Friday, 30 November 2012

Parking signs (again)

And if there's a spot to the right at 9 am on Thursday....?
I've previously commented on the intricacies of some of the parking restrictions that I encounter as I wander around (see here).  But the complexity of some signs never ceases to amaze me, so here are some more examples! 
And so, what applies between 9 and 11 am on Fridays?

Outside the Court, so grab a lawyer to explain it!

Thursday, 29 November 2012


Streetscape (pity about the high rise flats!)
We relaxed over lunch at Williamstown.   Things weren't at all busy on the weekday when we were there (except for the making of segments from the Underbelly series, which I've already mentioned).  I gather things are busier at weekends.  There are lots of pretty casual eating places.  We ate at "Attitudes" which was fine for what we wanted.
Westgate Bridge in the distance
Anchor from the Victorian navy's only ship, HMVS Nelson
Although you can see the city across the bay, it feels a long way away

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


We headed off to Williamstown to catch up with D and D over a pleasant lunch - but when walking down the footpath we almost stumbled into a crew filming parts of a new Underbelly series.   We were politely diverted by a marshal before we interrupted anything!
Later, the crew had moved to a different location, and we again paused to watch.

Although we were on the other side of the street, once again we were politely asked to move (this time, not by a mere marshal but by a person who seemed to be quite significant in the scheme of things) on the basis that our reflections might be seen in the gleaming (but old) cars, and would we please stand in the shade!

 It certainly appears to take quite a team to put these productions together, and there is obviously a lot of attention to detail.

Both the scenes that we witnessed were quite short, but we can reveal that somewhere in the series there will be a scene where a man with a pistol confronts a couple on a footpath in front of some shops, and another where a man makes the acquaintance of his new neighbour from outside the front fence, but warns her that "she hasn't seen anything" after which he gets into his car!   

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The garden clean up

I acknowledge that my efforts at trimming and keeping the garden clean and tidy are sometimes, well, a little "intermittent".  Anyway, it was decided that something had to be done, and the Grey Army man was summoned.    I heard various machines trimming, cutting and blowing, and so now at least parts of the garden are neater (even if a little bare in places).


Monday, 26 November 2012

"Snow in Summer"

It's nice to see the melaleucas ("paperbarks") out in bloom nearby.  These trees seem to do quite well in the urban environment, so I wonder why they're not used more often as a street tree (Edit - I've since noticed that there are more of them around than I first thought, such as Bambra Rd, Caulfield).

I assume that the variety we see around here is Melaleuca quinquenervia, even though it does not occur naturally as far south as Melbourne.  I was interested to see on Wikipedia that it has been classified as a noxious weed in six US states, and is especially troublesome in the Florida everglades (where it was introduced in about 1900, partly to assist in draining swamps - apparently effectively!)

Edit: here's another example in the local area that I've noticed since first posting this item (although not a street tree) ---

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Waiting for the train

Are seats on railway platforms destined to become "optional extras"?  I was alerted to this by some comments on the internet (including here, so I called past to check.  Yes, it is indeed true that there are now no seats on one pair of platforms at Flinders St.  As someone who appreciates the ability to rest my aging bones while waiting for the train, I think this is an unfortunate move. 
No seats - just marks on the ground where they were!
I am not sure why it has been "necessary" to remove the seats.   I gather that Metro thinks it may create space for a few more people to stand on the platform.  Strange that this has just now become an issue for the first time since 1922 (see below) even though we are told there were big crowds in the 50s (before the loop, mind you).   And if it has become an issue, perhaps if Metro ran enough trains, the crowds wouldn't build up.  In fact, perhaps it would suffice if all the trains that are supposed to run in fact operated instead of being cancelled. 

Another possible explanation is that it will assist passengers to transfer from a train on one side of the platform that was originally destined to go to "x" when Metro in its wisdom decides at the last minute that, instead, the train on the other side of the platform will go there, so everyone has to change over.

