Saturday, September 06, 2014

Going, going, gone

A couple of Saturdays ago a former workmate of R's house was auctioned in an outer eastern suburb.  She and her husband have lived in the house for thirty four years. It is a nice cream 1950s brick veneer and very well built. They had of course modernised it over the years, but the bones of the original are still there.

R's ex workmate is a delightful person. That he keeps in touch with her says something. They are going for lunch later this month. I very much like her too. She invited us to attend the auction.

Her conscience troubled her and she mentioned to the agent selling her house about the discrepancy between what it was be advertised for, the suggested price, and what they actually wanted for the house.

$600,000 to $660,000 was in the agent's advertising and mentioned at the auction. They wanted $720,000. No matter what laws are imposed, it seems impossible to stop real estate agents giving a falsely low price to buyers, and a falsely high price to sellers.

It was an odd auction. There were many distractions, including the 765 bus being unable to get up the street because of a car badly parked by an auction attendee.

The overseas Chinese born battled it out long and hard and R's friend later told us it was a long settlement period as they had to get their money out of China. We felt a bit sorry for the naive Aussie born potential buyers who dropped out early in the auction circus.

A couple of days after the auction, I was telling my Thai born workmate about it and he too attended an auction close to his home in East Malvern, formerly Chadstone. He said it went for well above the agent's suggested price and two Chinese couples and an Indian couple battled it out. The Indian couple won and set a record for the location.

There is enacted legislation to deal with under quoting by real estate agents, but I know of only one prosecution. It is rife.

So how much did R's ex workmate get for house with a value suggested by the real estate agent of $600,000 to $660,000? Remember they wanted $720,000. It sold for $825,000. They have down sized and bought a smaller and cheaper place, so the difference is cash in their hand. They are over the moon.

In the not too distant future, our Brother Friends will auction their house in Box Hill South before they move to Thailand. It will be interesting to see the result.

Given the above, and our own house buying and selling experiences, I fell it is safe to say real estate agents are crooks.

Always better to add a photo to a post to make it more appealing. As an inducement to attend R's ex workmate's auction, he said, I'll buy you breakfast. And he did before the auction, here in the pleasant enough Brentwood Square shopping centre. The lady who served us who I think was the owner of the business was an older well dressed and made up European born. I said to R after we ordered and were seated at our outdoor table, I'll bet she calls us darlings. She brought our food out and I was tense with anticipation.

She said nothing as she presented our modest breakfast, but then as she left HOORAY. "Sank you darlinks. Do come again". I am used to that in inner Melbourne but not in the outer eastern 'burbs.

However, pilled track suit pants rather dominated in the generally older and not particularly poor Brentwood Square demographic.


Friday, September 05, 2014

Cry me a River

It would be very unusual for me to have seen an international performer and if I have then I've had to pay, I expect.

However at Melbourne's gay and lesbian Midsumma Carnival a few years ago, we stood quite close to the stage to watch Dulcie's Dog Show hosted by drag queen Dulcie de Jour with guest judge Dr Hugh Wirth from the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals and US comedian Joan Rivers.

She was terrifically entertaining. Her cutting and well targeted  wit was very appropriate and well tuned for her particular audience. She also knew some self deprecating humour would go down well, and it did.

I am sad to hear such a treasure has died. You could just tell that under her plastic face was a real plastic person. (she would have worked on that line until it was actually funny)

Here she is as we will remember her.

Although this is about 1968 I think and she looks older! I quite like this photo taken by Norman Shearer for Look  magazine.

Why not a little You Tube video where Joan is the victim of a practical joke. It is a bit long at 11 minutes. The set up is explained and the aftermath is shown, with Joan being under the impression she was meeting former Prime Minister of England, the late Maggie Thatcher.

Send him down

Two stories from the same newspaper on the same day, and quite related. I am not sure which to begin with to make my point strongly.

The state government has removed the power of judges to decide how long a person convicted of a 'one punch' killing should go to gaol. Removing such power from judges is a very serious matter. A one punch killing is simply described as when someone is hit by surprise and is either killed or falls down and perhaps hits their head a dies. I am of the opinion that at times the offence should attract more than the government's stipulated ten year gaol term, and possibly at times less, depending on the circumstances.

The judge sits through the trial and hears all the details and circumstances and should be best placed to judge what sentence is appropriate.

But are their sentences appropriate? Many, including me, think quite often they are not.

Which brings me to the second story from the newspaper. Peter Ross Cramer smashed a beer glass over the head of a 'mate'. The man received serious damage to his eye and has some permanent damage. So what do you think the penalty might be for the person convicted of the assault? It was a community service corrections order. No gaol term.

