Saturday, 29 June 2013

Good Cafe Guide

I'm not really sure why I needed a copy of the Good Cafe Guide (sic - no accent in the name!), but since the cost was $5 if I bought it with the Age (or should that be, $8 with a copy of the Saturday Age thrown in?), I decided to "go for it" for interest's sake.

I'm still pondering the need for such a guide.  Surely one checks out the local cafés in person?   And does anyone really travel to the other side of the town just to get a coffee at a highly rated coffee shop?

Be that as it may, a number of the local coffee establishments are listed. However, there are at least a couple that I would have expected to find in it but are missing, as to my inexpert eye they are "better" than at least some of those that are listed.  But who am I to assess such matters?

All this, of course, begs the question, what are the criteria for a café to be "good"?    Ambiance seems to be high on this list (being a "gorgeous" venue helps!), as is a menu that has some trendily-named choices (pea fritters with pickled cabbage, anyone?)   Some attention has apparently been be paid to the quality of the coffee served, in that the brand of coffee that each uses is listed (the flavour of the coffee sometimes receives a comment) and some establishments receive a  "Coffee cup award" (1, 2 or 3 "cups") which are said to have been assessed by the publisher's "sharpest coffee palates".   However, the text rarely, if ever, comments on the skill (or lack of it) of the various baristas, so the reasoning behind the assessments made by these "palates" is not immediately obvious.  I can only conclude that there's lots of subjectivity involved!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Detective Piggott's Casebook

In a comment on an earlier post, abg referred me to Kevin Morgan's book on the Gun Alley murder.  I haven't yet come across that book, but my search did lead me to another book by Kevin Morgan, in which Piggott is also the central character:   Detective Piggott's Casebook.   This sets out the true stories of nine important Victoria Police investigations in the early 20th century in which Detective Frederick Piggott led the investigations.   I found the book absorbing not just because of its insight into policing techniques but also because of its descriptions of the lives of those involved and of the social scene and habits of the era.

Frederick Piggott had a long police career, starting as a country policeman in 1898, transferring to the CIB in 1912. and retiring in 1934.   In an era of under-educated and under-resourced policing, Piggott exercised a shrewd intelligence and a forensic attention to detail far ahead of his time.  The author has drawn on Piggott's personal papers as well as the official files of the period.  Apparently all the dialogue set out in the book is actual and sourced from the records.  The localities are also described in detail, as is the effect of World War 1 on a couple of the characters.  It was also interesting to read the outlines of the subsequent lives of the people involved.

House in Crimea St in which Irene Tuckerman lived is still there
While Piggott had many strong qualities and undoubtedly had some successes, he was not perfect.   The killer of Irene Tuckerman (in what is described as the Caulfield Outrage) was never identified - although the book speculates as to a couple of possibilities.

The Gun Alley investigation is referred to in the chapter dealing with the Irene Tuckerman murder, but is not dealt with in detail in this book  (it's described, I understand,  in detail in  Morgan's book,  Gun Alley: Murder, Lies and Failure of Justice).   However, Piggott's investigation of the rape and murder of 12 year old Alma Tirtschke in the Gun Alley case resulted in the conviction and execution of the wrong person, who has subsequently the subject of the only (to date)  pardon for a judicially executed person in Australia.   The Gun Alley murder occurred a year before the Irene Tuckerman murder, and the press certainly identified similarities between the cases (they both concerned the murder of a young girl).  However, at least in the Tuckerman case the authorities did not seek to rely on the evidence of two perjured witnesses, who were influenced by the reward on offer, even though Piggott appears to have formed the view that the person implicated by those witnesses was the guilty party.

I drove down Crimea Street, North Caulfield, and the house in which Irene Tuckerman lived still stands.

Thursday, 27 June 2013


We were out at a restaurant with friends (Zen, in South Yarra actually) ......but it was the evening the Labor Party was again ...errr....deciding in which direction it wanted to go (to use neutral language).  Needless to say, the iPhones were out in force!   So we'll remember the night:  the food and company were good, the politics was strange, the thought processes were, well, the jury is still out on where this will all end.... 

