Friday, 31 August 2012

Fare evasion

I was interested in this report ( that states (in the final paragraph) that, of all fare evasion in Melbourne, 72% of the revenue loss occurs on the trams.   Just how this figure is calculated completely baffles me, but it does ring true.    I don't use the trams as much as the trains, but it never ceases to amaze me, when I do use them, that many passengers appear not to validate a ticket.    I suppose some of them have 2-hour or daily Metcards, or a Myki pass (for a particular period) loaded on to their Myki, so in each case they're not avoiding a fare (although my understanding is that they're still supposed to re-validate the Metcard or touch-on the Myki, as appropriate).

These days there don't seem to be many ticket inspections on the trams.  It brings back memories of Melbourne in the late 60s, when ticket inspections on trams would occur regularly by lone "Ticket Inspectors" in green (a "braid").   During my stints working as a conductor during university vacations in those days, it was not uncommon to have an inspector on board several times in a week.   While of course they were looking for fare evaders (including passengers who over-rode the journey that they had paid for and students who were using their passes on a route that wasn't covered), they were also checking to make sure the conductor wasn't selling "windies" (re-used tickets).

It does seem that our society has become much more risk-averse, and so we have  "Authorised Officers" in teams (that sometimes seem to include up to 5 people) who are not nearly as nimble as inspectors in days gone by or for that matter as in other cities.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A retirement village in Bali?

It's quite a few years since I've been to Bali (hence the images in this post weren't taken by me  EDIT:   now inserted a replacement 2nd image, which  is mine), but from what I understand, it's now even more crowded.   I don't have immediate plans to move into a retirement village, but who knows what the future might hold?   To the extent that I've thought about this contingency, a retirement village in Bali hasn't featured in my thoughts.
However, my attention was struck my a report in the Weekend Australian recently - see:
 (Yes, I know it's behind a paywall, so just read on).

When the article was first brought to my attention, my reaction was the usual thing:   a place like Bali might be OK while you're (relatively) fit, but when  you really, really need care, it won't be there for you.
However, the point made in the article is that, if in fact you do need constant care, it's much cheaper in Bali, where domestic and personal help is readily available.  Hence, if you've got a condition that requires full-time care, this is readily available.  Given that this is a place where there is a culture of care and respect for the elderly, it could be the place for you.
Bali - from a trip years ago!
It's reported that the central Indonesian and local Bali governments are collaborating to enable the building of accredited retirement villages to international standards.
One issue is the standard of local medical care:  the ambulance system is apparently pretty woeful and although there are clinics catering to expatriates, foreign medical practitioners can't (at present) work in Indonesia.  Sure,  Singapore is "only" a two hour flight away, and while that might be OK for medical appointments that you can make in advance, it isn't going to be much use if you need emergency treatment. And while for many people, it is not a priority to be brought back from death's door if your time is up, the greater concern is possibly the non-life-threatening but serious event (broken bones come to mind).

But just the same, for some people, Bali might be an option.  I guess it could work if you're prepared to fit into the expatriate community (but if you're in a retirement village, what's the difference?) and don't have close family ties to a particular place (or, like one of our friends, the family is scattered) and especially if you need on-going personal care.

However, I don't think Bali is for many of us.  For many of us, our circle of interests and friendships are are here.  It's bad enough dealing with the Australian tax regime from within Australia let alone as a non-resident (and who knows what complexities might exist in Indonesia - I haven't even googled this!)   Some of us would miss the availability of "retail therapy" as we know it (albeit that a somewhat different form of shopping is available).  And ultimately the political system there, whilst seemingly stable at present, doesn't have a great reputation for integrity and at the end of the day isn't going to be motivated by the interests of elderly expatriates!  

But we should probably be supportive of those who do take the Bali option.  For one thing, it means that there will be less of a load on care resources within Australia, perhaps making them slightly more available for those of us who linger on here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Portsea Pub

Is the Portsea pub going to be washed into the sea?   Last time we were down this way, we asked that question because there was noticeable erosion, but this time we saw that this expensive piece of real estate has been protected from the elements by massive sandbagging.

