Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Chathams

Why would anyone go to the Chathams?   These are a group of islands 800km east of Christchurch (way out in the South West Pacific, in other words), inhabited by 600-700 people who rely on the production of livestock and fishing (crayfish, blue cod and black abalone).   They're windswept with peat bogs and grass and bracken covered moors.

Drawing by Rob
Well, brother-in-law Rob went there (flying in a 60-year old prop driven Convair 580), and wrote an article about them in the Victorian National Parks Association's magazine Park Watch (March 2013).  (Flip forward to page 32),

 Rob's article sets out the human history, stemming from the original Maori arrival in about 1500AD, but followed up by a subsequent invasion by two displaced Maori tribes from Taranaki who invaded the islands in 1835, enslaving the original inhabitants.  Meanwhile, there were some sealers and whalers and full control by New Zealand occurred in about 1860.

The flora and fauna has has evolved from drifted, flew, blow or swam there from neighbouring land masses.  Needless to say, the coastline sounds pretty impressive.

Interesting to read about, and no doubt very scenic in their own way, but I have no intention of following in his footsteps!

Friday, 29 March 2013


We had a pleasant dinner at Araliya.   We weren't quite sure what to expect when we noticed it was to be Sri Lankan food.  I'm still not sure how to describe it!   I notice that on the website it's stated to be a "blend of traditional Sri Lankan spices fused with taste sensations from around the world", and I guess this seems about right.

The common theme with many of the dishes was that they were full of herbal/spicy flavours   This is not to say that they were "hot" (in the "burn your mouth" sense), even though, in a number of cases, there was a choice of mild, mid or hot.   I stuck to to the mid range, and found the the prawn and lamb shoulder dishes that I had to be pleasantly flavoured.  I also sampled one of the fish dishes, and liked that, too.

The senior waitress (possibly one of the proprietors?) was extremely knowledgeable about the menu, and took a lot of care to assist us in ordering (including suggesting appropriate combinations).

In fact, one of our co-diners subsequently provided feedback to the restaurant, in which the need for side dishes was mentioned.   The restaurant commented, in return that, "Our meals are to be shared, especially the side vegetables, rice dishes and accompaniments. Also the different vegetables and rice dishes complement different main meals. Therefore, it would be impossible for us to envisage sides and rice dishes to complement your main meals ...[until you've decided on your mains]".

It's fully licensed, so there's no BYO, and prices are towards the higher end of the range (especially by the time you factor in the cost of the sides), but overall we thought we got our money's worth (although the serves of rice and vegetables seemed to be a little on the frugal side).  Parking on the street can be a bit challenging in this area, but there's a big car park just around the corner, up Oxley Street, with plenty of space in the evenings.

On the whole, something a bit different but, yes, it worked for us.

Thursday, 28 March 2013


It's not unusual to see one or more balloons drifting across on calm mornings.   I much prefer to look at them from the ground, as I don't think I'd be able to handle flying (is that the correct word?) in one very well!

Recently, this one was almost over our house.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Shark Net

The Shark Net by Robert Drewe was first published in 2000.  That's the year we moved to Perth.   In hindsight, it would have been nice if I had read it then (although in those days I didn't have much time for reading).  However, I recently came across it and read it for the first time.

It's an autobiographical account of growing up in Perth, from the age of 6, when the author's family was transferred there from Melbourne, until the age of 21, when he leaves to accept a job as a journalist under Graham Perkin at the Age.  Although dates are hardly mentioned, I understand that it spans the years 1949 to about 1964.

Cottesloe (watercolour)
I greatly enjoyed the descriptions of Perth life in the 50s:  the street lights being turned off at 1 am, the official sparrow-hunters,  red-back spiders, the Billy Graham Crusade and lots of references to places in Dalkeith, Nedlands, Cottesloe and other Perth suburbs.  By 2000, of course, Perth had changed, but on reading this book, I identified a number of characteristics that had carried forward!   But, just the same, I thought it a bit harsh to describe a house in now-trendy Dalkeith as being "a house in the [sand] dunes".   Sure, geologically, this is an area of sand dunes.  By the time we lived in the area - admittedly a few decades later - the sand was mostly covered.  I struggle to imagine that the process of developing nice gardens wasn't well underway by the 50s - but there again, I wasn't there then.

