Saturday, April 09, 2016


Is it our age or our personalities? Nothing seems to illustrate the gap between my two older nieces and R and myself than our attitude to money. About a year ago we were somewhere with Hippie Niece and she needed some cash. Before I even get to the point I am about to make is, we generally make sure we have enough cash before going anywhere, if we think we will need it. She also has a mobile phone that has a perpetually flat battery and out of credit. She is not over the top with her phone use, but she does not see the merit of having it charge while she sleeps, even though once when she stayed here we had a charger for her phone.

Right, to the point. She needed cash. Where is an ATM? We asked which bank she uses and she said it didn't matter. Well it does up to the point because the last time I withdrew cash from another bank's ATM rather than my own bank's ATM, it cost me $2 to do so. Since, I've never used another bank's ATM unless overseas. R does the same.

Are we just cheapskates? Or is Hippie Niece careless with money? Or is it that R and myself know full well it costs the bank nothing like $2 to transact between themselves and they are overcharging us. Whatever, they don't get $2 from us, ever.

The old saying goes, look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Unfortunately that is not quite true. While we do worry about small amounts of money, we are not so good with larger amounts. While we can quite happily bargain for things in third world countries, we are not very good in doing it in our own country. I find it kind of distasteful to do it here, but we should as bargains are to be had by indicating you are not prepared to pay full price. I guess that is why our department stores have perpetual sales. Australian's like a cheap price but mostly don't like to bargain or talk about price.

Our friend can be an embarrassing person at a restaurant when things don't go quite right. I don't like a fuss, but he revels in it. The staff will get it, and then he will ask for the manager. He does get results though. I am sure our airline Qantas has a file on him that says do anything to appease him. His complaints are quite legitimate but most of us would wear them. He complains about his Qantas flights and gets compensated, frequently and often. He visits our big office supply company to buy ink for his business standard printer. If the salesperson won't discount the inks, he asks for the manager, who generally does.

So much conflict. It is not for me. It is only if I feel I have been cheated that I will get motivated.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The news in brief

I did not sleep so well last night and I was up early, before going to work. Oh look, balloons are going up from Fawkner Park. I will sit on the balcony for a couple of minutes and watch them. I am guessing it was from about 120 degrees to my right, a currawong flew in and landed on the balcony rail about 1/2 a metre in front of me, say two feet. The bird just did not see me at all. I stayed still and after maybe 20 seconds it flew off and landed on another balcony railing. While I was sure it was a currawong, it vocalised on the next balcony to confirm I was correct. Currawongs are big birds and look a little scary.

From Elwood to East Malvern, fom Glen Iris to Burwood, from Balaclava to St Kilda Road, never have I taken notice or seen birds like we do here. Excuse the pun, but I guess you have to be on their level. Photo from Wikipedia.


I am not very good with Print Screen, but here it goes.

A massive sale by Dick Smith Electronics before it closes, a company originally owned by entrepreneur Dick Smith who sold it on to our supermarket chain Woolworths, who sold it on to an equity firm who then sent it broke. It is sad time for the staff who will lose their jobs, and to others involved. The less said about the shenanigans of big business and equity firms, the better.

At times I forget what happened on which day. We were in town one recent day and popped into DSE to see if there were any bargains to be had and there was a bin full of USB storage sticks at a pretty good price. I bought two. R was admiring phones. I think he is getting itchy phone feet and may soon upgrade his Samsung S3 to a S7.

The following day we caught the train to Moonee Ponds, just for lunch. No real other reason apart from the luxury of a week off work and I like to get out and about. I did have a look at the new tram track layout at Moonee Ponds and we did catch the tram back to town, rather than walk back to the station. We cast an eye around the quite uninteresting new shopping centre and there was a DSE store. I decided to go in and buy two more memory sticks but they had none. Once back in town, I returned to the city DSE store and bought two more there. But what has happened to the shop? In about 24 hours it had nearly been cleaned out of stock. The phones R was looking at were gone, the shelves so bare and very little to buy at all. Even the stock shelves were for sale, well some of them. Remarkable.  Over the years we have bought quite a few bits and pieces at DSE and they often had the best price for printer ink. So sad. Thanks corporate greed.