I'll stay well clear of the debate as to whether there was any connection between the channel dredging and the erosion!
There was a lot of wind on the day we were there, and the tide seemed very high (is that a spring tide?), with waves regularly washing across the lower level of the pier. 

The Sorrento/Queenscliff ferries seemed unaffected by the wind and waves.  From where we were, we couldn't see any noticeable tossing or whatever it's called - but perhaps the story on board may have been different!

As noted in an earlier post, we had coffee and cake in the pub.  Yes, it was a winter weekday, but even so, the place was pretty well deserted by the time we came to leave.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Flinders Hotel logo
While at Cape Schanck, we had dinner one night at the Deck at the Flinders Hotel.  Although the Deck is the more casual of the two dining options at this hotel, it's still a step up from "pub" food, and this is reflected in the prices. Just the same, no complaints at all about the chicken parma or the baked salmon in a rich sauce, and the apple and rhubarb crumble slipped down too. Service on quiet winter weekday evening was a little relaxed, and we seemed to be seated in a draught-prone part of the room (which of course wouldn't be a problem in the busy summer period), but on the whole it was OK.

There wasn't much else happening in Flinders that winter evening.  Even the local Thai restaurant was closed and in darkness!

Earlier in the day, we had stopped off briefly to admire the view from Flinders across the entrance to Western Port, towards Philip Island and the Nobbies.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Returning home

View from Chapman's Lookout (Arthur's Seat)
We meandered home from Cape Schanck.     This involved a stop to buy a new computer (more about that later!) before driving up to Arthur's Seat (I had forgotten how good the view was) and then setting about locating a winery for a light lunch.

To my surprise, the task of finding something light to eat was rather a challenge.    Our first choice was Port Philip Estate/Kooyong.  We had never been there, but the tourist information suggests that it is a "must see". Certainly the architecture is, for want of a better word, "impressive".    However, even though there's a bistro there, as well as a more formal dining area, the menu didn't appeal and there wasn't much by way of casual options.

Darling Park winery
  So we back-tracked a couple of hundred metres to Darling Park, which is a small intimate winery, with a good range of casual eating options - but we arrived at the same time as a pre-booked function and they were short-staffed.  So we took it in good grace (we were glad that they were honest with us instead of trying to squeeze us in perhaps to the dissatisfaction of all concerned).

Stillwater restaurant
Our last resort was going to be the Mornington Pier, but on the way we passed Crittendon Estate.   No harm in looking, we thought, and drove in.   Our initial impression of Stillwater Restaurant was of white tablecloths, and we were inclined to move on.   But before doing so, we had a quick around the tasting area and shop....well, suffice to say, one thing led to another,the shiraz on offer (although not local) was nice and being assured that the restaurant indeed provided a tasting plate option, we were duly seated near the window with an outlook over the "lake" (big dam?) and the ducks.    Looking at the menu, while the tasting plate certainly appealed, so did the vegetarian rotolo pasta dish and duck cassoulet!    So we had a very satisfactory lunch, even if our good intentions of a light lunch were put aside!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Sorrento and Portsea

We spent a day checking out Sorrento and Portsea.    Our forays down this way tend to be brief and not in the height of summer.    Nevertheless it's nice that nothing changes too dramatically.  Yes, there are incremental changes and each time we come there are a few differences but rarely anything too great (even though the cumulative effect, over the years, in not necessarily for the better, at least to our minds).

The day was marked by strong westerly winds, especially noticeable in exposed locations.   We could hardly stand up in the high car park at Portsea back beach, or on the Portsea pier (where, to add to the challenges, there was a particularly high tide, resulting in water being sprayed around).

Smiles, showing the deck - we ate inside!
Obviously such conditions called for sustenance!    We had a substantial breakfast at the resort, soup at the Sorrento back beach cafe ("Smiles") and coffee and cake at the Portsea pub.