It's a a little easier to credit that, in the 50s, people regarded the hill above Cottesloe as "the wind-buffeted hill above the ocean".  These days, this is expensive mining magnate territory, having a view can add a million dollars or more to the value of a property and the wind (which is still a strong south-westerly) is referred to as a "sea breeze"! 

However the book also has a more sinister thread:  it describes the time when the innocence of Perth's middle-class suburbia was disrupted by a series of gruesome murders.  There was a theory that the murders were linked to the OBH (that's the Ocean Beach Hotel, still there at North Cott).  It turned out that the author's life was intertwined with that of Eric Cooke, the murderer, who was the last person hanged at Fremantle.   Drewe gives quite an insight into Cooke's life and circumstances, extending so far as an interview with his wife, Sally, some time after the execution.  Cooke had not been an easy person to be married to, but even so, it's surprising that, in answer to the question, how did she feel at the appointed time of the execution, 8 am, when many people were counting the seconds, she replied, "What with feeding the kids and getting them ready for school and all the rest of it, eight o'clock sort of went past without me noticing".

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A (couple of) day(s) in the life of a computer user.....

Most of the time, my home network works fine.  I have a faint memory of setting it up, and that there were a few hassles.  But the pain fades.....

Well, it did until a recent weekend.    Shortly stated, I was trying to add another folder (photos from the new camera, actually) to the list of folders on one computer that were available to be shared by the other computers on the network.

Try as I might, I kept getting "access denied" messages.   Of course, there are many reasons why this unhelpful message might appear, and over the course of a couple of days, I googled the problem, and came across various sites (including the Microsoft site) that offered a variety of solutions.  Each time, after spending a little time on the issue without getting anywhere,  I put the problem to one side and got on with other things.
Finally, late at night, I thought, "one more try".   Googling once again, using yet another search string, I came across yet another forum, with a now-familiar explanation of what was needed, but including in one particular step a clearer explanation than I had previously encountered as to what needed to be done.  And, YES, 30 seconds later, I was up and running.  It wasn't that I had not been aware of the necessary step, but somehow the exact action to be taken had nowhere been spelled out.  It wasn't the sort of thing you'd do intuitively, and I am reasonably certain that it had not been necessary when I originally set the network up (I can't explain this).

Moral of the story:  there's still an element of the "dark arts" in the computing world, and just because you come across a "solution" as a result of a google search doesn't mean that all is solved!

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Church fete

Church fetes seem to have gone out of fashion, but there was one in our area recently.

Unfortunately, they didn't have a bookstore, which is always my favourite.  However, they had some good cakes and jams, some of which we invested in.  We also picked up a couple of knitted items (not sure why.....).  However, we passed on the the plants.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


Is it just me, or is the  "nanny state" really catching up to us?   A couple of signs like this were set up at the local oval while a game of cricket was in progress.

Friday, 22 March 2013

So .... what was that all about?

I was at home during the afternoon when the latest leadership issue within the Labor Party was occurring.  In spite of knowing that nothing was to happen until the caucus meeting at 4.30, I turned the TV on to the news channel.    Isn't amazing how you can be drawn into the issue?

The media at work
A lot of the coverage in the lead up to the vote was journalists interviewing other journalists, recapitulating as to what had happened and speculating on what might happen.  But really the only news was that the clock was ticking.  It was like watching paint dry!
And the outcome - no change!

 I did my best to keep out of range of the TV, by doing some trimming in the garden and working on some minutes on the computer - but I still found myself drifting past the TV intermittently!    And then the whole issue fizzled out!    I promised myself that "next time" I'd be more disciplined and use my time more productively!

