Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wierd weather

Yesterday was warm at 32C and uncomfortably humid - more or less what it should be at this time of year, February being our most humid month.

But the weather report said it was only the third day this so-called summer that had gone above thirty celcius, and that really is very unusual.

I've just looked at the seven day forecast which for tomorrow says heavy rain, winds at over 30kph and temperature max of 20C.

Humidity, I hate it, for the next week will be between 76% and 84%.

It's all down to El Nino's opposite, La Nina, apparently.

Huge rainfall further north with flooding and thousands evacuated. Our friends in Bellingen  are cut off again, the roads in and out are flooded and the bridge between the two parts of the town is also under water.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More truck fatalities

After the B-double truck smashed through houses on the Pacific Highway, I posted my firm belief  that these huge freight trucks must be phased off our roads.

Today three more people have been killed in a collision with another B-double truck.

"A B-double truck collided with a car on the Hume Highway, near Menangle, about 11.25am (AEDT) on Tuesday, crushing the vehicle and killing its three occupants.

The accident happened on the Menangle Bridge over the Nepean River, with the B-double's fuel tank rupturing and spewing the fuel into the water below.

Initial reports suggest the truck was travelling south when it crashed into a guard rail on the highway and careered onto the other side of the road.

The three occupants of the car, whose ages and sex are not yet known, died at the scene after the truck drove over the top of them, flattening their vehicle like a pancake."

It happened just a few hours after another B-double and a truck (some reports say two B-doubles) had a crash on the Newell Highway near Dubbo. One truck exploded into flames, incinerating the driver.

But like so much else that urgently needs action, nothing will be done. Lots of hand-wringing from politicians but they're hand-in-glove with vested interests. The rule is money before all else.

The trucks will continue to blight our roads and innocent people will continue to be killed.

The story and photo are at Nine News

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Animal cruelty going unchecked.

The European Union has more legislation than you can poke a stick at. It seems to cover every aspect of daily life, even to the most pedantic detail.

One of the areas subject to a huge amount of detailed legislation is animal welfare.

Yet Spain is allowed to continue with its traditional barbaric treatment of bulls.

Apart from the inhumane slaughter of the animals in bullfights there's another inexcusable tradition that's long overdue for banning, reported today by AP. It's news because a man was fatally gored by a terrified animal during a 'flaming bull' festival.

"Many towns in east and northeastern Spain celebrate feasts with "toros embolados," or "flaming bulls," which feature the animals racing around, shaking their heads as a reaction to flames or fireworks attached onto or close to their horns."

Just look at this:

A reveller releases a bull with flaming horns during a Spanish festival. Photo: AP

I find it hard to believe that a modern, advance and civilised country hasn't banned such barbaric treatment of animals. And that the EU allows one of its members to continue with this mistreatment.

I read it in the Sydney Morning Herald. You can read the full report here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Scammers still using snail mail

Back in December 2010 I posted on my Dubai blog about a snail mail approach I'd received.

To save paraphrasing it, here it is with changes marked to reflect the new offer that was in my snail mail box yesterday.

E-mail is the way they arrive.
Offers to make me a squillionaire. They always come by e-mail.
I get plenty of them. I bet you do too.
Millions of dollars are sitting in a bank account and in return for helping liberate them you get to keep a large amount.
Today I had a very different and interesting approach.
By snail mail. Personalised.
A stamped envelope containing a typed letter on headed notepaper (remember them?) arrived in my mail box.
It's from a firm of lawyers in Madrid with an address, telephone number, fax number and two e-mail addresses.
The stamp says it's from Portugal (is that where Madrid is now?) and it cost 80 euro cents.

The writer identifies himself as a barrister, personal attorney to a deceased gentleman lady  with the same surname as me.

The bank of the late gentleman lady has issued a notice to the barrister to contact next of kin, otherwise the the account will be declared unserviceable and the money diverted to the bank treasury.
That would be a shame because the sum involved is "Seven Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand Euros Only  United States Dollars"
Barrister Santino Antonio Barbero Diaz tells me that "so far all my efforts to get hold of someone related to my client has proved abortive."
His suggestion is that he presents me as the next of kin,'"...since you have the same last name...", so that the proceeds can be paid to my account. He will of course provide the bank with "all the legal documents to back up your claim as my client's Next of Kin..."

