Saturday, March 01, 2014

Mardi Gras

Today is a very special day in Sydney. It is its annual (gay and lesbian) Mardi Gras celebration, with an evening parade watched by around 400,000 lining the streets and a huge dance party afterwards. It has been many years since the parade was properly covered on free to air tv, but this year SBS2 steps up to the crease with what I would guess is an edited package, to be screened on Sunday night. Many businesses also get on board, as has the ANZ Bank.

Happy Mardi Gras.

PS This morning Victor posted a photo of the Queen Elizabeth dressed up for the occasion in Sydney Harbour.

Australia is Doomed

We are doomed, if you listen to Prime Minister Abbott, or Treasury Minister Hockey. Unfortunately those less experienced at politics will take it seriously that Australia can no longer afford its social security, its health care, its workers rights.

The Evil Former Premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett did the same thing, created a climate of fear that the state was broke and we had to cough up extra money and stringencies needed to be put in place. Victoria is a relatively rich state in Australia. While he slashed and burnt things that were for the good of the public, he spent huge amounts of money on his personal pet projects.

Former Prime Minister John Howard did the same thing, to a lesser extent. "I promise not to reduce funding to our ABC". He did. "I promise not to introduce a goods and services tax in my term as Prime Minister." He did the next term. While his government did fund the rail connection from Alice Springs to Darwin, why? For his freight company mates? He came up with the remarkable phrases, 'core promise' and 'non core promise'. Apparently non core promises were worthless words from him.

Let me put it as plainly as I can. PM Abbott and Treasurer Hockey are playing us, making us think that our country can't afford our conditions. It is nonsense. We are a very rich country and we can afford to care for the less well off in our society. Our workers can have good conditions and if you are sick or really disadvantaged, the country can afford to look after you.

Don't wear this buttering up of us by conservative politicians who believe in big profits for big business, welfare for the rich,  and bugger the poor.

I came across this a couple of days ago, and if there are government savings to had, try getting rid of what seems like  thousands of managers, in both private and public sectors. We are drowning in management. I see it in my own workplace where one person is given an exit package and replaced by four people. I think using Japan below is a poor choice though. In my limited experience, there is huge over staffing in Japan, but maybe it not on a management level, but people to actually serve you.

"The Australian Public Service and the Japanese Public Service decided to engage in a competitive boat race.  Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance.
On the big day they felt ready.  The Japanese team won by a mile.  Afterward, the Australians were discouraged by the loss.  Morale sagged.  Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommend corrective action.
The consultant's finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the Australian team had one person rowing and eight people steering.
After a year of study and millions spent analyzing the problem, the Australian Public Service concluded that too many people were steering and not enough were rowing on the Australian team.
So, as race day neared again the following year, the Australian team's management structure was completely reorganized.  The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide work incentive.
The next year, the Japanese won by two miles.  Humiliated, the Australian Public Service laid-off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem."

Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy in Melbourne

From Glasgow to Gibraltar, from Marrakesh to Milan and Nah Trang to New York, everyone is making their own Pharrell Williams 'Happy' video and uploading it to You Tube. I rather enjoyed the Glasgow effort. I do like a boi in a kilt although those sporrans look rather dangerous when dancing around.

What about Melbourne? Being Australia's cultural capital, we go one step further with a live performance using one of the free pianos spread around the city. She is a great singer n spite of the audio being a bit dodgy. Note her pained expression at .24, possibly unhappy with the tuning at the high end of the keyboard.

It seems there may be a competition. I showed R the Melbourne one, and while he liked it, he had not heard Happy.

One only from each country. Most feature the cities where they were filmed and are great little travelogues. If there are multiple ones from your city and there is a better one that I have linked to, let me know and I may change it. Sydney's is really good. My heart cries and cheers for Cambodia's. China's is very cutesy with gorgeous toddlers. No, I have not watched them all. I have tasted.

