Friday, 30 May 2014


"Contactless" or "tap-and-go" cards have been around for a while (Visa call it "payWave").  The Whirlpool forum on the topic has been running since 2009!  So, I accept that I'm a latecomer to this now-popular technology (and I most certainly have not read through the whole Whirlpool forum), but I noticed that when my replacement credit card arrived, there was a covering note explaining that "PayWave" could be used on it.

I was apprehensive about this technology, and then I saw the news reports about increased thefts occurring, evidently by people in search of these cards.  Well, I do my best to secure my cards so that they're not stolen and I'm not overly worried about being hacked (see here), although I do realise that both of these are possibilities and of course I would be distressed if either happened to me.  However, it seems to me the real issue with such cards for many people is literally closer to home, namely unauthorised use by other members of the household.  It's not hard to envisage a situation where another person "borrows" the card, uses it and then returns it.  Hopefully, it won't occur in our household, but many households and house-sharing arrangements are somewhat prone to events of this type.

Imagine the difficulty involved in disputing a single transaction (which occurred while the card was "borrowed"), where other legitimate transaction later (after the return of the card) have occurred!

I decided I would like to disable the feature.  The CBA website tells me that this can't be done.  I visited the bank, where it was confirmed that the feature couldn't be disabled (unless I physically damaged the particular part of the card), but a notation was placed on the file to the effect that, if a PayWave transaction occurs, I'll be notified.

The bank's action is better than nothing, but it seems to me that technology of this nature ought to be available on an "opt in" basis, and to my mind it's unsatisfactory that it's not even possible to "opt out".

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The mail to your door (3)

Well, the price of stamps has gone up to 70¢, but it seems that the issue of  the frequency of mail deliveries is still bubbling away.   Some ideas were floated earlier in the year, and it seems that the issue hasn't gone away, although it doesn't seem to have made it to the "Australian Post Monitor" site. However, 3 deliveries per week seems to be occurring after 2015 in New Zealand.

In relation to less frequent deliveries,  The Age reported Australia Post chairman, John Stanhope, as saying, "If you want it fast, you pay for it"  (see also the Skynews report).    I'm not sure how this would work.  It's one thing to pay up-front for express delivery, but the tenor of the comment seems to suggest that the recipient can opt to receive daily mail deliveries.   How would this operate in the sorting/delivery process?   Will the postman still come down the street but miss the houses that haven't paid up?    Would this really result in any savings?

In the meantime, Australia Post is getting on the front foot with their post boxes.  No longer do they state expected delivery times, only the daily clearance time.

However, privatisation is said to be off the agenda - for now.

'If you want it fast, you pay for it .. if you want it more frequent you pay more, if you want it express you pay more,' Australia Post chairman John Stanhope told Fairfax media - See more at:
'If you want it fast, you pay for it .. if you want it more frequent you pay more, if you want it express you pay more,' Australia Post chairman John Stanhope told Fairfax media - See more at:
'If you want it fast, you pay for it .. if you want it more frequent you pay more, if you want it express you pay more,' Australia Post chairman John Stanhope told Fairfax media - See more at:

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Winter breakfast

I attended Prahran Mission's Winter Breakfast launch.  It wasn't quite as slick as the Salvo's appeal launch, and it was down to earth in a number of ways. One of the main areas that Prahran Mission works in is mental health, and they were up-front about the issues.  Mention was made of the new mental health legislation and some good aspects were described (more "one on one" programs) but that this comes at a cost (no funding for "drop-in centres).   We were told about some approaches to (and an experience of) treatment. It was also said that the rate of use of "ice" in Prahran and St Kilda is the highest in the world!  (Not sure how they work this out, but still.....)

Heath Black spoke of his personal journey through AFL football, and the serious issues that weren't being addressed in the recent past (mental health and drinking, with the drinking obscuring the depression and panic issues that some players had).   The audience was certainly captivated. We were left hoping that more attention is now being paid to these matters - but we still see media reports about "incidents".

I'm sure both Prahran Mission and the Salvos are doing vital work, but it seemed to me that they are approaching things in slightly different ways.  The Salvos, even with their corporate sponsorships and neat uniforms, are, no doubt, getting their "hands dirty", but it appeared to me that the Mission is getting fully immersed in the issues they deal with.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Seniors' parking

An interesting idea, reserved spots for "seniors" near the access ramps in a local shopping centre.  These positions were close to the spots for the disabled and the parents with children!

