Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beating up the missus

One woman is murdered every week in Australia as a result of domestic violence. I understand this year the trend is to two per week. The figure is rising. A hugely disproportionate number of these victims are Aboriginal.

The statistics of women with acquired brain injuries as a result of domestic violence is equally damning.

The figures for the US may be similar but I don't believe they are as bad in the UK. There is something about men in the UK that is different.

Two personal anecdotes, one of which I have recounted before.

At work there was a Mauritian couple. She was a big lass and he a skinny little short runt. I inquired from another male work mate from the same  country why Rhonda had a black eye. Joseph gets drunk and often beats her up, was the reply. Given their size difference, it was hard to imagine. I asked him, why doesn't the Mauritian community intervene and stop it? He gave a kind of a shrug of the shoulders. Rhonda was a medical basket case and recently died. It was really so hard to offer Joseph my sympathies given I knew the history from years ago.

Next door to my grandparents a wealthy Eastern European couple moved in, with two young children. He was a good bit older than her, and she was a very attractive woman. One night there was a terrible row next door, as the young me and my siblings heard. Mother was telling her parents it was violent and they should call the police. No, they replied. It is not our business and we don't want to be on bad terms with neighbours. We are not going to interfere in private family business.

I can remember Viktor's words vividly. 'You are so beautiful but you will not be any longer'. Had Mother's parents called the police, Helena may not have had her face scalded by hot oil. I don't know why, but for some reason the scarring was not too bad on her face, the worst on her neck and quite visible.

So what to do in such situations? The latter, yes call the police. I really don't know. I just remembered their family name. What were the children's names? I can't recall so I can't google them.

What I do know is, don't turn a blind eye to what is happening because you are a coward. Speak up and speak loud about violence within families.

It is to my terrible shame that my country has such a problem.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The inexorable downwards slide

The subject line refers to the video, not my blog. Well, I came up with a different video for Friday. Not a cat video then, but a panda video. Sooooo cute. Length 1.27

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Seen by me on public transport this week, Patsy King of Prisoner (Cell Block H);  famous from the role of prison governor Erica Davidson, and Julia Blake, first known to me from the movie Travelling North,  a very accomplished actor and wife of Terry Norris, also an actor, former boxer and Labor politician. The movie also starred the late actor Leo McKern of Rumpole fame.

Not on public transport, but walking his kiddies to St Kilda primary school, Brian Nankervis, host of SBS RockKwiz.

Redundant Post

This is a redundant post after yesterday's. I am struggling a bit in getting back to normal blogging mode after not blogging normally for so long and then the onslaught of our holiday posts. Normally I have a back log and I finish something and post it. I don't have a huge back log apart from some photo posts and perhaps you are a bit over photos posted by me for a few days. I do have some fires in the iron though, and a bit up my collar. I may have a cat video ready for Friday. Anyway, here is a clearing of an old unfinished post.

Apparently you can now read emails on your hi tech watch. I doubt I will ever have a watch that can read emails. I am a Luddite, stuck in the '90s tech world. No one has mentioned how you reply to email using your watch. It is a very small keyboard surface. Ah, the watch display comes from your phone. So why not just read the email on your phone?

Reading email on my phone is not something I have done either. Why would you when this big monitor and keyboard makes email fast and now, nearly faultless. For some who can afford a mobile phone but not a desktop computer, I do understand.

Unless there is a serious jump in technology, perhaps to where I can think things and they will be typed, I will remain the 90s Luddite.

Take what you want from technology, but just because it is there, it does not make it useful or sustainable.

Nevertheless, I have some brilliant phone apps that can inform me in a tenth of the time it would take me to find on the desktop.

Yep, the tech world is an amazing place. Take from what you need and like and leave the rest. But don't forget, you will not know how good something is until you try it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Telstra Air, Fon and matters tech

Back in the mid nineties we set up our isp email account using Microsoft's Outlook Express and we have kept it going ever since, it now being called Windows Live Mail. I wish we never had and used web based email but it wasn't really up to scratch then. Now we are really tied to our Telstra email address and to change would be very time consuming, to say the least.