Thursday, 21 March 2013


We decided an additional camera was required.   The requirements were that it had to be able to be easily operated in "point-&-shoot" mode, capable of fitting comfortably into a handbag and the photos had to be of acceptable quality.
The colour should make it easy to find!
Although I looked into upgrading my own camera a few months back (nothing has yet come of this because I still can't decide just what I want), I hadn't looked at the entry level offerings for a long while.    So I was quite surprised at the range available at Mr Smith's shop for less than $100, and the sophistication of the features that they had.

Our initial impressions of the purchase we made are favourable:  it certainly is "compact" (although that comes with a slight trade-off in terms of the amount of "zoom" available);   once set to "intelligent auto", it has a number of features that appear to assist in automatically obtaining the best photo in the available conditions (although our testing of this is only at a preliminary stage); and the controls are pretty intuitive.

I admit, however, that we're still working on the "smile detector" feature.  When activated, this delays taking a photo until the subject smiles!   Even in auto mode, the camera is predisposed to use this, which gives rise to bafflement when there's a delay in taking the photo even though the shutter button is pressed.   As yet, I haven't worked out how to turn this feature off without also turning the "focus on face" feature off.

This particular camera uses an external recharger, so the battery needs to be removed for recharging.  I wondered about this, but in the end decided that the ability to have a spare battery (which we may or may not acquire) charging while the camera is in use was just about sufficient to offset the potential disadvantage of carrying the charger in our baggage while travelling.

I wasn't expecting the camera to come with a large memory card, but apparently these days all cameras come with no memory card at all (but they do have a small internal memory).

Just for the record, yes, I looked at reviews on the internet for a number of cameras in this category, but I found they varied in helpfulness.  I suspect that camera reviewers are kept fully occupied with more up-market products! 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Power outage (3)

I was talking on the phone, and the line went dead (or, rather, the base station for the cordless handset did).    So did everything else electrical.   Another power outage!    Two in the space of a week!   The now-expected SMS message notifying us that the power was off followed a few minutes later.

When I later made contact with the person with whom I'd been speaking, he told me that the outage had also affected him, a couple of suburbs away.

I don’t knew the cause, although there were a few sirens in the distance.  Perhaps there had been a some sort of mishap between a vehicle and a power pole?

 I notice that the CitiPower website "helpfully" lists outages.  I suppose this is useful if you have a mobile device, but for those of us dependent on a powered modem, it doesn't really help.  By the time the power was restored and I looked at the site, the only possible outage was listed as "cause unknown"!  I see that this page also allows you to subscribe or unsubscribe to the SMS service.  I remain of the view that I've never asked CitiPower to notify me, but I have decided that it is a convenient service, so I don't intend to opt out.
[Edit - minor corrections]

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Cheap Eats

There was a deal that you could get a copy of Cheap Eats for a discount price when you bought the Age.   As a result, I've acquired the new edition of this publication.  Actually, it's now called "Good Food under $30".   Like the Age itself, the book itself is now in a "compact" format.

It's very interesting to browse through it, although there is a certain gushing sameness to a lot of the descriptions.  I was interested to note that we've in fact been to a number of places that are included.   However, it does seems to me that there's a very fine (and sometimes wavy?) line between being included and being left out.  Obviously a degree of subjectivity is involved, but I can certainly think of a number of establishments that I've eaten at that are every bit as good as - or better than - some of those listed.   I wonder if quality is sometimes equated with trendy descriptions on the menu?   "Tomatoey butter beans topped with dabs of goat's feta and torn basil atop toast" (torn basil?) or "paprika-dusted Spanish eggs slow cooked with tomato and salty chorizo nuggets" (salty chorizo?) anyone?

I suppose it's sensible to divide the reviews into geographic regions, but I must say that grouping Armadale into the same "East" region as Box Hill South struck me as being a little arbitrary.  And, yes, there's an entry for Box Hill South, as well as a Vietnamese restaurant in Box Hill [Edit - I've corrected this sentence, after saying earlier that there wasn't an entry for Box Hill South].

