Saturday, July 20, 2013

We apologise for the inconvenience, but your safety is paramount

The Boston bomb explosions, although small by bomb standards, received world wide media coverage, no doubt because it was during a sporting event and, well, Americans are a bit like us, aren't they. Cameras being close by and footage being able to go to air quickly has quite a bit to do with it.

Bombs go off in awful places all the time and they barely rate a mention. The dead, dying and injured are quickly cleared away, streets are cleaned and things put back where they were and a few hours later, no one would know anything happened.

In western countries, of course there must be a thorough investigation, which often takes days and generates its own publicity and the pursuit of the guilty persons becomes world wide news......exactly what those who planted the bomb wanted, publicity for their cause. Of course the matter should be reported by media. We have a right to know, but turning incidents into circuses for media needs to have lid put on it. I should think reporting it responsibly without cameras at the scene until the area is cleaned up might be a good start.

We were caught in a freeway traffic jam in Thailand quite a few years ago. We were in coach and impatient as it inched forward. Suddenly the road cleared and we were away. With the help of a Thai speaker, I later learnt it had been a fatal accident and traffic was delayed for about an hour. The authorities race to the scene with the prime motives of removing the dead and injured and then clearing things away to get the freeway traffic moving.

Not so here in Melbourne. A fatality would probably guarantee a six hour freeway closure. You only have to look at the truck that partially crashed through a freeway barrier a month or two ago. The driver was thrown clear, so there was no need to worry about anyone's safety, apart from those removing the truck. It took all day to remove one truck from a freeway. The best that can be said for the effort was that the authorities did get to play with their new flying drone to 'check things out'.

There must be a middle path somewhere. Yes, crashes need to be investigated and safety must be a priority, but I suspect clearing such things up is taking a lot longer than  it ought to. A lot of people have a vested interest in the delay being as long as possible and re-opening a closed road is not a high priority.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Your FBT is a fail

We once had a shifty accountant. He was marvellous. We received incredible tax refunds. As I was a shift worker and could not always use public transport, he claimed travel expenses to and from work for me. This is not normally allowed. Then he disappeared and I heard later he was in big trouble with the Australian Taxation Office. The next accountant who did my next tax return said I could not claim for travel to and from work, shift worker or not. Bah!

Essentially you can't claim travel to and from work as a work related expense.

That is unless you have novated  car lease arrangement with your work. It is way too complicated for me to understand. But I did pick up that if you sign a declaration to the tax department, you novated lease will be phrased that you you use your work supplied car 80% for work and 20% privately and the tax benefit will be credited to you on that basis.

But hell has arrived and the government is clamping down because it seems the 80/20 is more like 20/80. All the government is asking is that a log book of travel is filled in for three months of five years.  Suddenly a whole industry collapses.

That is an industry built on falsely claiming driving expenses against payable tax. I look forward to seeing less black SUV cars in our inner suburbs that are funded on novated leases.

Do you know what novated means? I saw the word a few years ago while sitting in the beer garden at our local, The Palmerston. I looked up into the sky and I saw a tall building with a sign that said something about novated leases. I didn't have a clue what it was then, but now, I still don't have a clue, apart from associating novated with tax rorts.

It rather reminds me of our thriving economy, half of which is dug out of the ground and the other half building houses for immigrants, or those who they displace.

Ah, the lucky country.

Coffee and a fag

My knowledge of American and English history is very limited but I assume Bob Newhart is talking to Sir Walter Raleigh. I haven't heard this for a long time, so if you haven't heard it, do listen, and if you have, have a listen again.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The prince, the princesses and the newspaper

The newest entrant into the Australian online media is The Guardian. It is the English newspaper I usually look at if I feel the need to find out some detail about what is happening there. Formerly The Manchester Guardian, it carries forward the politics of Manchester, which happily kind of match my own. It has a rich benefactor who is prepared to lose money just for the pleasure of producing such a fine newspaper. If it continues to be free online, it may well spell the demise of Melbourne's The Age which I am finding somewhat tiresome of late, and while I thought I might pay for it online, I am not so sure now.

An English parliamentary committee has been grilling Prince Charles' private secretary about the amount of tax he pays, arguing that HRH should be paying more tax on his Duchy of Cornwall estate. Regardless of  that, and I have heard this before, HRH chooses to pay tax at the highest marginal rate on the simple income from the estate.

Chooses to pay tax? Either he has to pay tax or he doesn't and I assume from the way it is written, he doesn't.

It reminds me of complaints when our local politicians take advantage of benefits available to them. Either it is their entitlement or it isn't. If it is and you don't like it, then that is the point to argue. That is that they shouldn't be entitled, not whether they take advantage.