Needless, to say, when we got home, the TV went on.   How fascinated we are by every little detail when events such as these occur!

A point for blue ties? ....or perhaps even 2 points?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Life with Windows 8

I am gradually adjusting to life with Windows 8 ....but I still don't like it.  Let's just say, I tolerate it. My latest issue was that I was unable to print from the Windows 8 computer.    Our printer is attached to one of the other computers on the home network, with the other computers being able to use it so long as the host computer is on (even though the printer isn't a network printer, it's set up for sharing).

Initially, the Windows 8 computer seemed to be able to use the printer...but then things stopped and I kept getting error messages.   I googled for solutions and took the obvious steps, such as making sure the drivers were no avail.

A bit more googling, and lo, what seemed to be a viable solution emerged.   In essence, this required me manually to re-install the printer.   I carefully followed the steps, but at first to no avail, because I had mis-typed the path (some things never change, it has always been thus, make a mistake when typing in a path, and there is no forgiveness!)
But, this being corrected, eureka....I was able to print over the network.

It took a little while and some frustrating moments, but at least the issue is sorted.   Now if only I could sort out my smaller but still annoying issues with Windows 8 ........ aspects of the interface aren't great for conventional computers (even after tweaking), it seems to be fickle as to which usb devices it will accept (in fairness, may be a hardware issue), some software struggles with it (Gimp, for example), the list goes on......

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Stephen Mayne

I admire Stephen Mayne for his energy and enthusiasm (even if I don't always agree with him), but I wonder why he has to try and cover sooo many issues.

Be that as it may, I liked a comment in a recent issue of The Mayne Report, which was, "...revenge is a huge motivator in politics."

Seems to explain a lot of what's going on in Canberra at the present time! Although perhaps the fear that revenge might be taken is an even greater motivator!

EDIT - the following was passed on to me, in light of the above:
Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
 - Confucius

Monday, 24 June 2013

Solomon and Marion

The themes in MTC's production of Solomon and Marion (which we saw recently) are reminiscent of the work of J M Coetzee - or is it just that racial relations and related aspects flow through South African literature?    But the fact that Marion's daughter was said to have moved to Australia (mirroring Coetzee's own move to Adelaide) and the specific reference to him as one point in the dialogue certainly brought him to the mind of the audience.

The blurb states that this is the story of two injured souls searching for redemption in fragile, post-apartheid South Africa, and it certainly is a powerful and moving script complemented by equally strong performances by the two actors.   The production in the Fairfax Studio - a nice venue - allows for an interesting, creative set.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice in Australia occurred on Friday 21 June, when  the sun was at its furthermost point north at just after 3 pm.  Thus, the day was the "shortest  day" of the year.    It follows that the nights on either side were the longest nights of the year (perhaps Friday night was actually the longest?)  

The main thing is that each day will now be a little longer than the day before, from now until the summer solstice in December.

When I was young, these events were mentioned but these days they seem to pass without notice [edit - but I've now heard of a "solstice party", and apparently they celebrate it in Hobart by "skinny dipping"!)

Friday, 21 June 2013

Personal responsibility

I was interested in Janet Albrechtsen's piece in the Australian drawing attention to the High Court's recent decision in Kakavas v Crown Melbourne Limited.  This was the case where a high roller sued Crown for money that he'd lost at the casino, arguing that he was a problem gambler and was at a "special disadvantage" and that Crown had engaged in unconscionable conduct.

It was good to see that the High Court had little difficulty in unanimously dismissing the appeal.   I say this not out of feelings towards casinos, but because it was clearly the right outcome from a legal perspective. The Court made it clear that it would not interfere to relieve parties from the consequences of improvident transactions or risk laden activity, conducted at arm's length in the ordinary and undistinguished course of lawful business.

While the Court said that some gamblers may be able to argue victimisation (such as a widowed pensioner who cashes her pension cheque at the casino), in relation to this case it said, "To describe the business of a casino as the victimisation of gamblers who choose to frequent it might well make sense in moral or social terms depending on one's moral or social philosophy;   but it does not make a lot of sense so far as the law is concerned, given that the conduct of the business is lawful".

