Home life

By the power of Greywater!

Bucket in the sinkMy rough estimate is that at home it takes about three litres of running the hot tap before the water actually gets hot.

One of my most commonly-used taps is in the laundry sink, which doubles as a sink for the back toilet. Being a laundry sink it’s big enough for a ten litre bucket, so I’ve put one in there.

Consequently that bucket is collecting an enormous amount of greywater for the garden — way more than the bucket in the shower collects, in fact. Hopefully it’ll help the back garden grass stay green… and get the (newly moved) lemon tree producing.


The ebb and flow of Melbourne trains

This is cool: it’s a representation of Melbourne’s trains across the day, and from a cursory look, appears to be pretty accurate to the timetable (possibly more so than the actual trains!).

Ebb and Flow of Melbourne Trains by Flink Labs from Flink Labs on Vimeo.

From a mob called Flink Labs, who explain how they did it on their web site.

One niggle: It stops at midnight. The trains don’t. Even on weeknights the last of them reaches its destination at about 1am.


Extreme stupidity?

Is it extreme stupidity, or just carelessness not to spell-check your advert before putting it in the newspaper?

What were they thinking?

Freedom furniture - what were they thinking?

(from today’s Age)

Morons on the road

OZCOOL = Moron

The other week I met a thoroughly nice bloke who drives a four-wheel-drive. But while he gets some flak from his mates about it, he doesn’t live up to the cliche. He regularly uses it out in the bush as part of green activism while monitoring loggers. Interesting.

So not all 4WD owners fulfil all the 4WD cliches, by any means.

But some do. For example a bloke spotted last week driving a vehicle with the personalised numberplate “OZCOOL”. Whether that’s what he thinks of himself or whether it’s a corporate vehicle I don’t know. (There is a brand of refrigeration of that name.)

Bullbar — needless and dangerous in an urban environment. The rest of the vehicle didn’t look like it ever left the bitumen, though I suppose one can never tell.

Aggressiveness — he flashed the lunchtime (last Monday 20th, approx 1:25pm) pedestrians on the Flinders Lane/Degraves Street zebra crossing as he slowly forced his way forward onto it.

As another pedestrian crossed, he edged forwards, almost nudging the man. The man turned around and thumped the bonnet. Mr OzCool jesticulated gesticulated angrily, as if he had any kind of case to do so, and drove off.

Mr OZCOOL, you’re a freaking moron.

YOU DON’T HAVE RIGHT OF WAY on a zebra crossing. YOU have to wait.

You must give way to any pedestrian on a pedestrian crossing.

If you don’t like it, go stuff yourself drive somewhere else.

(The Rate The Plate web site seems to have gone west, so I guess I have to blog about these idiots myself.)


The new trains

All the TV media, and some other outlets, last night ran stories about the 38 new trains coming (the first at the end of this year), and how they’ll only run on part of the network.

I thought it was a curious angle to take, as it’s not really all that important.

Why it’s so

Back when the suburban rail network was split into two back in 1999, a condition of the two companies’ contracts was to buy new trains. M>Train bought Siemens trains, Connex bought X’Trapolis trains.

When you buy new trains, you have to make sure they run correctly on the network. Make sure the carriages aren’t too wide for the stations (as happened with the Siemens trains), make sure the drivers can see all the signals and platform mirrors properly (significant for the X’Trapolis trains because unlike the other types used in Melbourne, the driver sits in the middle of the cab, not on the left hand side).

Because of this, when the two operations merged back in 2004, they kept the Siemens trains confined to the old M>Train lines — the lines through North Melbourne and South Yarra (known as the Northern and Caufield groups) — and the X’Trapolis trains confined to the old Connex lines — the lines through Burnley and Clifton Hill (cunningly known as the Burnley and Clifton Hill groups).

That’s why you would never see a X’Trapolis train at Caulfield, for instance.

An X'Trapolis train visits Caulfield

OK, well, almost never. That happened by accident.