Just to cheer, our lunch was nice enough and we did come across this rather lovely mural in Moonee Ponds. Isn't it a ripper?

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The gay butch and his tool

I am open to offers from London tabloids as a headline writer.

The plumber who was here to install the sink and gas cook top told us our shelf under the sink will no longer fit. No kidding. We can see it won't fit. He suggested that maybe the the company we hired can do something about it. That would be for an extra fee, no doubt. We didn't like the plumber. For the extra work he had to do, there was a cost of $130 to be added to the bill, but he said give me $100 and the $130 won't go on the bill. R dealt with it and probably made a wrong decision  to pay him the $100.

We now may be inner city latte sipping, sav blanc wine drinking, older gay, occasional socialists as suits our purpose, but renovate we have done in the past with our own hands and I still have my jigsaw. The cut out is not so hard and even though half the shelf is cut through, it will still support the minimal weight of dishwasher tablets, Jiff, Ajax, Windex, Eucalyptus oil, a scourer and dish cloth but the clearance above the sink drain is the real problem. We are talking of a few of millimetres, like less that quarter of an inch. We will simply gouge out the bottom of the shelf where it sits over the drain pipe to make it fit.

Well, that is what I thought. We spent about an hour fixing the shelf and by golly, getting down and dirty in a cramped space is not so easy. Added to my woes, my hands were less than steady this morning., when I has some precise cutting and drilling to do. Mind, my shakes are nothing like Cranky's and didn't our heart go out to her after seeing the video she posted. While her regular readers knew of her condition, it was really so revealing to see how it impacts on her. I am so pleased she made and shared the video.

Back to the carpentry. I measured a few times, having in the past ignored the saying 'measure twice, cut once', with the expected results.  Our Black and Decker jigsaw is over 30 years old and it has been the most amazing electric tool, as has been our drill of a similar vintage. I cut through a piece of 6" x 4" hard red gum timber with the jigsaw once. I think it took longer than half an hour. But it is not really a tool of finesse.

The cutting out was quite painless, but as we expected the shelf sat on the drain pipe. We tried moving it up a level, but then it was causing stress to the dishwasher tap. After considerable discussion, we decided to make new shelf support holes in between the one that was too high and the one that was too low and after a lot of sweat, literally, the job was done. It is not as convenient as it was with less storage for Vim of the taller variety than there was, but then with some new cupboards being added to our kitchen, much of our storage space will be re-organised, and hopefully the linen press will not longer have to be used as a pantry.

The linen press does not contain much linen.  It is well due a reorganisation.

The new cutout, with the old circular cutouts.  

The dishwasher hose from the tap is barely touching the shelf and not under any stress, which it was when we used the higher shelf holes.

Nor is the shelf sitting and rocking on top of the horizontal joining ring that it was in its original position.  

Cleaning up and putting my tools back to where they belong took fifteen minutes, and quite exhausted by what would be a small amount of effort for a thirty year old, it was time to go out for lunch. We earnt it.

That is where the post should finish, but you know what I had for lunch? A bowl of fruit salad with yogurt. Am I not so virtuous? Ok, it was preceded by a hash brown, and later in the afternoon I ate two left over sausages from the fridge and I bit the head off my chocolate Easter bilby.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

There'd be a dragon

At times I am not the most timely blogger. Chinese New Year celebrations were in February and it is now April. No, it must have been for our Moomba Parade. Perhaps this will cheer the poor souls with some colour and movement who are already missing summer. I was at work so R took some photos for me. It is the first year that Chinese dragon has started down below, that I know of.

It is the longest processional dragon in the world and its history makes for some interesting reading. There has been considerable involvement by the Wang family, which is probably meaningless to most who don't remember the Wang Emporium in Little Bourke Street; a store filled with all manner of exotica back then and was great fun to visit.

Beating the drum. I wish I had been home to see it.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The kitchen

The new benchtop, hotplates, sink and tap were installed today. No photos until the kitchen is finished in a week or so, but the new bench top far exceeded our expectations. It wasn't really Carol who planted the seed of doubt. We had doubts ourselves about whether the old wall tiles would work with the new benchtop, but they do, very well. R has spent quite some time bleaching the tile grout to return it to white. Even though the new benchtop doubled the cost of the kitchen makeover, we see it as money well spent.

