Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tram Upgrade

Melbourne's marvellous B Class trams have been upgraded. They were our first articulated trams (two sections, bending in the middle), the first trams with air conditioning and by far our most comfortable tram ever, far more so than the newer current models. They are smooth, quiet and with well padded seats. However, they are getting on a bit in years with the first built in 1988. Of about the 500 trams running in Melbourne, they make up 130 of the fleet.

They are not without their problems though. One is easily solved, the at times badly adjusted air conditioning. There are two separate systems, so if you find it too hot or too cold in one section, move to the other. There are steps to get into the trams, making them difficult trams for the lesser abled to use. Their destination displays are difficult to read.

The steps are not a problem that can be easily solved and for this reason they will be retired when the disability access for public transport year arrives. There has already been one extension, giving plenty of time for them to be retired. The year 2022 comes to mind as an early date, maybe now extended to 2030.

Gimmicky, but LED lights have replaced the normal step lights. The real problem with the step lights is that they do not come on until the doors are fully opened, only lighting the way for the slower people.

Before the latest upgrades, many, if not all, B Class trams had seats removed and the curiously named Apollo seating installed. Effectively it means bum rests in areas near the doors, giving space for prams etc.

One of the great upgrades is new destination displays, brighter and much easier to read from a distance and at night, and with more detail in the display about where the tram is travelling to and naming the major street it travels along.

With the arrival of the French made Citadis trams by Alstom and German Combino by Siemens trams in early 2000s, so arrived automated stop announcements. For some reason the next stop information was soon turned off in the Citadis trams and the announcements in the Combino trams were so appalling inaccurate, they should have been turned off too. There was a bit of a joke going around that given the female voice making the announcements was making them from the Siemens base in Munich, she didn't do too badly with her lack of local knowledge. These bad tram purchases from France and Germany were made under Dictator Premier Kennett's rule of Victoria. I mostly travel on the Siemens trams and they are horrible. The Alstom trams are perhaps not quite as bad. While the tram next stop announcements have much improved, they are still far from perfect. In our high tech times, it is difficult to understand why.

It is extraordinary to recall that we had two competing tram companies, one that ran the north/south routes and the other the east/west routes. What sort of competition is that?

The B Class trams now have next stop audio and visual displays installed and they are pretty good. The next stop is announced but if you have pulled the cord or pressed the button for the next stop, the announcement changes from 'the next stop is...' to 'tram stopping at...'. The announcement includes the stop number and other information where appropriate. There does seem to be a bit of an issue in the city where perhaps the GPS signal can be interrupted by tall buildings and the system becomes confused. I recently experienced the same on a train as it left Southern Cross Station. All good so far, but........

At the tram stops, the doors open and a few seconds later there is an announcement that 'This stop is...'. But if there is only one or two people leaving or entering the tram, the doors have closed or are already closing by the time the announcement is made. Nice try Yarra Trams, but needs refinement.

Look at how much clearer the destination display is compared to the earlier photo with the old display. It alternates and the second screen says 'via St Kilda'.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I told you so

Well, we now have proof positive for not allowing gay marriage in Australia. It is allowed in many places around the world and look at how their societies are collapsing. Australians, you must keep up your opposition to gay marriage and save our society from the ills that gay marriage will create. Ok, you aren't against it, and your partner isn't against it, your friends aren't either, and your children aren't against who is? Apparently only our government, some religious types and a small minority are against it. It is not something I care much about and I am surprised our governments care about it so much. They have spent so much time beating themselves up about it, wouldn't it just be easier for them to let it happen?

Stupid old white men, but don't take that literally, Julia.

Actually, I am coming around on gay marriage, but every time I mention it to R, he responds with, 'do you have someone in mind to marry?' Anyway, I expect I would cry at my own wedding. So embarrassing. Photos make for a better blog post. My intention was honourable in selecting a photo of two older gay blokes kissing.

But hey, wow!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Untouched by the knife

I had hoped Prix D'Amour, the former grand but tasteless home of Rose Porteous, would be pointed out to us as we cruised down the Swan River in Perth, but alas(?) the house has been demolished and apartments now occupy the elite Mosman Park site.

Apparently Rose is moving to Spain. Well, with a Philippine background, she probably speaks Spanish. I thoroughly approve that Rose has never had any facial surgery. It is true. She said so. She must for some reason have a prematurely aged scraggy neck. Her hair colour is probably natural too.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The personal bits

This is my diary, albeit a public one, and I need to record things.

I still had a week off work after our Perth holiday and on Thursday the second after we returned, I went with R to do Mother duty, the main reason being that Middle Niece and my great nieces would join us for lunch. It was a lovely catch up, and out on the street I fascinated Little M with the sliding doors of a birdcage and sweeping the footpath, courtesy of the $2 shop next door to the cafe. I lavished $2.50 on mittens as a gift from Little M to her younger sister Little Em. Just so lovely to see them.