But, is this enforceable, as (at least, to date) seniors don't have a card to display?   Perhaps the idea is that it will be self-regulating!    After all, who wants to admit that they're unable (unwilling?) to walk a few extra metres?  I for one didn't have the courage to occupy one of the spots! Of course, getting a small discount at the coffee shop is a different matter since that's an opportunity not to be passed up.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Library renovations

The Council did some renovations at the local library a couple of months ago.   As I said in my earlier post, I'm not quite sure what was achieved (apart from the expenditure of ratepayers' money).  The service desk is now smaller, and a temporary table has been placed beside it to provide an additional position. The revised layout has involved the fiction area being swapped with the non-fiction area, and the newspaper/periodicals area being swapped with the children's area, but frankly the layout doesn't appear any more functional than previously.

But most notably, the previous higher  shelving in the fiction area has been replaced by shelving that is significantly lower.   Because there's been no increase in the total area area occupied by bookstacks, the result is that the library's capacity has been reduced.
No more than 4 shelves, please

Why has this occurred?   I guess that there's some standard for libraries that requires every book to be accessible to a child?    If so, the logic appears to be, well, if the result of having higher bookstacks is that the books on the highest shelf won't be readily accessible to a small percentage of users, then it's better not to have the books at all.   Put another way, unless 100% of users can reach them, then the 95% of users who can reach them can't have them either!  Is this really what "equal opportunity" (or whatever) is about?

What next?   I see that tactile banknotes are on the agenda.   And if it's impracticable to implement these, do we abolish banknotes?

Friday, 23 May 2014

Monitoring social media

The following comment appeared on my post about the flooding in Serbia:
just wanted to let everyone know that you can support the victims of the flooding by playing the lotto. Here at Multilotto, we are giving €1 for every line played. Learn more here: Whether you play the lotto or do something else entirely, please do what you can to support the victims of flooding in these difficult times.
Thank you."

The drama is on-going
Well, I like to receive comments, and the idea of providing financial assistance for the victims of the floods is commendable.  However,  I removed the comment because playing lotto on a non-Australian website doesn't seem the best way of supporting the victims (I understand that other ways of assisting them are under consideration).

Just the same, it's interesting that my rather obscure blog post was quickly picked up by the person who made the comment.   Obviously, there are some powerful tools out there monitoring the social media!  There was a similar instance here.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Perth Airport

We returned our hire car at Perth airport.  Yes, I know that Bayswater are the place to hire cars from when in Perth (and I've used them several times in the past), but the convenience of a pick-up and drop-off at the airport was, on this occasion, worth the extra cost.

However, I was aware that a small surcharge applied if you used a credit card.  So, on returning the car, I offered to pay by EFTPOS.   No sir, I was politely informed, the only option other than a credit card is cash.   Accordingly, I offered cash, save that $1 change was required.  Even providing a single $1 in change proved to be somewhat of a problem!    I dug deeply and was able to provide the exact amount, but I was left with the strong impression that the credit card surcharge is usually "optional" in name only!
Lots of flights to mining centres

The other thing I noticed was  the Qantas Club.   It certainly occupies a big area in Perth (there's even an overflow area).    It seems that many of the fly in/fly out workers have Qantas Club memberships!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Last Day in Perth

We're back home now, but our last full day in Perth, after attending St Aidan's in the morning, was spent in having lunch at Trigg with I (a former colleague), a quick look at the Karrinyup shopping centre (well, it was nearby), a drink at City Beach watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean and a casual meal in the apartment having a quiet night and then packing up.

Relaxed atmosphere at City Beach!
Watching the sun set at City Beach over a drink and/or coffee seems quite a Perth pastime, especially for families with young children.  


Big Mac house at Trigg

Restaurant at Trigg
Sunset at City Beach

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Floods in Serbia

There has been some mention in the news of floods in the Balkans, and we were disturbed to receive a text from the cousins in Obrenovac (on the River Sava flood plain, and apparently one of the worst hit cities) to the effect that their whole town has been flooded and the family has been forced to find accommodation with friends and relatives.

At this stage, they don't know when it will be possible to return to their home, but early indications are that it might not be for some time.   Unfortunately, there's not a lot that can be done from this distance to relieve the situation.

