Thursday, December 31, 2015

Life at the end of 2015

Take two. I wrote a long post about what we have been doing and then I hit a key on the keyboard that deleted the post. Naturally this rewritten one is not nearly as good.

Mid December was our Indian Friend's birthday. We celebrated at a Turkish restaurant in Brighton Road, Elwood. While the staff were terrific and we had been there before twice, there was something lacking about the food. Maybe poor choices on our part. Of course I had to have Turkish coffee but I didn't like it much. It was too sweet. I was a late arrival, having come straight from work.

We lived nearby in 1980 and I remember the long gone hardware store. Cable Tram Wines and Spirits lasted much longer but is now a Coles owned Vintage Cellars liquor shop.

A few days later it was a barbeque to celebrate his birthday again at his home. Some long time acquaintances were in attendance and it was a good evening. I was a late arrival, having come straight from work.

R as per normal took Mother out the week before Christmas on the usual Thursday and she realised that R would not be taking her out on Christmas Eve. She planted in his head as a parting shot that he should take her out on the Tuesday before Christmas. Sure enough, on the Monday she rang to check if R was taking her her out the next day. R succumbed. I was at work. Mother is a master at manipulation.

R moaned that we do nothing, not even go into town to see the Christmas decorations. I finished work a bit late but nevertheless I organised us to go into town to see the lights. We dined at a Chinese restaurant and then saw the lights. It was very busy near the Town Hall and the  photo of the projections is not great. Country Mum did a much better job.

Two days before Christmas Non Dreaded Nephew's partner dropped in to leave the Kris Kringle gift. She brought some personal gifts for us; beer samplers and her mother's home produced apple cider.

Christmas Day arrived and I was working and could not go to the family Christmas dinner, lunch. R did and apparently a good time was had. This year it was hosted by ABI Brother who did a fine organisational job. Mother kept nagging that he was not up to it and hinting that we should do it. No, R is too old now and I was at work. The photo is Tradie Brother's idea of Christmas decoration.

Boxing Day arrived and finally I had a day off. We went grocery shopping and Prahran was delightfully quiet. Sister, Bone Doctor and Little Jo arrived late in the day and R cooked a wonderful barbeque.  We played a board game of Family Feud and that was great fun. It was an early night. Next day Sister and Bone Doctor had to be up early to breakfast at the MCG Members area and then watch the cricket Test Match. Sister had to wear a dress and Bone Doctor was in kind of a suit. Bone Doctor was challenged  by staff for entering an area without a tie and she had to tell staff she was not a boy. I really don't know how they go to the Members beyond Bone Doctor using her father's membership ticket. I was at work but R entertained Little Jo with a visit to the Myer Christmas windows and Federation Square, along with some drawing, games, a swim, a bath, art work and some time spent at MY computer by Little Jo. I have noticed she now takes a break from the computer unasked.

Christmas Sunday and I was back at work and I was a late arrival at the Brother Friend's annual Christmas bash. It used to be Christmas night but we could hardly eat much after Christmas dinner. It was changed to Boxing Day and that was better, but this year Boxing Day suited no one, so the day after it was to be. They were given notice at their Canterbury apartment and are now renting in a very posh Mont Albert North retirement complex. It is a wonderful place, especially nice to die in, but I would rather live in a one bedroom flat in the inner city. It was a nice evening and the Brother Friends' wine trifle was to die for.

Monday and Tuesday are my post Christmas day's off. There is a tale to tell about these days.

Oh yes, Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Port Authority

Manhattan's Port Authority Building is an important train, bus and coach interchange and quickly became very familiar to us when we stayed just metres away from one of its many entrances. I don't recall it being a very inspiring or attractive building but it was certainly well used.

I had forgotten we in Melbourne have our own Port Authority Building and it is lovely building. After bits began falling off the 1960s constructed Suncorp building in a block within Collins and William Streets and Flinders Lane, the Suncorp building was demolished and a lovely view of the Port Authority Building was opened up. The interior is mostly apartments now with some businesses  at ground level. I can't decide which of these photos to use, so I've used both. Of course this view is only temporary. Something just as hideous as the demolished building will undoubtedly be built.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Little Night Movement

Coming to a street near us, trams rumbling past at 4 o'clock in the morning, Saturday and Sunday. We are told by our betters that Melbourne is becoming a 24 hour city, just like New York. Bah humbug, I say. There is no need for us to be a 24 hour city.