Rough seas along the back beach at Sorrento and Portsea

Friday, 24 August 2012

Cape Schanck

It somehow seems a little odd to me that the price of RACV service membership seems to creep up a little each year (another increase has recently been announced).   I haven't done the calculations, but my hunch is that the cost of service membership in inflation-adjusted terms is much the same as it was years ago, notwithstanding that cars are much more reliable than they once were.   The fact that RACV had the funds available to be able to buy a resort at Noosa in the depths of the GFC (admittedly at a great price) seems to be consistent with my theory that there's a lot of cash in this organisation!   But as I've said, I haven't looked at the figures, so maybe it's all in my mind!

View from the room at Cape Schanck on a wintry day
Be that as it may, my response to this perceived state of affairs has been, if you can't beat them, then join them.  Hence, from time to time, we've taken advantage of the "member" rates at some of the RACV resorts.   At present, we're at the Cape Schanck resort for a couple of nights:  large, warm and comfortable rooms with a good view down the peninsula (while the cold wind blows outside), a nice breakfast, and an excuse to have lunch at a winery on the way down here (more about that later) as well as dinner at the Flinders Hotel (just down the road).
There's a bit of a walk to the clubhouse for breakfast!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Home maintenance

I'm aware that I have to clean the filters on the heating unit and the split system air-conditioner, and that it's a good idea to operate the pressure release valve on the hot water system occasionally.    But I have just learned that there's another item to add to the list:  the inlet filter on the rainwater tank.
We had the water tank installed a matter of weeks before the drought ended (not sure if this was entirely coincidental).   Hence, we haven't need to draw on it to any significant extent.

Be that as it may, I glanced in its direction, and noticed a thistle apparently growing at the top of the tank.  Closer inspection revealed that there's a filter at the inlet point.   It was completely clogged, so much so that there was ample muck for the roots of the thistle  I hadn't previously been aware that this filter existed, but now I know that it's there and needs to be cleaned out regularly.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


It took us a little while to find Feddish restaurant at Federation Square, but the effort was worthwhile.  If you're coming from the city, Feddish seems to be tucked away on the Yarra side, behind Taxi.  We were there on a winter's evening, but at lunch time or on a summer evening, the deck would be a terrific location, with an outlook over the river and the Domain.
Looking up at Feddish

But even when we were there, it was pretty good.   We didn't have a booking so were seated on the terrace, but there were lots of heaters, and the evening was fairly still, so our table was pleasant enough.

The staff were very pleasant and helpful, and the food was fine.  It's a wagyu burger/spaghetti marinara sort of place, which is what we had.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The coffee shop

There's been a lot of work going on at the nearby shop, converting it from an old-style milk bar into a café.  I'm not sure that we actually need another coffee shop around here, but be that as it may, we went to check it out on the first day it was officially open (there had been a "private function" a couple of days earlier).   Nice atmosphere (trendy light fittings, faux wooden floors etc), quite good coffee, prices OK, minor lapse in the service but nothing serious (and it was just the first day).  And pretty busy.  I wondered about the busyness, as we hadn't noticed any conventional publicity.   I don't belong to Facebook (one reason being that their list of "suggested friends" seems to me to be highly intrusive), but you can get a glimpse into the Facebook world via the internet.  And yes, there the café was, with hundreds of "likes" by the end of their first day!  Obviously, effective use of the "social media" is the way to go when promoting this type of business!  

Monday, 20 August 2012

His Girl Friday

The reviews of MTC's production of His Girl Friday have been good, but one description refers to it as a "screwball comedy".   If you like this type of thing, fine.    I have to say, plays tending towards slapstick with Chicago accents are not at the top of the list of things that I usually find entertaining, but even I enjoyed it because it's very well done, the timing is mostly excellent, there's lots of energy and much of the dialogue is very witty as well as being of relevance 70+ years on (although at least a passing knowledge of the world scene as it unfolded during 1939 is helpful).