So judges giving low sentences, judged by the public opinion, has brought the populist government (and which aren't) on to make the fixed term sentence for a one punch killing. Meanwhile judges continue to impose low sentences for appalling crimes. After I began this post, this came to my attention and I quote from the Bendigo Advertiser.

"A WOODVALE poultry farmer who left more than 4500 chickens to die (that is starve to death) has received a $3000 fine and no conviction."

Judges can look forward to more prescribed sentences and their sentencing powers reduced unless they  hand out more appropriate sentences.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Something new in the Highrise carpark

Web sites were ostentatiously left open on the desk top. Brochures were casually left around. My bank balance was discreetly checked by someone. I am not going to spoil a good story story with the boringly basic fact that it was a mutual agreement under some discussion for a while.

Sunday was spent looking at SUVs and we test drove one. It felt.......well, utilitarian and the car we seriously looked at was rather a lot more than we wanted to spend and we were not happy with the deal offered. We ended up at the Mazda dealer where R bought his new car five years ago.  A salesman greeted us and was pleasant and not forceful. We asked a few questions and one of his replies consolidated in R's mind that we did not really want nor need an SUV. It was getting late in the day and quite warm and we were becoming mentally 'done in'.

Why were we looking at SUVs? For ease of getting into and out of, especially for R. Also a friend has just bought one and we liked it, a GMH Holden Captiva.

Yesterday we called into a friend's place who wanted us to witness some forms. We then went for and enjoyable brunch and returned home, where I finally filled in the information for the accountant for my tax return. Sob, I think I may have to pay this year, for the first time. I'll make sure that doesn't happen next year by spending, and I did.

So, mid afternoon found us back at the Mazda car dealer. After R bought his last car, although we were happy with the car, we came away from the dealer feeling we paid too much. We felt a little railroaded and not in control. Subsequent conversations with workmates confirmed we should have fought for a better deal and paid less.

This time we had no such feelings. We were happy with the deal and while it is a lengthy process to buy a new car and we have to wait a couple of weeks for it to be delivered we are extremely happy with our choice and the car's features. R's Mazda 3 Maxx Sport is being replaced by a Mazda 3 Maxx.

Meanwhile I still hang on to my 1999 Hyundai Lantra. I only use it for it work. Again I being a little untruthful. I take R's car to work on a daily basis and if we go out anywhere, of course we use R's car. The Hyundai travels about 20 kilometres a week, used by R  to go to Port Melbourne for his volunteer work one day a week and me to go to work on Mother Thursday when R travels to the outer south east on the freeway. Oh yes, if I am working Saturday then R will take the Hyundai to Prahran for the weekly shop.

Some might suggest we are filling our empty lives with consumerism. I don't care, we are very happy about buying a new car. Err, but I have to get used to parking by watching a camera, which is just as well as you can't see out of the small high windows.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Call a cab

R asked if I knew what these new grey taxis were. I had not seen them, but the very next day I saw a couple of them. Perhaps I had been primed to take notice. They are Silver Service taxis. We used one to take us and the about to become bride and groom from Potts Point in Sydney to the Botanic Gardens when we were the wedding planners for R's English sister and her now husband in about 2005. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the wedding. I am fairly sure these taxis have been seen here in Melbourne before.

R stated that Melbourne needed mini cabs, as they have in England. I disagreed. England has a two tier taxi system, proper taxis and mini cabs and there are heavy restrictions on how both operate. Essentially if you want a mini cab, which are cheaper, you have to call them.

You will of course have heard of The Knowledge that London cabbies have to sit. They need to know almost every little back street of London before they are allowed to drive London cabs. I suspect once they pass the test, taxi driving is quite lucrative for them, but the do have to pass The Knowledge first.  Melbourne supposedly had a knowledge test, but it seems it was very perfunctory and drivers passed quite easily, and helped to get over the line if they were struggling. 

So in an effort to fix Melbourne's taxis, a new knowledge test has been introduced, a much harder one, that has to be sat by new drivers and any driver with less than five years driving experience. I am not surprised to learn that all of the drivers with less than five years experience failed, bar one female driver. Of course they would fail. Most of our taxi drivers are recent immigrants. It is such a poorly paid job with awful conditions that no one other than the desperate and most recent immigrants would do it. It wasn't always the case. There used to some quite professional long time drivers, but they have mostly gone. I am not a huge user of taxis and I've had good and bad experiences, more good.

And now there is Uber and similar companies offering a more personalised and from what I see, a better service.

On top of that, there are hire cars, that cost a bit more than taxis but with a fixed fare. You get a nicer and clean car and a well groomed driver and they are reliable, unlike taxis.