New Year's Eve has had an all night train and train service for a couple of years but from this year on, a one year trial will begin with having all night trains and trams every Friday and Saturday nights. A train will run every hour on all usual suburban lines in the early hours of the mornings. Trams will run every half hour on some lines. The route 67 tram to Carnegie will be passing by The Highrise in both directions every half an hour. It is strange really, because we already have an all night bus service covering most of the railway lines and many tram lines too.

These signs have appeared along St Kilda Road and I suppose elsewhere, with I guess the moon indicating that it is covered by an all night service.

Youse can all get f******

We no longer use the word 'class' in everyday conversation. If we need a substitute we may say 'socio economic group', usually referring to the lower classes. It is so interesting to me that as a working class person, many of my contemporaries think of themselves as middle class. Times have changed.

A word like youse used to be referred to as a class marker word. I don't know what the modern non offensive word might be. I very much dislike the word youse. It sounds so..........common. (Being a little self critical, it seems like I believe that you can be working class but not common. Quite possibly so. I don't mid being working class but I would hate to be thought of us common) It would seem youse is also used in Britain and North America.

I would argue that a clear plural of you is needed. You is both singular and plural but at times it does not work well to describe the plural. If a good part of the western world is using the word youse, we do need a plural of you.

An inventor of clever words is Snoskred. What word might she come up with? Perhaps the deep south of the US has it right with y'all.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A day off

Christmas, work, family, outings, celebrations and visitors have rather caught up with me. Doctor Glenfiddich has been called and he forecasts a full recovery tomorrow but for today, Highriser is unwell.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Piping hot water

Recently there was a discussion on the radio about domestic hot water systems and the age of some people's units. Popular in the 40s, 50s and 60s were electric storage hot water systems and it seems they were so well made that many are still operating today. Their replacement was usually a mains water pressure gas fired external unit, keeping a certain amount of water hot, heating as the water temperature in the unit dropped. They have a lifespan of about 10 years. Now is not unusual for instantaneous units to be installed, heating water only when the hot tap is turned on.

Mother has lived in her house for forty years and it has the original hot water system in the roof still supplying hot water. As far as I know, it has never been touched. The system, as most did, has a header tank with a cock and ball valve to keep the water at a set level. The hot water unit takes its water from the header tank as required and is gravity fed to the taps. That means the water pressure is not very high. It heats the water overnight at a lower electricity tariff and has its own meter and timer. The biggest problem with such a unit is that if you run out of hot water, there is no more until it goes through its overnight heating cycle. This often causes family disputes with blame apportioned to someone who spends a long time in a shower, or  the person who does too much washing in one day. Some units do have an over-ride where you can switch it on manually during the day, but it will heat the extra water at the more expensive general household tariff.

I forget how big the units were, that is how much hot water they held. Maybe 200 litres, although 80 gallons seems to ring a bell, which is much more than 200 litres. Maybe it was 60 gallons.

When we first moved to the farm when I was four years old, hot water in the kitchen came from boiling water on the black cast iron stove, for the bath from a chip heater and for the laundry, an immersion heater. It wasn't long before my father installed an electric hot water service of the type described above and then later connected the new slow combustion stove that heated the water in jackets around the firebox. The electric system only came on if the stove was off.

Leaving a young me at home and to my own devices was always a mistake and mischief would ensue. There were always things to investigate and thought lines to pursue. I thought I might see how super hot I could get the hot water and loaded up the stove with many more briquettes of coal than was normally burnt. Extending from the roof and shaped like a shepherd's crook was the hot water system overflow. I had never known it to operate, but operate it did. Like a dragon it spat out steam and boiling water on to the roof. The fire in the stove became hotter and hotter and boiling water continued to flow in a steady stream. What to do? I can't take burning briquettes out of the fire box but I did close down the fire damper.

Eventually it settled down and by the time my parents returned, all they knew was that the water was nice and hot and I am sure they did not notice the higher than usual consumption of briquettes for the week.