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Age's readership

An article in the Sunday Age a little while back referred to a survey of bicycle accidents.  Since it relied on self-selected responses, it's conceivable that there may be issues regarding how representative the survey was.    But I was fascinated by the paragraph that read -
"The accidents in both data sets tended to be in Melbourne's inner north.  It is not known whether those in the reader-generated set come from that area because of higher cycling rates, higher accident rates, or a bias of Age readers likely to live in the area".  (Underlining added)

Hmmm, is not this area is Mr Brandt's heartland?   Interesting that the Age goes a little way towards suggesting that there may be an element of correlation between its readership and Mr B's supporter base!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Lowering costs.....

The professional services firm with which I am associated has a strong European network.  It recently told us that it is opening a new office in Glasgow which will provide business support and legal services to its European offices, although the immediate plans are focused solely on support for London. It's all part of what is said to be "increasing demands for ... firms to take more responsibility for delivering services cost efficiently".  And keeping costs down so as to maintain profitability.........?

Perhaps this comes in the same category as near-shoring jobs to New Zealand?

Although out (near?)-sourcing from London to Glasgow is somewhat removed from out-sourcing from, say, Australia to an Asian country, there's a trend here.   There are many services that can be provided from a distance, especially in the "back office" area:  transcription of dictation, accounting functions, IT support and so on.  There are also fairly routine professional taks that can be undertaken remotely.  Presumably costs in Glasgow are cheaper  than in London, although I wonder if a Scottish location may also have something to do with contingency planning in the event of the Scots deciding to leave the UK?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Why is Aldi called Aldi?     The answer is here (see slide 3)   In short, ALDI (which is is a privately owned business that started in Germany in 1948) was founded by two brothers, Karl & Theo Albrecht.    The name ALDI comes from the original family named store,  Albrecht Discounts.

I notice that the original company was later split into ALDI North (led by Theo) & ALDI South (led by Karl), and that ALDI Australia is part of the ALDI South group.

Sounds a little like the division of the world by Pope Gregory VI in 1493!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Eating in Chapel Street

We had a late lunch in Chapel Street at Sienna after seeing a movie.   Nice outlook, quite stylish, good pasta, friendly service.    By the time we added in a couple of glasses of wine, it wasn't the cheapest lunch we'd ever had, but no real complaints.

It was good to see that at least some (but not all) of the trams in Chapel Street are still the W class.    Their days are probably numbered, though, which probably explains why there were some less old (I was going to say, more modern, but that's hardly apt) trams as well.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Great Gatsby

I always associate the The Great Gatsby movie which came out in 1974 with 20s style music.  However, the latest version of movie has definitely moved on!    In this production, the flamboyant 1920s party scenes, by way of the director's effort to demonstrate the excesses of the period, come close to creating an over-the-top visual and acoustic overload.  Likewise, the car scenes take on the thunderous intensity of a Grand Prix (including the crossings on the Queensboro Bridge).  Gatsby's repetitious use of the expression, "Old chap" is in the same vein (even if it is authentic, having regard to the book, which I haven't checked).  Even the "valley of ashes" is portrayed in a larger-than life way.  Incidentally, I see that the Flushing Meadows tennis complex (where US Open tennis is played) was later built in this area!
Cashing in on the style?   In a local shop window

Just the same, I found the latest movie fascinating and absorbing!

I read one review which stated, "Perhaps it's telling of the strength of the source material and cast that the human element shines through despite [director] Luhrmann's excesses."    I think this sums it up well.

Friday, 14 June 2013


I came across an interesting use of the expression "pre-loading":   it's used to describe drinkers who have a drink before going out to a pub, club or bar, primarily to save money.  Perhaps this is a well-known expression, but I hadn't previously encountered it.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education says that more that half of all drinkers do this - particularly Gen Yers.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Eating in the Dandenongs

On our recent excursion to the Dandenongs, there was a lot of traffic on the main tourist road - and no chance at all of parking in the main towns.    So, we headed down towards Monbulk.  No only was the road quieter, but we passed Seasons restaurant.    This is quite stylish, and we've previously eaten there.   Recalling that we had enjoyed that occasion, we called in.   But, without a booking, on a public holiday?   No way!    
However, all was not lost.  It seems that gourmet pies are "in" in this part of the world!   Down the road at Monbulk,  I'm not sure how many establishments offer gourmet pies, but we headed into the Wickedly establishment.  The pastry chef here is certainly prolific:  there were many pies, cakes and such like to choose from.  I was content with a curry chicken pie, and passed on the cakes.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Buying plants in the Dandenongs

