Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New Toy Arrived

Bit busy playing with my new toy, so I maybe erratically absent for a bit.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Snow Slamming

I've seen people splashed by water where it has dammed up on tram tracks. I once received a good splashing by a passing car just down below The Highrise. Fortunately in Australia we don't really have snow in the areas where the vast population lives.

This looks quite nasty, in Rhinecliff, New York State.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A New Toy for Highriser

I am more annoyed with myself than anyone or anything. Something new is coming in the post. I ordered it about a week ago and it has an Australia Post tracking number. Unlike other couriers, Aus Post don't leave parcels in the mail room. If we are not home, it goes to the post office across the road, or on one recent stressful occasion, to the post office down the road.

Had I just been waiting for the delivery, I would have been more patient. At 6.30am today it was well and truly within Aus Post's system. By 9am I received notification that it was on its way with a delivery for today. Attempted delivery at 11:18am. We arrived home at 11.50am. There wasn't a card in the letter box for collection late at the post office across the road, but the way things now work, I think the card comes in the mail the next day. Tracking had reverted to delivery next day, not today.

We both worked out that the parcel should be there. I went to the Post Office, not there. The Post Office is a curious beast. It was once run by a father and son and was in Domain Road, but that closed and the same father and son opened the post office in a new building across the road. The father disappeared from the post office after a bit, but the son remained. He then seems to have sold the business to a new chap. The new chap suggested perhaps the parcel had been left at another St Kilda Road post office, so I hopped on the tram to the post office further down the road. No, not there. The experienced post office worker looked up, drilling down deeper into Aus Post's internet system than I could. It is at the post office across the road from you, he declared. Maybe they haven't fully unpacked their deliveries for the day.

I went back to the post office across the road. The new owner searched high and low, but no parcel for me. He looked on the internet and he seemed unable to bring up the site the professional post office worker could, which clearly said the parcel was at the post office across the road. To be fair, the chap across the road did all he could, including printing out what I can see on my desktop and phone. The chap across the road then asked me if I saw what the delivery person was wearing, to determine if Aus Post worker or a contractor. Apparently, from what he said, one takes the parcel back to the depot and the other leaves it at the post office for collection. Have you picked up what I just said? Did I see the delivery person? I mostly likely did not as I was not home to accept delivery, so how would have seen him? Yes, always a him, never a her.

I wish I had never bothered with the unreliable Aus Post tracking and just waited for the card in the letter box. Australia Post is now officially rubbish, which I expect is what our current conservative government wants. We will find private courier companies do things so much more efficiently than the emasculated Australia Post. We won't march on the streets to save Australia Post from privatisation, because we now hate it. You must admit, it is a pretty good tactic by our government. It was used back in the 1950s and 1960s as electric tram systems the world over were run into the ground by lack of money and the slack taken by wonderful shiny new buses, which in time proved to be a failure and now cities are going back to street rail transport.

I could say I am fucking well furious at such incompetence, but as I don't generally swear, I will just say I am very cross with Australia Post.

Emulsified high fat offal tube, chips and eggs on the side

Doesn't chlorinated chicken and hormone reared beef sound delightful? We probably eat both in Australia. I don't know about chlorinated chicken, but our livestock are given hormones. I won't go down the road of the joke about hormones. 'Tis enough to write whore moans. (Note to self, add sexism label so at least people who are offended understand the irony, or maybe just poor humour)

From The Guardian.

According to a document outlining the project, mistakenly published online by the IFT, the groups will “hash out an ‘ideal’ US-UK free trade agreement (FTA)” that includes Britain recognising US standards which are widely seen as weaker than those adopted by the EU. Such a move would allow imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone-reared beef to be sold in the UK for the first time.

It also advocates tearing up the EU’s “precautionary principle”, under which traders have to prove something is safe before it is sold, rather than waiting for it to be proved unsafe.

Yes, the British do complain about European standards being forced on them by the European Union, but Britain needs to be very careful about what it wishes for.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Selections - The goings on down below

Settle down. I mean below The Highrise. Joining in with River for Sunday Selections.