Happy in:

Syracuse (US)
Hong Kong
Bizerta (Tunisia)
Cape Town
Tel Aviv
Jajce (Bosnia Herzegovina)
Kampot (Cambodia)
Antananarivo (Madagascar)
Mexico City 

A few countries are missing. Get your act together and make a Happy video.

Some more:

Split, Croatia
High Tatris, Slovakia
Abu Dhabi
Ruse, Bulgaria
Zenica, Bosnia 
Bucaramanga, Columbia 
Rio de Janeiro
New York City
Brono, Czech
Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia
Washington DC

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Latrobe Valley Fire

Let me preface this with the fact that the Gippsland regional town of Morwell in our state does not enjoy the highest of socio economic status. 

Nevertheless, they are citizens of Victoria in Australia, and Australia does have poor people. We need to look after them. With the stereo typical Morwell resident in mind, rather not live next door to them though, hey.

For weeks now they have suffered from an open cut coal mine fire burning very near to their town. The emanating smoke is horrendous. As well as causing breathing and other problems, it dumps an oily ash over everything outside and infiltrates houses. Houses in the Latrobe Valley, where Morwell is, used to be full of coal dust, centimetres high in ceilings.

If you lived in the Latrobe Valley, your life expectancy was low, and it still is. I can fairly say that this fire will not help their life expectancy.

I am in a mind to think there is some truth to the suggestion that this fire would have been quickly put out should the open cut coal pit stayed within government hands. A well maintained fire protection system may well have prevented the fire from starting, as has also been suggested. Once again, blame the evil former Premier Kennett, for the privatisation of the generation of our electricity.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley tells us the fire will be out in about two weeks. I think his position rather depends on that.

Turn it down

Three times in my younger life I was told to turn the music down. I took great offence. How could they not appreciate most excellent music played very loudly. While I don't like other people's music played loudly, mine must be.

My boss was away from the premises. I had the radio on with Cher's Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves playing very loudly. Boss returned. I didn't hear him because the music was so loud. Trouble.

Saturday afternoon should be ok to play loud music, such as Suzi Quatro's Devil Gate Drive? I was home alone. Why would it matter? The neighbour was a nurse and her husband a prison officer and both worked shift work and were trying to sleep.

A decade or so later I discovered the sublime Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor. Home alone again with the music very loud and R returned home. "Turn that bloody racket down."

Have you played music at an inappropriate volume?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mea Culpa

Personal life is ok, but I seem to have screwed up totally in online stuff over the past week. I don't suffer from depression, so I will just paint it as I am a bit sad and my bads on the internet have not helped or are perhaps symptomatic . Oh well, I expect over nearly ten years of blogging and twenty years on the net, I have offended many and said many inappropriate things, but there were a few internet things this week past where I really screwed up.

Hmm, what to do?

Shut up might be a good thing.

Flagstaff Gardens

We were travelling along King Street to the Lost Dogs' Home in North Melbourne. I remarked to R that I had never really seen Flagstaff Gardens.  A day off from work a week or so later, I remedied that. 

Here we go. It is quite green, meaning it is one of Melbourne's favoured parks that is irrigated. It steadily rises from the corner of Latrobe and William Street.

Pretty generic park photo. Maybe I can improve the photo with some words. William Street can be a rather bleak city street, especially in winter. It is full of offices and so naturally office workers. But at the top of William Street is this marvellous and very old park. On this warm and sunny day, many were taking advantage of it.

It was a few weeks ago when I took these photos. I can't recall what this monument is. I guess war. City buildings appear above the treetops of Flagstaff Gardens.

In the days of early Melbourne, upon this hill sat a time ball, to tell people the time. It was viewable from ships in Port Phillip Bay. I think the standard time for a time ball to drop is 1pm. Although since destroyed by the Christchurch earthquake a few years ago, we did see a working time ball drop at Lyttelton Harbour in New Zealand.

A marvellous looking elm tree.

Below the edge of the gardens is King Street, a major north south traffic thoroughfare through Melbourne and south from here a nightclub precinct, a place of much of much trouble in the early morning hours at weekends.  In the background you can see cranes at the Port of Melbourne, Australia's busiest port.

