Saturday, November 16, 2013

Power Device

This is our power saving device. They are given out and installed free and paid for by the (state?) government. I did not think one would be appropriate for us as I assumed you needed some access to the power point and ours is right behind the tv cabinet, only accessible by lifting the cabinet away from the wall.

There is a power board which plugs into the wall and the various components plug into it. This display is connected to it. There is one power socket that is a permanent connection and our digital tv recorder is plugged into that one. The tv and the rest are plugged into the other sockets and after the the tv is turned off with the remote control, the display begins counting down and after a minute or so, cuts the power to the tv. It connects the power back to the tv when this unit above detects a remote control signal. So you have to press the remote twice, once to wake the system up and then to turn the tv on. Even the air con remote wakes it up if it is pointed in that direction. I am quite impressed with it and the screen lights up with the prettiest of blue colours when it detects a remote control signal.

I wasn't here when they were installed one Friday. The following Monday I received a call on the intercom to inform me that the Building Manager was sending someone up to install the devices, as if it was compulsory. Of course they get paid for each unit installed, so it was in their interest to install as many as possible. I told him they had already installed them and he should not misrepresent that they are compulsory, and that the Building Manager would have not possibly done such a thing.

We have two, one for R's bedroom tv as well, so the power savings by not having tvs on standby should be immense and I reckon we will save nearly $5 per year, enough for a cup of coffee at the Echuca Moama Show

NB No scientific calculations were made to arrive at the figure of $5 but the savings won't be much.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Just another 15 minutes of fame

I was ever so flattered when Red asked to 'interview' me for a blog post for her own brilliant blog, Amazing Australian Adventures. Red and her better half, known on her blog as Pilchard, have travelled all over Australia, well avoiding big cities like where I live. At her blog you can see wondrous waterfalls, gorgeous gorges and monstrous mountains. You can find out about the best country bakeries and the best loos with views. There are travel tips aplenty. Red always indicates the difficulty level of a walk, something I particularly tune into. Long may Red and Pilchard continue to travel and document our big wide land.

Here is the link to the post if you are not a regular reader of her blog, and if you are at all interested in Australia beyond its big cities, you should be. Without being stupidly self deprecating, I thought I sounded vaguely ok in her piece. A good editor is a fine thing to have.

I did find something to publish for the day

I am being serious for once, prompted by the Federal government pulling already budgeted for and promised money for the badly needed upgrade and electrification of Adelaide's train system. Diesel suburban trains! How extraordinary.

Prime Minister Abbott has said his government will not fund upgrades of urban public transport. There is a long history of the federal government funding urban public transport upgrades, but The Abbott is refusing to do so. He might publicly fund a tunnel for privately owned trucks in our cities though. The Abbott and his government do like private companies, and see being in government as an opportunity to redistribute money from the working poor and the non working poor to the rich. Sadly, so did the Labor government when it was in power.

Melbourne's and Australia's population growth is set by the federal government. It decides how many immigrants arrive. It decides what subsidies they will give to Australian citizens to encourage to breed. Both should be pulled way back, in my opinion, but then our Liberal conservative government is a slave to, and a receiver of substantial donations from big business, that just loves population growth to make mega profits.

(Another post unfinished, and another I am over)

Head and blow

I had the most brilliant post worked out in my head. The heading would include head and blow in a suggestive manner. Alas, I can't recall what I was going to write about that would have such a headline.

There is nowt written and ready for publication today.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Clean air from the south

In Melbourne, if it rains, which it seems to do so rarely now, people duck for cover and umbrellas rise at the first sign of a spit of moisture. (note, this was begun some time ago. It absolutely pissistently rained yesterday)

I have noticed the same in Asian countries. One Asian person explained to me that the rain that fell in Asian countries was full of acid, so people need to protect their heads. I did not really believe that but it may be true.

As we set forth one Sunday to the tram stop to go to the shops, a light rain shower passed over. Be brave hon. We are of English stock.

When we were in England, I could not help but notice how people weren't fazed by rain. Only once it started falling heavily did they take action. A passing shower was ignored.

I doubt if I could ever acclimatise to a wet European summer and short winter days, much as I may say here, we need the rain when we are lacking.

Sydney's climate has much more even temperature than Melbourne, especially if you live in the privileged eastern suburbs and not in the far out west. Way out in the western part of Sydney, the climate is not nearly as agreeable.