The requirement for inclusion that you need to be able to eat well (two courses or a number of share plates) for less than $30 needs to be understood.     Yes, at each of the listings this may be possible, especially if you eat at breakfast or lunchtime and keep an eye on the prices.  But at a number of the venues, we've most definitely paid more than this, especially in the evening and if you allow yourself to range over the entire menu!  In fairness, this is in fact acknowledged in some of the listings (but I feel that these may only be the most extreme instances).

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Multicultural Gala Dinner

We attended the "Premier's Gala Dinner" to mark Cultural Diversity Week.   It was at the Palladium, with a capacity attendance of 1400 (and there were another 400 on the waiting list, we were told).   A diverse range of ethnic groups was certainly represented.

Although the atmosphere at the Palladium can hardly be described as "intimate"(!), the evening went very well:   the entertainment was really good, the speeches, including from the (new) Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, weren't too long (although they were mainly concerned with "covering the bases" rather than being examples of great speechcraft!) and the catering was fine.

A little off the topic, but perhaps of interest.  We were warned that parking would be limited, but by arriving in good time, we had no difficulties.   But when leaving, one of the other attendees inserted a $50 note to pay the $15 parking fee.  Yes, the change was entirely in $2 and $1 coins.  It sounded as though he had won a jackpot at the pokies! I'm not sure whether this was because the machine only gives change in coins, or because the note dispenser was out of action.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Internet meet up

I know that it's a rule that you shouldn't meet up with people that you've only met over the internet.  However, isn't there an exception to this if the meeting is in a public place, and it's more than a 1 on 1?

Venue for the meet up
Hence, I recently attended my 3rd meeting of the Melbourne Trip Advisor group, most of whom are active on TA's Melbourne discussion forum. Even though they're self-selected and an open invitation appears on the internet to attend, those who came along were an interesting group of genuine people, with a real interest in helping travellers through the TA forums.

One couple was from interstate and another attendee was from the US who was in Australian on business.

The TA "community" is keen to maintain its credibility, and the long-term members keep a close eye on new "faces" that appear in the forum, to see that they don't depart from the etiquette of keeping contributions constructive and reasonably accurate.  If subtle or not-so-subtle hints don't work, then the ultimate recourse is for TA "Big Brother" to cut off access!   TA is a substantial US corporation, so it has an interest in maintaining its image.

Friday, 15 March 2013

3D Printing

Imagine "printing" objects at home!   This is the promise of a new generation of small 3D printers.   I hadn't heard about these until I read an item in Choice Computer, but when you search for them on the internet, there seem to be quite a few around, such as this one.  Here's another.

I guess this is something we do in fact need - although I can't think of an immediate reason why I should invest one just so that I can "print" a model rabbit!

The printer uses microscopic droplets of melted plastic instead of ink, and "prints" layer on layer as the item is built up

But, apparently it's not fast!  Choice Computer reported that the demo file that came with their printer took 3 hours to "print" a model rabbit.  And the size of the object is fairly modest,  up to 120 x 120 x 120 mm.

If you've got the software, you can design your own products.  However, for those of us (probably the majority of people) that don't have the necessary skills , there are free designs on the internet, such as at Thingiverse.   

At present the entry-level prices for these "printers" start at over $1000, but clearly this will drop in the future.  Moreover, at this stage, the consumables are generic.  However, can such a good deal last?   Who knows what the manufacturers will get up to!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Crossbones Yard

I was looking for something else, but I came across Crossbones Yard by Kate Rhodes in the library, and thought I might as well have a look at it.  It's described as "the first in the Alice Quentin series".  This is accurate so far as the expression "first" is concerned but I'm not so sure about the word "series", as at this stage there don't appear to have been any others!

Dr Alice Quentin, a psychologist, satisfies the requirement that the main character in modern day crime writing has to have lots of flaws:  she was abused as a child and has some hang-ups as a consequence (including claustrophobia), she has a messy personal life including a controlling boyfriend, a wannabe actress friend and mother in denial, she's barely on top of her workload and her high-flyer brother has had a breakdown and is on drugs.  But her use of coarse language is limited, she rides her bike and goes for runs, so I suppose that redeems her somewhat and perhaps means that this book isn't as "hardboiled" as some contemporary crime writing.