The deal?
A nice touch - 10% 20% of the money is to be shared"amongst the charity Organisations". The remaining 90% 80% is divided equally between myself and barrister Santino Diaz.
Another nice touch - ïf this business proposal offends your moral ethics, do accept my sincere apology."
It's a new one on me. A correctly addressed snail mail letter, personalised by surname, the cost of a stamp, the cost of the paper and envelope...

Monday, January 16, 2012

2.1 metres...plus a bit

We were diverted around this an hour ago.

Signs you can't miss on both sides of the bridge telling drivers that clearance is 2.1 metres.

You'd think an allegedly professional driver would know the height of his vehicle, but obviously not.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cricket trivia

We're about to trounce the Indians in the Test match over in WA...again.

With their formidable batting line-up it was predicted to be a close and exciting series but the Indians have badly underperformed, unfortunately. We like to see our team win but we also like  a real battle. So far it's been far from that.

What I find fascinating with the Australian team is that although we often make high scores, most of the batsmen fail so often. The high scores we rack up are all-too-often down to one or two batsmen with high individual scores.

Our first innings over at the WACA is a good example.

Total was 369...but 254 of the runs were from two batsmen. The next five batsmen averaged  only 10 runs each. (The four bowlers got sixty runs between them at an average of 15 each).

In the amazing earlier match at the SCG the first three batsmen managed a miserable total of 24 runs, an average of 8 each. The huge final score was due to the next three batsmen putting on over 600 runs.

In the last series, against South Africa, it was the same story. First Test, first innings total was 284 with one batsman getting 151 of them. The other six batsmen managed 70 at an average of 12 each.

In the second innings no-one made a score and the seven batsmen ashamed themselves with a total of 15 runs. (The four bowlers made 32).

The first innings of the second Test was back to relying on one or two batsmen to get a score. Two batsmen made 166 between them, the other five only added 59, average 12 each.

The second innings was unusual in that four batsmen made scores, with the other three failing. Four made 221 but the other three only contributed 13 runs.

I know, I should have better things to do. I'm not obsessing about it, it's just something that I've noticed over the past few years.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A fire reminder

It's been easy in this cold wet summer to forget that we're in the bushfire season. But it doesn't take much for fires to appear.

We've had a couple of warm sunny days, then yesterday we had strong NE winds all day. Perfect fire weather and we've had a couple.

One of them was here on the Central Coast where about 100 hectares are reported to have burnt. The fire started in grassland but the wind took it across a road and away it went. 

It took many hours but eventually firefighters supported by a water-dropping helicopter managed to control it.

No reports of property damage or injuries to people, fortunately.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Buy my dud product.

Businesses are told repeatedly that to be successful they have to embrace 'social media'.   It's the way they can communicate with, have a conversation with, their customers. It's the way of the future (sorry, "going forward").  Ignore it and you're finished, they're told.

What they're not told and all too many, amazingly, don't realise is that the first, most vital step is to get the bloody product right in the first place.

There is no point marketing a dud product. And that includes marketing in the virtual world.

Another example hit me in the face the other day. I called into a coffee shop which had posters about the place saying 'follow us on Twitter' and 'like us on Facebook' and 'visit our website at www. etc'.

In the non-virtual world - that is, in the actual real-world coffee shop - the staff were huddled together in the kitchen area, studiously ignoring the few customers.

Used crockery cluttered a few tables. They were ignoring that too. Service, and I use the word very loosely, was terrible.

Interaction between staff and customers was near to zero. There was no greeting, no welcome. Attracting their attention to spend money buying their products wasn't easy.

Yet there they were all over the internet, presumably thinking that it was the answer to increasing their miserable trade.

And of course they'll be joining the ranks of retail whingers blaming us for not spending, for buying online. They'll blame the weather. They'll blame the government, wage costs, taxes. They'll blame anything and everything except their own incompetence and mismanagement.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

More truck deaths

Yet another fatal crash involving a truck. This one even worse than usual.

Once again it was on the Pacific Highway.  A B-double truck and a ute hit each other and the truck slammed into two houses.

Reports say it was caused by the ute driver being on the wrong side of the road. No information as yet whether speed, driver fatigue or anything else was a contributing factor.