Not too long after we moved here, roads flooded. I remember seeing Melbourne Grammar boys wading and skylarking through the water.

Many years on, last year the same area flooded. I think the drainage has now been properly fixed. Time will tell.

It is reassuring to have the army protecting us and the synagogue, but truth be told, they were on their way to an Australia Day event and felt a hunger for McDonalds.

Cars blocking route 58 trams from turning into Toorak Road is an ongoing problem, or route 50late as I have heard, is an ongoing problem. There is often much furious gonging of the tram bell at such stupid people.

No, the traffic light post did not need holding up. It was the lad who needed holding up. He was very drunk and staggering around.

This one took the cake. The two car lanes to the left go in one direction. Somehow this idiot ended up in the middle of the tram lines in the wrong direction. A tram turned the corner and the van reversed back to let the tram pass and then made a U turn and went off in the correct direction for the road. How the van go there cannot be imagined.

The green domes of Prahran Central feature, formerly known as Moore's Corner Store and Charles Read's Emporium. My maternal great grandparents used to visit the store in the 1920s and 1930s. She in a pony trap with some of her thirteen children on board. He on his own in his motor car. Did they meet up and lunch? I don't know.

We have lift off.

Crepe Myrtles at The Royce. I am not fond of the bright pink variety, but I love the white ones. 

Taxi grief. Evidence of an terrible crash. Ok, I am being melodramatic. Maybe the bumper bar just fell off.

I heard a crunching of gears and a loud noise. I spun around to see a very old car crossing the intersection. R told me I just missed a show. She tried to climb over the fence at the tram stop and fell and the contents of her bag spilled all over the ground. She was so out of it and you may not be able to see it in the photo, but she had a lot of flesh showing. We waited for seven minutes for the tram and she spent the whole time trying to sort out her bag and its spilled contents. I've seen two other people jump this fence, one a bloke who did it successfully, the other, a young lass but not drugged or drunk, and the same thing happened to her, she crashed to the ground and spilled the contents of her bag. I'm not one for jumping the fence.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

La Boheme

I am such an Aussie bloke at times. I say this with no pride. R tells me he mentioned this to me three times and I did not pick up on it. Eventually after he said he refused to tell me again I did some research, and came up with the wrong thing, except he did not know that. He wanted to see La Boheme as an open air performance on the shores of Farm Cove in Sydney. This is surely the location where his English sister was married with the backdrop of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge when we were the wedding planners, ever so many years ago.

Wouldn't it have been so nice that on R's birthday in March, I could have presented him with the ticket for an April performance when I am on holidays and say, guess what? We are going to La Boheme in Sydney. Instead he did the booking of the performance, the flights and the single night of accommodation and I said, I will pay for your ticket for you birthday. I am just so also ran and pathetic. That is me.

I think I have been to an opera, perhaps Madame Butterfly, and it made me cry. It was many years ago and I can't really remember. Anyway, our friend in Sydney Victor is joining us to see La Boheme, so what fun! I've no idea what the opera is about and like I now never look at movie trailers, I am not looking up the opera La Boheme. It will be a surprise.

So yes, R booked our air fares and one night of accommodation, along with the tickets for the performance.

I do my share. I have booked us and our Hair Dresser Friend flights to Launceston to see our Dyke Friend, and dog Jack later in April. The day after we return it is HDF's birthday, so we will celebrate her birthday at Mudhole, or is that Mudcrab in Launceston. Mud something. We will stay with our friend for two nights. Originally it was going to be two weeks of touring Tasmania, but medical appointments and family birthdays mean we really have to be home and only go for the weekend.

Oh well, a little taste of Tassie is good, and surely will tempt us back for a longer visit. We loved our visit over a decade ago.

Wardrobe clean up #27, I came across this plastic bag from the last time we were Launceston. Prices were chicken feed. We were very amused at the time.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Australia's most wonderful health care

It looked like a shrink wrapped packet of olives, but on closer examination, it was chocolate covered confectionary from Haigh's Chocolates sitting on the fridge shelf. R generously allowed me to take four to work, as some comfort food.