Update:   we have now spoken to one of the displaced cousins.  Naturally they are finding the whole situation distressing.  They're critical of the lack of warning they received and the general "unresponsiveness" of the authorities (notwithstanding that the TV images convey a different impression).

Monday, 19 May 2014

St Aidan's

One of the highpoints of the time we sent living in Perth was the welcome we received at St Aidan's Uniting Church at Claremont.

We returned to visit St Aidan's and received an extremely warm welcome even though it has been over 10 years since we attended regularly (we have visited once or twice in the intervening years when in Perth).   It was indeed lovely to catch up with a number of familiar faces and also to see the renovations that have made to their buildings.  

Sunday, 18 May 2014


We had a leisurely lunch with some relatives (kumovi), which included a catch up with baby E (now 19 months and very attentive!).  

Freshwater Bay
Then we spent a few minutes checking the views over the Swan River at dusk, followed by an early dinner at - yes, predictably? - Cottlesloe again!    This time, it was at Indiana, which was very acceptable.   Pity it was dark so the ocean view was limited to the lights of the ships out at anchor.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Old haunts

Our first full day in Perth was a bit of a retrospective! However, our first stop was the new Bib & Tucker cafe/restaurant which had been recommended to us. Well, it's part of the Leighton Beach development, and it just oozes “trendiness”. Certainly, our initial impression was that the Attitude (capital “A”) was consistent with this. As a result, we limited our orders to coffee, but on inspection the food menu looked good, as did the appearance of meals as they emerged from the open kitchen. Perhaps we just arrived at a bad time?

We moved on to check out Fremantle. The maze of streets, the “cappuccino strip” (in spite of the fact that there are plenty of other places these days that now have just as many coffee venues), the markets, the harbour area – all familiar, although there has been some incremental development. Lots of people around, which was nice to see, although my personal impression is that they're largely tourists (including probably visitors on working holiday visas). There's always been just a slight bit of “edginess” to Freo, and this is still discernible.

The Indiana - unchanged
Then back to Cott. Yes, lunch at the Blue Duck! And we weren't disappointed: a friendly welcome and efficient service while sitting on the deck. Let's clear the air about sitting on the open deck in Perth: the sun is often nice BUT the pictures don't convey that on most days there's a “sea breeze” from the south west which sometimes becomes progressively stronger over the course of the day, although it wasn't too bad today. Lunch was followed by a journey back in time, walking along the beachfront, admiring the dogs, dodging the joggers, inspecting the Indiana and the pylon, and completed by a stroll on the groyne.

On the way back to our accommodation we obviously drove down Loma St (again, only incremental changes) and stopped for a few minutes to look at the Napoleon Street shops: outwardly affluent as always (coffee shops, jewellers, travel agents, the original “Dome”), seemingly well-patronised. “The Grove” shopping centre is now “Cottesloe Central”, and of all things, Bunnings now occupies the space at one time occupied by Harris Scarfe.

For dinner, we went to Shafto Lane:    lots of activity, noisy, there is life in Perth after dark, after all.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Busselton to Perth via Mandurah

After checking out of the Sebel (our accommodation on the outskirts of Busselton), we had a coffee at the Goose, which is one of several restaurants near the Busselton Jetty. We saw the little train that runs out along the jetty, but the return trip takes about 45 minutes, and presumably you have to add an hour to this if you visit the underwater observatory.
"Train" on Busselton jetty

So after our coffee, we headed in the direction of Perth, stopping for lunch in Mandurah where we had a good view of the dolphin that came into the estuary, presumably enticed by the food provided for it to eat (much splashing and jumping). Anything left over was taken by the pelican!

Our accommodation in Perth is quite centrally located, in Victoria Av. The central location wasn't particularly important, but car parking was, and frankly getting a less-than-exorbitantly priced self-catering studio with parking in Perth took some research. So the central location was a bonus. We took a walk around the CBD area after arriving; yes, things have got a bit busier since our time here, but there are still occasional glimpses of the “big country town” to be had, at least for those of us who are on the lookout for such things (such as, all the shops except the supermarket close promptly at 6 pm).

