Friday, October 31, 2008

When a bus isn't a bus

How come you can have buses with their little sign above the windscreen saying "Not on Service"?
It is a bus. It has a driver. It is going somewhere. Why can't they pick people up?
'Not on Service' buses always seem to be in weird places - a trip on one sounds much more interesting than taking the same old bus route.
These days the signs are electronic presumably they can write whatever they want up there. The old days when they just had a series of signs stuck in a little window and they had to manually change the sign over are long gone. Now they can write, "Off to help a mate" or "Going for a warrant" or probably more helpfully the street where they are going. I'm sure there might be someone who will be happy to catch a ride - to finally find a bus going where they need to go.
If cars with only one person is bad for the environment - what about a whole bus with just a driver?
So good for the environment, payment for the trip and company for the journey - Buses should always be on service.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Driving through the world

Well had to go and do a feel jobs today. It seemed to be a day of noticing weird things.
Like the house that has been adapted to wheelchair access with a big new ramp. Then oddly a new rose bush has been planted at the bottom of the ramp. How is that a good idea? Especially if you are new to operating a wheelchair. That seems an unpleasant situation just waiting to happen.
Then while I was getting stuff out of the car. I watched a person make some odd parking decisions.
First they double parked next to me. I noticed the disability parking permit in the window.
Then they went across the road to the very corner of the busy street. It had yellow lines painted on it and a road works sign a little way in from the corner. Admittedly the person was driving a very small car that could fit in the space. They backed into this non existent parking spot and hit the roadworks sign.
It did make me wonder if their sign on the dash board was a permit or a warning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

5 days working in Colombo 2001

I know seven years ago but I have been thinking about it again. It was a month before 9/11 happenings in the US when I went to Sri Lanka. I still think about the people I met and wonder how they are getting along. I am always impressed how humans just adapt to the world around them and get on with living. Hooray for life.

We leave the five star hotel. At the beginning of our journey, every few metres we pass a soldier with a gun. They stand on the road watching the traffic. This is the route the politicians drive to work.
The cars and tuktuks, who pay little attention to road rules, are squeezed together down to one lane. Beside us are two lanes of metal barricades. Then there is a large wall against which dirt and sandbags have been piled. Atop the wall is barbed wire and at intervals along the wall are soldiers, guns at the ready. It is the Prime Minister’s house.
Later we drive past the prison. I only know it is prison because my host waves at a nondescript building that closely resembles those around it but with a thin coil of barbed wire along the top of the outer wall. It would seem it is not the prisoners the citizens are afraid of.
High walls and solid metal gates divide buildings into boxes. Every one employs a guard to open the gate after checking who is coming in.
At the laboratory we have new problems I haven’t experienced. Ants had got into the water bottle through the little air hole.
The guard opens the gate for us to leave at lunchtime. At a fast food restaurant, a man in the carpark shows us where to park. He wears a uniform very similar to the police uniform.
When we leave he stands out in traffic to help us rejoin the non stop flow of cars.
After lunch I am given a tour of the laboratories. In the virology lab on a shelf in a glass case, sits a stuffed dog with rabies.
Driving home we pass a Leyland shop. There is a whole pile of engines for sale, all nicely painted in bright tonka toy red.
The next morning driving back to the laboratory we cram past a little rickety table with all the other trucks and cars, belching diesal and petrol fumes. On the wooden table, there is no ice, no covering, just rows of fish sitting beside a busy roundabout in high humidity.
That night I am taken out for dinner by the head of the company and his wife.
They take me to a restaurant that recaptures the old colonial days. Guards in safari suits and hats are at each entrance.
We sit out on the stone terrace overlooking the sea and sip cool drinks while we are entertained by traditional dance performances. As with getting anywere in this city, to reach here we drove over chalk murals marking where bombs have exploded. The conversation we are having over drinks is about children. My hosts tell me they are not planning on having any children. They think it is irresponsible to bring children into such an unstable and dangerous environment.
Later one of the doctors admits to me, that in her heart, she did not think I would come. They thought I would be put off by a recent bombing at the airport. I did wonder as a flew out if I was making a stupid mistake but how can you not help where you can? The world sometimes is not so big.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Petrol Price

Well everyone is moaning about how much the crude oil price has come down and yet the petrol at the pump has remained remarkably stable. Fair enough. I think a moan is in order.
The smart people who can do sums say that in September 2007, when oil was last at the current price, petrol was 30c cheaper per litre. But we have to think about the US dollar change. The wise ones still suggest it is reasonable to expect a 15c per litre price drop.
There is a couple of problems though, I don't think there is a rule in business that says if your expenses drop you must drop your prices.
Secondly perhaps the petrol companies want to show just how dependant we are on their product, so it will spur us on to creative methods of transport not requiring petrol.
But there is another factor. Petrol is moved around the country in those big tankers. They don't look light and I bet they cost a bit to fill up their tank. I think we need to factor rising transport costs into petrol pricing. We all know fuel isn't cheap - especially these days.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Innocent or Guilty?