I ate two and the filling of them stuck to my teeth. I thought, these gluey fillings are going to rip out my teeth fillings. I returned two to the packet and told R, I did not really like them, which I didn't, and that I thought they may rip out my fillings.

I went to bed and R stayed up later and ate another couple of his chocolates. The evening of the next day R said I was partly right. They did not rip out his fillings, but took off the top of one of his teeth which was now sharp and cutting into his tongue. The tooth repair, a cap, will be $1000, plus the adjacent tooth showed a crack in an xray, so that will be $2000.

He is now up to $7000 for medical expenses this financial year, and ok, he has had top medical people and the best of care, the best of hospitals and treatments at the time of his choosing, yet isn't the private health insurance premium we pay supposed to cover private health care? It seems not.

Had he have gone as a public patient, it would have all cost him nothing. But nothing timewise would be at a time or date he chose, and nothing was life threatening, just inconvenient and troublesome, so he would have been on a waiting list.  That is not to negate the seriousness of his issues.

I've done both public and private, and three times I was treated pretty well by the public system. It helps if you have a doctor who will speak up for you to the hospital. It is amazing what a phone call from a doctor can achieve. My private experience, with private health insurance, for surgery and a two night stay in hospital left me out of pocket for over $1,000. I may have had to wait for two or more months for the same surgery in a public hospital, and I rather wish I had.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Out after 9pm

Yes, it is rare for us to be out so late at night. Re-reading old diaries found during my wardrobe cleanup, I am amazed at how late we would stay up at times, and I would go to work the next morning at perhaps 6 o'clock.

Ex Sis in Law's husband found a cheap overnight stay in a city hotel and bought it for her as a Christmas present. Middle Niece went along too to share her mother's room and Fire Fighting Nephew and his wife booked the room next door. I thought it would be a nice thing to have a  bottle of bubbles (France tells us we are verboten from calling it champagne) and a platter of nibbles to be delivered to their room on arrival, so I rang the hotel. The bubbles, no problem. I will speak to chef about the platter of nibbles, said hotel staff. He came back on the line and said chef could prepare some pretzels to go with the champagne! Ok, that will have to do.

We met up with them at Arbory for pre dinner drinks. It is the longest bar in the world. That is a drinking bar/cafe, not a counter bar. It is the length of a long train platform, which is what it was, platform 11 at Flinders Street Station, once used by the St Kilda and Port Melbourne trains, that are now light rail/tram routes.

I took this photo as we were leaving. The place, as I have heard R's younger relatives in England say, was heavin'. The women were drinking decanters of Pimms, the sweetness combatted by citrus peel. R had a couple of Asahi beers and I had a couple of g&ts.

We walked across a bridge to Southbank and then a good way along to the Italian restaurant Baci. Both R and my eyes rolled in our heads as we saw the prices but no one else batted an eyelid. Proof #2 that we are old. As Nephew had bought bowls of chips to eat with our earlier drinks, R and I shared an antipasto dish and a garlic focaccia. Goodness, another pontoon bar on the river. Interestingly the chips came with tomato sauce for dipping, ketchup if you like, and a black sauce, from the US, that was very nice. It was thin and very spicy. Black sauce?

I was seated but the others weren't as a 'bicycle rave' went past. Nephew googled it and it happens twice a year. There were lots of music players pumping dreadful music out, but what fun.

From there Nephew found an underground bar, deep in the foundations of Crown Casino. The angled support structures caused some service difficulties but we had a lovely time, with more cocktails. R insisted we pay for dinner, over $300, as I sputtered, ah, umm, well...coming out of your inheritance.  Nephew paid for cocktails at the bar. I had a martini and never before have been asked if I wanted a vodka martini or a gin martini. Gin of course, not shaken. I don't want the gin bruised. It came without an olive! What brand of gin, I was asked? I couldn't remember my favourite gin, Gordons, but I could remember the name of Jah Teh's favourite gin, Bombay Sapphire, so that is what I had. 

We parted company at Queensbridge where the family caught the 58late tram to the north of the city where they were staying and we caught the 58late tram to home. From Facebook, they managed to find a laneway bar on their way back to the hotel and had another drink.

