Saturday, August 03, 2013

The longest trial in England ever

Dear Mother,

I am sorry we did not take you to McDonalds for lunch. We know how much you enjoy it and it nice and simple and cheap for us too, but I am sure you will agree with our sentiments. It's like this, you see...........

The longest trial is also known as the McLibel case. The trial ran for two and half years with the defendants, a former postman and a gardener, being found guilty by a judge of some of the allegations they made of which they were accused. It all centred around a brochure accusing the McDonalds Corporation of various acts of  bad corporate citizenry.

Not content with McDonalds not enforcing payment of damages, the pair went on to the European Court of Human Rights which judged that their rights to freedom of expression and a fair trial had been breached.

From when the brochure was first composed to when the case concluded in ECHR was a period of 19 years.

It is hard to believe McDonalds survived the awful publicity the case engendered, but it did and amazingly seemed to learn little from the experience.

The Dandenong Ranges are a rather special place for Melburnians. You can see the range in the background of my header photo. It is place of national parks, farms, villages, damp winters and hot summers where there is always a fear the whole mountain could go up in a fierce blaze. The villages contain tea rooms, cafes, galleries, nurseries, public gardens and heaps of small businesses. Houses are sprinkled over much of the range and of course it is where the iconic Puffing Billy steam train runs.

On the edge of ranges and quite close to Melbourne is Tecoma, a non-descript little township, and it is where McDonalds is going against local wishes and building an outlet there. There are also many Victorians against the building of a McDonalds there. On one petition alone there are 61,000 signatures.

The locals have been passionately protesting against the development and extraordinarily McDonalds is suing eight local protesting residents for delaying the project, having taken out Supreme Court writs against them.

McDonalds has once again set it sails to a public relations disaster. Of course the company will recover, but I am doubtful about the Tecoma McDonalds store ever being profitable.

But then again, as our own Dame Nellie Melba said to Clara Butt about Australians, 'Sing 'em muck. It's all they can understand'.

Note: I don't use the phrase Scottish Restaurant when I want the post to turn up for google searches and various media monitors.

Friday, August 02, 2013

The common does not unite us

While it is not the Americans I know, Americans' knowledge of world geography is legendarily bad. I heard one explanation being that Americans only get two weeks of holidays each year and so don't travel much. Nonsense. You learn geography and about the world at school. Well we do, or used to at least. As an adult, you want to learn a bit about the world, and if you are fighting to impose your form of democracy in a foreign country, surely you want to know where it is located.

I got lost in the world of You Tube once again and I looked at a video of an American guy talking in different American accents. There are some 30 named accents, it would seem. We Australians could not distinguish too many. But when I heard the Californian accent, I immediately thought that is how private school girls on the tram talk. Not so much the sounds, but the words and expressions.

I rather like the Southern States drawl and the Brooklyn Jewish accent.

Then I saw the hottest guy discussing the different words for the same thing that Australians and Americans use.

Eventually I ended my You Tube American v England viewing back in Australia with a clip from an old Chaser episode. It is only slightly amusing, rather than hilarious, and mercifully brief.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Way out west

When I had back pain late last year, I started taking my car to be cleaned at the hand car wash in the office building behind us. I rather got into the habit but a couple of weeks ago I decided to do it myself instead of being so lazy. While there are three car washes within ten minutes drive, I felt the need to do a bit more than just wash the car. I wanted to see something and I decided to go to the excellent car wash in Altona where I have been a number of times before. It is maybe a 20 minute drive at most over the West Gate Bridge and the carwash is both spacious and cheap.

With the car washed and sparkling, I went on to Altona Beach shopping centre for some lunch, avoiding the short cut to Altona as there is a ford, and I did not want the car to get dirty. I bought a padded post bag to post Little Jo's 'crystals' to her. I had some food at a bakery and then bought a very good take away cup of coffee elsewhere to take down to the beach, a short walk away.

This is the Senior Citizens Centre in Logan Reserve at Altona Beach. I looks like it was once a substantial house. Interesting.

It wasn't a particularly cold winter day, so a few souls were out on the pier and of course a heavily rugged up fisher or two.

Looking west with many footprints in the sand indicating people enjoying themselves over the preceding weekend.

The opposite corner to Logan Reserve. Nanny council has been very busy with crossings and speed humps and other traffic calming measures. How could you not be calm here. It is very peaceful.

Norfolk Island Pines are often grown at the beach as they are quite tolerant of salt. There is little other reason why anyone would plant such ugly trees.

Before I had left home, I looked at the electric street map for something of interest to see on that side of town. The area does specialise in swamps wetlands but while they are great for birds, I don't find them at all intriguing. What is this? 100 steps of Federation leading to a hillock. I will go there even though I don't know what it is. It was not much further west to Truganina Park at Altona Meadows. Don't know what this thing is at the base of the steps. A female physical trainer and her female student were running up and down the hill. Bah, I have 100 steps to walk up, but I suppose it is not as bad as last year when we visited Batu Caves in Malaysia with 242 steps while being harassed by monkeys, or worse what Ken in Paris has just done, around 300 steps to the top of Tour Saint-Jacques.