Now, it is always good to add a photo to a tale but how boring is round metal cylinder. But wait, the oldest hot water service in the world was anything but boring and so I have taken the liberty of using one of River's photos of her failed behemoth of a hot water heater. It looks to be quite a complicated unit.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dear ABC

Our ABC TV chose to broadcast a national news service on Christmas night, rather than state based local news broadcasts. I have no problems with that. It is a public holiday and minimal staffing means many more people can celebrate the occasion with their families. The mix of stories was national and evenly spread. I would almost say well done ABC, but at least twice we saw backdrops of ABC News, New South Wales. How could our ABC get such a simple thing so wrong?

Well, on Boxing Day on ABC Victoria local digital radio, they really got it wrong. Off air with soothing music for a time, multiple voice streams overlaying, audio crossings that did not work, dead air. Declan, the work experience kiddie was clearly out of his depth as he sat at the controls. I am only a little bit stupid and I know how difficult things can be behind the scene, but still these are such basic areas of radio broadcasting. I am not normally very demonstrative but when R asked me what is wrong with the radio, I threw my hands in the air and said some naughty words.

By all means ABC, give staff time off and cut costs but you need to make sure someone is in place who knows the stuff.

Failed You Tube Friday (appearing Saturday)

I've not come across much on You Tube of late that amuses me. I do have a couple of photos up my sleeve though. The first I saved ages ago when Ann O'Dyne drew my attention to it.

This requires some translation for you foreign types, but I am sure you all have similar locales near to you.

Frankston and Moe have areas of extreme social deprivation and issues.
Moccies are mocassins,  an indoor shoe worn outdoors by a certain demographic.
Dole is unemployment benefit.
Mullet is a hair style from the 1980s, short at the sides and long at the back, often dyed blond.
A slab is a carton of cans of beer, 2 dozen I think.

From a Tumblr, it is going to take quite a motor to get this wheel turning again. I find such things so sad.

Dog Jack has stayed at The Highrise three times in the past couple of months. He marks everything outside he possibly can.

Friday, December 25, 2015

'Tis the 25th!

A few Christmas images on this Christmas Day. As I have said, this day has some historical importance but for me no religious importance. It is a family day. While I am at work, my family is enjoying Christmas Day dinner (lunch), this year hosted by ABI Brother. Increasingly decrepit Mother has organised tables by Tradie Brother, provided table cloths and told her ABI son to put his air con on early so that his house in cool for Christmas dinner. It will be a barely organised bunfight but no one will leave hungry. While in one way I am pleased to miss the chaos, in another I hate missing the family Christmas gathering. I cast my mind back to 1979 when I joined my employment and remember that words were said to me, 'you may have to work unsociable hours at times'. Over the years it has proved to be thus. I am compensated with penalty rates, but what price do you put on missing family Christmas gatherings. Maybe someone will save me a roast spud.

R iced the cake very well, marzipan then white icing. I hope it tastes as good as it looks, not that I eat icing.

Telstra has finally opened its renovated store. I have yet to look inside. As you can see, the verse is a tempter to get your inside. It says,
A week before Christmas
Excitement was looming
Santa was pumped
And keen to go zooming
He'd sourced all the presents 
And assembled the team
So he bolted for home
With a full head of steam.

A hand made card from Sister, Bone Doctor and Little Jo. I don't think any of their hands did the making. They are real buttons.

A card from one of R's sisters. It makes me feel young to be referred to as boyfriend.

Mother places great store on the words on or in a card, so we have to always be sure to get a card with the right words when we buy for her. She herself makes a great effort.

She is large fiery red haired and to quote her, 'dangerous at times' but what a gorgeous home made card she sent us. I wonder after a decent interval, I can pawn the pearls?

City Square.

Our tree at night.

In the daylight. Another of R's sisters sent the floor tree surround. She makes them and sells them for £40. There is quite a bit of work in it but I am not sure I like it that much. I should have taken a close up to show the finer work and the sparkly bits.

Degraves Street subway.

QV shopping centre square.

We should have a little Christmas music to conclude. How about an Aussie Christmas carol? I am not sure which to use. I rather like this staff performed acappella Carol of the Birds, filmed at the ABC's Ultimo centre in Sydney, but to really hear the words and read them as well, maybe the second one will please you more.

