Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Interesting headline

in todays Herald Sun[^] online newspaper.

Fire breaks out in crematorium

You don't say!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

That's quite a change

You'll remember I tried your patience as a loyal reader a week or so ago when I reported[^] that United Airlines had emailed me to advise of a two minute change in departure time from Phoenix on my way to Australia. 54 days and counting!

As part of the anticipation heightening process I re-checked my itinerary a few days ago and discovered that they'd moved my departure back another 45 minutes. I don't leave Phoenix until 7:33 now, assuming they're on time. That leaves me with about 80 minutes to walk the couple of hundred metres from the domestic to the international terminals, grab a quick smoke and run the gauntlet of security again.

That ought to be enough time though I note that the last time I went to Australia I had to go through a second level of vetting. One fronts up to a counter (on the sterile side of security) and hands over ones passport. They go through the pretence of checking ones passport on the computer and, if all is well, they stick a red dot on the outside of your passport.

Do I really believe they have a live line to some Australian computer system in DFAT? More importantly, given that if they do it'll be an internet link, do I really want to accept that my passport details were just sent over a public system? Sometimes it's better to be a cynical old bastard.

I'm telling you, you aint getting on that plane without the red dot! It's almost as though we (Australians) are trying to outdo the US government in the paranoia stakes. Remember Richard Reid[^], the shoe bomber? He was apprehended mid air over the Atlantic on December 22 2001. That was December 23 Australian time. On December 25 I flew to the US and had the pleasure of being on the first flight where one was required to remove ones shoes and have them checked for explosives! I reckon that had to have been *before* the first US checks!

Not only that; they've changed my return flight. I'm going out via San Francisco but I thought I was coming back through Los Angeles. Good thing I checked the flight again because now I'm returning through San Franciso. If I remember rightly, the SFO flight departs Sydney half an hour before the LAX flight and I've had LAX on the return so fixed in my head that I'm sure I'd have missed the plane if I hadn't checked.

I haven't received a peep out of United via email regarding these latest changes. Do you reckon someone there read my previous post and put a block on my email address? Nah, that'd be too paranoid even for me!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I call maledictions down upon the heads

of all vile website designers who will *insist* upon having sound files automatically begin playing when one is foolish enough to navigate to their sites. When I'm listening to the music of *my* choice the last thing I want is some fools idea of what constitutes music thrust upon my unexpecting ears. Especially when it's some vilely tuneless 'popular' travesty. You'd be amazed how fast I can hit the 'back' button on such websites. A pox upon them unto the seventh generation!

Go on, tell me I'm wrong! :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I love the way United Airlines works.

Right on schedule I received an email from United Airlines regarding my flight to Australia 65 days from now (not that I'm counting!). The email advised me that my flight time had been changed. From 6:42 PM to 6:44 PM.

I'm pretty sure they sent a similar email about a year ago to Heino to advise him that his flight time had also been shifted a miniscule amount. I certainly remember, the last time I was counting down the days to a trip back to Australia, receiving email from United with much the same advice; a two or three minute schedule change.

Hmmm. Maybe I err on the side of caution when flying, for I'm always at the airport at least an hour ahead of time, but it seems to me that if you're cutting it so fine that a two minute difference in flight time might mean the difference between catching or missing a flight then you need to readjust your expectations.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


My stepfather kept pigeons from 1967 onward. I'm sure he'd have loved to keep them before then but the house in which we lived at the time, in Seddon, had hardly enough room for us let alone a pigeon coop. But once we moved to St Albans he had all the space he could desire and so the pigeon coop was born. I recall helping him build it, little knowing the misery that damn coop held in store for me.

His interest in pigeons didn't come as much of a surprise; as the youngest of a large family he had ample example in his older brothers. At least three of them, as far as I can remember, kept pigeons and we'd always end up standing beside the cages when we visited, gravely discussing the merits of that 'blue' or this pink one.

And of course they raced the pigeons. Small sums wagered each week and form gravely argued over. The locals in Yarraville and Footscray even had a 'pigeon fanciers' club house; a strange brick building down by the Maribyrnong Wharves that looked, for all the world, like a council toilet block from the twenties. It may have been exactly that at one time. (I just checked on Google Earth and it seems to have gone; I will, of course, double check in 68 days when I'm there again). But heck no, I'm not counting down the days.