It will be interesting to see how her life develops if and when there are future books.

Anyway, back to the book.   It revolves around a series of extremely gruesome murders which are "copy cats" of crimes committed some years earlier by a couple, one of whom has died and the other is still in prison.   Of course, it's usual in modern crime books for the main character to "just happen" to be in all the places where the action happens, and this work is no exception.   However, it wasn't too "over the top" and  I found it quite absorbing in spite of what seemed to me to be a couple of loose ends and even though I did see the outcome coming,

There's lots of London character (local flavour also seems to be an essential ingredient in this type of book).   However, I was particularly interested in the fact that Crossbones Yard is an actual unconsecrated graveyard (see also the Wikipedia entry) - and in fact attracts 50,000 visitors a year.
EDIT - I subsequently sought out Crossbones Yard.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Other Desert Cities

Ho-hum.  We saw Other Desert Cities at MTC.  Essentially, this play revolves around the clash between generations, in the context of the daughter's plan to write a "tell-all" book about an incident that changed the lives of each member of the family.  The play is pretty unsympathetic to the Palm Springs/Republican orientation of the parents, but the roles of the son as the producer of a reality TV show and of the daughter, a leftist author who has had a nervous break-down, come in for some examination as well.

The cast, including  Robyn Nevin, are all good, but the set left me a bit cold.  Most of the second half of the play is performed behind the glass doors of the parents' Palm Springs home, clearly designed to create the impression that the audience is on the outside  observing the action, and perhaps also that the family is trapped within.    However, the audience is left with a sense of being removed from the action, so this does restrict the audience's engagement.

Apparently the MTC production is the first time this play has appeared outside the US.   Most of the US reviews, and the one review that I could find of the MTC production, are pretty good, but we weren't swept off our feet.   Yes, there's some interesting character development and the climax (when we get to it) is dramatic and probably few would expect it, but I was left wondering if there's enough content here to justify a full-length play?    The theatre wasn't full the night we attended, and I notice that the listing of the play in the Sunday Age offers a 10% discount on tickets.   I wonder if there's a message there somewhere?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The stamp collection

My Dad's stamp collection has been sitting in a cupboard for years.   My brother and sister left it to me to "do something" with it.  At long last, I invited a long-time friend who is a knowledgeable philatelist to come and have a look at it.

He very quickly divided it into two main categories, being "hmm, some interesting material here" and "if there's anything interesting here, it's mixed up with a lot of ordinary material and it's hard to spot it".    His allocation of material into the latter category was, well, almost brutal!

I packaged up the volumes that made it to the "potentially interesting" category and took them out to Boronia.   Yes, out there in suburbia is an auctioneer of prestige stamps.  But of course, if you've got a major collection, you don't have to go to Boronia!  On the website, it's stated, "For major collections we will travel anywhere in the world to accept your consignment".

But, this collection probably didn't justify an international trip, and I drove out to Boronia.   My friend's classification of the material seemed to be mirrored by the auctioneer's.   We spent over an hour together while he looked through things, and made a number of encouraging comments, such as, "that's interesting", "yes, that's the scarcer variety" and such like.   Even so, there were a couple of volumes that were below the standard that he was prepared to accept.

So we now await with interest the outcome of the auction in a couple of months time.   I don't expect it to result in a bonanza, but hopefully there will be a sufficient return to make it all worth while.

In the meantime, the remaining items need to be bundled up and sent off to the philatelic society auction

Monday, 11 March 2013

Power outage (2)

The morning after our power outage, there was a big team at work digging holes at the end of the street.  It seems the cause of our outage the previous day was that a major underground cable had "blown up".  The theory is that water from the nearby water main had leaked into the cable, and apparently the result had been quite a large failure.   I was told that a number of shops and banks were without power for a while.

In the circumstances, it seems that CitiPower's ability to restore supplies within 1¼ hours wasn't a bad effort.