A young boy, asleep in his bed, was killed outright as was the ute driver and eight are injured, some critically according to reports.

While it may well have been the ute driver's fault, the damage was caused by the truck and it reinforces the fact that these huge, heavy, unwieldy trucks have to be phased put. We have to get them off our roads.

The only people who don't want to get them off the road seem to be the trucking lobby and our politicians.  The rest of us understand that freight should be carried by rail.

As usual the road is blamed, as is the lack of a speed camera. It was on a non-divided stretch of the highway. And a speed camera there had beend eactivated some time previously as it was deemed to be simply there to generate income.

Of course the roads are a contributing factor, they're not designed to take the huge trucks that use them. We simply don't have the roads to carry huge, wide, long, heavy trucks.

But we can't upgrade every road in the country into a dual carriageway with wide lanes to accommodate them.

It's not just on unimproved country stretches of the Pacific Highway that huge trucks are inappropriate. Other road users have to contend with them even into Sydney on the incredibly narrow and busy lanes of the Pacific Highway through the northern suburbs. Even good truck drivers can't  keep the bloody things in one lane and it's even worse on the corners and sharp bends.

And that's the good drivers.

Then there are the cowboys with their weaving about, speeding, lane changing, tailgating, to make it all much worse.

The answer is to get the freight onto rail and take the trucks off the roads. And only the government can do that

Saturday, January 07, 2012

It's the product, stupid.

After fifteen years as Australia's best selling new car, the Holden Commodore (rebadged as Chevrolet Lumina in the Gulf) has been knocked off its perch by Mazda3.

The reports are all about the trend to smaller cars being the reason. None of them mention what I'm convinced is a major factor. 

The product has steadily got worse over the last few years.

I've had a number of Commodores, the last one before we moved back to Dubai was a VS. A great car, 3.8 V6 but fuel efficient, excellent handling, roomy but sporty (0 to 100kph in 7.2 seconds).

I sold it to a friend when we moved and it's still performing as well as ever.

When we decided to move back I made the mistake of ordering the new Commodore Series II SV6 (the same sporty model as the last one) so that it was ready for me when we arrived.

I should have been less impatient and arranged a test drive. Had I done that I wouldn't have bought one.

The only improvement is the interior, which to be fair is very good.

As for the rest, it's the opposite of an improved model.

There's a new 3.6 V6 engine with claimed improved fuel consumption. In reality it's far worse than the old Commodore.

Response to stamping on the accelerator is far from instant. There's a very noticeable delay in the command being answered.

It's impossible to keep the car at a constant speed, you're on and off the accelerator trying to adjust it all the time, and the delay in response makes it even more frustrating.

The wing mirrors are as good as useless. Designed for look rather than functionality - surely the reason you have them - they're far too narrow. They can be positioned to either show vehicles behind but no road or road but no rear vision.

You need them positioned to show vehicles approaching or overtaking, so you can't use them for parking unless you fiddle around changing them all the time, which is impractical.

The rear window is at an angle that distorts the rear view, so reversing is difficult. The wing mirrors give you no help.

Visibility is very bad, with overly thick pillars on all four corners and between front and rear windows.

Then there's the unnecessary use of digital technology when it's not as useful or user friendly as the old mechanical system it replaces.

To see your mileage you can no longer glance at the mileometer reading. You have to click through a menu using the steering wheel-mounted controls and look at it on the little screen. Your eyes are off the road all the time you're scrolling through the menu trying to find the right information.

Companies here are endlessly complaining about business being bad. It's all the fault of the internet, of our changing spending habits, of the strong Aussie dollar, of government actions, of concerns about the Euro and the US economy.

Anything but their own actions, in fact.

The Commodore is a good example of a vital underlying problem that they all suffer from. But don't see, or won't admit.

 They haven't got the bloody product right.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The best use of the money?

It's been announced that Sydney Cricket Ground is to be upgraded, and I don't have a problem with that.

What I have a problem with is the $130 million state and federal governments are contributing. Or more accurately, we taxpayers are contributing.

When so much of our infrastructure and vital services are in desperate need of improvement, not just in Sydney but throughout the rest of the state, surely the SCG shouldn't be top priority for our money.