Saturday, July 22, 2017

Learn with me

I won't do anything too big or detailed but there are some things I want to know about.

Firstly, do you remember me mentioning that on the various hop on hop off buses we used in Europe, the recorded announcements had various language options, two of which Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese. I want to know how different these same languages are. Can they understand each other?

Let me look. As a last resort I will ask Sami. Yep, easy to find out. Yes, it is a bit like British English and American English, differences and accents, but mostly understandable. I guess for ease for the listener they use the two different forms of Portuguese on the buses.

Next, I understand how air conditioners cool. They are like your 'fridge. A gas is compressed and becomes cold and air is blown through a grill where the gas circulates. Easy, but how do they heat. They take warm air from outside and pump it inside. Really? What warm air? It is freezing outside. How can they find warm air outside? I am sure there is an electric heating element somewhere. Maybe you can tell me how it works. I have given up after reading too many times about how an air conditioner heats. And are heat pumps the same as air conditioner heating?

Back to Portugal. I have been reading a biography of Dame Daphne Park on my electric reading machine, she being one of the first women in Britain's MI6 or SIS as it was known. I haven't finished the book but I expect she becomes head of MI6. There was a reference to communist uprising in Portugal in the 1970s, and naturally enough, British spooks interfered so that there would be a good outcome for the the west. I know nothing of this uprising. Let me look. Right, that is all to do with Carnation Day, celebrated on Australia's Anzac Day, also the day we arrived in Lisbon. Why did I not connect the two? Sami wrote about it back here.

I haven't finished with air conditioners yet. You may remember our air con evaporative tray, with the steam off the water heating element that failed. I was extracting about five litres of water a week by sucking up the water with a soft plastic bottle and a car wash sponge (thanks River) , but the amount of water slowly reduced and now the tray has dried out altogether. Why do they produce water and why has it dried out? Another easy one. While I don't know the process, when the air inside your home is damp, that is humid, the air conditioner takes the humidity out of the air and turns it into water, which is what fills our tray. This makes sense and the evaporating tray problem happened just after we returned from our four week holiday and there must have been a lot of moist air inside and it took time to dry it out. Our air con heating has been running from about 6am to 11pm, and so the air in our apartment is now very dry, as are the surfaces and fabrics, including of course the carpet. So, no more water production in the tray.  Wrong. The tray as I typed that had filled with water. At times when it is cooling in summer, it makes a lot of water. I suppose it is for the same reason, but why in winter? I'll leave that for another day. (Some rainwater has gone into the tray over the last couple of days.)

The Greens??? They are toppling out of our Federal Parliament at quite a rate because they are dual nationals. I agree with the principle that you should only be citizen of Australia and do not have an allegiance to another country, and therefore will only govern in Australia's interest.

Having said that, it is most unfortunate that two Greens Senators have had to resign. That they did not know they were dual citizens is beyond belief and they are suffering the consequences of their 'ignorance' and have had to resign from Parliament. In the case of Larissa Waters, how did she not know she was born in Canada and was also a citizen of that country? (Later, she was an unfortunate victim of a change of Canadian law when she was one week old, but still, she should have known) How can she get rid of Canadian citizenship? Google answers me satisfactorily again, yet it won't tell me the meaning of life. Apparently it is quite simple. You fill in a form.

R is more up to speed about such matters for a change, and tells me the Liberal and Labor Party members have already been put through a machine and come up clean on the citizenship front. How unfortunate. I hoped we might be rid of conservative party Mathias Cormann. Apparently his Australian citizenship killed his Belgian citizenship. Not so in the case of Larissa Waters and Canada. Even the idealistic Greens Party disappoints.

Back to the Dame Daphne Park biography, of course she was in MI6 during the time of the unmasking of the English spooks who were double agents, serving Russia. It was a field day for the British tabloids, with tales of sex, naked pool parties, homosexuality and spies.  I was very amused to read a learned American back then offering his opinion that while his country understood sex and understood spying, it could not understand how the British had managed to combine the two.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Funny Friday

A couple of things I have saved as they amused me at the time.

This one from the blog of John Gray of Wales.

A couple is two, so that is your bloomin' lot.

Sunday Teaser

Here is the story of Anakie Fairy Park, where last Sunday we celebrated Little Jo's tenth birthday. Park photos on Sunday, hopefully. I hope these are readable for you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Light rail or tram?

Light rail is a pompous mouthful to make something old seem new. I prefer tram.

The variety of sources I have used for this post is very wide, but principally, it older men who are very experienced with public transport and are prone to ranting and talking about the good old days, and how Europe does it so much better. Having seen some train and train systems in Europe, they are probably right.

Without great map knowledge of Sydney, the first criticism I heard of Sydney's proposed new light rail system is that while it is good for the line to connect Circular Quay to Central (the principal train station), it should have then gone down Oxford Street and turned into Anzac Parade. Instead its route from Central has meant demolition of some properties and the tram running along quite narrow streets, with a good bit of extra infrastructure needed. I have heard reasons why this became the plan, but I am doubtful. It is possible that if the tram ran along Oxford Street, it would be overwhelmed with numbers. Err, don't build anything where it will be too popular. Later: Having a look at a map, it is impractical to service both Central and Oxford Street.

Very soon after the light rail project was announced, forecast patronage figures were looked at and it was decided to double the length of the trams ordered, to 60 metres, That is a very long tram and it must be getting close to what is normally known as a train. There is no doubt in my mind that Sydney's new light rail will be popular.