When travelling we can access our isp email over the web but it is slow and clunky. Before we left home I checked that the web email address book was up to date with the latest email addresses. When I checked it once overseas, it had reverted to a state of about three years earlier. I don't have clue why, not that it really mattered much to, but it could have.

I knew my mobile phone was backing up numbers to my Gmail account but what a mess it had become with multiple entries for the same person and number. The last straw was when I added a new number and it auto saved to google but not to my phone or sim card. Once saved, there was no way I could see to add it to the phone or sim card. You have to select where when you initially save the number. Anyway, during a couple of train trips I put the time to use and sorted it all out. All numbers on the phone once, copied to the sim card and synced with Gmail.

I almost bought a new Samsung Galaxy 6 but Telstra would not be reasonable with the price and plan, so I have put it off. My last idea was to buy it at the cheapest large retailer, in this case Officeworks and stay on my very low plan, that nevertheless suits me. I send a few text messages each month, I can call home and R for free and I get an amount of free texts and $10 of phone calls,  and it has a 250MB data allowance, which is plenty for me. Mostly I use it for wi fi.

Australians may have noticed the pink roofs on public phone boxes, which were alerting customers to a trial of free wi fi by Telstra. I used the service a  couple of times. It was simply a matter of connecting and agreeing to terms etc and you were online with your phone.

Upon our return, the trial has stopped and been replaced by Telstra Air and as simply as I can put it, you use any available broadband signal who has also joined, no matter who it belongs to, to connect to the internet. Any of your usage will be against your own internet account, not the person's internet you are using. To join you need a suitable home internet plan and modem, which we have, so I joined. It does work at the aforementioned phone boxes but as the system has only just began, it is very limited as to where else you can get a signal. The system is international, using the name Fon overseas. I was scrolling through my phone wi fi connections and noticed it picked up on Fon when we were overseas. I had a look at coverage maps and it had quite good coverage in New York and Canada. Europe and London were quite good too.

We managed quite well while travelling without have to pay for a phone data card, using hotel wi fi and public wi fi. I wish I had known about Fon before travelling. However, surely the way of the future is free wi fi almost everywhere.

Our rarely used dvd player is ten years old. It works, but the remote does not. I can't remember the last time it was used, probably by Little Jo, but now she seems to prefer what can be found online. Coles supermarket had a Blue Ray/DVD player on sale for $60, so we bought it. I have yet to set it up. I have no idea how the tv etc is wired up as when we had the tv wall mounted, the installer wired everything up. I can't see us watching any more dvds though.

Meanwhile Windows 10 is sitting in my task bar, ready to go. Will I break my own rule, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and thereby putting what I am familiar with at risk? Our computer is quite old now, although it is a bit like grandfather's axe, with a new head and a new handle. It is time to upgrade and perhaps I will wait until then.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day 23 US, 13/07, NY, Central Park Zoo and Homeward Bound

Technically we left New York on the 14th but it was the night of the 13th. I had made some suggestions to R about how to spend our final day. Coney Island? No. Staten Island? No. Central Park Zoo? Ok. We'll see the zoo and try for another look at Central Park.

This wine shop was next door to our flat entrance. We walked in once and quickly ran out again. It was as bad inside as out and I don't understand why anyone would buy anything there when there are other proper and clean places not far away.

These bins have solar panels and three LED lights, as you can see. I am not sure what they are about. Bin full?

We had a nice brunch in 41st Street before caching the subway. This much sauce ketchup for one bacon and egg sandwich? I don't have sauce with bacon and egg anyway.

We caught one of the Not Quite Right trains (N,Q,R) to 59th Street and 5th Avenue. Previously our travel had been on older vehicles but this was a much newer, smoother and quieter model. The older subway trains reminded me of older Tube trains, in their roughness and obvious fast acceleration and braking. I wonder why our Australian trains are so quiet and smooth? I don't know why these live displays have never been added to our trains. They were so useful to us in Japan, several years ago now, as was the station name on the platform and with an arrow indicating the name of the next station and the last one. Later, today I noticed at our Melbourne Central Station, the former and following stations are shown on the wall.