Seasons greetings to you all. (I deleted the Merry Christmas and anti Happy Holidays rant)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Royals among us

Good lord. We nearly had a royal lad drowning in Queensland last week when little Prince Christian, son of Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik and Australian born Princess Mary, was caught in a rip at Mermaid Beach and had to be rescued by a lifesaver. You foreigners really need to be careful in our waters. Your chances of being eaten or killed by one of our many venomous species is low, but your odds of drowning are a good bit higher. I just searched for a photo and found this one at News Limited. After seeing a few other photos, GAY! It is ordained.

To another royal story that I almost missed. A pauper died while sitting under a tree with his dog in the Northern Territory town of Katherine.  Kind of a sweet way to go really. A brief clutch at the chest and then just sagging a little. I can imagine him sitting with his back against the trunk of the tree and his loyal dog licking his hand while sitting beside him as he died. Who was he?

He was no less than Leonid Gurevich Kulikovsky, the great grandson of Tsar Alexander III, who reigned in Russia during the 1880s. He lived incognito in Australia since 1967. His car broke down in Katherine some years ago and he never moved on. If you have been to Darwin you could not help but of heard of the Paspaley pearling family, well Paspaley's Pearls at least, and they kindly allowed him to be buried in their private Greek family grave in Darwin. I assume the Paspaleys paid his funeral expenses. I can't find photos of him as an adult but here he is at a young age with his grandmother, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna who was sister of Tsar Nicholas II and daughter of Alexandra III of Russia. Oh, those Romanovs. Intriguing to the last.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

We are rid of our drawers

On Monday a hard rubbish collection was announced for the building by the way of public notices in the lift etc. Put out between 5pm Tuesday and 5am Thursday.

Today, Wednesday, was my day off. R can't bear our building manager but I know he is a useful person to cultivate. I roll my eyes upwards at him and give the impression of being of being subservient to him and if he asked me to ???, I would oblige. He is a quite nice looking pale skinned Sri Lankan. Thus, I had no problem getting him to fetch for me the building trolley to cart our drawers downstairs to the collection area.

One large and then separately two small sets of drawers fitted perfectly onto the trolley and by 11am we had our drawers out in the street for collection by the local council hard rubbish collection people. At 11.30 we drove out to take the car to be washed, refill the barbeque gas bottle, put petrol in the car and have some lunch at Station Pier.

By 11.30 when we left the building, our drawers had been snatched. You would have to be quite prepared to be ready to pick up our old and not so clean drawers on the street at such short notice. I suspect either the building cleaner or the building manager took them. No problem with that, but next time a similar situation arises, I might just gently ask the building manager if anyone he knows of anyone would like our used drawers (and they can damn well carry them).

Our drawers were quite heavy and left marks on the carpet at their temporary location but R got busy with the iron and a damp cloth and easily raised the indented carpet pile.

That'll learn 'em

Is there a Twitter hashtag #Trapped by Telstra? I am sure there is a #I hate Telstra.

Telstra is our large, formerly government owned, telecommunication company. Both our mobile phones are out of contract and Telstra has taken advantage by increasing the cost of each phone plan by $10 to $35. We may make two calls a month and send a few text messages. $5 of the cost is for a data allowance of 250mb.

I was a bit cross about it. I called Sonny in Telstra's Philippines call centre who apologised profusely. What annoyed me most that we weren't notified. I noticed our bundle bill was a little higher and checked the bill as to why.

Sonny was no comprende about any reason for the cost increase. His final suggestion was pay as you go. That would probably mean we would lose our phone numbers that we have had for years, nearly two decades in my case. Telstra's pay as you go is expensive anyway. I looked at alternatives. Aldi uses the Telstra network as does Woolworths. They do offer a cheaper service.  I checked with R and eventually agreed with him that it was all too hard.

Our internet comes via a Telstra cable to our desktop computer where a modem then distributes a wi fi signal. The modem is also cable connected to the computer. TPG has installed equipment in our building to provide customers with high speed fibre optic, but the last stage of it is via the copper phone wiring in the building Their price and bundles are extremely competitive. This is tempting, except our phone outlet plugs are not near the computer desk and there is no easy way to get the phone line near to the computer. Again I feel trapped by Telstra, but wait.