The same goes for old Charlie. Why would he choose to pay tax? Tax is not normally a choice. You pay what you are obliged to pay. If he pays tax when he does not have to, then he is a fool. For mine, the Royals should be taxed to the billy-oh. They are very rich, live very comfortably, and while I would wear that the British taxpayer might stump up for the maintenance of all their palaces and castles, and possibly pay them for their public appearances when representing Britain, that is about it. They are rich enough on their own.

But to more important royal matters, yesterday I heard that Princess' Beatrice and Eugenie like to get pissed together and then play table tennis in their underwear. Bless.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Going east, going west

Let me get this straight. While people agree we should have a train to the airport, a train to Roweville, servicing Monash University, a train to Doncaster and the proposed Metro Tunnel, the government wants to build a road tunnel across the inner northern suburbs which I see as mostly benefiting freight trucks. In a previous post, I named it in advance with a tip of my hat to Lindsay, the Fox Tunnel.

A tunnel sounds somewhat innocuous as it goes underground and won't affect many people. Wrong. Well over one hundred houses will be compulsorily acquired. Can't say I'd care for my abode to be 'acquired'. The tunnel will end in a park, Royal Park. Long have our State Governments stolen bits of our parks, but from what I understand, rather a lot of Royal Park will be taken for the tunnel exits.  

It might be worthwhile if it had a huge community benefit, but it doesn't. It will only assist a very limited number of people, as I have already suggested, mostly freight trucks but regardless, it will fill up and become congested, just as every other similar infrastructure road project has.

The real problem is Melbourne's increasing population. More people means more people moving around. I've had years of seeing roads and motorways built and they have only ever been a short term solution, yet our governments won't spend money on efficient public transport, which is surely a better way to move masses of people around our city.

I thought the new on ramp from Kingsway to the West Gate Freeway would alleviated traffic congestion below the Highrise. Nope. It is worse than ever now, as the workers in the area exit to the residential western suburbs, by car and by tram and then train. There are just too many cars for the roads to cope. There is an adequate number of trams, but they are too small and the trains can't cope either.

I don't think it is a good idea to increase Melbourne's population anymore. We can't cope with the numbers now, and our politicians seem unwilling to spend money where it is desperately needed, into the mass movement of people by public transport.

Train ID

I am going to the station, Southern Cross but known by so many by its original name, Spencer Street Station. I prefer Ann's name, So Cross Station. I hope the train drivers understand this mess of signals. When we lived along side the Alamein line, the train track reduced from dual track to single track and often trains would wait outside our place for a train to come out, before proceeding onto the single track. I soon learnt that a red signal over a green signal means go. Perhaps it means go, but not too fast.

I don't mind So Cross station and I think it works quite well. A friend who visited the station recently complained to me about non working escalators. While it is a bit of a walk, there are lifts at the other end of the platforms. What I don't like about it is the stench of diesel fumes from idling trains. I don't remember it being a problem in other station I have been in.

I have written about Melbourne trains before, identifying different trains, including old models that are no longer in service. This is a simple identification of our four train types that you may travel on now and how to know which kind of train you are catching. There are trains and sets, six carriages or three carriages, but who cares. We know what arrives at the platform as a train.

This is a Hitachi train. It is very silver looking and with minimal branding. It is heated but does not have air-conditoning. There are only five or six of them left and I really want to ride on one before they disappear.  While they were ever so modern when they first arrived, with driver operated closing doors and heating, they really are not very good compared to our newest trains. Driver air con was added at some point. The government sold them all and then as passenger numbers increased, had to buy some back at premium prices. Does that sound like what a government would do? They are easy to identify, as they feel old and they are quite noisy and each carriage is quite separate, with a connecting door and the windows open. Apparently they were a joint Japanese Australian project with 59 built between 1972 and 1981.

Then came the  Comeng train, Commonwealth Engineering, an Australia Government company back then. For their time, they were very quiet and very smooth and a pleasure to travel in and they still aren't bad. They look less sleek than newer trains, have three doors each side per carriage which you have to pull open but the driver does close the doors. The best thing was that they are air-conditioned, and so deliciously cool in the summer, well, as long as it did not get too hot. Then the air-con failed and the train went out of service. As the trains aged, their air-con became increasingly unreliable and I think in the very hot summer of 2009, so many failed, a decision was made to upgrade the air-con. There are doors connecting each very separate carriage. There are 91 of them running, of the 95 built with the building of them starting in 1981.

Next off the ranks is the X'trapolis built by Alstom of France. There are 74 of them, built between 2002 and 2004, and they seem to have been our best trains for reliability. The air con works well and they have push buttons on the doors for passengers to open and close the doors. They are very quiet and have sliding doors between carriages.