We were in town today to see a mock up of our new train and some brunch and walked along the river. Here are a couple of shots of Arbory, much quieter than when all hundreds of metres of it was packed full of people on Saturday night. 

The Arbory pontoon on the Yarra River. Packed on a Saturday night but empty on a Wednesday morning.

Good to get out and be social on a Saturday night, but the late night meant we did little the next day. Well, a little bit.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Equine Outrage

The second depressing post in one week. I will try to have something a bit cheery tomorrow.

Had this happened years ago, the recently departed this earth Dr Hugh Wirth would once have been seen in a news clip on tv thundering on about the outrageous deaths of 16 polo ponies.

As I have said in the past, I am not keen on horses but I never want to see them harmed. Polo ponies were transported using proper horse transport vehicles and the Spirit of Tasmania ferry to Tasmania for a competition but upon their return journey to the mainland and and then on to New South Wales, they nearly all died. Aside from it being very warm weather which could be relevant, the cause of the deaths is not known. Of course the deaths are under investigation and hopefully the cause will released to  the public and not swept under the carpet. Someone is responsible. Were the horses poisoned, was it a lack of care or was it a communicable disease?

The Spirit of Tasmania media manager person was straight to the offensive and immediately cleared itself of any blame. We don't allow people down on the livestock deck while sailing for security reasons, although exemptions can be made for veterinary treatment. Well, how will anyone know if an animal becomes unwell and need veterinary treatment if no one is allowed onto the livestock deck to check? It's security, says the management of the Spirit of Tasmania, but clearly not the security of the horses.

Now, of course the horses are not let loose on the ship to graze on hay or drink from troughs. They will have stayed in the horse floats. The lead time from when the horses were loaded onto trucks to the time when the Spirit set sail must have been at least two hours. The sea journey takes eleven hours, so we are up thirteen hours.

While I don't know when the horses' deaths were discovered, they were journeying on to NSW and the autopsy is happening in Albury on the border of Victoria and NSW. So add three more hours on the road to near Albury that they have been in the horse floats, plus one hour disembarkation from the Spirit. So what are we up to with my guesstimates? 2+11+1+3 = 17 hours in a horse float in stinking heat. I expect they died well before the 17 hours.

I can't imagine the practicalities of feeding and watering horses over such an extended period in very hot weather in a horse float, but surely that would be part of standard horse transport of great distances in heat? Surely?

It is always a safer and easier option to let the system take its course, but on this occasion I will call it. Criminal charges of some sort need to be laid against someone. Sixteen horses don't just fall down and die without good reason.

Later edit:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Bank

R: You know how my bank card won't work for tap and go. I've ordered a new one.

Me: Good. You are trying to go cashless, but how can you when your card won't work properly.

R: But they have cancelled my old card.

Me: I am sure you have another card to use.

R: I don't know that I do.

Me: My interest rates are very reasonable. 


My fingers did something on the keyboard and deleted today's post. How annoying. Here is a quickie then.

This classic apartment block in Adams Street, South Yarra looked set for demolition. This is post renovation, but it looked similar before the works began. We liked it.

The work was very slow, over at least two years or more, but eventually it all came together. R and myself chatted to one of the residents and she just loves her apartment and living there. The photo above is from street side. Below is what we see from The Highrise. Yes, yes, yes, renovate, reinvent, extend, adapt but don't demolish. Pretty stylish hey. I would hate to look at prices, but they would be mind blowing.

Monday, February 12, 2018

In memory of Aiden, Damien, Danielle and Freya.

From old diaries read after the wardrobe clean out. More to come.

Almost in another lifetime, R was a carer of disabled children and youth. Some were severely disabled, others not as extreme. Some were disabled from their mother's taking the evil Thalidomide for morning sickness during pregnancy.  Let me tell you about a few, and one very special one and the most awful way he died.

I came to know them, as staff would often take them home for a weekend or overnight to break the monotony of their lives, the children that is, not the staff. It was generous of staff to do so and as far as I know, there weren't any problems. Three staff and two quite disabled lasses, who could at least walk in a fashion, came to our house for a barbeque. As far as I can recall, both lasses, Freya and Danielle, died not too long later.

