mini kind of surfboard sits at the window of the neighbour's below and at the front of us in one of the kid's bedrooms. While I know it is in the girl's bedroom, I keep thinking of it as the boy's bedroom, because surfing is boys' thing hey. No, the surf board is in the girl's bedroom.

I am sexist.

Let me give you another example. One family on our floor have two children, a boy and girl. She is almost a sour teenage lass, he a little younger and is more bright and outgoing. At times when we step out onto the landing, we hear the tinkle of piano playing, at times scales but other times proper music, sometimes classical, sometimes popular.

In the lift, already thinking I knew that it was the girl, I asked which of you plays the piano so well? Gotta encourage the kiddies in the y'arts. You guessed it, the boy. She plays a little, but he is the pianist.

Enough sexism? One more, but not really. In the phone shop, we dealt with a young Asian female. I so wanted a bloke to deal with who knew about phones. 

Now this is the salient point. What we actually wanted was someone with some power and ability to deal. The owner is an older Asian male and he can strike deals. His young Asian female staff don't have that power, and nor do the young Asian males in the shop for that matter. It is not always sexism at the fore.

The Tunnels

The proposed, nay, going ahead, east west link road tunnel will be marvellous for quite a number of commuters. It could remove quite a bit of traffic from Melbourne's inner northern suburbs, depending on how much it costs to use. Great care needs to be taken with the pricing. With the exception of Melbourne's City Link tunnels, with its Kennett government given extremely generous terms, road tunnels have not been commercially successful in Australia for private business. Personally, I don't like the idea of privately owned and operated roads that exclude poor people from using the facility.

Sydney's Cross City Tunnel failed to make a profit, effectively went broke, and share holders lost around half a billion dollars.

Sydney's Lane Cove Tunnel sent its owner broke and was sold for half of what it cost to build.

Brisbane's Clem 7 Tunnel is in receivership, and Brisbane's Airport Link shares are worth one cent each, of what has surely been the most corrupt construction processes in Australia this century.

Now Melbourne is building a private road tunnel, according to our state government, which will not in its present design assist with the massive traffic congestion in Melbourne's prime north south arterial, Hoddle Street/Punt Road. So who will really benefit greatly from this proposed tunnel? I suggest it should be called Fox Tunnel as surely one of the prime beneficiaries will be Australia's largest freight company.

Trouble is that the Federal Government has made an allowance of $3 billion for a Metro Tunnel in Melbourne and nothing for the Fox Tunnel but the State Government has committed funding to the Fox Tunnel and has put the Metro Tunnel on hold.

Which should be built?  The Metro Tunnel of course. It will benefit far more people, like me, than the road tunnel. It is as simple as that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Give 'em muck

Mother: "My friend Margaret tells me how wonderful the tv show Mrs Browns Boys is. I've watched  it and I find it a bit rude and I can't understand half of what she says."

Andrew: "What? I don't watch such shows".

Only R knows that I laugh at many lines in Mrs Browns Boys.  It is not my choice to watch it, but you do have to laugh when you hear of being rowed down one of Venice's canals by a gonorrhoea.


This sounds a bit like free advertising, but I found it amusing. Click on 'the boss is coming, look busy' button, top right. I can think of a few sites I would like to see have a similar button. Too much information, perhaps.

Romance of Rail

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. Isn't that just a marvellous name? I wish I could hear it pronounced with a lazy southern drawl. The name conjures up so many early television memories. Sadly the company is no more and the railway mainline never made it to Sante Fe in New Mexico. The company's history spanned from 1859 to 1996 when it was absorbed my another company.

Anything blue on the map was part of the company's network.

There was even a song, and having heard it, I now remember it. Mancini is not a favourite of mine but this is the only music that had seemed to have some appropriate footage.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The call that turned out to be not the one you don't want to get

The English are the nicest of people, but give them a drink and they lose concept of time on the other side of the world, hence when the phone rang at six o'clock this morning, I assumed it was one of them. R answered the phone, as he has a cordless phone in his bedroom. While I have a phone plug in my room, I refuse to have a phone there.