What is this thing called, love?

I do know what this thing is and there were quite a number of them around. Yes the photo is zoomed, but I did get quite close to the magpie and it seemed quite relaxed.

The steps were opened in 2001 by local MP Julia Gillard. Julia is still the Member for Lalor but rather than a little water passing under the bridge since back then, a tidal wave of political history has swept past. (nice phrasing Andrew)

Ah, the steps. The spacing of them was brilliant for my step length, with a step up, a step forward on the tread and then another step up.

If you are of a certain age and fitness level, you will often find things that need to be photographed as you climb stairs or walk up a hill. On the flat too, actually.

The last part of the climb was a gravel path.

Another puzzling piece at the top, art perhaps.

Looking to the north inland, the building in the middle distance is a basketball stadium with a water treatment plant in the distance.

The wheel ruts are calling card signs of lads. The stocks, I say.

To the east, city views.The Highrise was not visible to me.

To the south and south west are salt flats.

A disturbing number of dead trees could be seen not far away. I like their elegance, but I don't like that they are dead.

You really will have to click on this photo. The creatures seemingly trapped in a pool of water in a rock appear to be drowned worms of some sort. A couple were still wriggling. My love of critters did not extend to taking them out of the water.

Another blogger has been there before me. 

Off home now as the  sky is looking increasingly threatening and I didn't want my car getting dirty after my hard work. Trainer and her student were chatting and saying goodbye as I walked to my car parked near theirs and I followed them out. I puzzled over why you need a trainer to help you run up and down a hill. It is probably called motivation. I have little of that. Unless you are a kiddie, I don't think running up and down hills is good for you. I see ankle and knee injuries. While I am the last to lecture about exercise, brisk walking often and not eating too much fattening food is surely enough. I must put this into practice.

Car washed, tick. Post bag bought, tick. A pleasant time at a beach side suburb, tick. Some exercise and something new and interesting, tick. I could have just stayed home and wrote ranty blog posts, half of which I would later delete, but I felt better for having been out.

Happy birfdy Coppy

Back in my very early days of blogging I wrote a post lamenting that there weren't bloggers around who were my age. Lord Sedgwick responded, and I subsequently met him and even liked him and he said, paraphrasing, here is an old person who blogs. He was referring to Jah Teh, boom boom.Through that simple comment, I went on to meet the person he mentioned, aka Copper Witch and then Ann O'Dyne in her various guises and Pants.

What a wonderful thing is was to meet new people and then remain friends over the electric wires and occasionally catch up .

Jah Teh, R and myself sincerely wish you a very happy birthday.


Sorry, you gift is a bit late but it is in the mail.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Our governments sure know how to waste money

Tim Fischer is an ex politician, a leader of National Party, previously Country Party, and was in a conservative coalition government. He is also a pope loving homophobe yet he loves trains, so I am conflicted. He will be on this forthcoming week's Q & A on our ABC. Post politics, he was appointed ambassador to the Vatican. While initially I thought having an ambassador in the Rome church was such a waste of money, further thinking led me to the conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church is very influential in the world, so maybe it is not a bad thing to spend our taxes on Australia's representation to the Holy See, for the fat lot of good it probably did.

Lordy, I have shot down my own argument already. Well, speaking of wasting money, there is the stupid Flinders Street Station redevelopment money that our State Government has wasted.

But here is a good one. I am going to do something about it because it involves what I consider some of my rather direct taxes.

I don't know why Albert Park is under control by Parks Victoria and not the local council. I suspect it happened under the evil Kennett government when Kennett put the Melbourne Grand Prix car race in Albert Park.

In our last drought, in the early 2000s the lake nearly went dry. More storm water was directed into it and I also remember an experimental sewerage recyling system being built, later demolished. Before the GP race each year, a lot of water is taken from the lake to water the verges of the race track to make it look pretty for the camera shots. 

Parks Victoria have done some quite nice work at Albert Park Lake, with reed beds to filter storm water and replacing worn decking, which Non Dreaded Nephew worked on some years ago.

Now Parks Victoria has been funded by the State Government for improvements to Albert Park Lake, to keep the water level high in summer by redirecting even more processed storm water from the 'burbs. Other benefits are that water will be available for irrigation of Junction Oval and St Kilda Road trees.

Great, you may think, as I did initially for 30 seconds.

How will water get to Junction Oval and St Kilda Road trees? A pump? Would have to be a big pump. Perhaps it will be solar powered?