Perth in West Australia has successfully trialled London style cabs and they are coming to Melbourne too. With GM and Ford pulling out their local car manufacturing from Australia and the Holden and Falcon will disappear, it is high time to rethink what the shape of our taxi vehicles is to be.

Melbourne's, and I think generally Australian taxi drivers are in quite an unusual situation. They should be employees, but instead they are private businesses, who have to to pay all sorts of costs that are normally paid by an employer. For this they get just over half of their fare collection. No holiday pay, no sick leave, no long service, no nothing and pay their own tax. While our minimum paid wage is around $20 an hour, taxi drivers average something like $9 an hour. 

Can we really expect a professional and good service from people who are paid so little?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

When the weather is unseasonable

This has been hanging around on my computer for ages. I think it may have originally been posted by Jayne at Our Great Southern Land. I have always meant to post it on the day a season changes, and once again I have missed, but we are only one day into Spring.

It is probably only applicable to southern Victoria but may suit some other areas and is how the aborigines used divide up the year into different seasons. So forget this arbitrary placement of seasons which seem increasingly out of sync with reality. Does it make sense to you?

Monday, September 01, 2014

High Rise tech stuff

I won't bore you with the details until after I have a full response to my complaint to Telstra but the Tbox and the new combined router modem did arrive.

This is the not so old digital recorder on the shelf under the bowl. It weighs about four times as much as the Tbox, and while it is superior for digital recording, the Tbox does the job adequately.

It also has a much smaller footprint. It does not have the skip ahead function to deal with ads, but only fast foward. It is slower to respond. I don't think the storage capacity for recordings is as large and the electronic programme guide is not as good, but as I said, it is adequate. R has played with it more than I have and he is happy with it. The remote control is not crowded with buttons you never need use, and to my surprise, like the old one, it has a dual tuner, meaning you can record two shows on different networks while watching a recorded show or watch one network while recording another. The word network as I use it, describes all the channels from one broadcaster, such as ABCTV, ABC2, ABC3 and News24, meaning you can record two or more of the one network with one tuner.

The new modem lit up beautifully. What a pitiful shame it did not work. Part of my complaint is the amount of time we spent on the phone to the Telstra call centre in the Philippines. This entailed another call. Our old modem was 13 years old and was connect to 'system 2' whatever that is. We had to be switched to 'system 3'. No matter how many times I have tried to correct it, they have our address as the building number only and not our apartment number. Once again this played a part in the confusion. Funny, the billing department has the address correct. Once they did their part, all was good. Last time I checked, our download speed was about 8mb per second, it is now 15 mb per second, but I don't really notice the difference. It is a lot more stable though. Clearly the old one did need replacing, and it is nice to not have a separate router. Once it connected the cable to the desktop, I had to put in the code number into the Tbox, the tv, 2 phones, 1 notebook and 1 tablet. They all connect instantly now.

Oh yes, when the little man was here putting the new tv on the wall, the electrician was here installing my new bedroom fan. While the fan unit is much the same, the remote control is different, somewhat slimmer and neater.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Not Sunday Selections

What to do when you don't have photos for Sunday Selections? You use other people's photos, of course. Apart from the last few Tumblr photos which are reposts of other Tumblr photos, that are reposts of the original poster, they are from various public media and institutions.

These are just photos I have saved because I like them.

Smoking is good for you! I guess she is Japanese Chinese. I wonder if they saved the cigarette tins to make arms?

I did show you the beach that is set up each summer on the banks of the Tyne River in Newcastle, England. This a nice shot and the weather appears to be quite warm.

And they complain about young people being tuned out with buds in their ears on public transport now!

This is the Duchess of Hamilton, by R L Kitterman. Isn't she just lovely. She is known as Coronation Class, built in 1938 and is based at England's National Rail Museum. 1938 and she could travel at 183 km/h, 114 mph. Amazing. The streamlined fa├žade covers over a much more conventional looking train of the time.

Ah, this photo is mine. Yes, we have quite a number of Rolls Royce in Australia.

A little humour.

When my brother was little, he returned home without the jumper he had been wearing when he went out. Where is it, Mother asked. I got hooked on some blackberries, so I took it off. I rather think this machine may have suffered a similar fate. It won't go, Sergeant. Well, leave it there then.

I would like to say this is the fate of the dismantled Sydney Monorail cars, but no, they are from a place unknown to me.

Never mind WTF for the army vehicle. What is this about?

Last but not least, the loneliness of a long distance train. A gorgeous photo of an abandoned train engine in its watery grave. Maybe the water was somewhat higher in the past.