We are overdue replacing our grandfather's axe computer and the next one will be able to wi fi. There is no reason why the modem can't sit at the telephone point and our desktop pick up the signal. Telstra, finally gotcha! I and others have been very tolerant over many years of your behaviour but increasing the cost of our mobile phone plans was the point where you tipped us over and killed the remaining goodwill we had towards what was our government owned phone company.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Trams

Tram route 2 in Budapest runs along the eastern side of the Danube in Pest. It is a popular tramline for tourists (yes, we travelled the length of route 2 in both directions) and well used by locals too. Where better than to run Christmas trams than along the banks of the Danube. 0:14 Budapest has taken delivery of new 56 metre long Urbo trams, made by CAF in Spain. These trams can be found all over the world including Sydney. I expect CAF will supply trams for Sydney's new but yet to built south eastern light rail and I am guessing in the same configuration as the 56 metre trams in Budapest.

Meanwhile well to east, it seems Odessa's tram system is being run down. This could be deliberate policy and they will be replaced with buses or there really is just no money in the Ukraine to maintain the system. 4:21 but no need to watch more than 40 seconds. Note: Things may not be as bad as they look as I have seen the distortion effects of certain camera lenses before in videos like this.

Melbourne's Christmas Sleigh Tram may look good at night but I don't think much of it in the daylight. Photo by Yarra Trams.

Speaking of Melbourne trams, I was not excited at all by this years tram art decoration efforts so I won't bother showing you photos beyond this one that I liked a bit.

Melbourne has the largest tram/light rail system in the world if it is measured by route length at 250 km but from the list I am looking at Budapest has the highest numbers of travellers at nearly 400 million per annum, as against Melbourne's at a mere 180 million which is much exceeded by many tram cities.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sun Rise

Our balcony faces almost directly east. It amazed me when we moved here some fourteen years ago to realise that the sun rises in such a different place at each equinox solstice. Yes, I did know that but I did not realise to what extreme it happened. If you look to the left in the photo, that is toward the north, that is where the sun rises in the winter. In fact at the winter equinox we get about five minutes of direct sunlight as the sun rises and it then disappears behind the front of our building. This time of the year we get direct sunlight until about noon. I estimate the difference to be about seventy degrees on the compass.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Way home from Merri Creek

I say farewell to the Merri Creek and Yarra River.

This is Turner Street, on which I walked up from the Yarra River.

Efficiency would have told me to then turn left and make my way to the main entrance of Victoria Park Station, but I did not. I continued along Turner Street. Not many buildings have street names on them in Australia but this house did. As have most properties along this street, this one had a large extension.

A delightful streetscape.

A classic early Victorian period cottage where a professional type probably once lived. There will be a hallway behind the front door with a series of rooms, bedrooms and living rooms, off to the side. At the rear of this house, unlike its original state, the house will be full width and open to a nice courtyard. Somewhere, a nice bathroom will have been installed and while it will still be small, it will be a very nice place. Such wonderful polychromatic brick work.

This is a very handsome house. Quite large enough for one.

Tracks to school, an attempt to encourage children to walk to school. Where am I? I forget the suburb name but I expect quite a number of children in this area walk to school. If you find independent young children anywhere in Melbourne, they will be in our inner northern and north eastern suburbs. With their hipster university educated parents who hold professional jobs with big firms but flaunt their green lefty credentials, it is a sure thing that they will bring up very clever and confident children.

I had no idea I would come across Victoria Park, former home to the Collingwood Football Club (Australian Rules). It is undergoing a lot of works. We still have most of the various old suburban football grounds, from the days when it was Victorian Rules before it became a national competition. St Kilda's Junction Oval, North Melbourne's Arden Street, Carlton's Princess Park, Hawthorn's Glenferrie Oval and some remnants of the Fitzroy football ground, which I showed you a year or so ago in my old Inner Circle train line walk.

It seems like this old entrance is to be kept.

Some historical dates with details carved into stone.

The rear side of the entrance.

Works were happening as sport was being played.