"Andrew, wake up and concentrate. It is a hospital. They want to speak to you".

I was asked to collect Mother from a large Dandenong, or is that Mulgrave, private hospital. There seemed to be some haste to get rid of her. I was assured she was ok, just a blood pressure problem. She had throbbing in her neck and around midnight called an ambulance. The paramedics checked her blood pressure and it was well over 200, so they insisted she go to hospital. Do you have private cover, they asked? Yes, she replied. Ok, we will take you to the private hospital where they will attend to you straight away and you won't have to wait like you will at the nearby public hospital. Mistake. She loved the paras who were full of concern.

Upon admitting her to Emergency, the hospital wanted $200 up front. Overnight they did tests and slowly her blood pressure came down.

I arrived at about 7.30 and she still had ecg pads attached and a stent in her wrist. I don't know what the urgency about her leaving was about, but there had been a shift changeover. Mother disliked the evening staff very much. She wanted something to eat and asked if I could see if the canteen was open. I asked staff and they said they would bring her something and myself some coffee which duly arrived with a packet of sandwiches each, tea and coffee. Mother queried me about why the staff were so nice now and had been so horrid last night. I did not have an answer. I went outside to make some calls while Mother dressed and I took her home and stayed with her for a couple of hours. I rang ABI Brother at work and he said he would stay the night.

She is fine now, but upon leaving she was given a bill of $280 for the doctor, who had already deducted his Medicare reimbursement. I am not sure if that figure includes the original $200 or not. Nevertheless, it will be we children who pay and because she wasn't admitted to hospital, the health fund gets off scot free. I have urged her to go to the public hospital next time. If she needs admitting, she can switch to private later.

She was very apologetic to me about the early hour inconvenience but she knew I was not working and I was the best person for the job. Fair enough.

"You know Andrew, I don't actually know what the word surreal means. Do you?"

"Mother, you had no sleep last night. I expect it felt like a surreal experience and this morning has been a surreal experience for me".

I was home a bit after 11 and felt quite distracted. How could I centre myself? I caught the tram to St Kilda Library and renewed my library card that won't work for ebook borrowing from the library and the contact phone number for the library on my card was only seven digits, not eight. Yes, it would have been issued about 1992. A long black at a cafe and a flick through The Hun, and I felt a lot better.

PS If you drive in towards Melbourne on the Monash freeway, in the morning peak, I feel very sorry for you. Kilometre after kilometre of crawling traffic. What is wrong with this damn country that people are forced to endure such things, along with an absurd private medical system that you insure yourself for, but it doesn't pay.

Wobbly Bits

The weather was cool but that never stops belly dancers giving lessons to a crowd of what I guess to be mostly Turkish women.

Yes, she had them all up, in their coats, gyrating away.

There was a point to this post, once upon a time

Our Fijian Indian Friend returned with his partner from a three week holiday in Fiji, to see his family etc etc. R is normally very circumspect in what he says, unlike myself when I am in front of a keyboard. R said to FIF, gosh, you are so black. Our friend is already quite dark, but I did notice he was even darker after his Fijian vacation. R extended the conversation to how much time he must have spent in the sun and repeated about how dark FIF was.

I have issues with the moodiness of FIF and our Brother Friends have had issues with FIF in the past but I could see they were quite horrified at what R was saying. I just sat watching everyone, including FIF to see reactions. FIF did not seem troubled.

Brother Friends brought the matter up the next time we saw them. All I said was, it was interesting to observe and that
FIF did not seem offended. And nor should he. I am chuffed that R stated the bleeding obvious. He did not state that FIF had also stacked on a bit of weight. That would have offensive.

At Thursday night's barbeque, I noticed FIF had gone back to his usual black state, not his very darkened state. He hasn't lost any weight though. Curries do that to you.

Which brings me to the point of this post. What can you say? I have seen many examples of where it has gone wrong and someone was offended. In comments on a recent post I pointed out that someone was a mick, a catholic. Mick was a word I grew up with. I suspect the person who wrote the first comment is also a mick. I have met one of the commenters more than once and I feel like I know the other personally. It is my judgement call and I think it was ok.