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Ngilgi cave and lunch

There are quite a few caves in this part of the world, and we opted to visit Ngilgi Cave. When you first enter, you're guided into the Amphitheatre which is a big cave, then you're left on your own devices to explore the Main cave via a series of winding passages and a lot of steps, reaching the deepest part at Cupid's Corner. The LED lighting is subdued but the colours, while subtle, create a good impression. At the far end, there's another guide stationed who explains some of the cave's features and directs you around a loop and back towards the entrance. The whole tour takes about an hour, but since you're on you're own for most of the time, it can take a little less, or as long as you like.


I can't remember how many steps they told us we encountered, but it was a lot, so then we headed to Wise's Winery for a terrific lunch. The food wasn't innovative but it was done very well indeed, and the outlook over the vines and Geographe Bay was memorable.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Margaret River region

So many wineries, so little time! In fact, the choice of which wineries to visit is made easier by factoring in additional requirements: for the morning visit, there has to be a cafe to provide coffee, and for the early afternoon visit, lunch has to be available. On this basis, we visited Hayshed for a tasting plus coffee, and Cullen for a lunch platter and a little more wine. Hayshed excelled: although we limited ourselves to the reds, there was quite a range and we even tasted their $70 offering! And coffee in the stylish cafe rounded the morning off nicely.
We then headed to Driftwood, but didn't go inside when we saw a sign saying that the restaurant was closed “until further notice”. Pity, because I would have liked to replace the Driftwood cap (obtained some years ago) that I inadvertently left behind in Xian. But it was not to be. So we headed down the road to Cullen, where we had a nice up-market platter for lunch. Cullen are very much into the organic/biodynamic scene; all very commendable, but when plantings are said to be influenced by the zodiac and account is taken of which way the water swirls, I wonder if things are being taken just a little too seriously.
Following this, we checked out Margaret River itself, for a quick look around and a coffee. I can't say that I find this town particularly attractive as it's primarily a service centre.

After freshening up we headed into Busselton for dinner,and ended up eating Indian (which was fine). After dinner we walked part of the way out along the 1.7 km Busselton jetty, taking care not to become entangled in any of the lines being held by the many fishermen.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


Flight to Perth, then drive to Busselton.....bit of a long day, but all went satisfactorily, and now we're all set in a pleasant studio at the Sebel resort, with direct access to Geographe Bay and the sound of the gentle waves in our ears.   We had dinner at a nearby restaurant on the foreshore and then went for a short walk. It's peaceful and rather quiet here (I guess it's not a busy time of year), but it is definitely very relaxing.
Possums on the balcony

Ducks in the pool
Rabbit on the foreshore (one of many)

Monday, 12 May 2014

Mothers' Day

We had a lovely Mothers' Day lunch at the College Lawn in Greville St Prahran.    The food was good, the little extras the venue provided to mark the day were a nice touch, the atmosphere and service couldn't be faulted  and of course the company was great.  We must remember this place
- if only the parking wasn't such a pain!

We're now off to Western Australia for a week, so I'll do my best to post some reports from the West.

Friday, 9 May 2014

"Dear Neighbour...."

It's quite common to get a little note in our letterbox, along the lines of, "Dear Neighbour, we're having a party, we won't make much noise, but apologies if you do hear something....". 

All very nice and civilised I think.   But never an invitation to join in!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

St George's Day

In the Orthodox (Julian) calendar, last Tuesday was 23 April  and the feast of St. George, the fabled dragonslayer and patron saint of many Serbs.

According to the legend, St George came upon a kingdom beset by a foul, plague-breathing dragon. To appease the dragon, they began to give it a daily sacrifice of livestock, and later even their children. When the saint came along and killed the dragon, the grateful citizens embraced Christianity.

In Serbian folklore, the feast of St George is the beginning of hayduk season - guerrilla resistance to Ottoman overlords that had conquered Serb lands in the 15th century. The season traditionally ended on the feast of Saint Demetrius (Mitrovdan), 26 October.
We attended Nata's slava, as St George is her family's saint.   As usual, there was lots to eact and drink.   A lot of self-restraint was needed!


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Internet Explorer

The Australian Government's "Stay Start Online" website has suggested changing your browser so as not to use Microsoft's Internet Explorer!   This occurred on 29 April, and is because Microsoft  issued a security advisory warning about a critical vulnerability affecting all versions of Internet Explorer,  known to be targeted by cyber criminals.
Apparently, the vulnerability can be exploited if an attacker gains access to your computer, or if you visit a malicious website using one of the affected versions of Internet Explorer.