Subway trains can be up to 11 carriages long. The hurtle into stations and if you are at the end they enter, you will swear it is a high speed express and not stopping, but stop the mostly do, abruptly.

Unlike the Tube, there is not a universal sign for the Subway. Apparently most signage shows colours, with lamps at night, to indicate something about the subway entrance but even local people don't understand the system.

We arrived just in time to see some Harbour Seal feeding.

And then otter feeding.

I think it was about 11am, not the perfect time to see animals at their most active on a hot day. The bear knew what to do in the heat.

So did the snow leopard.

This fellow popped up for a look before retreating back to the coolness and shade of the rocks.

This was a miniature deer. It busily trotted around.

Tortoises. Mummy, why are the tortoises stacking on top of each other?

I don't know what these blue birds are, or the orangey pink one for that matter.

A lemur doing what it does best in the heat.

But is it art?

Our possums are nocturnal so it was always exciting to see a squirrel out and about during the day.

Was R up for a second attempt to look at Central Park. No, and I agreed, it was too hot. Back into Hades to go back to the flat, but my Metro Card would not release the turnstyle. R went through without a problem. I tried again and as I thought would happen, now insufficient credit. R passed his card through to me but it too had run out of funds. Damn, I will have to put the minimum of $10 on the card and this will he the last trip I will take. Yes, there are the machines to top up. A lad bounded up, $3 man, and I will open the turnstile for you. It is ok, I said, I will put money on my card. But both ticket machines were out of service. I was smelling a rat, but $3 for a $2.75 fare was irresistible to me, even though I had already paid. Lordy it was so hot. As sweat dripped from me, I gave him the $3 and sure enough, he opened the turnstile.

New York's public bicycle scheme seemed very popular, not just judged by this almost empty rack.

We packed our luggage and headed out to the nearby Heartland Brewery for dinner. Our waiter was a gay man of a certain type, that is obvious, slightly flirtatious, very chatty and helpful. As we paid the bill, he presented us with two shot glasses with the name of the venue on them. It was a nice last moment (an maybe the time R's card was scammed?).

We returned to our flat for a final shower and last minute packing. Ahead of us was a fifteen hour flight, a five hour lay up in Hong Kong and another nine hour flight. Our departure airport was Newark in New Jersey. I had heard of a special new train service but it turned out to only be a train linking the terminals at Newark. To get there by rail it would be a walk or subway to Penn Station pulling suitcases, a train to Newark and then probably the afore mentioned new connecting service. I discovered there was a bus from the Port Authority, express to Newark for US$17, naturally more once tax was added. It all worked really well.

Look at her. She stopped in the middle of the street, opened up the back to get stuff out, oblivious to horn blasts around her.

Air Canada was great, with its rigidly enforced cabin baggage limit on quantity and size. Not so Cathay Pacific. Look what this woman has as carry on. A monster back pack, a huge case, two handbags and in her left hand, about three shopping bags. It is a disgrace that this is allowed and others are inconvenienced.

I must have been in Hong Kong when I took this. I doubt I really knew where I was but we knew enough to check out the duty free and subsequently I have learnt that the transit are of HK airport is not secure and so Australia says we cannot bring liquids back here and they will be confiscated at the second security check just before you board where everyone's hand luggage was opened. We were told at the duty free shop, but this doesn't always happen and people in some airports with insecure areas lose their duty free.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Day 22 US, 12/07, NY, Transit Museum, Opinion

I did not take so many photos this day. I had found there was a public transport museum in Brooklyn, the New York Transit Museum, located at a disused subway station. On board the A train again and to Brooklyn.