This satire of tabloid journalism was apparently first produced as The Front Page and then as a film His Girl Friday. The current play is said to be a combination of the two.  It's set in the press office of Chicago's criminal courts in 1939, the day before the  hanging of "cop killer" Earl Holub .  His crime is a case of bad timing, as the the Mayor is up for re-election and wants to be seen as the person who gets rid of a terrorist, thus distracting attention from a number of grimy issues.  In the meantime, top reporter Hildy Johnson is trying to move on from the Chicago newspaper scene.

Pamela Rabe and Philip Quast play the leading roles.  They don't miss a beat and are well supported by the rest of the cast.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

ATM fees

There are some things in life that I find I can avoid doing.  These include paying interest on my credit card and paying ATM fees.
Yet the Reserve Bank (and the Age?) seem to be surprised at this - see

The article states that economists did not think that the usage of "foreign" ATMs would drop with the advent of a reminder by the machine that a fee will be charged for a transaction.

Well, I'm not surprised in the least.    ATMs are everywhere, and the reality of life is that, for most of us, our usual patterns  of activity don't change a great deal.  This means that most of us are familiar with the location of the various ATMs within the course of our daily activities, so it isn't hard to arrange to withdraw money from one's "own" bank.

So, pay for the privilege of using the ATM machine on the right hand end of the array, instead of waiting a few seconds for the machine with your bank's brand on it to become available?  I don't think so!

In fairness, perhaps the surprising thing is that there were so many "foreign" transactions before the reminder screen appeared on ATMs, when the only notification of the fee was a debit on the bank statement.

Friday, 17 August 2012

The daily newspaper

I like to start my day reading the newspaper as I have breakfast.     But I see the circulation figures published a recently show that the circulation of just about every mainstream daily newspaper in Australia declined in the 3 months to the end of June.  Apparently, Monday to Friday figures for the Age fell by 14% (year-on-year), and the equivalent figure for the Herald-Sun was 5.1%.  For some reason, the Australian's fall was less, at 0.7%.

One report that I read attributed the fall in the Age's circulation to "raising cover prices and weeding out loss-making and marginal sales" (whatever this may mean).    From a personal perspective, my impression is that the well-publicised cost reductions at the Age have resulted in a noticeable decline in standards and an increase in sensationalism.  Perhaps this is being reflected in the figures? 

Given that I can't quite contemplate a digital world where I read the news on a tablet or e-reader of some kind as I digest my muesli, I am concerned about the future.   I hope that there will be a place for quality print media (not just freebies like mX) for some time yet.  I note that newspapers such as the Canberra Times and the Mercury manage to survive on circulation figures far lower than the Age is likely to descend to in the foreseeable future (even if there are aspects of these papers that are less than perfect), and my newsagent has a range of ethnic papers (at least one of which is daily, Monday to Saturday) that presumably have even lower circulation figures.   So perhaps with some adjustment, survival is not inconsistent with the maintenance of at least a degree of quality.  But I worry that the Age isn't listening.
EDIT 18 August:  I see that the price of the Saturday Age has today been increased to $3, and that the price of the Herald-Sun has increased as well.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


We headed to SugarReef in Fitzroy St with Cath.   This area is her territory, not ours, but we're flexible!     The room is stylish, the tapas were good, and the burgers were fine, but the nasi goreng was really, really spicy hot!    We queried this, but were told, that's the way the chef does it. We accept that  there are no hard and fast rules for nasi goreng and it was described on the menu as "spicy", but even so were a bit taken aback by just how hot it was.
The service was attentive, and the wine list had some reasonably priced options.  Outside, Fitzroy Street seemed pretty subdued for a Friday night, but it was a chilly winter's evening.
The restaurant promotes itself as "overlooking the beautiful Catani Gardens".  Well, maybe, but these days there's a platform tramstop right outside, between the restaurant and the gardens which means that there isn't much of a view.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Early blossom