I think it is just terrific and it is wide open to the public. The Sherrin Stand to your left and the Bob Rose Stand to your right.

Another former entrance.

More information. I was a bit tuckered out so I did not stop to read.

Still a work in progress.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mud Bath

There was a tradie in the lift with me as I arrived home late morning. He left the lift at my floor and remarked that our hot water may off for a short time. "Mainline pipe leaking", he said. I thanked him for telling me. Shortly after he knocked at the door and asked if our hot water was off. No, I replied. Oh, I need to turn more valves off. Yes, he does. I remember that from when I replaced tap washers with ceramic discs.

Maybe half an hour later he again knocked at the door and asked if he could check the sink tap. I let him and he is obviously experienced at highrise homes where Asian people might live and took his boots off. He turned on the kitchen sink tap and asked me if the pressure was normal. I replied, I think so but it normally delivers clear water, not mud. Yes folk, the water was very brown and at times very dark brown. I could see heaps of sediment coming through. The plumber explained that the header tanks had been stirred up and it would soon clear. I told him that there is no aerator or restrictor at the bath. We will turn that on. I turned the bath taps on and brown water just kept flowing and flowing. At some point it was clear the water was so heavy with sediment that the plumber said, I will go down to the gym shower and run the water off there. Good, I thought. We are paying for this hot water.

I sluiced most of the sediment in the bath away with a couple of buckets of cold water but obviously not that well and R later had to clean his bath. When I arrived home that evening I asked R if the hot water was clear and he said yes, but it is cold. Oh, this late means it won't be fixed by the morning and I will have to just have a wash in the morning instead of a shower. R says I am such a disbeliever and will never take his word for anything and that is partly correct. Nevertheless I went to my bathroom, turned on the hot tap and lovely clean hot water flowed, much to our relief. Cinderella did have a lovely hot and clean shower next morning. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Cunning Plan

Beat the heat by getting into town early. Too late, she cried. For you unmetricated foreigners, that is 97F. Tomorrow's forecast is for 41 (106F) and it is weekly grocery shopping morning. Household management will say, 'let's get the shops early to beat the heat and before it gets too busy'. Half of the rest of Melbourne will say the same thing. It will be hot and busy.

Btw, just as an interest, Melbourne's highest ever official temperature is 46.4, 116F recorded in February 2009. Nothing to do with global warming though. I also remember snow falling on Christmas Day.

More Mr Rumbold and Mrs Slocombe

I wish I had found this clip before last Friday's You Tube post of a humorous clip from Are You Being Served. Mrs Slocombe's expressions are just brilliant at times. The second clip today I have posted before but it was removed, so here it is again. I am sure you will agree we have heard quite enough about Mrs Slocombe's pussy, so this will be the last. I thank you for your patience.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Heat Maps

I was looking at a heat map of Melbourne, clearly indicating by the glowing red bits where children weren't immunised. Some parents think they know better than centuries of science and medicine. I will leave the adjectives out.

I looked at a heat map of London children who play freestyle in London parks. No, you won't find a kiddie snuggled up in their cubby under a tree on Hampstead Heath. It used to happen but does not now.

I then looked at a heat map telling of internet and Tweeting activity when the Lindt Cafe in Sydney siege took place and murders happened. There was lots of activity in  Britain, India, China. To be expected. I forgot to look at Canada, but I did look at that US. I was surprised. I can only conclude that we are well connected to New Youk and the east coast of the US, but it seems we are of little of interest to San Francisco and Los Angeles. The east coast of the US, New York etc was aglow with red but just small blobs on the west coast of the US.

I did not read any interpretation of the stats but take it from m me, we Australians are on the east coast of the US in larger numbers and the east coast is more comfortable for us, no matter how much movies tell us of wonderfulness of the west coast.

Later edit: I am not sure how these stats are recorded. Could the US oddness be because of time differences between the US east and west coasts?

Lego and lunch

Pants from That's So Pants was in town and on her way elsewhere. She had time to catch up with us for lunch and I made the time during my work break. We spent a very civilised hour at Riverland on the banks of the Yarra having a bite, a drink and a yarn.

Beforehand R and myself took a look at the Lego Christmas tree in Federation Square.

They are larger than normal sized Lego blocks.