Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The visiting currawongs

Birds seen from the balcony:

Unidentifiable bird of prey
Yellow tailed black cockatoos

Unwelcome birds landing on the balcony:

Indian mynah
Pigeon or dove

Good birds landing on the balcony:

Sulphur crested cockatoo
Butcher bird

Birds landing on someone else's nearby balcony:

Long billed corella

And now the latest. Remember how I said I'd recently noticed the call of currawongs for the first time, although others commented they have been around for a long time. Well, here we go. Currawongs are now added to the list. They seemed to balcony hopping, probably looking for spiders. We surface spray our balcony railings to discourage spiders, but once the spray wears off, spiders quickly return. I sure other balconies have very high spider populations.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The people, oh the people

In about 1982 we were living in East Malvern and traffic was quite heavy in Waverley Road where it joined Malvern Road. A year or two later the South Eastern Freeway was extended further inward to Toronga Road and lo and behold, the traffic in Waverley Road was gone. How good are freeways! Yet, a decade or more later I was in the area and inexplicably, Waverley Road was even worse than it had been ten years earlier. That is two lanes of inbound to the city traffic sitting stationary. Why aren't they on the freeway? Oh, that is two lines of stationary traffic too.

Then came City Link, which is marvellous unless you want to use it in peak times. My teeth gnash as I sit in stationary traffic and know I am paying directly from my pocket for the experience. Liberal Party politicians are fond of saying, what would Melbourne be like without City Link and a widening of the pay roads they took over from the government that were previously free to use. I would suggest during peak times, the traffic would be no worse.

I think it was before City Link when the Ring Road opened. Almost from day one it was disaster. It wasn't too long before it had to be remade and widened, and is still a horrible road to drive on and is regularly congested.

The Calder Interchange on the Tullarmarine Freeway used to get horribly congested and the government spent millions re-designing it and the design was good. But guess what. It now gets horribly congested.

The government spent a huge amount and caused a long period of inconvenience while it had the Monash Freeway widened and improved. Yep, that would be the road you sit on in your barely moving car. 

Sister was the first person to drive me along the new Hallam bypass some years ago. We agreed, two lanes in each direction did not allow for an increase in traffic and my hasn't traffic increased, to the point where cars more often than not in peak traffic are stationary.

Let's build a bypass around Geelong. Well, many cars use it, but traffic along the main route through Geelong but I would suggest it is no better and just as congested as ten years ago.

But this is the clincher for me. When we first moved to The Highrise some Friday nights the traffic would get into a horrible mess, with traffic banked up down St Kilda Road and and cars from Toorak Road blocking up the intersection and I thought it was a bank up of traffic trying to get onto the West Gate Freeway. When the entrance to the West Gate Freeway was redesigned and built at a huge cost and with the addition of massive flyovers, I thought the problem would be solved. It was not. The traffic below The Highrise is in a mess every night now. It is the sheer volume of traffic. My journey time from work to home has increased immensely. I am really not happy.

A huge expenditure on public transport is needed, but that will only ameliorate the problem. The real problem is the the huge population growth, mostly from immigration, permanent and non permanent. While a higher birth rate is regularly mentioned, what is not pointed out is that is immigrants with the higher birthrate.

Australia has built its economy, and quite successfully so far, on a Ponzi scheme of huge population growth.  Meanwhile, we suffer a lowering of our living standards by such a high population growth. Ponzie schemes eventually collapse and I have no reason to think Australia won't at some point in the future. Eventually our major cities transport systems will just grind to a halt, that is the roads, the trams and the trains.

The answer? Stop population growth. It will mean a collapse of many industries and as we are a rich country, we will assist all of those affected. We then catch up on infrastructure by borrowing money at very low interest rates because we can and then perhaps think about increasing our population.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Myki for visitors

If you are a visitor to Melbourne or parts of Victoria and you want to use public transport, you need a Myki (money) card. You can buy these from machines around the city at tram stops, at railway stations and from newsagents and convenience stores for the cost of $6 for an adult card or $3 for concession and seniors.

Put some credit on the card when you buy it and touch the card on when you board a train, tram or bus, and touch it off when you leave a train or bus. There is no need to touch off when you leave a tram as the fare charged automatically defaults to the minimum payable*. That is all you need to know really. You don't need to know how it works. It just does. Make sure you hold the card still and not look like a tourist by waving or moving the card all over the place.