When the government finally decided they needed to buy more trains, they wanted to do so quickly, which meant buying a type already running. They knew the Siemens trains had had issues with brakes, so it was no great surprise that they opted for more X’Trapolis trains.

Why it doesn’t matter

The media reports got the implications of all this a bit muddled.

It’s not like the 38 new trains will go onto the Burnley and Clifton Hill lines and no other lines will get extra trains. Some Comeng trains (which can run on any line) will move across onto the other lines, so the whole network benefits.

One media report suggested passengers on the lines that wouldn’t get X’Trapolis trains would be annoyed that they had only old trains to use. I disagree entirely — apart from trainspotters, people don’t care if a train is brand new or 30 years old, as long as it’s safe, comfortable and reliable. (The Age figured that out.)

OK so it does matter a bit

The one thing that is significant is that the Northern and Caulfield groups will end up with a higher proportion of Comeng trains, which as we now know are more vulnerable to air-conditioner failure in the heat, when it goes over 34.5 degrees. This is the real impact of it, and I think only the ABC TV news really spelt it out.

But the government was right to order the trains that could be delivered the quickest. It would have been silly not to do so in the face of such bad overcrowding.

What they have to make sure happens quickly is that the Comeng trains get their air-conditioning upgraded (they’re testing this in coming months) and it may well make sense that in due course they eventually clear the X’Trapolis trains to run right across the network when necessary.

By the way

If you’ve been wondering about all the various upgrades happening around the Melbourne rail network, check this fancy shmanzy interactive map on the PTUA web site.

Video games

Wii Sports Resort – For The Win!

Wii Sports ResortOkay I admit it, we fell for the hype, Jeremy and I. The demos of the game at the EB Games Nintendo Experience thing in Swanston Street, and Jeremy’s participation in a Nintendo event at Southland convinced us to pre-order Wii Sports Resort from EB Games. In doing so we gained an extra (so two in total) Motion Plus controller (and a recharger thingy that’s pretty much useless to us because we already have a stock of rechargable batteries — I might eBay that) along with the game for $79.95, not too bad for an RRP of $99.95. Thankfully I didn’t have to attend the late-night launch event to get the bonuses.

I think the first time I’ve acquired software on the exact day of release since Windows 95.

The Motion Plus thingies (which are basically a small add-on to the standard Wii controller) provide the extra precision needed for the game. Adding the Motion Plus to the controller is a little fiddly, but it can be left on for other games that don’t use it — though it changes the feel a little by being slightly bigger and a bit heavier, which I found a little cumbersome for Wii Sports tennis, though baseball was okay.

Anyway the Sports Resort game is a lot of fun. Twelve sports in all (and numerous games within each sport), and I’ll summarise my first impressions:

Great: swordplay, air sports, archery, table tennis (amusingly at one point instead of Match Point, it announced “For The Win!”)Thumbs up!Thumbs up!

Okay: wakeboarding, frisbee.Thumbs up!

Bad: cycling, basketball.Thumbs down!

Jury still out: canoeing.

Haven’t played the others yet: golf, bowling, power cruising.

The swordplay in particular is a helluva lot of fun. Playing against other players puts you on a platform and you fight it out until one of you falls off into the water. The other mode is playing a kind of action-movie, battling hordes of other little sword-wielding guys. (Isaac pretended he was Luke Skywalker fending off stormtroopers.)

Anyway, the whole thing is a lot of fun, particularly with two players.

By the way, also recently got Guitar Hero World Tour. On sale nowadays for about $90 including the guitar. Didn’t want the full band set clogging up my house. It’s also good fun, though haven’t yet had a long go at it. I wonder what real guitar players think of it.


There’s no problem

Remember the mess the trains were last summer?

Well, the Comeng trains, which are prone to air-conditioner failures above 34.5 degrees, haven’t been fixed, and there’s still plenty of track waiting for upgrades to prevent buckling.