It fell to my lot to clean the cages out every fortnight or so. I think he had 25 or 30 pigeons in total at any one time and you wouldn't believe how much shit they could produce in a week! A nasty smelly job at the best of times but particularly bad in summer. The thing being that it dries out fairly quickly and forms hard lumps all over the inside of the cage. We're talking a cage plenty large enough to climb into and an inch depth of dried shit. The technique was to take a plasterers trowel and hack away at the lumps. Then scrape it all up into bags. After fifteen minutes the air would be thick with dust which of course one breathed in. It got into my hair, stuck to my face; I swear it got into my underpants! And the smell was indescribable.

What I wouldn't give to go back and have to do it all over again!

Our two youngest cats, not kittens anymore yet not fully grown, haven't entirely outgrown the catbox. I don't know what Tiny's eating but when he leaves his calling card the odour is quite pungent. Unfortunately, due to space limitations, the catbox is close to where I sit when watching movies. Not much farther from there to where Andrew sits playing World of Warcraft. Strangely enough my smokers nostrils, 37 years older than his, seem much more sensitive.

I took it upon myself, much to Sonyas amusement, to teach Andrew the finer points of cleaning up a catbox. It seems only fair that he should make *some* contribution to the household but he doesn't see it quite that way.

Now there's the wasteful approach and there's the thrifty approach. I use the thrifty one; that's the approach where one doesn't toss out the entire contents of the catbox every day. It's perfectly possible to reuse most of the cat litter at least once by judicious removal of the lumps.

And if one is taking that approach there's the hard way and the easy way. The hard way is to pick em out with the bare hand. But I've been doing this for years and I'm an observant bastard. Taking a leaf out of the anti-doggie poo brigades book I use plastic bags. We haven't yet got the point of supermarkets imposing a surcharge on the bags so there are always too many of em around the joint. Would you believe it's next to impossible to get the checkout person to NOT put a gallon of milk in it's own plastic bag???

So you take a plastic bag in each hand, one open to receive the nuggets, the other around the nugget removing hand. It takes less than a minute to snag em all out of the kitty litter and at the end of the process one has a nice tidy bag of cat crap ready to be disposed of and a relatively odour free catbox. Sprinkle some fresh litter on top and the cats will be milling around waiting for you to get out of the damn way so they can have a crap!

The other night, on our return from dining out, we stopped by the supermarket to pick up a fresh bag of litter. Then followed the argument with Andrew about just *why* he should be the one to do it. I've given up with the persuasion; I tell him straight out that it's because he's the youngest and I don't care that it's not fair. Calling him Morgan also works!

Arrived home he rushed in through the door and made straight for the computer, doubtless in hopes that we'd have forgotten, in the space of three minutes, all about such unpleasant subjects. No such hope.

Reminded of the task that lay ahead he grabbed a bag and started picking out the nuggets aforesaid. I couldn't help laughing. 'Ok, what are you going to do now?' I asked, as he realised he had only the one bag and that wrapped around the busy hand.

Poor bastard had the grace to look sheepish.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A small mystery

You'll remember that a few weeks ago I had to attend court as prospective juror. I made fun of the fact that they provide transport[^] to cover the two blocks from the free parking to the courthouse!

Not only do they provide the shuttle bus aforesaid, they also provide a free pass, sent in the mail along with the juror summons, good for a days travel anywhere in the Valley on any Metro Bus or Rail Route. I'm not sure which rail route they're talking about - I certainly haven't seen any trams running on the light rail[^] and there's no suburban rail system.

In addition, they also pay mileage on the assumption that one has driven in; the amount paid is so many cents per mile (I can't remember the number) based on ones zipcode. It's certainly an assumption; the cheque arrived in the mail a few weeks ago without my having to turn in the free bus pass and without my having to do anything to claim the money apart from appearing as summoned.

Methinks they know we don't use the buses. Indeed, I've been here more than five and a half years and haven't been on a bus yet. I don't even know how one pays the fare; is it cash or does one purchase a card somewhere? If paid in cash what is the price? Do they provide change?