How much money to put on your Myki? Adult $25 will last you three days and allow you to travel on public transport each day for the day. $12 would be enough for people of a certain age for the same. 

Ok, you want to know a bit more. The fares that will be deducted will be either a two hour fare or a daily fare. It does not matter which form of public transport you are using. The system is inter connected for all trains, trams and buses and within the two hours or within the day, it does not matter how many times you use public transport or what type of vehicle (note that, Sydney).

These prices are for an adult and seniors or pensioners are correct at this date. There is not a concession or senior's fare for overseas visitors excepting child fares. Interstate visitors with a State Seniors Card can buy concession tickets as can interstate age pension card holders.

Full fare first then concession and seniors fare for travel in Zone 1 which covers an area of about twelve to twenty kilometres, or seven to twelve miles, radiating from the city centre.

2 hour $3.58 and $1.79
Daily $7.16 and $3.58

Weekends and public holidays:

$6 capped full fare and concession as above. Victorian seniors travel free on weekends. Interstate seniors pay concession fare.

* It becomes a little more complicated if you only travel in zone 2 on a tram, but few visitors to Melbourne ever will.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Countdown's 40th

The child me always urged my Pop to get home by six o'clock Sunday night from what inspired outing we had been on to watch Zig and Zag on tv. The young adult me urged R and our friends to get home by six o'clock Sundays to watch Countdown. I expect we chatted through the boring bits and most of it was, with very second rate pop performers, but for the all the dross, it was memorable on so many occasions.

ABC TV has shown the first part of their 40th anniversary tv show of Countdown, hosted by the marvellous Julia Zemiro. I an not sure if I want to thank our ABC or accuse them for milking the show for all its is worth so many years later. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the anniversary show and I was there at the time, watching the screen. While you may hear 'f*** my bitch' in modern pop songs and see extraordinarily overt gyrations by scantily clad women on tv now, it was not so back in the days of Countdown. It was all done in such good taste with nary a reference to anything sexual as you can see in this brief clip. Did this go to air? I don't remember it. I think I would.


Part 2 of the Countdown anniversary show screens tonight on our ABC.

I think the already poor quality video has been further reduced once uploaded to blogger. I will add this You Tube video which will be deleted in a couple of days.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Little Joisms

Sister was away in the Northern Territory with her school boys. Bone Doctor was looking after Little Jo on her own. Bone Doctor is not a natural as domestic goddess but she she can cook a basic meal. Bone Doctor had done some shopping and bought bread for Little Jo's school lunch sandwiches but the bread was missing. Little Jo said, oh well, I will just have to buy my lunch at school tomorrow. The bread was found later under Little Jo's bed.

Bone Doctor and Little Jo arrive at Mother's at 6pm. Little Jo complained at the suggestion of having chicken for dinner so Bone Doctor bought pizza for dinner for Little Jo, Mother and herself.

Next morning at 6am Bone Doctor leaves Mother's home to participate in a competitive bike ride. Mother is now in charge of Little Jo and responsible for her.

At 11am Sister arrives and takes Mother and Little Jo to an apartment on Phillip Island for an overnight stay.

What happened between 6am and 11am? Mother asked, Little Jo, can you help me water the garden? No Nanny, I will stay here watching tv. I get allergies when I am outside in the morning.

When Sister arrived at 11, she asked Mother what Little Jo had for breakfast. Left over pizza, Mother said. Sister exploded at Mother.

Nevertheless, all three enjoyed their brief visit to Phillip Island.

(Note to self. Ensure Little Jo has a healthy breakfast next Sunday)

Mother told me over the phone this week that once home, on Monday Little Jo was a bit reluctant to go to school. "Mummy, my tummy hurts and my ankle is sore." Exactly as Mother complained to her to her on the Saturday morning. 

I've not finished yet.

I spoke to Mother last Sunday and Tradie Brother and Hippy Niece were there, fixing up the front of her crumbling house that she refuses to leave.

"Andrew, you know how Little Jo keeps forgetting to put on underwear, she did it again at Phillip Island (and Little Jo does like to wear dresses). Because of the rash I have developed down there, Hippy Niece has advised me to leave my knickers off and I have. I was hanging out the washing and it was a bit breezy."