A few months ago we had a pretty lousy meal at a restaurant at Crown Casino. The former NT Politician/Policeman friend complained and received a $200 voucher to be spent at an upmarket restaurant at Crown. Manny from Malaysia of the coffee empire was visiting so the opportunity to spend the voucher part paid for our meal. It was quite a high class place, with lighting so dim you could not read the menu. I actually prefer that than lighting way too bright. You can always turn your phone on for more light for the menu. For a posh place that we would not normally attend, it was ok, but the service could have been better. At those prices, we should not have to make theatrical gestures to attract the attention of staff. Ok, yes, I will name it and the food was good; Mr Hive.

On Mother's Day, the nieces and nephew have their own mother to attend to, but for my mother, all Mother's children attended the old Pakenham football/racing club venue for a Sunday lunch, along with Bone Doctor and Little Jo. It is funny that Little Jo, Mother's granddaughter is only a few years older than Mother's great grand children, as mentioned above. ABI Brother is a member of the club and obtained a three course meal for us all for only twenty dollars each. It was really as much as you could eat and the staff were just wonderful. The Pakenham racecourse club has sold its valuable racecourse land in town and moved further afield. Flush with money, they will build a new venue too and where we lunched will soon be closed, with the local council having taken over the land.

Mother can be such a pain, just ask R who does more for her than any of her children, but it was a really nice experience for us all to be together with Mother, and Little Jo was quite attentive to her Grannie. I guess she knows her 82 year old grannie won't last forever........although she may very well last for a long time yet. I've been mentally writing Mother's obituary, which will never be read and certainly not by me, but it begins;

Some of you older folk will have remember the late comedian Spike Milligan. Some of you will have only heard of him. Upon Spike's head stone is the inscription, "I told you I was unwell".  And how so much this would have applied to our mother. For a very long time she has been telling us how unwell she is and finally she was proved right, but it has been a very long path to reach the conclusion.

OMG, we have just realised Sister will turn 50 next year. She was recently visited the islands north of the Northern Territory with her senior school boys. I feel sorry for any of her school boys who don't like football. I think she stayed on Bathurst Island, sleeping on a concrete floor for a week before the luxury of a rather nice hotel on her own in Darwin for two nights. The tales from her school trip were amazingly educational, including about a Sikh family who feed the 'grass people' regularly. Sister's and her lads' bags were meticulously searched for alcohol and drugs before they were allowed on the island. Right, I can see google won't be so helpful about grass people. They are local people living in grasslands, not part of general Australian society as we know it.

Even more OMG, Bone Doctor turns 40 this year. We went to her 30th birthday at a venue near the Austin Hospital where she was then working. Gee, how long have Sister and Bone Doctor been together? I've said it before, but after first meeting Bone Doctor, I wrote to Mother, expressing my hope that BD would be accepted into the family, just as R was. It did not happen. Bone Doctor could be said to march to the beat of a different drum, but we like her. Mother does not really, and the rest of my family are nice to her, but have never quite embraced her. Mother and Bone Doctor are perfectly pleasant to each other, but there is always a sense of tension when they are together. Bone Doctor is quite clinical with her medical skills and I know enough about medical matters to know she first class but that is not what Mother wants if she seeks any sort of comforting words from Bone Doctor. Bone Doctor has more patience for drug addicts than she does for old women whose organs are functioning perfectly well and only suffers from old age problems, especially if such a person won't follow medical advice but will self diagnose and self medicate.

Tradie Brother was made redundant from his employment and seems to have adequate money for the short term and seems to be liking his non employed status. My God, he has worked so long and so hard for such a long time with few holidays, good on him. He supported his former wife, and her parents and brought up his children. He deserves a rest. He is not perfect but a very kind person.

His wife, Tradie Brother's ex wife, ran a bakery business in mid Gippsland for the last few years and I have not heard the full story, but she and her husband have walked out of their business and home, as of last Friday.  They do still have their house on the Mornington Peninsula but I think it is mortgaged to the hilt and there are tenants in there at the moment, so they are going to live in the garage of Oldest Niece's partner's father. Crap happens, hey. Tradie Brother and Ex Sis in Law lived in a relative's garage for time after Non Dreaded Fire Fighting Nephew was born.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Broken news

Five balloons were aloft this morning but a sixth was struggling to rise, it seemed to me.

I think they took off from a park along the Yarra River, perhaps in Burnley. You can just make out the struggling balloon to the left of the wide roof midphoto.

 And not too long after this story came to life in the media.

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The trouble is the police say the balloon was launched from Dendy Park in Brighton which rather spoils my story as it must be a different balloon. I think the cops may be wrong. In my photo at full size the balloon appears to be a very dark colour, as the one in newspaper is, and also within the story is this, "An Armadale resident said the balloon had flown over his house about 7.45am and was so low he could hear the gas flame burning". My photo was taken at 6:56 am and the balloon was not going anywhere fast. Brighton to Armadale by balloon and then out to sea is possible but unlikely. I suggest it became low on gas because it burnt a lot of gas trying to gain altitude.