Totally helpless were two lads, Aiden and Damien. Aiden was about eight years old but the size of a two year old and totally dependant on staff for him staying alive. I think at times he maybe tried to use his eyes to communicate but was generally unresponsive. We used to lie him in a beanbag in the lounge room. He had fine blond hair and an angelic face. His mother used to see him once a week, but he never showed any sign of recognition. It was not too long after R left that job that he died of natural causes.

Damien stole our hearts. He was no more than a metre tall, totally helpless, with a freckled face and curly black locks of hair. He knew more of what was happening around him than Aiden, although he was completely unable to move or communicate. He would readily smile, and at times giggle. He was about fourteen when I came to know him, when R first brought him home for a sleepover.

He was a mature teenager trapped in a tiny body with very little brain function. Or course I did not participate in the messy part of their care, of which there was much. R took it all in his stride. Once we were taking Damien out somewhere, perhaps a walk in the park, where he would be in a lightweight wheelchair. I was drumming my fingers in the car, ready to go. What is taking so long? I went back inside and R said, Damien's got an erection and I can't get his nappy on.

Damien was not a victim of Thalidomide. He we deprived of oxygen when he and his twin were born, by being strangled by the umbilical cord. His parents were nice people. They looked after Damien when he was very young. On a family outing to a large water storage dam, they looked after Damien so well, they failed to notice his normal twin brother toddler walking towards the dam waters. Damien's twin brother drowned.

Damien also had chronic chest problems and had to always be put to sleep on his side, otherwise he we suffocate or drown in his own fluids.

At the age of 17 Damien went into a major hospital for a hip operation to make him more comfortable. Staff informed the hospital that he must be always left on his side to sleep. A note was also slapped on his bed. I don't know if it was before the operation or after, but what did the hospital staff do? Left him to sleep on his back and he choked or drowned in his own fluid and died. General nurses and doctors are not clued up on care for the severely disabled but the care for him had been reinforced. This was all so long ago. If it happened now, there would be hell to pay and there should have been back then. To say R was distressed by the unnecessary premature death of Damien is to understate.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Commonwealth Games Baton

In advance of the Gold Coast Empire Commonwealth Games the baton is travelling through our municipal area tomorrow. It is then transported to the Bellarine Peninsula and Bone Doctor will run with the baton for a kilometre or so in the Borough of Queenscliffe. I expect she earned the privilege because of her high level of fitness and unpaid volunteer contributions to the community where she and Sister live. It would have been nice to see her run and cheer her on, but it is a working day for me tomorrow.

Oh my Queenie, your baton does look rather odd.


The wardrobe clean out #5

There comes a time when a bloke has to do what he has to do and hang up his high heels. I barely passed the drag test when I was younger. I am well past it all now. I don't know that I ever paid for anything pictured. It was all given in free spirit as an encouragement to participate. I liked my heels better when when they were black, red and silver. They began life as black patent leather. I dragged up about four times in my life. It was fun, but also hard work. Drag queens have my utmost respect for their dedication to duty.

I have quite enjoyed destroying some of my history. The 1990s computer tips have been goned, along with hand written web addresses and email addresses. I can't imagine now why I wrote them down, from today's perspective. I did read an old tip that if you hold down the shift key, your computer will restart. That doesn't work now, if it ever did. Maybe it did in Windows 3.195.

I didn't take a before photo here, but how much better is is now, cleared out. The Pierre et Gilles calendar might be worth a couple of bob. I think that was won from Joy Melbourne. There are some other calendars with personal meanings to me that I kept. Don't ask what is the shoe box, or in my bedside cupboard. The are part of my history that are no longer relevant, but I can't bear to be rid of them. You have to save some stuff for the future to be rid of.

Two absolutely full crates have been reduced to one lightly filled one. Travel brochures, work stuff, Mother's letters, goned.

All goned to one lightly filled crate. Forty years worth of theatre programmes, kept.

The bag of Mother's letters, goned.

Proof about the length of Mother's letters, page 19 but there was an extra sheet as well.

Real estate brochures, goned except for those for our own places and that of friends, which have been moved into the filing cabinet.