R overheard the gas man/plumber say to the bench installers, this is a really nice cooktop. While we know we bought the oven and hotplates very cheaply given they are high end brand, I am not sure what is so special about them. The stove top cleaner, me, will be the judge. Oh, I suppose the person who uses the hotplates to cook might have an opinion too but we won't worry too much about that. Ideally we would have liked a smooth glass induction cooktop, but as well as being expensive, we would have to have special wiring from the mains supply in service room. I could see a cost of $3000 just for a cooktop.

R is very happy as we were told we shouldn't really use the kitchen tonight, until all the silicone set, so it was take away fish and chips for dinner.

In spite of them leaving more mess than recent tradespeople have, a bit like the old days where cleaning was not their job, we are very happy, so far. Who said material things can't make you happy?

A foul decision for fowl

Let us begin with battery farming of chickens for eggs. It is outlawed in the state of California, Michigan is phasing out battery farming by 2019 and the largest producer of eggs in the US, Ohio has a moratorium on the construction of new battery farms.

The UK has met the EU target of phasing out battery cages and EU countries that haven't are under threat of legal action. This article from which this information comes may be out of date and perhaps battery farming has stopped in the EU. Switzerland banned battery cages in 1991.

Our Australian Capital Territory, where our capital Canberra is located, has banned battery farming, although it only covers a small area. Tasmania has banned new battery farms.

In every other Australian state it is free for all with animal rights activists at times getting into egg farms and showing us our truly awful they are. I won't put the vile photos they have taken here. They are quite sick making.

Now, I don't buy cage or barn eggs, only free range and I have been duped. Isn't this something like what we imagine in our heads to be free range? 

After years of back and forth, finally the federal government has made a decision and it is an awful decision.  Our CSIRO, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, mostly publicly funded but has done very well out of inventing wi-fi, after comprehensive research concluded that a reasonable definition of free range was stocking rate of 1600 chickens per hectare, about 2.5 acres for you non metricated types. A hectare is 10,000 square metres That gives hens just over 6 square metres of space, or nearly 11 square feet. That sounds quite reasonable to me. (Later correction. The recommendation may have 1500, but I am not doing the arithmetic again).

Strangely, the decision was left up to State Ministers for Consumer Affairs led by NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello, and Federal Minister Minister for Small Business, Kelly O'Dwyer. They decided, not 1600 but 10,000 chickens per hectare was reasonable and that is pretty easy to work out, a square metre per chicken, three square feet per chicken. You may well imagine each of the 10,000 chickens standing in their own square metre space, but if you know anything about chickens, that is not how it works.  I suppose it is better than in battery cages where they each have a space the size of a sheet of A4 paper.

I expect the above mentioned ministers have brought upon themselves some very bad karma. As a sop to those of us who care about animal welfare, and don't all my readers?  the egg cartons will be labelled with the stocking rate of the free range farms.

So how was I duped? I was buying free range eggs at the local green grocer where they were a good bit cheaper than supermarket eggs. The were from from the company South Gippsland Eggs and guess what their stocking rate is? Yes, 10,000 chickens per hectare. Our current brand is Heritage Free Range Eggs, but I am unable to discover anymore than the company's Lang Lang address. I expect the worst though. Clearly we are going to have to pay more for low density stocking levels and I am prepared to do so to ensure the welfare of chickens.

There is a good chart here at the Choice consumer affairs website if you want to check how your free range eggs compare.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Sunday Selections

Some randomness and Grand Prix photos. Check what River and others have on offer this Sunday.

I did not enter to win this Mustang on display in Bourke Street Mall.

Early morning sun reveals a ball Dog Jack left behind.

Look up in the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes, several.

The Roulettes flying over the Grand Prix circuit on the final day.

They were also looking at this, an RAAF F18 bomber. The noise the machine makes is both horrendous and scary. 0:7 Unfortunately YT changed the colour.

 A funny little sculpture at Middle Park Beach.

The only dish I cook. Not sure why R took a photo.

Over Easter they took away our trams for some tram track replacement and replaced them with buses. In spite of all the information on the web and Tweets I could read, I had to ask someone where to catch the tram to the city. We walked to where the tram was terminating and boarded at the outbound stop to go inbound. Pretty instinctive, no?