Melbourne has one great advantage over so many places in the world. Take a look at the map. Where I live is Melbourne, bottom right of the map. Our prevailing winds come from the south to south west. Except for that little, constant drain on mainland taxpayers, island state of Tasmania, there is noting between us in Melbourne and the Antarctic. What a wonderful flow of clean fresh air comes from the Antarctic.

It is quite different to Asian countries where the air pollution and humidity is always hanging in the air. While China might be worse, Indonesia takes some beating for air pollution and rubbish pollution. This is a photo of an Indonesian waterway. I think you could nearly walk on it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Too cheap Missy

I was passing one of those el cheapo variety shops and in one of those rotating rack stands they had a selection of picture calendars for $2 each.

They were so cheap. I thought I would buy three for Little Jo to cut up for craft purposes. I assumed that quite nice photographic calendars for $2 were 2013 calendars with only a couple of months to go. Once home, R pointed out to me that,

they are 2014 calendars, that go for eighteen months, so until June 2015. And all they were was $2 each.

You may think I would be pleased at finding such a bargain, but I am not. At the price of $2 a photographer cannot be properly paid. At the price of $2 the timber that goes into making the paper is undervalued. At the price of $2 the processor of the paper is not being properly enough paid to avoid damage to the environment. At the price of $2 the owner of the shop selling is not getting a good return. At the price of $2 the shop owner is not paying his staff an adequate wage. $2 for ok quality is just wrong. That is unless there is something wrong with the calendars, such as dates not matching days.

I recall Dina once asking me why I thought some clothes were too cheap and I struggled to answer her with a proper explanation. Dina, if you are reading this, this is my explanation. It is the same for clothes.

Bush Babe produces her own calendars, and I expect at $20 they are about a break even proposition for her. I don't know if she has any left, but you could try.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What's your favourite bird?

I am surprised that in my fifties I have become interested in birds! Yes, the ones with feathers. Partly it is due to living in the Highrise. We see many birds and have been visited on the balcony by many. Unlike Victor, we have not had a kookaburra visit. Another reason is hearing the editor of Bird Life Australia, Sean Dooley, on the radio. He is brilliant. Red and her better half also take a great interest in birds. Jayne is also interested in birds and observes some as she walks to and from work. (Victor, note the spelling of Sean's name)

Birds are great to watch as they go about their business and they can be quite clever, aside from their beauty. But there are ones to dislike such as the koel, which almost spoilt a morning of our holiday.

Birdlife has run a competition to find out what is Australia's favourite bird. I cast a vote, but typical of me, I can't remember which bird I voted for.

In fifth place was the kookaburra, or as my grandparents called it, the laughing jackass.

Fourth place was a bird mainly found in the states of Tasmania and Victoria, the hooded plover. On the dunes near the beach where Sister lives, there are hooded plover patrol people to keep people and dogs away from their nests in the sand dunes.

Third place was the rainbow lorikeet. I adore them.

Second place was a magpie. An Australian magpie is nothing like a European magpie. Ours are wonderful and their territorial warbling is stuff of childhood memories for many. The are so adaptable and can be found in the bush and in the middle of the city. The warble is staking their territory. If a magpie is removed from its area, within six hours another will have taken over the territory because the absence of warbling. If you a foreign type person, this is a magpie warbling. It is a delightful sound to wake to and speaks strongly to Australians. We know we are home when we hear a maggie warbling.

Of course there was a winner. All the obvious favourites seem to have been eliminated. What can it be?

It's the superb fairy wren, or blue wren if you like. It is a pretty bird for sure and quite a busy bird as it quickly darts about. You may remember we stayed in the Blue Wren Motel in Mallacoota and we saw lots of blue wrens there.

The state breakdown is interesting. There were 52 birds to vote for and 8000 people voted. While my state of Victoria voted for the hooded plover, I doubt Josephine Public would know what one looks like. I don't. No surprise at the WA vote. It is a unique and interesting bird.

New South Wales' Favourite Bird: Superb Fairy-wren
Northern Territory's Favourite Bird: Bush Stone-curlew
Queensland's Favourite Bird: Superb Fairy-wren
South Australia's Favourite Bird: Hooded Plover
Tasmania's Favourite Bird: Superb Fairy-wren
Victoria's Favourite Bird: Hooded Plover
Western Australia's Favourite Bird: Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo
Our international voters' Favourite Bird: Spotted Pardalote

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day

Ex PM Keating either has a way with words or a good speech writer. On this eleventh hour of the eleventh day of eleventh month we remember the fallen and the participants in war. War is often a failure of negotiations. I am a great one for negotiation but not one who thinks much of war.