When a Moslem workmate said he was hungry and needed to stop chatting and go and get some lunch, I meant no harm by saying, 'can't you just pretend it is Ramadan'. 'No, I don't get hungry during Ramadan'.

'Yes of course you want Saturday off', when changing a work shift with a Jewish workmate. 'You've got to stick on your yamaha on and go to temple'. 'No, kid's birthday party'.

In my early days at work, I did get it wrong. 'Don't have too much to drink at the Balaclava Hotel, Albert. You have church in the morning'. I  subsequently learnt, St Francis in the city. Keeping yourself nice on a Saturday night  and going to church the next morning has been a running joke in my family and among friends for years, because none do go to church. But I learnt, it is not a joke to make among Christian Indian immigrants, no matter how Australianised they seem.

I now picks me marks. Hot straight blond Greek guy has no problem with me saying Nick, I can never imagine whether I would like to see you on top of Peter Albico, or he on top of you. Nick laughs and then goes red. Obviously I did not use such formal words. I've known Nick for a long a long time and I like him and he seems to like me, so I can say such things.

Not like the stupid old queen at work who was training a new gay boi at work and became very suggestive, and that ended very badly, especially as the new boi had his phone audio recording. Yes it was a set up, but the older queen was out of order.

I've been called a fucking poofta more than once in my life and I take it as a statement of the obvious. It is verbal abuse from someone who you don't know, or if you do, they think they have reasons to abuse you and seek a supposed weak point. No worse than 'you have a big nose'. I can do now't about either.

What has hurt was when a guy who I got on with reasonably well said to someone, who I think quite nastily repeated back to me, 'Such a shame about Andrew. He is a nice guy. It is such a pity he is gay'.

Well, I rather like how I am, thank you very much.

(A post that needed a lot of editing, but hey, shit happens)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bloomin' Japan

We were privileged to visit the village of Hirosaki in the north of Japan a few years ago. The park surrounding Hirosaki Castle was quite spectacular with the castle built in 1611. In the past I often taken stills from the webcam set up in the park when the cherry trees are in blossom, but I have missed them in their prime by a few days, so this is a photo taken by Felicia who hails from the nearby large city of Aomori.

To get great spring blossoms on deciduous trees you need cold in the winter, and Hirosaki certainly gets cold in winter, as you can see by this photo by Glenn Waters.

Picture postcard, isn't it.

Stop the Presses

If you have enjoyed some of my reposts of You Tube clips featuring M. Hulot, you might want to catch tonight's At the Movies on ABC tv at 9.30pm AEST. The show is to feature M. Hulot's Holiday, or for Grace, Les Vacances de M. Hulo. Thanks Victor, for the advance notice.

If you don't hang on my every post and have missed it, ,but probably not if you are overseas.

Fine them

Our train and tram companies get fined by the government if their service is inadequate, that is too many trains/trams running late or cancelled. If the figures drop below certain levels, then passengers are entitled to compensation, costing the companies even more. That so few claim compensation indicates to me that the system to claim is too difficult. Now we have Myki, compensation can be automatically credited to each person's Myki card. I am not holding my breath for that one, but I do feel some glee when I hear one of the companies gets fined.

How does the government fining public transport companies benefit passengers? It could be argued that it is an incentive for the companies to improve their service. Most of the problems for the train service come from government owned infrastructure. The train company and the tram company have both put a lot of work into improving our fixed rail public transport and the improvements have been noticeable.

But Metro, the train company, cannot be blamed for such poor train infrastructure over which they have no control, or Yarra Trams which is at the mercy of Vic Roads, can be blamed overly much. At best they can mitigate to get around basic ongoing problems.

Stripping money from them by way of fines so they have less to spend does not seem a good idea, just as I think reducing funding to under performing public hospitals is not a good idea.

Am I being too generous to the private operators of our public transport? Maybe.

Take a look at the Potter's Bar rail crash in England.

The rail infrastructure company had pleaded guilty at St Albans Crown Court in Hertfordshire to breaching health and safety regulations which led to a high-speed train derailing at a faulty set of points.