But that doesn’t mean you should worry about a repeat performance this coming summer. Mr Brumby says it won’t happen.

(Channel 7 news story on the parliamentary inquiry, Tuesday 21/7/2009.)

Well, I’m convinced. So there you go folks. There’s no problem.


Billy: No more beech

Dammit, why does this keep happening? I figure out what I want to buy, and it vanishes.

After getting the Ikea Billy bookshelves setup, after some procrastinating, I worked out I needed an extra shelf. When I went back last time they were out of stock (I had checked the web site; it had lied to me.)

Now the colour I want has vanished from the web site completely.

So earlier this week I jumped on the Ikea online chat thingy.

IKEA: Hi there, how can i help you?

DANIEL: Hi there. Billy extra shelf 76cm wide used to be available in Beech, but this colour no longer appears on the web site. Is it still available?

DANIEL: (In the 36cm size it does appear listed on the web site in Beech.)

IKEA: What store is your enquiry regarding?

DANIEL: Richmond, Vic

DANIEL: The web site doesn’t just say it’s out of stock, it doesn’t list it in the colour options on the product page any more.

IKEA: The Beech colour has been discontinued.


DANIEL: Is there any way of getting an extra shelf from somewhere, or have they all gone?

IKEA: BILLY EX SHELF 36X26 BE VEN – We currently have 11 of them in stock at the moment.

DANIEL: No 76×26?

IKEA: No it has been discontinued.

DANIEL: Ah OK. Well thanks anyway.

Bllaaarrrggh. The whole damn point of buying a Billy was I knew I could get extras for it later.

Why did they have to discontinue Beech Veneer? It was a nice colour! Not as bright as the birch, not as horrible as the others.

So then I figured out a plan B whereby I could re-arrange the shelves a bit and get to Ikea pronto to get some of the remaining small shelves they have in stock before they run out.

Having checked and double-checked the web site, which claimed to have 14 in stock, this afternoon at lunchtime I headed over there on a surgical strike to grab a couple. (It’s about 25 minutes on the tram.)

Aisle 9, location 11.


Look around at the other locations. Nup.

Queue to talk to customer service guy.

All he can tell me is that they’ve been discontinued, and they’re not getting any more in. Why is the computer saying 14? Don’t know.

I checked the “As-is” section, which sometimes has discontinued stock, then departed empty-handed.


I don’t suppose anybody reading further north is headed to Ikea soon and would be kind enough to go look in the Sydney store (claimed to have 24) or Brisbane (claimed to have 10) and organise to post a couple to me? (Hmm, $8 each, plus postage of about $10-12 = about $26 plus something to wrap them in; not too bad.)

Perhaps I’d better just look again at the shelves and sort out a plan C.


The Dumbarse, in three acts

Act 1: He went to stand between the carriages for a smoke. (It was a Hitachi. Very retro.) It should be pointed out that this doesn’t stop the smoke smell drifting through the carriages, though obviously it’s better than doing it in the carriage. Apart from the fact that smoking anywhere is dangerous for your health, the last time I saw something like this attempted, the half-a-dozen undercover Authorised Officers in the carriage that I had clocked when I boarded the train wasted no time in moving in to fine the person.

Act 2: “Does this train go to Richmond?” Someone pointed out, possibly without trying to smirk, that we’d just a minute ago gone past Richmond. Australia is said to have a 99% literacy rate, and those new signs on the stations are fairly readable, so the chances are this guy had nobody to blame but himself for not paying attention.

Act 3: Upon arrival at the next station, Flinders Street, did he bother to look at the platform display to see where the train would go next? No. I did glance at it. It was headed straight back to Richmond. He instead headed across the concourse to some other platform — I think it may even have been 4+5, one of four platforms where none of the trains departing go to Richmond.



Pasta intruder

“My fellow Fusillians,

I believe we have an imposter in our midst. A spy from the Elbonian republic!”

Pasta intruder!