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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bmag July 23rd 2013 - Free newspapers and music

Did you notice what you paid for The Sunday Mail this weekend? It’s just gone from $2 to $2.50! This 25% hike comes just weeks after the introduction of a paywall on the paper’s website. In this column, I will show you how to get newspapers - and music - for free. I’m also going to increase your chances of winning a prize at your next school, club or church fundraiser! After that introduction, just try skipping to the next page! You know you can’t!

The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail have introduced what News Corp Australia (the former News Limited) calls a ‘metered digital subscription’. You get a limited number of articles for free, more if you register, but after that you must pay. Even News Corp Australia’s Quest suburban newspapers – free when delivered to your door – are part of this ‘metered’ paywall when viewed online. Around the country, it’s a similar story. And not just the Murdoch press. Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have just introduced paywalls.

There’s a very good reason for newspapers going down this path – with fewer people paying for the physical newspaper, and with revenue from the classifieds shifting to various websites (real estate, cars, second-hand goods, etc.), there is less money for journalists and the quality of news is under threat. Indeed, Jonathan Holmes used his final words on Media Watch to suggest: “Whatever your politics, or your preferences, start subscribing to at least one media website. Pay just a little to keep real journalism alive.”

But there is an alternative for those who are steadfastly against paying for news. All you need is a Brisbane City Council library card and you can have unlimited free access to over 2,000 newspapers and magazines from around the world. Visit, enter your card number and you’re away. (Any resident of Queensland can join a Brisbane City Council library – you don’t have to live in Brisbane). You won’t get updates throughout the day, as you would with online access, but for someone who just wants to read the paper over breakfast, it’s all you need.

Once you’re a member of a Brisbane City Council library, there’s another online perk. Every week, you can download three free songs. Have that library card ready and click on www. Four library cards in your house? That’s twelve free songs every week.

But wait, there’s more and this next tip comes from a politician! You’re about to gain a huge advantage next time you play Heads-and-Tails at a fundraising event! Heads-and-Tails involves someone tossing two coins and participants guessing which way the coins will fall. Everyone stands up to 'bet'. Hands on your head for heads, hands on your backside for tails and one hand on each (head and bum) means you’re guessing one head and one tail. Anyone who is incorrect is eliminated, then the coins are tossed again, until there’s a winner.

At this year’s Graceville State School trivia night, we were on a table with local state MP Scott Emerson. Scott’s obviously been studying these games at the myriad events he attends so just before Heads-and- Tails, he whispered to my missus the secret that would double her chances with every toss. He explained there are four possible combinations: Head-Head, Tail-Tail, Head-Tail and Tail-Head. If you go for heads or tails, there’s only a one-in-four chance you’ll be right. But if you put one hand on your head and one on your bum, you’ll have a two in four chance (you’re covering both Head-Tail and Tail-Head)! And that’s it.

Nikki did as Scott suggested and won the prize – which happened to be a very flash bottle of wine donated by the local federal MP Graham Perrett. Now who would have thought two politicians in a room could be so useful? Bottoms-up!

Finally, Cheryl Stevenson’s email sums up reaction to my column on John Murdoch and his Happy Bus: “What a wonderful man! The world needs more positive people like John”.

POST-SCRIPT by Doug Corner, Mount Ommaney

Hi Spencer, I have now found it via the following string:

1. Type into your browser and hit ‘enter’. This should get you onto the eLibCat Library Catalogue page.
2. Click on ‘databases’ at the top of the eLibCat page. (Ignore the ‘log in to My eLibCat Account’ on the right hand side of the page).
3. O n the ‘databases’ page - click on ‘newspapers and journals’.
4. Under the ‘library press display’ heading, about halfway down the newspapers and journals page, click on ‘remote access. This should bring you to the library press display login page where you can type in your library bar code, using all the digits on the rear of your library card. Hit the ‘login’ tab and voila - enjoy! I’ll give the free songs a try when I next have a couple of hours to spare J Spencer, by the way, we love your bmag column!

Doug Corder, Mount Ommaney

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9th 2013 - Brisbane's Happy Bus!

As you probably know, whenever the President of the United States of America is aboard a US Air Force plane, the official call sign for that plane is Air Force One. Well, whenever John Murdoch is behind the wheel of a Brisbane City Council bus, it becomes the Happy Bus! There’s no special signage. No rainbow colourscheme. Just a regular-looking driver and a busfull of smiles!

On this particular day, the Happy Bus is the 444 from QPAC to Moggill. I’m sitting just a couple of rows from the front. It’s the perfect place to observe as people hop on. We pull into King George Square, the doors open, and it’s show-time: “Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon! The Happy Bus welcomes you on board, how are you?”

It’s impossible to resist a smile. “Bring on those happy faces! This is the Happy Bus to Moggill!”

Half a dozen passengers join us at Toowong and there’s a greeting for every one of them: “On a beautiful day like today, how could you not be happy? Good afternoon, keep the happy smile on. That’s one terrific happy smile you have there!”

At Taringa, a woman hops off at the back and John calls out: “You look after yourself, till the next time you’re on the Happy Bus, enjoy the rest of your afternoon and keep that beautiful smile please, ba-bye!”

Seconds later, he opens the front door and three more join the club: “Welcome to the Happy Bus! There’s a happy smile, keep that with you please!”

I leave at Indooroopilly, completely touched by the experience. I catch a lot of buses and I always say g’day to the driver as I hop on. But John Murdoch really does take customer service to the next level.

Next day, I catch up with him at the Toowong bus depot. He tells me: “Being a talkative person, I was already welcoming people on the bus. More and more I told people to come on-board with a happy smile and they seemed to appreciate it. It just grew from there.

"I care about my passengers and this is a way for me to make their trip more enjoyable. When I finish my work and get back to the depot the feeling is ‘Hooley Dooley, what a day!’, but I enjoy being more involved with the passengers,” he says.

John tells me I’m not the first person to suggest special livery for the Happy Bus: “People have asked, ‘Can we have anything on the front of the bus so we know it’s the Happy Bus?’ The best I can suggest is we have a Mr Happy fridge magnet but every bus I drive is the Happy Bus, two different buses a day.”

After chatting for a while, John Murdoch opens up on why he’s so positive. He tells me he was involved in a head-on car crash on the Warrego Highway: “My heart stopped three times on the way to hospital. I wasn’t meant to survive. They wanted to turn the life support machine off. I woke up three weeks later with a new lease on life.

“When you have a near-death experience, you do see life differently. You only have one life. You might as well live it. It doesn’t matter if you’re happy or grumpy, you’ve only got the one.”

John proudly tells me that in his five years driving buses, he has received no fewer than 114 commendations from passengers. (Every time you ring Translink to report a positive bus experience, your comments are printed on a certificate which is then presented to the driver). “If I receive one, I receive one. If I don’t, I don’t. I just like going out there and having a happy and enjoyable trip and a safe one for everyone," John says.

By this stage, I’m soaking up the positivity. So I ask John for some final words of wisdom. “When you wake up in the morning, choose your attitude. It reflects what sort of day you’re going to have. Even if you do have some hiccoughs, they may happen, but if you say you’re going to have a good day and approach it as a good day, at the end of the day you will say ‘I had a good day’.”