The free bus pass has been sitting on the desk above my keyboard and below my monitor ever since receiving it. Today, for some reason, I moved it and found the following inscribed on my desk.

Andrew swears he didn't write it and I'm inclined to believe him; I'm not sure he knows how to spell the word. Somehow I can't see my wife writing it. That leaves one obvious suspect but I think not. If it were Morgan I'd expect the word to be carved into my heart rather than texta'd onto the desk.

So who?

Friday, July 11, 2008


Yesterdays East Valley Tribune[^] ran the headline 'Monsoon expected to bring rain and lower temperatures'.

Gee, ya reckon???

Joking aside, we had our first monsoon event of the year yesterday as well and boy did it rain! Not only that, the temperature dropped amazingly, to a mere 73 at midnight. I fear we won't see the magic hundred at midnight this year (as we seem not to have seen it last year). Quite the disappointment when we peaked at 115 only two days ago.

It just doesn't feel like summer if it's not a hundred at midnight!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

She's a good shot

Anyone who points out that my occasional (meaning every weekend) need for an afternoon nap is really a sign of advancing years is welcome to go read another blog! Nonetheless it's true that I do enjoy the odd Saturday afternoon nap. I also enjoy the odd recline between arriving home from the office and dinner.

Such a pity, then, that we still have Morgan here, in the room directly above ours. Now I'll admit that it was a strategic error, borne of insufficient experience with the young lady aforesaid, when, five years ago, I suggested we remove the carpets and lay down hardwood floors. How was I to know, then, that Morgan is capable of making more noise, for less reason, than a fully laden 747 on it's take off run?

Well, maybe I exaggerate, but not by much.

Thus, over the last nine months or so since we were 'blessed' with her return, I find myself sometimes unable to nap. I don't know what she's dropping on the floor but I refer to it as 'someone dropped their testicles again'. More than once I've vaulted up the stairs to shout at her. Such are the vicissitudes of sharing a house with the thoughtless. Every time I make protest she tries the 'butter wouldn't melt in her mouth' pose of innocent surprise. 'I didn't know you were trying to sleep'.

Hmmm. I could go on with the justifications for my position on the matter but methinks you get the drift.

Today Ryan, her infant, was somewhat cranky. I don't mind his noise half as much as I mind Morgans. She interprets that as 'I can't do anything right as far as Rob is concerned' and she may be right. Just the other night Sonya asked me, apropos of a conversation she'd had with her daughter, 'why do you live?'. Without even thinking about it I replied 'I live to thwart Morgan at every turn'. Sonya laughed but I fear there is more than a grain of truth in my reply. The original question was prompted by Morgan musing on the paradox of working for a living. As she apparently expressed it (she never says these things in front of me - I get them secondhand) 'I can live at Dads and be broke, or I can get a job and have my own place and be broke. So why work?'.

Words fail me. I could have wasted my breath retailing all the standard reasons for working and being independent and standing on your own feet and all that. Given that my audience was Sonya it would have been preaching to the converted.

I've digressed somewhat but no matter; Ryan makes noise because he doesn't know any better. He's only 25 months old. Morgan at 245 months should know better.

This afternoon the little princess was trying to get an afternoon nap and Ryan wasn't having any of it. She came downstairs complaining that it was 'impossible' to get any sleep in this house.

I fear that I was less than charitable. Indeed, it struck me as quite the funniest thing I'd heard in ages. Morgan didn't much appreciate my laughing quite as uproariously as I did; she whizzed a cushion at me.

How unfortunate that I'd just made myself a coffee. Uh huh, the entire cup (barely sipped at) went flying, all over my three computers. Fortunately they had the covers on (the geeks among you will understand that) and there was no damage.

I couldn't see her face so I don't know what she expected. I can guess the expectation was of a confrontation, which would probably have been exactly what she wanted. Instead, I picked up the cup and said 'damn, now I have to make another coffee'.

Sometimes you just have to mess with their minds. But damn, she's a good shot. I suppose I ought to be glad there wasn't a knife handy!