Judge Bright and some of the bereaved families highlighted the fact that, as NR (National Rail) is a not-for-dividend company with no shareholders, any fine for NR would have to be paid from what the judge said was "an income which is substantially derived from public funds".

Thatcher did leave many legacies, and not a good ones.

(this post is getting a bit stale, better publish it)

To the Zoo

We had a pass for a visit to one of Melbourne's connected zoos, Werribee, Melbourne or Healesville. Sister, Bone Doctor and Little Jo are zoo members and so get free admittance.

"Mother, would you like to go to Werribee Zoo on Mother's Day?".

"Andrew, I can't walk so far." In the background I heard ABI Brother say, "Only foreign animals". ABI has a strong Australian focus and is obsessive about buying Australian. ABI is acquired brain injury.

It was clear neither wanted to go and Mother and Sister had a decent battle over the phone about it. "My daughter won't listen to me," complained Mother.

"Please, it isn't hard to ride in a bus," said Sister.

Sister is ever the organiser though. You put on afternoon tea for Mother on Mother's Day, invite who will come. We will all go to the zoo ourselves, and so we did. Report to Werribee Zoo at 9.50 to beat the 10.00 AM meets. Afternoon tea means a blow out in house keeping budget and R having to do a lot of work. I used to offer to help, but I have learnt that it is better to let him get on with it. I am expert in other areas.

Slightly hungover from jelly shots at a party the night before, we were there and waiting and Sister arrived after 10.00. We booked the 10.50 zoo safari tour and filled in the time in between by having overpriced and rather ordinary coffee. Sister and Bone Doctor received free coffee for Mother's Day.

It was a great outing. Sister and Bone Doctor stayed on for a bit, while we brought Little Jo home to our place and got ready for Mother's arrival.

It was a pleasant time at home with family and Tradie Brother attended too. Non Dreaded Nephew was on on call for fires. Oldest niece was at work. Hippie/Chainsaw niece was unwell. Their own mother, Sis in Law is overseas. But Mother had all her children at the Highrise in one place and R and Bone Doctor took photos of our blood family, Mother and her children.

We had thought of a game of tennis or bocce in the afternoon if things became quiet, but they didn't. While Mother was outside smoking, we played a stop watch timed game of fitting different shapes into a ball like thing. It was a lot of fun. Mother was requested to play but she tried to cry off with a statement that she has medically diagnosed brain atrophy.

Little Jo sorted out her Nanny with a very rehearsed speech. "Nanny, it is not about who wins but the fun you have by participating, and by joining in you will be treating us with mutual respect." So there, Mother had been told.

Mother didn't do so badly at the game at all and at least beat her Tradie Son.

All were gone by about 4.30. R, take your Nanna Nap. You have really earnt it. It was a good day.

Photos from the zoo later.

Post Script: FC in a comment reminded me of something that may amuse you. Sorry it is a bit long.

Mother said she and late Step Father visited her mother's grave about six weeks after she died. Step Father was ever so delicate and said, she will be rotted down now. This gave Mother the horrors and Mother decided then and there that she wanted to be cremated.

Step Father's ashes sit on the desk of Mother's best friend's husband who now has dementia. Not sure how that happened.

It is ok Mother. We know what you want. We will throw you off Cowes Jetty at Phillip Island. One two, heave ho. All were thinking about ashes, but I made motions of throwing a body off the pier. How they laughed. Yes, you did have to be there.

It went down like a lead balloon with Mother of course. Rather like the time Sister and I pretended to go around Mother's place labelling things we wanted when Mother dies. 

Monday, May 13, 2013


With all due respect to those who produce wonderful photos for their blogs which I follow, I also follow a professional photographer, Michael Blamey, who photographs around St Kilda in Melbourne. Be aware you may get a nasty pop up site. His work is just brilliant. I was hard pressed to choose a photo from his site to show you, so I decided on two.

I wonder if he could possibly get me to look fabulous in a photo.


This photo will appear among others in a future  but does anyone know what the fist grasping the bar is used for?

Later edit: FruitCake got it.