There were a couple of gaps in the garden, so we headed off on the Monday of the long weekend to see if we could find anything suitable.    I admit that sometimes we go to the mega-nursery down the road or even to Bunnings, but this time we thought that we ought to combine it with a trip to the Dandenongs.   Things were pretty crowded:  it seems that that we weren't the only people who thought an outing to the Dandenongs was a good way to spend the day! 

Just the last remnants of colour
The last of the autumn colour was still visible, and off the main tourist trail, we found a place to eat, as well as a nearly adjoining plant nursery.   Loaded with more plants than we intended, we stopped for a walk at Grants reserve in Sherbrooke forest.  There were lots of people in the vicinity of the carpark, but surprisingly few on the walking trails.

Walking in Sherbrooke forest

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Hard rubbish

Although the local Council conducts hard waste collections every few months, it seems many people can't wait.   Discarded items litter our nature strips.   The matter was raised at the ward meeting a while back, but the Council kinda shrugs its collective shoulders and says there's little they can do unless someone is "caught in the act".   In the meantime, eventually they come around to pick it up.   

One small step might be a little more publicity about the legitimate disposal options that are available.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bundoora Park

We were out that side of Melbourne and realised that we were not far from Bundoora Park.  I was vaguely awareness of its existence, but had never been there.  The area has a bit of history (at one stage, it was the Victoria Police stud and stables and later it was the location of a psychiatric hospital), but it has now been developed into what is described as Melbourne's "most diverse park".    Indeed, it seems to have something for everyone:   wetlands, open spaces, picnic areas, a golf course, a wildlife reserve, an "urban farm" and a "heritage village".    The last 3 areas require an admission fee, but as it was getting on in the day and there was a need for a coffee and then a walk to the Bundoora Homestead to be undertaken, we saved the enclosed areas for another day.

Bundoora Homestead
I don't think Bundoora Homestead is actually part of the park, but it is adjacent to it.  The homestead is apparently administered by La Trobe University, whereas the park is administered by the local council.    The sign at the Homestead stated that it was supposed to be open at the time we visited, but it wasn't!   

By the time we'd walked to the Homestead and looked around the exterior and returned, it was nearly dark.   So a return visit is called for, because there's a lot we didn't see.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Shopping Centre works

Target moved out of the local shopping centre at the end of last December, which didn't please some of the locals.    DJs haven't yet opened in the space.   No doubt a different demographic will be pleased when that occurs.   

In the meantime, the owners (AMP) are taking advantage of the limbo time to undertake a whole lot of renovations to the travelators and the facade.   These works seem to have been dragging on for weeks, especially the travelators.  There's a sign explaining that the travelators have been in service for many years and need to be re-built.   This seems understandable, but just what was wrong with the facade eludes me

It's all pretty annoying, and must be impacting on the smaller businesses (no doubt Woolworths have done a deal of some sort with AMP).


Friday, 7 June 2013

Ringing & Riding at the Airport

I've been aware of the "Ring & Ride" facility at the Melbourne Airport, but I hadn't used it (as a driver) until this week.     The idea is that you get 20 minutes free parking to wait for an arriving passenger, who then goes to the relatively new passenger pick-up zone and gives the driver a ring.  The driver then leaves the holding facility and collects the passenger in the pick-up zone.

It all works quite well, although on the day I was there, there was only one other car in the holding area - but numerous cars in the actual pick up zone.    I wonder if a lot of people just go to the pick-up zone and wait (running the risk of exceeding the time limit)?

An aspect that slightly confused me is that the holding area is within the long-term car park, and you have to take a ticket to gain entry.   The machine only spits out one sort of ticket, and I was a little apprehensive that I'd missed getting a "Ring & Ride" ticket.    However, there were no problems, as a special ticket is not required.