Keating described World War I as "devoid of any virtue". He wasn't wrong. As soon as our Aussie soldiers jumped up out of the trenches in Europe, they were gunned down. Your turn to jump out of the muddy trench and die. Excuse my reluctance.

Their reluctance to be immediately shot dead was only delaying the inevitable.  Their own team, that is the Australian Army shot them anyway, as they were considered deserters if they did not jump out of the trench to go to an immediate death.

It was not unusual for a sixteen year old to falsify his age to be in the army.

A sixteen year old boy, in the muddy trenches of the battleground in Europe, cold, shit scared that he was going to over the trench to be immediately shot, and then later being shot dead for desertion by people from his own country because he was a quivering wreck surrounded by the bodies of his mates who followed orders.

I just thank someone that the youf now is way to worldy and smart than to sign up for some foreign battle.

Mother learning to drive

I recall Mother driving home from town to the farm once when my father was very drunk. I think he still changed the gears with her steering and operating the pedals. I guess she understood the rudiments of driving. By the age of about twelve I was the one who drove home some 20 miles when Father was drunk.

At some point Father decided Mother should learn to drive. He gave her a driving lesson.  We had not moved when she immediately snapped the handbrake handle off. She held it up and with a fit of the giggles she asked Father if it was important. We kids in the back seat were hysterical with laughter.

'Sis, why are you pulling over into the gravel at the side of the road when you need to turn right? Stay in the middle of the road.'

'There is a car behind me Wal, I will let him pass and then I will turn.'

The engine revved and the clutch was abruptly released and with a spray of gravel and billowing dust, around the corner we went. I think that was Mother's last attempt at driving. The car was like this, an HR Holden, without the blinds. It was the first car that Father bought that was not a bomb. It was so posh, with an electric back window. The longer we had the car, the slower the window worked.

I would guess less than half the female population drove then. I am quite pleased Mother never learnt to drive. The thought of her driving now is unthinkable.

Interesting find when fact checking. Where Mother spun the car wheels was the corner of what is now called the Moe Walhalla Road and Prudents Track.  Neither road names are familiar to me. Old Sale Road comes to mind though.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Walking the Outer Circle Day 1

Yes, I recall most of you wanted me to walk Merri Creek, but I will leave that for when I have more time, like a few weeks off work. Instead I have began to walk the old Outer Circle Railway Line.

The Outer Circle opened in 1891 but low passenger numbers had the first part closing in 1894, just a mere two years later. Sections were closed and re-opened over the years. The length of the line was nearly 17 kilometres (I am going to walk that far? Not in one day, let me tell you). Let's have a look at the map.

This line began at Fairfield Park, now Fairfield and for this post I walked from Fairfield to East Kew, about 4km. The section from East Camberwell to just past Norwood, now Ashburton, is still in use and is connected to the city lines at Camberwell.

The line ends at Alamein Station, just south of Norwood (Ashburton) with nothing remaining between there and the Pakenham Cranbourne lines where the line joined near Hughesdale Station a little to the west of Oakleigh Station.

Golf Links Station is now Willison Station, Hartwell Hill just Hartwell, Hartwell is now Burwood Station and Waverley Road now East Malvern.

 This dog at Fairfield Station may or may not be called Fido. More on him later.

Here is where the Outer Circle line branched off what is now the Hurstbridge line. There is plenty of bluestone track bedding material around.

It is not too often where trees branches meet in the middle of a street. This looked to be a lovely street, probably Hanslope Avenue.

I think the train ran along the lower section here, as there was ballast there but it could have fallen there from the the banked area.

A decision had to made, cross the using the path or walk along a narrow path through long grass. I grew up in the country so I am used to snakes, and damn well scared of them. I wrongly chose the main path.

I realised my error crossed back to the other side and, treading heavily to scare any Joe Blakes away and staying very alert, I marched along the narrow foot track through the long grass.

You can see the towers of Willsmere in the distance. It is now part of a residential development but was once the Kew Mental Assylum. I am roughly where Fullham Grange Station was located. No evidence here.

