Monday, July 25, 2016

It's only words

While Winston Churchill stole and adapted the phrase from playwright George Bernard Shaw, Shaw in turn had stolen and adapted it from Oscar Wilde, the phrase being in reference to Britain and the United States, the US probably not so united when the the matter was first noted by Wilde. The phrase is, two countries divided by a common language. Poor old Australia is caught in the middle, mostly opting for the British way, but at times the American way, and at other times, we ourselves are just confused.

I am quite aware of American term, fanny pack, but not everyone is. Here we used to call it a bum bag. I am not a hip young thing, so I am not sure of current terminology but young Australians would probably know what you mean if you said bum bag. The American meaning of the word bum is known to Australians, a street person or a person down on their luck. I want to say hobo but that is a US word too. Australia has its own terms for such people.

In the US fanny means bum, butt, ass and I believe they at times even say arse. Fanny means something completely different in the UK and it used to in Australia too. Maybe it still does. Recalling an horrific childhood experience was a moment when to me or to someone it was explained that a baby came out of a woman's front bottom.  The UK knows the word fanny as a woman's front bottom, not her rear bottom.

s onSo, slap a US woman on her fanny, she might take great offence. Slap a UK woman on her fanny, you will probably be locked up. We poor old Australians just adapt to the differences as best we can and take it in context.

Enough fanny slapping. Where it really goes wrong for Australians is with chips. Again this may not apply to young people. In Britain cut up potatoes cooked in fat or oil are called chips. In America they are called French fries or just fries. In Britain the baked and salted or flavoured crisp potato slices bought in a packet are called crisps, in America they are called chips.

Once again, poor old Australia is stuck in the middle, or at least middle aged Australians like me are, who reject the McDonalds corporation and everything it stands for. I refuse to use the term French fries or fries. They are chips, and even in a weak moment when I visit McDonalds, I always say chips.

The problem is for Australians is we never really adopted the British word, crisps. So, we have to judge chips by the context and let me assure you, when chips used to be written on the shopping list, it had to be checked with the other Highrise abode resident, do you mean crisps or chips. So we have taken to calling them crisps now, well sometimes, not always. Crisps have become an impulse buy and not listed on the shopping list, while chips are part of the regular meals. While it may make no sense, if we have to say what sort of chips we mean, we might say potato chips, which literally makes it no clearer, but we know what we mean as potato chips are crisps and not chips...... or French fries.

I am pleased I have given great clarity to folks on each side of the Atlantic and to Australians. You did follow all that, yes?

 It is only a matter of months ago that I noticed that in the US sulphur is spelt sulfur. (My spell checker agrees with sulfur. No surprise there). Apparently Australian scientists now use the spelling sulfur, reinforced by our McQuarie dictionary and it is now the official spelling. I am quite sure in the Oxford dictionary sulfur would be noted as an alternative spelling. Most of my Australian readers are of a certain age. How would you spell sulphur? Should we march on the streets about the change? Or should we just let the water flow to sea and the grasses bend in the wind? The wisest will say, doesn't matter. We know what either means. However, I am slightly infuriated.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Sunday Quickie

Got to toss off something quick and easy. San Francisco still has cable trams, that is public transport cars pulled along a road by a grip attaching under the road to cable. Sydney initially went for steam trams before electric trams but it did have one cable tram. Victor, Merle or Marcellous might confirm that Ocean Street is a steep street, too steep for steam trams, and so had a cable tram.

Melbourne totally went for cable trams before electric trams and had a huge system of cable trams. In this photo from the archives of the State Library is a terrific picture or painting, whatever, of a Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, cable tram. Past the tram is Junction Oval, former home of the St Kilda football club and possibly showing the Blackie Ironmonger Stadium.

In the distance is the South Melbourne Town Hall, perhaps back then called the Emerald Hill, as South Melbourne used to be known and might that the hills of the You Yangs in the distance? The church spire would be that of St Lukes in South Melbourne, still there.