The early blossoms are beginning to emerge.  In fact, there's a tree in a street close by which is already covered in blossom.  Few of the other trees in that street are showing many signs of blossom yet, so this particular tree must be favoured by extra exposure to sunlight.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


In connection with the water main replacement work going on in the area, a couple of large trucks have been parked in the street outside our house each night for the last couple of weeks.   
We've been philosophical about this (after all, we do want the water supply to continue to function in the future!), but we are getting a bit tired of them.  During the day, they reserve their parking spots with tape, and their presence complicates the garbage collection.  
We got into conversation with the crew yesterday, and they assured us that the work was nearly finished and the trucks would be off to A'Beckett Street in the city this week.   In the meantime, they told us that they would have no objection to us to alleviating the unsightly view by giving the trucks a wash!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Auction etiquette

I attended a nearby auction  at the weekend.   I ended up standing beside a neighbour, and asked him, had he been through the house?    No, he told me, he didn't think it right to go through another neighhbour's house.

I admitted that I had never thought that there might be an issue in this regard.  We agreed that in the circumstances, since he lived in the street in which the auction was occurring, and I lived a couple of streets away, I wasn't bound in this instance by his self-imposed standard of etiquette.  Nevertheless, it left me wondering.  Is it impolite to go through a neighbour's house when it's open for inspection for an auction?   

Perhaps it depends on whether you actually know the vendors (if they're strangers, then maybe it doesn't matter)?   Perhaps if you do know them, you ought to go through the motions of asking if it's OK (knowing that they can hardly refuse!)  Or can it be that you are actually helping them by attending thus building up the crowd, in which case surely you can be rewarded by a peek through so as to admire their efforts at making their house ultra-presentable?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Water works

Temporary water supply
I've previously mentioned the re-construction activities being undertaken in the street around the corner from us (see    These are continuing, but in addition it seems that the opportunity is being taken to replace the water main.  So, we have two sets of holes at different locations, and double the disruption!    I suppose it's a positive that these works are occurring at the same time (as I assume that different authorities are involved), thus overcoming the need to dig up the street for the water main just after the kerbs and drains are completed.  We'll be glad when it's all over.

Bits of the old water main

New water pipes

Friday, 10 August 2012

The quiet kettle

I try and keep broadly abreast of technical change, but mainly at the "big picture" level, that is, significant step-changes and the like.  But I don't attempt to keep up with all the incremental developments in gadgetry.  So I was a bit blind-sided when the "quiet kettle" arrived in our kitchen.  I inquired, is it really effective?   And, anyway, what's the point?
The answers are, yes, it does what it purports to do (it's thicker, somewhat like a thermos) - but note that it's "quiet", not silent (so you still hear the water boiling, but it's muted).  And the point is, it doesn't drown out the radio (but as to whether that is a "good thing", well, obviously "it depends").

Whether every kitchen needs one - I think the jury is still out on that issue!

EDIT:  It has since occurred to me that there may yet be further improvements to be made.   Perhaps an alarm to tell you when the water has boiled?    An electronic whistle, maybe? EDIT of EDIT:  I stand corrected (thanks to abg).  It does indeed "ting" when it turns itself off at boiling point.   The "ting" is definitely not as loud as the whistle that kettles had circa 1960, but there again, they were on the stove and the whistle was needed because they didn't automatically turn themselves off.   

Thursday, 9 August 2012

8 Days

Kylie, our Minister, is off to Oxford to undertake her Doctorate in Theology.  She will be very greatly missed, but we're happy that she has this great opportunity.   Those of us who were available mid-week had an opportunity to catch up with her for a casual lunch at "8 Days".   Good company and nice food.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


I'm used to receiving spam emails about "urgent" security issues from "banks", some of which I have an account with, and others that I don't.  They go automatically to "junk".  But the email in my inbox seemed to be from Optus, and I nearly fell for it!    It was headed "Valued Customer", and the text was ---
Your mailbox has exceeded 90% of its quota. When it reaches 100%, new
messages will be rejected and bounce back to the sender. To avoid missing
mail, please keep your mailbox at a reasonable size.