Sorry about a bit of my hand and I am only including this to have a go at idiots on the road. He stopped over the pedestrian crossing at the red turn arrow in Grange Road and was texting on his phone, quite oblivious to me glaring at him as I am manoeuvred around his car, but his female companion wasn't and just to scare them a bit, I turned back around and snapped their car. Where the back of his car is, is about where the front of his car should be. The car behind had to give him a blast to alert him to the green arrow.

Now, how I wish I had reread this post of mine before I began the walk. I could have taken a photo from the same spot and shown you that the rail line has been removed from the intersection and as you can see comparing the photos the gateway is more overgrown now but the railway staunchion is still there at the old Amcor paper manufacturing site which will become smart apartments soon. The paper factory, back then called Australia Paper Mills I think, built the factory in this location to make use of a remain section of the Outer Circle line, using it as freight siding. The rails were only removed in about 2005 as per Ben's comment on the old post. Also Ben made reference to Fido watching over the Fairfield signal box, and I guess he was referring to the dog sculpture in my first photo. Some years later, his comment makes sense.

This road with a lane in each direction is absurdly named Chandler Highway. Believe me, it is no highway and I can't believe I used my usual avoidance of people in photos skill, to do the same for cars. It is nearly a constant stream in both directions.

The paper mill is on the right and the train line would have left there about where the tree is above the dark car to head towards the bridge.

The mighty Yarra River. Sorry about the colour, but we like it that way. Well, we are used to it anyway. The water quality is not too bad but the Yarra carries a lot of sediment. I think back to watching the Tyne River in the north of England, and what a contrast between two rivers of similar width. The Tyne is a very fast flowing river, while the Yarra lazes along.

Cars, trucks, semi trailers, concrete mixers all use this bridge, the only river crossing for about two kms to the west and three kms to the east. There is one lane in each direction. The Chandler Highway Bridge was built for the Outer Circle train but once the railway line closed, it was converted for cars and Chandler Highway was constructed. The cry for a new and wider bridge to replace this congestion point is often heard, but in my experience, it will only move the congestion point to somewhere else.

The bridge had a walkway added at some point. I looked over the edge of the bridge and suffered a very sharp stab of acrophobia. (Grace is clutching her pearls at this point)

I tried to rest the camera on the edge of the safety railing but the vibration from cars and trucks was making it a most unsteady platform. I am really not enjoying my walk at this point.

Once over the bridge, might this be evidence of the railway line? Probably not.

Cars were flying past me to the right and cars flying under me on the Eastern Freeway. I am hot and the traffic noise is annoying me. This is not a pleasant walk.

After a little indecision as there were two directions I could have gone, I sat down for a rest and a drink of water and checked google maps on my phone. I am going in the correct direction. Most of the traffic had turned into Princess Street and I am now in the much quieter Earl Street. It's a bit of steep slope for a train, but who knows what earthworks have been done since the line closed.

Onwards and upwards. There were many magpies around. I hope I don't get swooped but I think it is too late in the breeding season.

I've only ever seen Willsmere from a distance. I don't think it is a place that welcomes the great unwashed, in spite of its history as a mental assylum.

I forgot to mention earlier that most of where the disused part of the Outer Circle line is now a linear park, similar to the way the Inner Circle line was mostly turned into parkland.

The parkland is wide here, at the site of Willsmere Station.

 Look, evidence, lots of bluestone track ballast.

This is clearly a railway embankment.

There was not much more to see until I arrived at East Kew, or as some call it Far Kew (local joke for local people). This is clearly a train bridge, where the train goes underneath. Might this old building be something to do with the train?

I found a cafe and although I was hungry, must remember to take nibbles with me on walks as well as water, I sat down at an outdoor table in the shade for an iced coffee. That was enough for the day and I caught the North Balwyn tram back to town and then another home. On the corner of Harp Road is the Harp of Erin Hotel, hence the harp sculpture.

I think the building behind the big P was the Kew East Post Office.

As the hill rises in the distance to the left, our friend from St Kilda, Dame M, lies in the family crypt at Kew Cemetery. She would have turned 88 this year, had she lived. Hard to believe she died 6 years ago. Although she wanted to go into the family crypt, I am not sure that a party girl such as she was should really be among the staid and good burghers of Kew.

Well, there was very little evidence of the old railway line in this section. I wonder how much local people know about it. They probably don't give it much thought.