Is the cable tram new to Fitzroy Street? Horses seemed to be alarmed by the tram and boys are chasing after the tram. I hope they are not attempting to tie a tin can to the cable to rattle and bounce along the road, as lads used to do. It must be a warm day as most are sitting in the open air grip car and not the saloon trailer. The conductor has clearly collected all the fares by moving hand over hand along the running board and is taking a moment's relaxation. Ít is just quite a lovely picture.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A brief rant with bad words

A majority of Australians support same sex marriage, according to polls. As I have said before, it is not something I am passionate about personally, but I do recognise that it is important to many same sex couples. The ongoing joke between R and myself is when asked by someone, as you have heard before, well when I find someone I want to marry, I may be interested.

So a majority of Australians support same sex marriage, yet our politicians, including our newest Prime Minister elected in his own right, want a plebiscite on same sex marriage. That is a vote where everyone has to attend a poll and must vote with their opinion. This will come at a cost of $160 million and will probably indicate that the majority of Australians want to join the rest of the world with legalising same sex marriage.

No matter what the result of the plebiscite, it is not binding and if a change of policy goes before parliament, it may well be voted down and there will not be same sex marriage in Australia. How will that go down, both here and around the world.

For Christ's sake, just end this nonsense and just fucking well change the law.

Deal done. Those who are against same sex marriage will have forgotten about it come next Federal election, especially as it will be proved that society has not collapsed, just as it hasn't in other places where same sex marriage is allowed. Why is our government wasting so much time on this and why are taxpayers having to spend so much on something that will happen at some point anyway?

Later edit:

Courtesy Hels, here is a list:

give or take various and changing state and provincial laws, here are the countries that allow or recognise same-sex marriages:
Netherlands 2001
Belgium 2003
Canada 2003–05
USA 2004-15
Spain 2005
South Africa 2006
Norway 2009
Sweden 2009
Portugal 2010
Iceland 2010
Argentina 2010
Uruguay 2013
New Zealand 2013
France 2013
Brasil 2013
UK 2014
Luxembourg 2015
Guam 2015
Greenland 2015
Ireland 2015
Israel 2006
Mexico 2010

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cross Consumer

This arrived in out email inbox. Final electricity bill? Who? Which? What? Us?

Luckily it was early in the morning, so I did not have to queue when I called Origin Energy, although I did have to go through the press this button for this or that.

No, I assured Origin Energy, we have not changed to AGL Power. It was suggested that someone within the building may have changed and given the wrong apartment number. I would have thought changing suppliers would be little more complicated than that. Not happy. The person at Origin did what she had to do, gave me a nmi number or something and then transferred me to AGL and I was assured we would be changed back within a couple of weeks! and that the change would be backdated. I wish I could have faith, but I reckon this is going to get messy. I've already wasted 25 minutes of my time.

Yes, you buy by weight and that is how you should compare, in theory. As various industries describe it, there has been some settling of contents in this container of Vanish stain removing powder. It was only two thirds full. Why make the container one third larger than it needs to be? Surely not to be deceptive?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Melbourne Tram Tips

Our friend Victor is Sydney is about to visit Melbourne and no doubt he will travel on our trams. While Victor has used our Melbourne trams before, here are some tips for him and for others who might visit Melbourne and use our trams.

You have to buy a Myki card, a stored value card as is used by public transport systems all over the world. You can buy them from ticket machines, newsagents, 711s. That is, many many places. They cost $6, or $3 for concession folk and with the maximum full fare of $7.80, cheaper on weekends, in Melbourne for a day's travel on trains, trams and buses, it is not a bad deal at all. If you only use the system once for the day, you will pay the default fare of a two hour ticket at $3.90, much cheaper, but not so cheap if you travel for one stop and have to pay the default fare of a two hour ticket. There is nothing cheaper. That is what you pay and while the day ticket for multiple travel is cheap, a single trip to travel one stop is not.

You touch on. That means you hold the card steady at a reader. Most Myki readers are not very fast. Just be patient and don't wave your card around madly over the reader. That does not help. Hold it still where it is to be read.