In the early noughties, with the operation of the government owned metropolitan train system privatised, two companies ran the trains, the lines being divided between them. In absolute madness, as happened with trams too, the other company bought different trains, Siemens Nexas from Germany, between 2002 and 2005. There are 36 of them and they caused a lot of trouble with malfunctioning brakes and being slow to load and unload because, as the picture shows, there are only two doors per carriage, rather than three. Having said that, I like them the most, with the carriages open to each other inside without internal doors.

Tech Stuff: I say trains, meaning six carriages. Technically our trains are three carriages, with two trains to make up a set. You train to board is approaching, so you need to say, here comes my train set. Try it and see what looks you get.

Here is a bonus photo, I think a Gippsland bound country train, pulled by a diesel locomotive. The carriages are old, but superbly quiet and smooth, without a diesel engine thumping away under the carriage as in the case of the more modern Vlocity trains.

You may be able to see the etching on the train window. Less obvious are the riveted black metal strips at the side of the glass. These had to be added to stop the youf kicking the glass out. I maintain, the stocks would be the  best way to deal with them. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


A few Sundays ago before a family lunch at a hotel in Beaconsfield, I felt the need for a decent walk and as we had time before lunch, we decided to walk before lunch, but where? Admire the windows of Berwick shops? A walk along a country road? R said, isn't there a park in Berwick? A check with my best friend and there certainly is a park, the Wilson Botanic Park. Suddenly my best friend's mapping system relegated itself to being second best friend as there was no indication on the map as to how to enter the park. But my new best friend, Melways, had it all in clear detail.

What a discovery the park was. You probably have to be Australian and of a certain age to get, "Why wasn't I told?" My family should have told me about it. Mother later said she had been there once. It truly is a gem. Chainsaw Niece has even worked on a project there.

Near the office, staffed by a very pleasant and helpful volunteer.

This rose arbour will look fantastic by early summer.

A very formally constructed modern fountain. I hope you can see the spurty jets.

A big pond or a small lake.

What would be people have to complain about, if the local council didn't spend money on public art that no one gets. Old Farmer Dave reckons they coulda filled a coupla dozen road potholes for what the sculptures cost.

Lemon scented gums, with bark as smooth as the proverbial baby's bum. Note what looks like a cliff face behind the trees.

I think glass house #101 says something about a roof.

Across this larger lake is an amphitheatre.

It was just so pretty.

Around the other side at the amphitheatre.

What is this thing called love? Right at the edge only just visible in the soil was another similar structure. I surmised a road bridge once crossed the lake, even though it made no sense at all. Later I read the park guide pamphlet. Remember the earlier cliff face? It is the wall of an old quarry and this was part of a rock crushing plant within the quarry, the quarry now being the lake.

Time to go and we had not looked at the higher Bassalt Lake, either of the lookouts, the play area and more. What a treasure of a park and a credit to the City of Casey and the volunteers who help. We shall return.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Shewn you some at

Well, you learn something every day.

Open wide dearie

Bone Doctor gave us a dvd of photos she took as Sister gave birth to Little Jo. Oldest Niece has seen the photos. She said, I am not sure I wanted to see Auntie M giving birth and her so wide open. We have never looked at the dvd. It is way to much information for me.

In days of old woman never let their husbands see them naked. I suppose that was part of the feminine mystique. All men knew was that there were breasts, which they liked and an opening where they could insert themselves. If the woman received pleasure from the brief encounter, then well and good, but I expect many did not.

Society has moved on but I wonder if it has moved too far? There simply can't be much feminine mystique remaining after a bloke watches his partner give birth, yet society seems to now compel men to be present and share the experience when their partner delivers. Do men really want to be there? Do woman really want them there?

Maybe I am old fashioned or just ignorant about male female relationships.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Selections

I don't know if River will be returning home by Sunday to post her Sunday Selections, but I am doing mine anyway.

Something was pulled down and these signs were exposed. The only time I have ever drunk Fosters was when we were in England and that was all I could get on tap that was like what I knew. It was lousy and I don't even know if it is available here anymore.

The Victorian Railways administration building in Spencer Street, now apartments.

An infill building, which was there before it became infill.

Yarn bombing, Royal Parade.

Do not adjust your monitor. They are Lego sculptures. Even I can recognise the first one.

Con trails look better when you can see all of them, and not a small section. I am not sure if this one was mood altering dousing to keep us citizens calm, or spraying us for lice.

Three balloons landing together in Albert Park.

The Flinders Street train viaduct.

And this newer one runs parallel. I know which I prefer.

Mews. I must look up the precise definition.

Father's Office is a bar in Little Lonsdale Street. My age and my self consciousness prevents me from entering.

I don't know if you can see it very well in the photo but honestly, you leave three tradies alone in your apartment for a few hours to lay carpet and you end up with a hand print on your wardrobe door. "Brace yourself Effie!" Clearly Hyacinth was on to something when warning people to not brush past her walls.