That is way too much information Mother. Is it not bad enough that I have to listen to tales of your bowel problems.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dear PM

To the Honourable Tony Abbott, MP, Prime Minister of Australia.

There Sir, I have addressed you correctly Prime Minister Abbott. Perhaps you may care to read this.

From the age of four when I first went to school, I was exposed to the ABC, via the loud speakers in the classroom. Perhaps it was the Children's hour. I really can't recall. By the age of seven, I was watching Felix the Cat on our ABC and being spooked by Dr Who. As an older teenager, I was watching Countdown on our ABC. By my early twenties I had discovered ABC radio. Not long after, I really discovered the brilliance of ABC TV and in the subsequent years both radio and tv went from strength to strength and wow, how well has it stepped into the digital age.

I trusted you when you said before you were elected that you would not cut funding to my ABC. But you lied and have cut funding. It has being very interesting to observe how your ministers attempt to explain the cuts, phrasing them as savings that need to be made, rather than cuts. You know and I know, that is a load of tosh. You have cut ABC funding and you said you would not.

Absurdly, your extreme right Minister Pyne is involved in a Face Book group to save facilities from cuts to our ABC in Adelaide.  My eyes really did roll at that.

Well Prime Minister, others have cut the ABC budget before you and ended up in grief but some have increased the ABC budget and still ended up in grief. I expect the ups and downs of budgets for our ABC as part of the political process. But why did you lie?

And now to Managing Director of our ABC. Mark Scott, any time I have heard you speak, I have been impressed by you. You are are living in difficult times. If the suggestion that we will no longer have state editions of 7.30 on Friday nights is a ploy to create agitation against the cuts, it is working because I am extremely concerned.

I will put it simply, do not cut our once a week state editions of 7.30. It is already obvious the local editions work on a shoestring. There surely can't be much saved there.

This whirred and that clanked

River in Adelaide has mentioned Blackeby's Sweet Shop in the past, but I did not quite know how interesting the shop might be. It is located in James Place, just off Grenfell Street with some branches elsewhere. At this time of the year animated Christmas windows are appearing in many stores, but this one launched in October 2011 is a permanent display. Pretty good, hey.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vote early, vote often

Life at The Highrise has changed somewhat since R retired, not in a good or bad way, but just different. Mostly he is home when I have a weekday off and so I am not as free to just go off on my own and roam the streets with camera in hand. Sometimes he may have something to do on that day and so I still get out on my own, but often he now comes with me and it is nice to have the company, but it does dictate some of what I do, especially taking photos. I know he gets exasperated with the photo taking and I am afraid I take rather less photos and spend less time getting the angle or the light correct. Who said 'really, I had not noticed that you do'?

I had two things I wanted to do, which turned into three things. R had to be home by 1.30pm to get ready to go to his volunteer place AGM. We fitted it all in and lunch as well.

We caught the tram to Linden Gallery in Acland Street and saw its annual post card exhibition which is small works by I should think unknown artists. The prices ranged from $35 to $650 and the price was no indication to me as to whether I liked the work or not. I really liked a couple of $35 pieces but they had already been sold.

I found myself reading through this party shopping list and initially noticed nothing untoward. I read the very apt title of the work last.

We left by tram to Hotham Street and then caught a bus to High Street and walked through the very pleasant Victoria Gardens. Photos another day. It was a park I had never seen although passed it by so many times. Another thing ticked off the infinite list. We headed towards Chapel Street through Prahran's back streets and came out opposite the ever popular Tran Bakery. The wait wasn't too long and we sat outside to eat our salad rolls and drink coffee as the parade of Chapel Streets types strolled or walked briskly by. The noise of cars, trucks and trams bothered us not at all.

Now I had the foresight to look up before we went out as to where we could cast an early vote in our new State electorate of Prahran and it was just short distance away in Chapel Street. I often have to work on election day, but this year I have not even checked and you are no longer asked a reason for you wanting to vote early, so vote we did.

The sitting Liberal Party member, Clem Newton-Brown was in attendance and he is a pleasant enough fellow. I thought of reminding him he made a comment or two on my blog while we were having a brief chat, but I decided not to. We also had a chat to the Labor candidate, Neil Pharaoh. I don't know if the Greens candidate Sam Hibbins was there or not. I didn't see him. We were home just after 1pm.