Across King Street is something old. Excuse me while I check. I am back. It is Melbourne's oldest church, St James Old Cathedral, predating the gold rush and opened in 1842. Well, I never.

A begonia bed, a bit frizzled after the heat wave, but still going. Behind is a house, which was probably the head gardener's abode.

These plants look quite hardy for Australia's summer heat.

A magnificent Moreton Bay Fig. Melbourne has a lot of them, and in their natural habitat, the grow on a host plant and then kill them. It is of the banyan tree family. Even they are affected by drought and heat in Melbourne.

How to get back to the centre of town? I took the underground train from Flagstaff Station to Melbourne Central. Within the commercial development of Melbourne Central, the original shot tower was retained. A shot tower is for making lead bullets, where the molten lead was dropped from a height and formed bullets as it cooled during its descent.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Killed by a train

A lad was killed at a local station a couple of nights ago, Heyington Station to be precise. I knew because of tweet. R knew about it as it was covered in a commercial evening news bulletin. I watched the ABC news that evening and there was no mention. I had earlier listened to an ABC radio news, but there was no mention. If not for the tweet, I would not have asked R about it I would not have known about it, and I am normally pretty up to speed to with such things.

Why is it not being made a big deal of? Why is it not on the news?

I looked at our local papers, The Age and Herald Sun online, and there was nothing.

Surely a lad slipping between the gap between a train and the platform and most horribly, the train taking off and him being killed, is newsworthy. Given there were umpteen cameras on the platform, surely so. Melbourne's pram woman who let her carriage containing her child roll down a platform onto train tracks went viral.

Recently I have noticed some of the gaps between platforms and train floors can be quite large.

So what went on here? Heyington Station is one of our quietest railway stations in one of our most expensive areas. If you live within walking distance of Heyington Station, you probably have big money.

I think public transport is the way to go for our future and if it goes wrong, as it does often enough, I want to know why, especially if someone is killed when using it.

I googled. A two line report from the Herald Sun came up. It said no more than a lad was killed at a station, and no details.

I can only conclude the lad who was killed had very rich and influential parents. His parents killed the story in the media and are so influential that even our public broadcaster, our publically funded ABC, did not report the accident.

Other people have fallen between the gap and it became big news.

Conspiracy theory or a busy news day? 

Words #79.7

I often get asked questions about the English language at work. While I speak English and have picked up a few basics about it, often I have to resort to 'well, that is just how it is' when I reply.

A workmate asked me how to express being drunk in English but in a colloquial manner. He had me scratching my head but I soon came up with 'being drunk as a skunk'. Except a skunk is not an Australian animal.

"Pissed as a newt", I tried. He was happy with the answers. But while you and I may have a vague idea what newt is, who really knows?

I tried to explain to him the quite revolting English expression, 'bladdered', but he did not know in English what a bladder is.

Later I thought, why don't we have a good Aussie term, as drunk as........? "I was as drunk as a ....". "I was ....".

Help me. What is the good old Aussie term?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Miserable Petty Bureaucrat

Yes, that is me. White Night is a nice idea, as long as everything is set up to support it. It is Melbourne's second White Night and the first one was a success. The second one seems to be just as, if not more successful. But can you get there?

White Night is a long evening from 7pm to 7am of art, culture, dancing, light shows, building illuminations, bands, sculptures and musical performances within the city. We may have tried to go to the event if we were home and not busy, but given how it was looking down from The Highrise, trying to get onto a succession of packed trams did not look like a good start to the evening. From Twitter, I understand it was the same on trains. We went to a friend's barbeque instead and a pleasant evening was had.

When we returned home, we found all these cars parked illegally in our lane that accesses our carpark. While I enjoyed playing the petty bureaucrat and calling council and making sure they were all booked, (I checked an hour later and they were (Happy White Night folks) it is more than that.

After I passed my driving license I would at times illegally park. Once in the city at night and I was booked not by a parking officer, but a policeman. It is a moot point. The fine is the same. The next time was at The Alfred Hospital when I took a friend to the hospital and it took a long time for her to be seen. I overstayed at a meter and was fined. She paid the fine. The cruncher was, I will only be two minutes in the bank. Damn, those parking officers are quick.