How long are these seats on another platform going to last?
For what it is worth, apparently this is not the first time seats have been removed in the alleged interest of creating more room.  In Jenny Davis's book, Beyond the Facade, it's noted (page 260) that "most" of the seats were removed from the platforms in 1922 "to make more room for waiting passengers"!  But at least then they left a few seats.

PS - for a follow-up blog by aami, see

Friday, 23 November 2012


I'm not a fan of Google, and Bing is owned by Microsoft (so say no more!).  My unease about Google was heightened when I read in Computer Choice that it's a good idea to sign out of Gmail before using Google search.   The article didn't give reasons for this, but implied  that information is cross-referred in some way.  Who knows........???

In fact, I sometimes don't use Google as such, but use instead "Give Me Back My Google" ( .    Apparently this it filters the advertisements out from Google.  So far as I can tell, it seems to do this effectively - but presumably, deep down, it's still Google.

So, my mind was receptive when Computer Choice mentioned DuckDuckGo was a good search engine (see ).   It said that, "It offers privacy and organic [real] search results rather than advertising - or profile - based searches that modify results based on data the search engine has gained about you".
This all sounded good, so I've been experimenting with DuckDuckGo.    So far, I can definitely vouch for the fact that it doesn't appear to have profiled me.  But believe it or not, I am now in two minds as to whether "real search results" are in fact such a good thing!   For example, if I'm searching for reviews about a particular product that I may be interested in, Bing and Google know that I'm based in Australia and tend to send me local reviews.  However, DuckDuckGo "follows the crowd" and the results are often overwhelmingly North American.   And I suspect, also, that DuckDuckGo might not have the underlying "oomph" that Google has so as to be able to locate all relevant sites.

I'm still deciding whether I ought to persevere with this, and try to be more specific with my searching (such as including the word "Australia" in my search query).  Or is at all too hard?  I fear that I've become quite accustomed to not having to think too hard when searching, so looks like it may be back to Bing and GMBMG!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Ballarat Botanical Gardens

Recalling our recent visit to Ballarat,  it was a great time of year to visit the Botanical Gardens there, as the springtime floral displays were excellent.

Nearby are bronze busts of every prime minister since Federation:

Well, all of them that is except for the current occupant of that office - a spot awaits!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

E waste

It's not always easy in Stonnington to dispose of e-waste in an "environmentally-friendly" manner.  Sure, you can put in the hard waste collection but for those of us who would like to do the "right thing", you have to watch out for the occasional day at the Council depot and then make an appointment ahead of time.


But a day was notified, I saw the notice, and I made an appointment.    Then the reason for the rarity of the opportunity emerged:   the way Stonnington handles the disposal of old computer equipment is highly labour-intensive.     As you arrive, the first person checks your name off, then the next person conducts a survey of what you have.  You're then directed to parking area, where a team of people descend on your car and quickly assist you to empty it.  I suppose it's all about making sure that the old stuff goes into the correct bin.  However, it does seem to me that ratepayers funds could be conserved - perhaps d-i-y disposal into appropriate bins with just a single council employee supervising?

I had thought that neighbouring Boroondara provided a better service, and indeed it is the case that you can take your e-waste over to their depot.  On closer examination, I see that the e-waste component of Boroondara's service is actually part of a national scheme, so although Boroondara apparently provide the facility, it's not limited to residents of that area - see   

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


It wasn't quite what I expected, as the promotional material had used the expression, "laugh-wrenching hit comedy".   Well, no.  True, there were some funny bits (one segment seemed to be more designed to inject some humour than to contribute to the story), but a better description of MTC's production of Elling might be "quirky".  It's all about two mentally ill Norwegians who are provided with a flat to live in, so that they can adapt to living "normal" lives.

The play explores, in a fairly light-hearted way, the issues that they are faced with and how each of them responds to these.  I guess it also acknowledges that we each have different views as to just what is "normal".   The set is quite interesting - steps, windows and skylights appear as the play progresses, and it all becomes a bigger mess as the characters become more "normal".