Keyboard puzzlement

R's sister had a furrowed brow as she stared at our keyboard when she paused typing. She was looking for the @ symbol, which is above 2 on Australian keyboards and somewhere else on English keyboards. I assume for them the £ symbol is above the 4 where our $ symbol is and I recall they also have the € symbol for Euro somewhere. (wrong, the dollar and euro symbols are on 4 and the three has the pound. Getting messy and complicated) Our keyboards don't have those symbols at all and you have to press and hold the alt key and on the numeric pad enter 156 for £, or alt 0128 for €.

I cannot understand how a keyboard can type a Chinese or Japanese language. It has been explained to me but like the rules and scoring of golf, and soccer's offside rule, straight in one ear and out the other.

Gattina has just bought a new keyboard because her y would no longer work. She said she could have typed in German or French as y is seldom used in those languages. I did not know that. I reckon Gattina spilt wine on her keyboard. I did the same and my j was sticky, and there is nothing worse than a sticky j. Left to heal itself, my j began functioning normally again in time, but it was amusing to watch page after page of j being automatically written, briefly.

But even more surprisingly, I learnt from Gattina that French keyboards are not QWERTY but AZERTY. The Q and the A have been swapped, as has the W and the Z and the M is next to the L. While I know enough French to see why, how very French to not conform to English standards. Quell horreur.

Let's have a look at keyboards from some other countries, ignoring special characters and incomparable alphabets.

Hehe, Germany has a QWERTZ keyboard. Yes, quite different. Zee Germans go it alone.

The Netherlands appears to be QWERTY.

I've checked a few now, and there seems to be only three basic layouts. The English  language layout, the French layout and the widely used in Europe, German. Special characters differ in many countries but in Australia our keyboard replicates that of the US.

There is one more of interest to me, an American international keyboard layout that can put in accents for letters. This keyboard can't but if I write cafe the spell checker sees the spelling as wrong. It wants me to add an accent. Funny, it used to give me the option to select cafe with an accent. Now it doesn't.

I wouldn't have a clue about Macintosh but I would guess the basics are the same.

I assumed the tale that the keys are so arranged on a keyboard because in the days of typewriters, it was to slow typists down to stop keys that strike the inked ribbon getting jammed on each other. I remember that well, so that didn't work for me. But I saw in a Tweet the other day that this may not be true. I expect Victor knows a bit about typewriters but I also expect he is pleased to not have to use one anymore.

I also heard that someone has designed a superior English language keyboard layout, but that will go the way of the superior London Tube Map. It may well be better, but we are all far too set in our ways.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Selections and The Block spoiler alert

River seems to always produce a Sunday Selections. Here is my effort for this Sunday.

I remember it as Roots and Leaves, and latterly Petal Pushers. The last time I visited the Dandenong Road nursery, it was clearly going under.  I snapped this from the bus as I was passing. Let me guess? More apartments?

Aww. Divorced Tradie Brother and Sis in Law have both just bought new puppies within two weeks of each other, but they weren't these two cute specimens which look very like spirited terriers.

Flowers come, flowers die, flowers go down the rubbish chute.

Someone bumped into the traffic light pole, in fact flattened it. In no time Vic Roads had it repaired and bravely worked around the detritus  from the accident without a thought of sweeping it up. 'Not my job.'

This is a bus company rule, not a state law, more is the pity. It should apply to all Melbourne's public transport. I hate the smell of stinking food in a public transport vehicle, never mind when they leave the packaging behind.

The leaves of my fake bathroom plant get dusty at times. The easiest thing to do is stick it in the shower.

The television  show, The Block, starts soon on tv. The property undergoing conversion from being a budget motel to apartments is just a short stroll from home. Interesting outdoor greenery. Will a cherry picker have to be hired to maintain it?

I couldn't be bothered to go down to see what happened happened but it appears a car tried to make an illegal u turn in front of the tram. The delay seemed to last for a long time for the apparent lack of severity of the accident. There were a number of ambulance vehicles there, so clearly there was something going on that I could not see.

Hello, hello. Has he been stopped for overloading?

No doubt there are now young people who would not have a clue what this discarded object is used for.