The train was busy but I saw a seat and squashed into it between two black men. Now, if this was anywhere else I have ever travelled on public transport, the men I sat beside would adjust themselves slightly to give me some space and at least put their legs together. No, I sat there shoulders hunched, knees squeezed together and my hands on my legs in front of me and I felt most uncomfortable. This is quite unacceptable but Dorothy is not in Kansas anymore. Gradually over the period of about five minutes with almost imperceptible movement, they both gave me more space. I had worn them down and won the battle against their intimidation tactics. Blow me down, the same thing happened to R later, with only one man this time. It must be a New York Subway thing, maintain your space.

While another subway station seemed closer, we alighted at Hoyt-Schermehorn as that had been suggested and with a little difficulty, found the museum entrance. (I am not sure why it was hard to walk along a street in a straight line in a westerly direction)

Entrance to the museum was only $7 and it was quite interesting with plenty of history and interactive stuff for the kiddies, including bigger ones like me. I do like generating electricity.

Downstairs is the disused subway platform, now stocked with various exhibits of engines and carriages. There were quite a number of carriages but here is a selection of a few. I've reordered them to what I think is age of the carriages. Most interesting to me was the cooling fan evolution. 

Skylarking lads, beware of this spinning fan.

Still there are fans to chop a hand off if you misreached for a hanging strap.

Finally, some protected fans.

Fans are now concealed.

Are these fans or quite early air conditioning? The square grills look rather like air con intakes to me.

No doubt about this one, definitely air conditioning.

How old is this carriage? It looks exactly the same as the one on which we travelled to the museum.

We walked to the nearby shops in Fulton Street and for the second time only, I entered Starbucks for a cold drink and something to eat.  The first time was the day before after leaving the Empire State. Its coffee as lousy as everywhere else in America, but its food was not too bad.

I was intrigued by the lad's transport. It's not  a segway because it had no handles. Google gives me many names for it, Oxboard, IO Hawk, Hovertrax. While he does have to balance, it has an inbuilt gyroscope.

Invented in the Netherlands, it seems. I want one.

There was certainly a closer subway to the shops than the one we used to arrive. And then things went a bit wrong. We descended into Hades and waited for the A or C train at Jay Street-Metro Tech (I've just read that this station has the worst rat problem of any of the subway stations. We didn't see one.) I was looking at the platform information sign and it said A and C train. Next to that was a wheelchair symbol and an arrow pointing to what I thought might have been wheelchair access to ground level. But I felt a bit uneasy and it was the longest period we had ever waited for a train. A woman approached us and asked us something about the F line. We explained we were tourists and could not help her. She returned a few minutes later and asked if we wanted the A or C train. Yes, we said. I think you are in the wrong place. I believe you need to go that way, yes the way the arrow pointed. From what I could work out, the platforms for the F train are at right angles to and below the platforms for the A and C lines. I really think New York could do with some sophisticated platform screens.
New York subway travellers. Note the two lasses with matching gold earphones. I was a bit puzzled as the train seemed to take a different path back to 42nd Street, probably to do with either the A or C being a limited express. I really like this photo.

We were back at our flat by early afternoon. I looked at maps, as is my want, I noticed Christopher Street. Rang a bell. Ah yes, Stonewall, the place of a world changing gay revolt. Let's go there for dinner. This time it was the 1 train from 41st Street. We had a very nice meal at Quarter in Hudson Street, with a very attractive waiter. I noticed the the PATH train. It may have been useful to us, getting us to Penn Station, not too far to walk back to the flat or change to the subway. From memory, PATH is operated by New Jersey Transit and takes you across the Hudson River. Would our Metro Cards work? I didn't know, so we walked a bit more to the subway.

Tomorrow is our last day and you will be relieved to know it will be the end of my travel posts. This has been a once in a lifetime holiday, after last year's once in a lifetime holiday. Will there be another once in lifetime holiday next year? I think not, but R can be very persuasive. Sorry nieces and nephews. We leave you the paperwork for the reverse mortgage on our property.