When using trams, you must touch on your card. While you can touch off your card, there is no need. The system knows all about you if you touch on a tram with a card. You will pay the default two hour fare and if you touch on again more the two hours later, you will pay the day fare. If touching off your card makes you feel better, do it before the tram has stopped and the doors have started to close.

Yes, doors closing. With the exception of busy city tram stops, you need to be at the door and ready to get off the tram when it stops. You will be taken to the next stop if you stand up once the tram has stopped, try to touch off with you Myki and then get off the tram. Trams are moving beasts and they must move without delay.

There are heaps of customer service folk at major tram stops in the city, but if you need to ask the tram driver a question, keep it concise and direct. It is no good asking such vague questions such as 'where does this tram go?' The destination at the front, rear and both sides tells you this. 'How do I get to...?' is a good start. Note, add the important information, such as the words street, road or suburb. Asking for Fitzroy when you want Fitzroy Street in St Kilda will ensure you go wrong.

I have been left behind at stops, so take it from me, hail the tram, especially if the tram is operating on a street where multiple routes operate. Something like six tram routes pass The Highrise. Should I expect every tram to stop in case I want a tram for that particular route?

Leaving the tram; pull the cord or push the button or check by the indicator that someone else has, even if you are sure the tram will stop. No kittens will be tortured if someone has already done so. If you expected the tram to stop and it didn't because you did not put in the call, it is your fault and no one else's. I too have gone past my stop because I was engrossed in my phone. Again, that was my fault.

Mobile phones can be the enemy of successful tram travel. Which is more important to you at the time? But phones can be your friend for tram travel too. Download the Public Transport Victoria app to your phone, PTV and the Yarra trams app, Tram Tracker or the alternative, Tram Hunter which is my preferred choice for its simplicity. It is hardly objective, but I think the maps and other information on vehicles and at city tram stops are quite helpful to find your way. Another mea culpa. I nearly missed a tram because I was so busy looking at my phone to see when the next tram was due.

After some forty plus years of tram travel, how often I have heard the shriek and stumbling as a tram started off. Surprise! You are on a vehicle that moves. While trams aren't as smooth as trains, they are smoother than buses, but you still need to hang on unless you are young and fit and have good balance. Hand over hand as you move about a moving tram, handrails to hanging straps, or as a last resort a person who is hanging on. Choose a cute one, as I once did on a train as it swayed over a set of points.

Melbourne's tram drivers are quite used to avoiding hitting pedestrians. Why not give it a shot and walk in front of tram, or duck behind, like locals do? The locals mostly know what they are doing. You as a tourist do not. So, yes test out our tram driver skills, and perhaps our public hospital system shortly afterwards.

Boarding a tram. It is foolish to queue up to get on at the narrow front door when big wide doors are open further along the tram. It is not like you have to pay the driver as you board.

If you are an old person with a dodgy knee or lots of wrinkles, you probably will be offered a seat. Mind, if I am reading or looking at my phone or gazing distractedly out the window, I may not notice you.  If so, ask and public opinion will be on your side. If you sit near the front door of a tram, that is where all the oldies obsessively like to get on a tram,  expect to have to offer your seat.

At many city tram stops and some out of the city are live tram arrival displays. These are only accurate to around two minutes. If you are at a platform stop, then it will be a level surface to board low floor trams. The live tram display indicates by a wheelchair symbol that it is a low floor tram. The wheel chair symbol also means indirectly that the tram will have air conditioning, for heating and cooling.

When there are two trams at a city stop, the first one will be busy and unless you are in a mega hurry, consider getting on the second tram. You will probably get to your destination at the same time, but in much less crowded comfort. Weekdays, off peak, when visitors will be travelling, the trams for individual routes run at between every 8 to 12 minutes.

Our trams are a pretty good form of public transport, so enjoy riding on them but take some care too. As my father once said to me, a tram always rings its bell before it hits you.