But for an Australian Government site to suggest (albeit gently) that we ought not to use a Microsoft product?  Very interesting!

Edit:  I understand that Microsoft has now issued patches for this problem, including in respect of Windows XP, notwithstanding they are not now supporting it.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Paringa Estate

We had Sunday lunch at Paringa Estate, and were impressed.  The food was excellent, being thoughtfully conceived and well-presented (the web-site says, " exciting and imaginative" and, yes, I'd agree with that).  The staff, too, were knowledgeable and explained each dish when it arrived.   The restaurant has a chef's hat.  I guess I can see the basis for that, as it has the seemingly obligatory "trendy" ingredients, for example, my snapper came with "beach herbs".   However, there weren't too many ingredients in this category!
Scallop carpaccio
The winery's geese

We drank Paringa wines;  not cheap, but very acceptable.  Of course, on the Mornington Peninsula, you expect a good outlook, and in this respect Paringa is right up there, even if the world outside was cold and showery. 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Queen's Inn

I attended the annual Queen's Inn dinner at Queen's College, where the speaker was Justice Marcia Neave.

I have to say that the College under the leadership of the present master, Prof David Runia, seems to be travelling impressively (at least, from what I can see, from afar).   In particular, it appears to have successfully handled the transition of Melbourne University to the so-called "Melbourne Model".  This involves professional entry degrees all being post-graduate.   In the case of law, this is the JD.

For Melbourne's colleges, with their traditional focus on under-graduates, this has required a bit of a step-change in order to appeal to a greater range of post-graduates.   We were told that, this year, Queen's has 10 students in residence undertaking the JD, which seems quite good.

Justice Neave's speech was directed at the mostly under and recent-graduate audience, and appeared to hit the mark.  Her main themes were women in the law (basically, they started from a long way behind, there's been progress, but there's still more to be done) and some reflections on her life in the law.  She also reflected on the fact that more people are graduating in law than will ever work as lawyers (see my post here on this aspect). 

EDIT:  For completeness, here's my post on this dinner in 2012.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Union Dining

There appears to be a range of  views about Union Dining.  There are some rave reviews but others  aren't so good.  We passed on the appetisers and entrees (perhaps a pity, as there seemed to be some interesting choices here, but it was a group decision to forego having a couple as shared plates, as suggested).   The mains were mostly pretty good:  the goulash hit the mark for me, although I was told the duck seemed overcooked (apparently duck replaced the chicken listed on the autumn menu).   My observation of the duck dish was that there was a lot of duck but not much else on the plate!    The sides were all good, as were the deserts.

But it's noisy (trendy, I know, but still) and we had an issue with the service.  The waiter spilt a little wine and, yes, it was cleared up.   But then he appeared to abandon us;  was it a light-hearted comment one of our group made when ordering, or did our response to the wine spill offend?   Be that as it may, once our mains arrived, there was  no further wine service, no top-ups of water and no replacement water glass for the one that was taken because it was in the wine.   By the time we'd finished our mains, we made our feelings known, and from them on we were attentively looked after by another member of the wait staff and a gentleman who appeared to be in charge.

Our other issue was with the wine list;  yes, interesting, but heavily weighted towards the upper end of the price range (although wine is also available by the carafe).

Perhaps Union Dining deserves another chance (edit, in view of the gushing review it gets in the Good Food Guide).   But being in Swan St, if we go in the evening, the only practicable transport for us is by car.....and of course parking is a problem in that area.   It might be a good place for a long lunch, when public transport would be viable.  On the other hand, there are so many restaurants, many of which are closer to us,  and only a limited number of opportunities to eat!  So for now, our feelings about it remain mixed.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Salvos

After enduring some delays on the trip in as a result of the massive train disruptions that morning, I attended the breakfast launch of the Salvation Army's Red Shield appeal.   550 people were present in the Sofitel's Grand Ballroom.   Obviously a worthy cause, although it's clear that the Salvos run an impressive operation and are well-connected in the business community.   They are also clearly quite particular about their "brand" (have you ever seen a scruffy Salvo officer?)

The child abuse issue was addressed head-on (remorse, never again), which of course is the only viable approach, although not every institution affected seems to have fully grasped this.  

Interestingly, it was said that the the Salvation Army's support in Australia is strongest in Victoria.  I wonder if there are historical reasons for this?