However, as I believe per a press release, Sydney was not prepared to learn any lessons from one of the world's oldest and largest tram systems, in Melbourne. Apparently Melbourne is old fashioned and has trams on streets. Sydney is building a light rail line. Well, Melbourne does actually have light rail too. Nor was Sydney prepared to learn any lessons from Queensland's brilliant Gold Coast light rail with the vehicles having complete priority over traffic. Having seen how well it worked last year (maybe the year before), it is a blueprint for any light rail system. That is not to say it is without issues, though.

There are good aspects and bad aspects about Melbourne's tram system being run by a French company. Whether it comes from Europe or not, Melbourne is one of the experts in fast tram track replacement and construction. Instead of setting the tracks in quick setting concrete, that later requires a jackhammer to break up, a shallow compacted base is laid, topped with concrete sleepers, a shallow layer of concrete to hold the sleepers and rails in place , then topped with bitumen. The bitumen topping is aesthetically much better, blending with the road, does not break like concrete and is much easier to work with when repair is necessary. Best of all, it is quieter as the trams run along the track.

I suspect Canberra is going down the same road as Sydney with its new light rail, and the real point is the over engineering. Sydney is laying its tracks in concrete over a metre deep in places. This is so unnecessary and I don't know why? Of course Melbourne knows nothing about trams and its advice on track construction would not be welcome.

The grumpy old transport experts often talk about Sydney's existing light rail, from Central to Dulwich Hill. The service is very poor. It is very slow, being impeded by a lack of traffic light priority, (hello Adelaide's tram to Glenelg), overcrowding and terrible bunching of trams. That is, three trams arrive together, then there is not one for twenty minutes.

There are two major accusations at Sydney's new light rail. The first is that it is massively over engineered, and consequently very costly, and so because of the cost, no more light rails will be considered as they are clearly too expensive to build.

The second goes by the name of APS. Trams need power and normally pick up the power from overhead wires. The mass of tram wires in the sky were quite ugly in the past, but now with modern materials, they are much more simple and dare I say, almost elegant. Nevertheless, the elegant simplicity of overhead wires was deemed too much for George Street in the Sydney city, so the trams will use APS within a section of George Street. What is APS?

APS is a French acronym, meaningless to most of us, but it is a system where the tram picks up power from a source built into the road. It is not dissimilar to London's Tube where the trains pick up power from a third rail in between the two tracks. A picture can tell a thousand words. Here is a photo where a new tram line was built in an historic area of Bordeaux. It was decided overhead wires would spoil the area, so the APS system was used. The metal where the tram picks up power is visible between the sets of tracks.

Of course you can't have a live rail in the middle of the road. People would get fried when they step on it, so it is only active when the tram is passing over it. The system will be used in George Street between Circular Quay and Park Street in the city. From thereon, it will be the standard overhead wires. The arguments I have heard against the system are as follows.

It is very expensive to install, much more so than the usual overhead wires. While not so widely done now, once the wires were just attached to buildings, with no poles needed for support, as you can see in this first photo I took when we were in Yurong Street, East Sydney. The wires were attached to decorative rosettes bolted into brick walls and there are still many to be seen on Sydney buildings.

It is not yet a reliable technology and could be affected by heavy deluges which Sydney is prone to. Of course it does not just add to the cost of construction. Trams will have to be equipped to use the system. It may well not work as planned and wires might go up at a later point anyway.

Anyway, what would I know as I am from Melbourne and we have only had trams running continuously since 1884 and light rail since 1987.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Media Release

I can't remember where I was going with this post but as nothing else is written for today, it will have to do.

What a great headline.

Public Service says the Australian Public Service is not corrupt. Can I assume the Australian  public service has investigated itself? The conclusion being that the public service found that the public service is not corrupt. Given our Public Servants are beyond corruption, I feel good about this and this story really needed to come out, that our public servants have concluded our public servants are not corrupt.

Truly, I am not making this up. Here is a link to a media report.

You may know that second and third world developing and undeveloped countries are very corrupt but for goodness sake, don't ever think that developed western countries aren't corrupt. The only difference is that in western countries, it is behind the scenes and does not directly affect us on a day to day basis like it affects people directly and daily in many countries.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Transformations

I want to live in this transformed place. It looks like great fun. By Patrick Commency, Le Puy en Valey, France.

A little moving, perhaps? By Smug, Glasgow, Scotland.

Mein Gott, what a boring street, but much enhanced with this work. By Bart Smeets, Mechelen, Belgium.

Monday, July 17, 2017


It would have been stretching it to give this the title of Musical Monday. I was sitting in my car in a car park and this cacophony by ravens began. What a racket. It must be the time of the year for bird jiggy jiggy.

Little Jo has used something on our computer called Windows Movie Maker. Do you think I can find it? I downloaded a very easy to use programme but it does not allow a lot of control over what happens.

The noisiest part is between 20 and 30 seconds.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Royal Botanic Gardens - Cranbourne Pt 2

There is a train like vehicle to get around the large site if you aren't the best at walking. We will take it next time, mainly because it has a commentary. Did I mention we had lunch before we entered the gardens. R and Little Jo were being noisy and told them to settle down. We had a quite lovely and gorgeous young gay waiter.

These yellow flowers are called Kangaroo Paw.

Out of focus, but they are so unusual, I had to include the photo.

Trying to grow thongs, that is thongs for your feet.

Children.....well, I suppose adults too, like the get their feet wet.

A kind of a sculpture using trig point markers.

We were very impressed. You can view the website here