During our travels, with maybe one or two exceptions, people and staff were polite, helpful and friendly. Aside from the above mentioned train travellers and a bit of a scam (note, R's problem with his card became known to us only after writing this part) you will read about tomorrow, even New York people are included. While we did stick to the tourist trails, there was not a place I disliked and we never felt unsafe. Canada was spotlessly clean and they should take some pride in this and their environmental awareness. Even New York was quite clean. When there was rubbish, it did not linger for long before one of what must be an army of cleaners removed it.

I haven't mentioned television. I really can't remember much about Canadian television but I don't think it was anything great. We always had difficulty finding something bearable to watch. In New York I did tune in more to tv. Our television had 999 stations, each as execrable as the next. Now I understand from where our tv ads breaks are designed. Believe me you Aussie folk, our commercial breaks are nothing compared to the US breaks. It seemed to me half of the programming was ads. Mainstream evening commercial news was a little similar to ours, but with very little about the world outside the US, or New York even. I think PBS was the only station that had any kind of world outlook. Even when it was released Golden Girls, while amusing at times, seemed a little trite to me. It hasn't improved with age. Can you believe game shows from the 1970s were being shown! The presenter would be now dead and many of the contestants too. As critical as I am of our television, it is not too bad at all in comparison and god bless our ABC. I had already listened to American radio via the internet and not thought much of that either.

Canada is a grand country and there is much about it we in Australia could learn from. I've made it clear to a couple of friends that I did not think much of New York. New York is a very big and very busy and congested city. Maybe away from Manhattan it is not as bad. Well it wasn't so busy where we were in Brooklyn at the train museum or even Uptown in Harlem. We live very close to the centre of a very large and busy city and I hope it is never as congested as Manhattan. We found the crowds of people overwhelming at times and we, for better or worse, chose to stay in the thick of it.

Drivers in New York are quite absurd. They constantly block intersections, ignore traffic lights, park illegally, stop in the middle of the street and pay no attention to what the traffic around them is doing. You don't hear a polite toot of a horn to draw a phone using driver's attention to the fact that the traffic light is green. No Siree, nothing less than a five second horn blast will do. Truly awful. Hmm, sounds a bit like Melbourne really. Moving around Manhattan by streets in a car or bus is very slow. There is probably a lot to criticise the subway about, but by golly, it is fast and frequent and who would choose to drive in Manhattan.

Mind, a good bit of the slow traffic is caused by pedestrians. Many traffic lights have pedestrian countdown indicators and I used to think these were a good idea. They are not and only encourage pedestrians to begin walking as long as there are enough seconds to get across, which prevents cars turning. Barely no one takes any notice of the red flashing don't walk.

There were no disasters along the way and we never left anything behind or lost anything, I did leave two things at home that I should not have. Instead of picking up my combined hair shampoo/conditioner, I took the anti dandruff shampoo, which I use occasionally, just in case. Worse still, I had bought a tube of Vegemite to take, and I forgot to take it. It is very expensive when bought by the tube, but nevertheless, during our tour, I reckon I could have sold a squirt of Vegemite for $2 a shot on to fellow Aussie travellers' toast. Only one place we stayed had Vegemite for the buffet breakfast, and the jar was quickly emptied.

Once home for a week R received a call from his bank. There was a suspicious transaction in New York and his bank had withheld payment. The bank knew the date of our return and this transaction happened after we had returned. We retraced our steps and could not account for the amount. R called the bank back the next morning and there was now another from the same person, both around AU$150, way too much for dinner out or grocery and liquor bills, and larger amounts paid by his card we knew well enough. Payments were stopped, R's card cancelled and there has been some inconvenience to him. At restaurants in Canada the machine is brought to your table to pay when using a card. In New York, the card is taken away, and paperwork brought back for you to approve and sign. 

I have remembered so much more and learnt so much detail by writing these posts and looked properly at photos. R rarely looks at photos, even though during our trip he took many with my old camera. I think I have worn out both Google and its maps.

This is not the last post. There will be one tomorrow and then one with a few scans of things and probably a 'missed' things post, things I forgot to mention.