Some people build parking fines into their budgets. Our Hairdresser Friend owes over a thousand dollars of parking fines. She doesn't worry about it and continues to park illegally. I don't feel like I have such money to spare.

Since my fine when parking near the bank, back in 1978, I decided to not park illegally anymore. I haven't since and naturally I have not received a fine. Nor has R, although I won't mention his speeding offences. If I can park legally for 30 odd years, so can other people. It really isn't that hard. Illegal parking is for the very lazy who imagine that a law does not apply to them.

So I may have spoiled some peoples' White Night event by ensuring they were booked, I don't care. You cannot park in our lane in a loading zone. The history of why it is loading zone at night time is that in the past it became a lane to park in to do drug deals. Keep the daytime loading zone overnight, dealer problem solved.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Selections

Nothing written for today. Oh dear. River never misses Sunday Selections. I and others do at times. Here are some random photos taken the morning I went out early when it was very hot.

This is a MYKI machine. It dispenses  MYKI cards for when you use public transport. These are semi permanent cards, like a credit card and you can also use the machine to add credit to your card. We manage ours online. The machine is built at a disabled friendly height which is great if you are a little person or in a wheelchair. Given 99% of our population aren't, I consider this is wrong as a normal sized person standing has to bend right over to read the screen. It is absurdly low. Here it sits, in the bright sunshine, making the screen unreadable anyway.

The tram bar has become a permanent feature within the confines of ours Arts Precinct, as it is now called. I wonder how long the timber and canvas roof will last while exposed to the elements.

This is a wonderful device to indicate tram arrival times. It has to show three different screens for the nine routes that run along Swanston Street, the busiest tram street in the world (put that with the only city in the world that balloons can fly over, and the world's most liveable city). It also alerts passengers to any significant delays and the wheelchair symbol indicates a low floor tram without steps. Once the temperature reaches 25 degrees, it will also show a snowflake symbol to indicate which trams have airconditioning.  Over to you, Sydney Buses.

The gulls enjoying a paddle in the cool flowing water at the City Square. The lass realised she was going to be caught on cam.

Mediaeval archway? No. Looking towards Flinders Street from Flinders Lane. 

TV travel shows wax lyrically about the Adelphi Hotel in Flinders Lane, especially the swimming pool where you can look out of the bottom of the glass bottomed pool onto the lane. I imagined it extended right over the lane but then wondered why I had never noticed it. I make a point of looking for it. Well, it juts out for about a metre.

I expect only Melburnians have heard of our world famous laneway culture. All it means is someone renting some unused space down a dingy lane and turning it into a bar that can fit eight people and charge poisonousness prices . There appears to be a bar down this lane. Ok, I am not telling the full story. Many of the lanes have restaurants and are very busy places.

Luckily I wasn't standing further down the lane when the water shot out of the wall. It was authorities testing fire equipment. I know about such things. Not so lucky was that above my right shoulder a few seconds later, the big red fire alarm bell under test went  off. I should have recalled that this would happen. I may have taken the name of Our Saviour in vain, and possible added and adjective or two. I am quite sure I did not say, "Jesus fuckin' Christ", or maybe I did as the bell rang in my ear.

I would not be the only one who has the Manchester Unity building at the top of my favourite building list. It looked glorious in the early morning sunlight.

"There is the good and there is the bad. What you choose is really up to you. But what you choose defines your reality."

Ok Diane and Bill, I need to put my glasses on so I can see the camera screen grid lines and make the buildings straight.

The Leaning Tower of Mercedes, Kingsway.

Some filming was happened down in the court in front of this building, across Kingsway from The Highrise. Filming seems to involve a lot of people standing around doing nothing, but what would I know. In spite of the warning signs, and the taped over electrical leads, still I tripped when I went to the nearby 711 for half a  pint of milk. I was looking at people standing around doing nothing and not paying attention to what was in front of me.