I will call the seat now. Newton-Brown will be re-elected with an increased vote. He has developed a very high profile. He seems to keep his distance from the more controversial aspects of the Liberal Government. He works hard for his electorate and is respected by many people, political foe or not. Labor will not do so well because many of its traditional voters will vote Green, although probably select Labor as their second preference in the lower house. 

I think we have done quite well in the looks department of our candidates.   In no special order the main candidates for the state seat of Prahran:

Green's Sam Hibbins.

Labor's Neil Pharaoh.

Liberal's Clem Newton-Brown.

It is not relevant to how I voted, by while writing this and getting names correct, I note Sam Hibbins is a local councillor for City of Stonnington. Quell surprise. Stonnington covers some of the richest areas of Melbourne. That really surprised me. I was not so surprised to learn Neil Pharaoh is gay.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

417 St Kilda Road

This benign looking building in St Kilda Road viewed from our balcony is undergoing a renovation. It was built around 1990 and the site of a lot of industrial strife. It is extraordinary to me that this serious industrial dispute happened under a Labor state government.

The union known as the Builders Labourers Federation had been de-registered but despite this, the people of the BLF maintained a presence and influence on building sites.  At 417 St Kilda Road, Leighton Constructions retrenched 76 workers and tried to bring in new workers. The BLF formed a non official picket line, that is one not endorsed by the peak Victorian trade union body, Trades Hall. It was lead by unionist the late John Cummins and the picket line was not recognised by Victoria Police. 

There were baton charges by police on horseback at the picketers. Steel nuts and bolts were thrown at arriving concrete delivery trucks by the picketers. Private security guards were brought in from Tasmania and the dispute went on for months. I can recall driving past and seeing the workers huddled over braziers with hot drinks in their hands. They kept up the fight, with a huge number of police devoted to the site, draining the police force's manpower and budgets. 

The leader of the dispute was charged many times with being illegally on a building sites after the BLF was de-registered and bailed many times on the condition he stay off building sites, which he ignored. At the time of the St Kilda Road dispute, he was gaoled for contempt of court, adding further to the workers anger.

Here is a quote from the CFMEU website,

John Cummins was sent to jail for going on site, and after completing his first stint, he came straight out and back onto the picket line, which was at that stage in its ninth week.

For John, it didn’t matter to him that he was breaking the law, because he thought the law was wrong. In a leaflet published at the time of his second jailing he wrote: ‘The fact is the law upholds this system of screwing the greatest possible profit out of workers so the rich can get richer and the poor, poorer. The courts’ role is to make sure that the whole thing works smoothly.’

Nothing truer and it is as bad if not worse in 2014 with workers pay and working conditions under constant threat and attack by not only Liberal (conservative) governments but Labor governments too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One country, many cards

There is almost nothing in common with each of our states or cities electronic public transport cards bar one thing. They are all subject to a lot of complaining and whinging.

Melbourne's Myki card seems to have been the most expensive to implement in Australia and the most complained about. Personally we don't have issues with the day to day use of our cards. We have about six Myki cards, one for me, one for R, one for Little Jo when she visits, all registered to our names, and three others, all found or discarded by someone at some point. When found one had a negative balance, one had a couple of dollars on it and one had $35 dollars on it. We save these for visitors who don't have or have forgotten their Myki card. I keep about a $10 balance on each card, enough for a day ticket. These were all unregistered cards. It is worth your while having a registered card if you are prone to losing things.

Public transport advocate Daniel Bowen recently visited Sydney and tried out their newish Opal card system. It is an interesting read. He seemed to think the card was good, but I would use stronger language about Sydney's fare system than he does. It is rubbish. It makes public transport expensive and the fare system is very complicated. My eyes glaze over when I try to understand it but to get the best from the system, understand it you must.

Melbourne's Myki.

Brisbane's Go.

Sydney's Opal.

 Canberra's My Way.

Perth's Smart Rider.

Lastly Tasmania's Green Card. This is the only private photo I have used from someone's blog and Tania writes a interesting piece about her introduction to Hobart's public transport buses and quite a bit about how things work in Hobart.

Oops, I nearly left out Adelaide's Metro Card.