I like the theory of being innocent until proven guilty of a crime. But household appliances fall into only two categories. Some are always guilty and some are always innocent.
The classic pair are the television and video. If the television doesn’t work it is your fault. You haven’t pushed the buttons. You have accidently turned the power off or pulled the cord out. It is always innocent. The video while nestling right beside its larger cousin when it doesn’t record the programme you told it to - is guilty without question. You set it up right all it had to do was record and it didn’t do it. Even if further investigation proves you made a mistake. It is still the video's fault for not being easy to programme, having one too many buttons or for just being a stupid heap of junk that is outdated anyway!
Fridges are innocent. They never wreck food or cause it to go mouldy. We always take the blame.
"I forgot it was there".
"I left it at the back of the fridge – silly me."
Even if your fridge does weird things such as suddenly freezing all your carrots and cabbage and lettuce, as well as all the sauces. It is still innocent.
"Oh a bit has broken". The manufacturers must have done something wrong.
"Poor fridgy widgy being soo cold."
Ovens on the other hand - guilty, guilty, guilty.
"It burnt the stew."
"I put it on low and look what it’s done."
"This is a terrible oven."
Microwaves innocent. Dishwashers innocent. Computers - guilty, guilty, guilty. Printers guilty too. You tell them to do the write thing and they just sit there doing nothing even after you have yelled at it. You turn the switch on and off. It sits there with ts little light blinking for no apparent reason whatsoever. Guilty!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Finding the weakness

I was driving into town the other day - doing the mother thing, with two carseated children, the buggy, the bag of kids stuff for the different ' what if' scenarios.
Suddenly roaring up behind me was a white car, lowered, loud, drum beat pumping. He was right on my bumper. Usually I don't mind this kind of person. Sometimes I even admire their car control and confidence - which is much better than mine. But this one was being annoying, hassling me forward.
Of course I joined in the battle and made sure I went the speed limit and not a kilometre per hour faster.
Here we were almost locked together, both probably cursing the other.
I checked my rearview mirror again to see what he was up to. He had dropped far behind. Then I realised we had crossed the bumpy railway tracks with its slap dash ashfelt, sticking up in all sorts of mounds and lumps. He was still carefully negotiating them in his lowered car.
My tail was free and I laughed. All that menace beaten by a slight undulation in the road surface. The opponent was too easily foiled.
But if we met again in town and had to race on foot. He would beat me easily. Me with my buggy, my bag, my independently minded children getting sidetracked by the smallest thing.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Yay for daffodils

I meant to write this weeks ago but September rushed by and suddenly was finished before I had even really got used to it starting.
So somewhat belatedly I wanted to say hooray for the daffodil. It is so big, bright and yellow - it just makes you feel happy when you see it. Even if it is pouring with rain and the wind is not at all springlike, a bobbing daffodil riding out the weather reminds me - it's ok, spring is here and summer is coming!
I also like them as they are one of the only flowers I could draw as kid that anyone could recognise. They are so weird, it is hard to get them wrong and you can draw them side-on with that trumpet (minimising having to draw the difficult petals) and still people know what it is!
I also have a half memory of going with my best friend's family to a big field in the country somewhere and just picking buckets and buckets of daffodils that we brought home and gave away to anyone we could think of. Where was this field? Did we pay to pick them? Did we really pick so many or was it just that I was small? I have no idea, but just thinking about having as many daffodils as one could want - I feel happy all over again.
We have some daffodils that come up every year by the corner of the house at the front. They are a happy note to come home to. Last year when my small child was two - every time she got out of the car she would go and see the daffodils. She thought they were wonderful.
Then they died. They went brown and papery dry.
When she got out of the car she still went over to them and held them and admired their new look.
I just caught myself before I said, "Leave them alone they are dead and yukky." My judgement on the worth of the dead daffodil. Why not admire it for its new look?
It is so easy to miss things in a busy world expecting quick judgements.

5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.