What is up in this crate? The label says Diaries, Magazines and IT. It does not say drag paraphernalia, but that was there too.

Much neater and now holding other bits of important stuff that were lying around in other parts of the wardrobe.


1990s computer tips, goned.

Not quite goned as I will have a flick through them, two PC User magazines from the 1990s. They came with free cds. A couple of years earlier, they would have been free floppy disks.

About six issues of Outrage Magazine, still kept in the hope that they may be useful as a piece of history. I expect the Lesbian and Gay Archives already have more than one copy of all. Also, one copy of OG magazine from the 90s, nice work Ian. Somewhere on bookshelves are a number of copies the British magazine The Face, including the one that outed Jason Donovan and then had to pay big time when he sued. We will never see such high quality magazines again.

Ikea and Freedom Furniture catalogues dating back to 1994, yes one per year until a couple of years ago. It is amazing how little Ikea furniture has changed over two plus decades.

Yeah, no, really, well, I can't do much about this drawer.

Lavazza Coffee calendar in behind, won from Joy Melbourne ever so many years ago. Is it chicks showing bosoms? I doubt I would have kept it if it was. I can't remember and it is too hard to get out. Note, one crate is goned. When we recarpeted, Sister said, it is exactly the same colour. She was wrong, as you can see between the old and the newer, and it was a mass slaughter of  nylons to make our old carpet, not so many nylons in our present carpet, just more (hopefully) humanely shorn sheep wool.

I tried with the other side of the shelf, but very little reduction. A picnic set and a Thermos set given to me by work I foolishly consulted R about and he implored me to keep them. I would have chucked them out. I see treasured audio cassettes that I doubt I will ever listen to again, but note, our sound system is so old it does have a cassette player. The never used portable outdoor chairs have you sitting almost on the ground. It was not long ago that I decided we should keep them, well a few years perhaps. R and perhaps me to extent might have to do the undignified roll over to get up from them now. Our wicker sewing basket, used often enough by me to sew on a button on that is falling or has fallen off. My button sewing work may not be beautiful, but the button will stay in place until at least the year 3,000.  

There is also a stack of cds or dvds on the right. I have no idea what they are. Ah, I have remembered now. They were old..........err, umm, movies of a certain kind, transferred from video tape to dvd. Why did I bother? The quality would be awful. Joey Stefano did die, didn't he. I think Lon Flexx did too. Jeff Stryker?

The interior of all of our wardrobes could do with a clean and paint, and as happy homemakers of the past, it would have been done. Guess what. They can stay as they are. I am on the slippery downhill slide of not noticing spillage of something down the kitchen cupboards or on my own shirt.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Free ad for BOM

Phone apps for weather, I have experienced many and never liked any terribly much. Some did some things well but other things not so well. Vice versa with others.

Why doesn't the Australian Bureau of Meteorology have an app? BOM didn't but it has now and it is brilliant, surpassing all other weather apps I have come across. If you are Australian or have an unhealthy interest in Australian weather, download it now to your smartphone. You won't be sorry.

Friday, February 09, 2018

I scarcely believe it myself

To my shame I could not immediately remember her name, that blogger in the US who died.......last year......year before? Then it came to me, Jacqueline. I still feel sad. Ah well, what to do. Miss her but move on.

Right, time to get stuck into Yahoo Mail, which is most deleting things unread at five different Yahoo accounts, all easy to do on the phone without having to log in and log out. Mucho  deletion. Finger slipped and the email list went back in date to 2016. Wow, that is funny. Here I was earlier thinking about Jacqueline and blow me down, here is an old email from her in 2016. It was very private and personal and detailed the circumstances of her leaving Idaho for Florida. I reread the long email.

How long is it actually since she died? I entered Jacqueline into my blog search box. The first post that came up was when she suffered the stroke, the second, when she died. So what was the date? Ah, 9th of February, 2017. I looked up and the wall clock but as the date on the clock is American format, it did not really register, that is 2/9. Translated, 9/2.

I was then distracted by a phone. Now, where was I? Ah yes, the dates. As realisation dawned on me, my flesh crawled and contracted and I could feel my head being squeezed by my skin.