If you exceed the 20 minute free quota, but you're out within an 40 minutes, the charge is $2 (or $4 for an hour).  After that, you have to pay normal long-term rates if you're still waiting without having made the effort to go around the block (although you would probably have died of boredom in the holding area if you were there for that long!)

Another, perhaps minor, issue is that the location of the pick-up zone isn't intuitive for arriving passengers.  They need to know that they need to follow the signs and cross both the taxi and bus lanes to get to it.

Bleak ...and deserted

Thursday, 6 June 2013


We went to see Babirra's production of Annie.   At the time we booked, the series was nearly sold out and we managed to get tickets only when an extra performance was scheduled.  And, no wonder, this performance was right up there to the same high standard as the previous one we saw. Hello Dolly.
To add to the challenges, Annie includes in the cast Annie herself who appears to have been played by a young teenager (actually, it seems there are two Annies, who presumably share the 9 performances), 8 other orphans, at least one of whom appeared to be only 11 or 12 years old (no nights off for any of these, it appears), and Sandy the dog who won everyone's heart.

At times the rendition seemed to be a little "shrill", but apart from this, we were impressed with the singing, the choreography and the orchestra, and we certainly enjoyed the night. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Blood Detective

The Blood Detective links a number of brutal modern crimes to series of grisly murders in 1879 and the wrongful conviction then of an innocent man.  As the earlier crimes are mimicked, the book turns to a suspense novel with the police racing against time when they discern the pattern and are able to predict the next murder.  Dan Waddell's book works genealogy and London urban history into the tracking of the serial killer and gives us a fascinating look at doing genealogical research in London.

The plot is pretty far-fetched (not that that's unusual, I suppose), and I found the gore and torture a bit overdone (but apparently that's expected these days).   There's hardly any tension between the police and the genealogist and only a little between the police themselves, which is a welcome relief from the pattern often found in modern crime writing.   

Perhaps the references to archives and documents get a little tedious, but since the book is aimed, at least in part, at those who are interested in this area, presumably this all has to be there.  While there are some references to missing information and the like, I did wonder, however, if research in this area is always quite as effective as it is portrayed to be (or is it that the British records really are good?)

A bit different to a lot of modern crime writing, and interesting reading.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


There are many occasion when I don't agree with Bruce Guthrie, but recently in the Sunday Age he addressed the issue of the speed at which many (but certainly not all) cyclists travel along Southbank Promenade.  The article's heading concerned a different matter and there was a bit of anti-Doyle rant (both of which I will pass over), but he stated  that there's a bike speed limit of 10 kph for cyclists along this strip and that it seems to be regularly exceeded.  

Looking across the river when eating at Southgate in the evening
At times, we eat at the outside tables next to the Promenade, and I have certainly thought to myself that the mix of heavy pedestrian traffic and bikes travelling at speeds of way more than 10 kph in this area is surely a recipe for trouble.

Monday, 3 June 2013


I won't enter the controversy as to whether a 13 year old girl ought to be sanctioned for the use of the word "ape", or comment on whether the AFL's response to such matters depends on whether you're Eddie McGuire or only a mere mortal.  I recognise the political imperative for the AFL to toe the line in such matters.    However, I do wait with interest for the day when they take a stand against the vilification of umpires - and in particular the amount of obscene language used in this regard at football matches.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

One Man, Two Guvnors

The full house at the Playhouse obviously enjoyed One Man, Two Guvnors .....but is it a play?   Perhaps "circus" or "pantomime" might be equally apt descriptions.   The blurb describes it as a "unique, laugh-out-loud mix of satire, songs, slapstick and sparkling one-liners".    Yeah, maybe.....

The British cast of 17 (11 main roles and an ensemble of 6) plus a band of 4 don't miss a beat in a well choreographed, fast moving production, the band was terrific and the humour didn't overdo the slapstick (my tolerance of  this is limited).   There is some audience interaction (although not as much as it seems at first, when one of the selected "members" of the audience turns out to have been planted).

Not exactly "comic perfection" (this quote is attributed to the Daily Telegraph), but certainly, all in all, an enjoyable night, watching something a little different from MTC's usual offerings.