As I have found with a couple of other recent plays, I wasn't too sure about this play for much of the first half.   Obviously, it's a bit "different", and dealing with mental disabilities is challenging, although here it's handled pretty gently.   But by the end, I was fine with it.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The less direct route

We took the "scenic" route home from Ballarat, via Creswick, Daylesford, Trentham and Woodend.  Creswick is the home of Le Péché Gourmand - yes, French-style pastries in a Victorian country town.  You can see them being made.   Well worth a stop!  (See

View from Wombat Hill gardens, Daylesford
Daylesford is, well, Daylesford.  Of course, there's lots to see and do here, but we concentrated on reviewing the good selection of regional wines in the local wine shop and a nice lunch at the Convent Gallery.   However, we also briefly checked out the Wombat Hill Gardens.
Garden at the Convent Gallery

Trentham was the home of my grandmother's cousins (at least, I think that's the relationship).    I don't think it's changed much since their era.  Even the railway station (no longer in use except as a museum) still has the layout that you would have expected in the 1950s.

Then a quick stop at Woodend.  Again, the local wine shop has a great range of Macedon region wines, and we were pleased to find one in particular that we had been on the lookout for.

Trentham railway station - now a museum

Main street, Trentham

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Capturing Flora

Such precision and attention to detail!   The patience required must be incredible!    I'm referring of course to botanical art in general and the Capturing Flora exhibition at Ballarat in particular.
The exhibition spans Australian botanical art from Dampier's expedition in 1699 right up to the present day, and includes the work of artists who accompanied botanists such as Joseph Banks (apparently Banks didn't prepare the artwork himself, it was an artist named Sydney Parkinson) through the era when such art was deemed a suitable pastime of upper middle class ladies and to the present day when there are a number of botanical artists hard at work despite the advances of digital imagery and DNA analysis.

The exhibition is captivating and enjoyable.    We were told that there are about 400 items on display - an impressive number, I might add - of which something like 350 are owned by the Ballarat gallery itself (many of which appear to have been acquired in the last few years).    Of the remainder, some are on loan from other galleries (and from the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne) as well as from private collectors, but interestingly several contemporary works have been lent by the artists themselves.

One aspect that I hadn't previously appreciated is that until colour printing was developed (mid 19th century?), it was quite usual for prints of botanical art in books and even in mass circulation periodicals (as forerunners of magazines, they were distributed in installments) to be hand coloured!   Hence, minor differences could exist between different copies, and one of the exhibits lines up 3 different examples of the same hand coloured print.

Actually, the annotation, while referring to the slight differences in shades, includes the comment that perhaps it's surprising that the colours vary so little!   The annotation also discusses the theory that orphans and old women in poorhouses were employed for this purpose, but suggests that this may be a popular myth!

In relation to another exhibit - a grevillea - the curators observe that perhaps the artist was provided with a cutting of the plant to work from, and hadn't seen it growing - because they think the artist has portrayed it upside-down (they provide a photograph for reference).

If you visit, take note of the darkened alcove off to the left just before the entrance to the exhibition.  It's not very well signed, and hardly anyone looked in here, but there on display is what remains of the original Eureka flag - truly a real piece of Australian history.

Note - photography isn't permitted in the Captivating Flora exhibition, so images are from publicity materials.   However, photography is permitted, without flash, in other parts of the gallery, so the image of the Eureka flag is of the actual exhibit.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Memorials in Ballarat

We obviously checked out the Pompey Elliott statue in Ballarat, and were suitably impressed.

But what really struck me was the number of other memorials.    
In a city that trades on its Eureka tradition (including a statue of Peter Lalor), there are statues of Queen Victoria and George V in the main street.  But there's an Eight Hours Day memorial, and a plaque commemorating the formation of the AWU.    Is it about balance or am I missing something?   

Along with a number of other interesting memorials and statues (they're  listed in Wikipedia (, there's a rotunda commemorating the musicians that went down with the Titanic.




Thursday, 15 November 2012

Lake Wendouree

We're spending a couple of days in Ballarat, and headed out to stylish Pipers on the Lake for lunch - very nice.    We were pleased to note that there is in fact a lake for Pipers to be on.
In 2008, Lake Wendouree was almost completely dry!

The lake is looking much better now ---