Why of all days would I think of Jacqueline on the first anniversary of her death, especially to the point of looking it up?

I don't believe in spooks or the supernatural or anything like that, so all I can say is that it is a extraordinary coincidence. I expect I will spend the afternoon trying to rationalise this and I certainly wouldn't blame anyone for being doubtful about what happened. I would be myself.

Jac, you are not really there sending me signals, are you? Am I too cynical?

Meanwhile in Switzerland

A very nasty result when a truck crashed into a tram in Basel, Switzerland. But trams are still an extremely safe way to travel.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Wrong way, again

There is no doubt about it. It is is a character fault of mine and while I know my fault in this area, I continue to fail, as I did this Sunday past.

A hotel venue was the place for Little Em's second birthday. There must have been 50 people there for her birthday, but we knew about 15 of them, nearly all family. The other guests, child creche friends and parents, I suppose.

Of course it was great to mix with family, but the venue wasn't great. It was so noisy and so busy. The hotel had recently had a $6 million renovation and has the most amazing children's play area, but young children = noise and chaos.

That morning, before we left, I did a quick check of the electric map. Ah, I know where that is. Time and time again I have done this, thinking I am in a familiar area and not bothering to check properly. Well, it wasn't where I thought it was and I turned right from Eastlink into a major road where I should have turned left. My thorough incompetence resulted in perhaps a delay of 15 minutes to our arrival. Fortunately we left home early and so were still on time. Why do I only ever check properly when I am totally unfamiliar with an area?

We had some fun with birthday girl Little Em, along with her older sister Little M. Little M is nearly four and becoming challenging but so much fun. While the twin's mother, Hippie Niece, had been given a weekend off to attend a music festival (what are The Waifs?), Ex Sis in Law, their grandma, brought them along and it took some time for them to settle to the noisy environment and all these strange people, but they did and started smiling and laughing. They are about ten months old and so heavy. They are going to be solid Islander girls, and I reckon thoroughly gorgeous.

For those with local knowledge, we were very near the late Dame Elizabeth's (Rupert Murdoch's mother) Cruden Farm. Going the wrong way did give me the opportunity to get R to take this snap of some roadside art.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Download This Show

The always interesting ABC programme, which I listen to as a podcast, Download This Show, is about technology. I love technology. I loved learning that erratic drivers will be able to totally screw up driverless cars. I know you can make them brake. Can you make them swerve or stop entirely when you brake in front of them.

DTS also confirmed to me what I expected. If you visit a holiday booking site and don't book, when you return the next day, it will have a higher price.  I thought that came from your IP address, but apparently it is by cookies planted on your computer. It is not so hard to beat cookies. You can delete cookies or use a different web browser.

DTS then discussed Grindr, a gay hook up app with 3.3 million users. I would have hoped that gay dating ads as were seen in gay newspapers and magazines that said 'no Asians' was a thing of the past, but apparently not. However Grindr has been addressing the matter. I didn't really hear how, but it it is simple enough to state your preference in a non negative manner. Usually, so I am told, you have the opportunity to check box racial types you like when you fill in your profile. At my age, all I would say is, male. Not really true. I would rather go without, and I do because actual sex with men is part of my history, not terribly relevant to my current life, although one does experience twinges at times. But normally it is a matter of I just can't be bothered. I see this one real benefit of being older. As one quite old female workmate very many years ago said, at my age I'd rather have a beer and a cigarette.

Grindr has been mega successful and made a heap of money for its inventors, from both advertising and a premium paid subscriptions which gives your more and enhanced features.

Yeah, I knew all this already. But what I did not know was that a Chinese company had bought a controlling interest in Grindr quite some time ago.

Grindr controlled by China? I am alert and alarmed. Couldn't the Chinese government tell one of their hundreds of thousands of internet censors to get records of a certain person's Grindr history?

One of the guests, who sounded gay himself, ever so naively assured the host it wouldn't be a problem. How naive was he? Well, he said that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about. Well, tell that to Rohingya Moslems in Burma. Tell that to Australian gay men who born before 1970. Tell that to Jews of mid 20th century Europe. Nothing to hide? Only what you are and cannot change.