Refer to....[then a link to what appeared to be an Optus FAQ site was set out].
Yeah, I thought, it's just possible my settings in Thunderbird don't provide for automatic deletion of old emails.   And I was on the verge of clicking...but....."Valued Customer"?    Would Optus use that?    So I checked the settings in Thunderbird (they provided for automatic deletion), and then checked my mailbox on-line (not clogged up with old mail).  Thus, the email was obviously spam, and who knows what would have been the result if I had allowed my account to be hijacked (which I assume was the objective).

Just goes to show, it's important to be on your guard.  There's always a new angle that might catch you unaware.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Leonard French ceiling

When we were at the National Gallery recently, I took the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with the Leonard French stained glass ceiling.   Hardly anyone else was in the Great Hall.   Does everyone just take this work for granted?  I accept that my rather poor photos don't do it justice, but perhaps they'll serve as a reminder.

Monday, 6 August 2012


These are our flowers
It's magnolia season.   Our magnolia has been flowering.  The flowers open before the leaves arrive, which always looks a little odd, but of course it's perfectly normal for Magnolia liliiflora.
A nearby magnolia

There's an impressive magnolia close by, which is covered in a dense array of flowers, many more than on ours.


Saturday, 4 August 2012


Lezzet advertises "contemporary Turkish cuisine", so we were happy when T and V suggested we should have a meal there.   It's in Brighton Road, Elwood, where there was no difficulty parking, and we were warmly welcomed.   We opted for the 4 course "Sofra", and weren't disappointed.  
This gave us a number of mezzas, two main courses (salmon in vine leaves, accompanied by date mousse, and slow-cooked lamb) and Turkish delight sundae.
The service was OK, and although there was the odd lapse, these weren't serious.   Although it wasn't clear on their web-page, you can BYO (and we had a bottle just in case!)
In common with many restaurants these days, there wasn't a great deal of space between the tables, but once we got talking this wasn't an issue because we had a great deal to catch up on and the night passed enjoyably and all too quickly.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Financial advisers

Most of our superannuation is in straight-forward funds, which don't need much "management".   But for historical reasons, we have some money in a "fund" (or is it, a "platform"?) and a financial adviser is involved.  The returns on this have been disappointing.   In musing about this, I considered just withdrawing it and combining it with our other funds.    However, my sense of "fair play" (query if this is the right word!) prevailed, and I thought I ought to give the financial adviser an opportunity to "do something" before acting unilaterally.

Needless to say, the original adviser has moved on (perhaps he's made enough to retire on?), and a new person was involved.   And, I'm not sure how it happened, but to put it bluntly:  it was quite a lengthy session and involved discussing a much broader range of issues than I intended (something about the regulatory requirements requiring a full analysis of the issues, which I must admit kinda rang a bell somewhere).   But do I really need to have a spread of funds, and be aware of the volatility index rating of each? And so on.

I'm still pondering what to do next......  I'm left with the uneasy feeling that someone, somewhere is paying for all this information!   And since I seem to be the person at the end of the food chain - can you see what I'm getting at?  Simplicity certainly still has its appeal.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Christmas in July

I'm not sure if  such functions are trendy, but, yes, we went to a "Christmas in July" lunch.  It was at the bowling club on a damp Sunday.  All good fun, plenty to eat, and nice to catch up with  everyone (except for some who were absent with the flu or whatever, who we missed).

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Legislating for good taste?

I must admit that I was concerned when I read in the Age (last Sunday) that it's been suggested that the media should be restricted from using certain words, at least if they're used pejoratively.   See:

My concern is that the decision whether or not an expression such as "crazy" or "nuts" has been used pejoratively will often involve a matter of judgement.  The idea that regulatory bodies (potentially government-funded) should become involved in such matters gets very close to the concept of "thought police".

I strongly support good taste and am dismayed by many aspects of today's society which appear to me to be in very bad taste - but the problem isn't going to be fixed by having regulations about the matter.