City of Melbourne has turned its side of St Kilda Road irrigation system back on in for the last summer but City of Port Phillip did not its side on. We have plenty of water in our storage dams and the monster desalination plant is sitting there unused, although we are paying for water from it, as per contract. The amount of water Melbourne uses as compared to the State's consumption is barely more than a drop in the ocean. Ten per cent comes to mind. Our parks and trees need water in our hot summers and the damage done to the trees in St Kilda Road over the period of the drought was very visible and even though an exemption was sought and granted by Port Phillip, still the trees went unwatered.

But here is what really troubles me, $1,000,000 is going into planning the project and while I agree with more water being cleaned and directed into the lake, re-cycled water for St Kilda Road and Junction Oval at a huge cost is totally unnecessary when there is an adequate supply at hand. Of course if it does not rain and there is a drought, there is no storm water. Duh!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NSW Premier O'Farrell in hot water

As I was showering Saturday morning at about 8.30 I noticed the hot water wasn't quite as hot as normal. Our building's hot water system can heat a phenomenal amount of hot water, I remember something like 80,000 litres an hour, but still I also think Saturday morning between 8 and 9 might be peak time for hot water use. I guess you could say our hot water system is gold plated in that we never run out of hot water, which is as it should be. It is designed to cope with the peak usage and sits underused for most of the time.

I recall former Prime Minister Gillard when under pressure about the rapidly rising price of electricity, accusing the private and public power companies of 'gold plating' our electricity system and therefore wasting money.

Believe me, if you live on an upper floor of a highrise building, you want a gold plated electricity system. Australia is a first world country and our power system should be reliable and a failure should be an exceptional event, not a common one and the system should be able to supply power even on the hottest of days with air conditioners working flat out.

I would suggest that our rapidly rising power prices are because our electricity supply and generation has been privatised and investment of capital has to return a profit to its overseas shareholders unlike when our power systems were publically owned and if we paid more than the cost of the power, the money was re-invested is the supply system.

Speaking of privatisation, take a look at the stats for privatised ferries in Sydney, specifically the ferry to Manly that so many of we visitors to Sydney have caught, and that locals depend on as public transport.

Delays up 36% (from 116 to 156)
Cancellations doubled (from 113 to 229)
Cancellations (excluding weather) up 73%
Fares up 39% (from $44 to $61 weekly)

Well done Premier Fatty O'Barrel and Transport Minister Our Gladys. 

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Brussel Sprouts or parenting #101

Little Jo quite likes vegetables. Sister made sure she ate plenty when she was a baby through to a toddler. Even now she likes 'trees', that is broccoli, and will happily eat the usual vegetables. I don't know about cabbage, cauliflower, sliver beet, spinach or brussel sprouts.

Little Jo is not really a fussy eater, but she is not forced to eat what she doesn't want.


Ostensibly we were forced to eat what was on our plate and we could not leave the table until we did. 'Eat your vegies before they get cold', was the instruction. It was wise advice but not taken. Vegies were always left to last. Now I have leant to eat brussel sprouts first, along with cabbage and silver beet.

As a child, I left them to last and then, with no dogs being allowed inside to vacuum up, I would stick unpalatable vegetables into the pockets of my pyjamas and dispose of them later. I must have been quite clever at it as I don't recall ever being caught.

Now, I no longer dry retch as I eat brussel sprouts, as I eat them first and when they are hot. I like my cauliflower well cooked and in a white sauce, but I can actually eat it just steamed and hot.

I reckon if your kids will eat peas and green beans, they are doing fine. Let them acquire at taste for vegetables with a stronger taste as they get older. Don't force them to eat what might make them dry retch.

I recently confessed to Mother that pre puberty I used to go to bathroom to have a bath, but used to just splash the water about with my hand to make it sound like I was having a bath. Perhaps it is time to confess to Mother that I did not always eat my vegetables and never ate brussel sprouts after the first time. The time I was forced to eat tripe is a whole story for another day.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A complexity of complexes

We had some things to get in Prahran and then R's doctor wanted him to have a chest x-ray for no apparent reason. Don't worry, it won't cost you, so the doctor assured R. From Prahran we caught the tram up Chapel/Church Street.

This is not a bad photo of the lamps on the Church Street Bridge, considering it was taken from a moving tram, sorry stationary tram. The traffic was heavy.

What? The x-ray place is in a sports stadium? The signage was not good but we eventually found it. It is designed for people visiting by car and going into a car park, not by arrivals on the number 70 tram. Hmmm, sports stadium medical place, maybe there will be some hot sporting type blokes there. There was and R inadvertently sat back to back with a muscle guy. I don't have a clue who he was but the staff made a fuss of him, so I guess he is a VIP. I sat next to R and with my excellent hot guy peripheral vision, I kept a close eye on him.

The waiting area had a very nice garden wall.

There was a path directly opposite through to the tram to town. We passed all the major sporting places, except because of the changing commercial names, I don't know which is what. They were all just so deserted but oddly there were five people waiting at the tram stop who must have come out of these buildings.

Now in town, I took a photo while R collected a thousand dollars worth of theatre tickets.