Yes, Mat Beeche, I am not impressed. And you Marc Fennell should have really challenged him more on the point.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The UP Express

My golly gosh. Isn't it so good to have fast  train when you go to or arrive at an airport to get to the middle of town. Some of Australia's cities have them, but not the second biggest city in Australia, that is Melbourne. For some reason governments have decided it is not their responsibility. What was a 20 minute bus trip to airport at an usurious cost of the airport bus of around $17 one way. The 20 minute trip time has blown out to up to 50 minutes because of traffic congestion on the freeway and at the airport. The cost of the train is similar in Sydney, but the trip there is by train and by my experience, it is fast and reliable. Marcus Wong tells you about his experience of Melbourne's airport bus here.

In Toronto, Canada's largest city,  a newly built a limited express train from the airport to the main city Union Station had just opened when we visited a couple of years ago. You can read of our arrival to Toronto and using the train here, but here is a snip from what I wrote then.

A new limited express train to the main railway station had only begun service last month. I looked around in vain for someone or a machine to buy a public transport card, called Presto and I could not find anything. Although we knew we would pay a premium price for buying a normal ticket, we did so from a machine. My one way fare was CA$27. With the Presto card, it would have been $19. I was a little annoyed but as we discovered later, the system has not been fully rolled out.

I think it was late afternoon when we caught the train. Being new, it was very clean and rather quiet in the number of users. Early days.

It felt uncomfortably warm in the train. At the first stop the train sat for five minutes and it was clear the timetable would not be met. I believe the train was shut down to reset the air conditioning as when we finally moved, lots of lovely cool air flooded in.

The early ridership numbers were dismal. It was very quiet when we travelled on the train, admittedly a very new service. We as good as had a carriage to ourselves.

When it opened in June 2015 its first passenger numbers for the month were around 2,800. It dropped the next month and by January 2016 there was something like 13 people on average per train, on one day at least. Build it and they will come was an absolute failure.

What to do? While it was a public private partnership, the government was covering the high losses. The usual excuses were pumped out, lack of awareness. More advertising. Making sure people realise the benefits. Nothing was mentioned about the extremely high cost of travelling on the Union Station to Pearson Airport Express, that wasn't an express train anyway. At best it could be described as a quickish suburban train.

But then traveller numbers had tripled by June 17. Why so? Essentially the fares were cut in half, and if you had public transport card, Presto, you were only paying $9 from the Pearson Airport to Union Station, and $12 by cash.

Some argue, perhaps with some right, that the train should just be part of the normal Toronto public system and fares charged as appropriate to public transport.

I can't find later ridership figures than mid 2017, but the train line has also become part of some people's daily commute between interim stations. The UP Express has become so busy that commuters using the few intermediate stations need to be corralled to wait for free spaces while airport travellers are given priority.

The line is actually referred to as the up express, not the U P Express. I think there are some very salient lessons to be learnt from Toronto's UP Express experience.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Bye bye Dr Wirth

So sad to hear of the death of the old curmudgeon Dr Hugh Wirth AM. Dr Wirth has died of Parkinson's Disease at the age of 78.

On ABC talkback radio, he could be very forthright and critical, even to the host of the programme when she queried him about a cat problem she was having. He was on air for over two decades as a vet giving on air advice. In 1997 he was Victorian of the Year.

Hugh never married and a partner has never been mentioned, and for a few years he was a judge at Dulcie Du Jour's dog show competition at Melbourne's gay and lesbian Midsumma Carnival. Make of that what you will. I don't really make much of it.

His real achievements have been the improvement of animal welfare, from stopping dog tail docking, to the stopping of export of horses for slaughter in Japan. I personally remember he was against shock collars that were used on dogs to stop 'inappropriate' barking.

He was president of the RSPCA,  Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Victoria) for over forty years and for a time president of the world wide body, World Animal Protection.

Vale Dr Wirth. You did well with your time on earth, by reducing cruelty to animals, by your arguing for the practical welfare for farm animals and least of all, the love of your pets.