A pathway through the trees for the wires

I hadn't realised that we had underground cables around here, because there seem to be a lot of  overhead wires going in all directions!  The fact that we're not far from what appears to be some sort of terminal may have something to do with it.
And there are cables underground as well!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Power outage

It was mid-afternoon on one of the recent hot days, and the power went off.    This doesn't happen to us very often, so it took me by surprise.  I was on the computer and the monitor, understandably, went blank.   Fortunately, my computer is actually a laptop (it seemed the way to go several years ago when I bought it), so after disconnecting the monitor, my unsaved work was there.

Within minutes, beep-beep, and there's a message from CitiPower to the effect that there's an outage and even giving a time estimate for restoration.   And when the power did come back on, a few minutes before the estimated time, there's another message from CitiPower saying the power was back but if we didn't have it, we could call them.

SMS messages about a power outage?  Rather good, I thought.  But, on reflection, I don't think I've ever provided CitiPower with my mobile phone number, so how did they know to send the SMS (which quoted extracts from our meter number)?  I can only think that at some stage I've provided it to the retailer.   It couldn't be by matching billing addresses, because the mobile phone isn't billed to our home address.   The fact that the meter number was quoted seems to rule out the sort of area alert proposed for bushfire emergencies (...or is the system so sophisticated that it links meter numbers with mobile phone numbers within the area?)

Hmm, technology at work, but also a reminder of the reach of Big Brother!

Friday, 8 March 2013


I've commented previously (in the context of Ted Baillieu) about how the pace of politics has increased in recent decades, and also about the role of speechwriters in politics.

Coincidentally, I was flicking through one of Menzies' books of reminiscences, The Measure of the Years, and came across his statement:
"The art of speech is much admired and widely practised.  Yet, the standard of achievement seems singularly lacking". 

It seems that little has changed in this regard - except, perhaps, now we pay insufficient attention to the art of speech and so no longer admire a good speech when we hear it.  There again, are there even fewer good speeches these days than in his day?

But Menzies also says:
" part of the exercise of high office, the institution of the speechwriter has arisen, particularly in America.  I never employed a speechwriter myself, partly because I had an obstinate objection to having other people's words put into my mouth, and partly because, except for formal lectures and statements on foreign affairs made by me in Parliament, my practice has been to speak from brief notes, allowing the language to come spontaneously as the actual speech developed".

Interestingly, Menzies then goes on to mention that Winston Churchill read practically all his speeches - although he wrote them (or at least, dictated them) himself.

Thursday, 7 March 2013


We had been out to a pleasant dinner and happened to turn the TV on when we got home (something that we often don't do).   There it was - Ted Baillieu had resigned!

Very surprising.   Obviously even the media had also been taken by surprise, given that one of the interviewees on the ABC was Jon Faine.  Of course, we've got used to journos interviewing other journos (or whatever, is Faine actually a journalist?) to create "news", but this did seem to suggest that the ABC had had to scratch around to find someone to interview (although they did also have Peter Reith).

My personal take on all this is that Ted is really "too nice" for modern politics.

This, of course, says a lot about politics, and the pressures placed on those in the public eye by the media.    However, I suppose we're unlikely to return to the more relaxed days of a past era when Prime Ministers travelled to Canberra by train (apparently John Curtin travelled between Perth and Canberra this way, playing bridge to pass the time!)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Church for Sale

The nearby Anglican Church closed over a year ago, and now it's up for sale.   Unfortunately, this may not be the only Church in the area to close, as the Uniting Church that we attend is also seriously considering its future in view of an ageing congregation and declining numbers.  Although nothing is imminent, the medium to long term outlook isn't great.

In spite of first impressions when glancing at the sign, only one Church is for sale.  On closer reading, the reference to "both" is a reference to the fact that the adjoining manse is also for sale.

I haven't enquired what is to become of the stained glass, which includes an impressive "West window", completed only a few years ago.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


We visited "Maslenitsa - Slavic Pancake Festival" at Fed Square.   Traditionally, this celebrates the end of winter (well, in the northern hemisphere) and occurs before (eastern) Lent.  Thus, it's the last opportunity to have some non-fasting foods and to participate in some fun activities before Lent.  I guess there's a similar theme here to western Shrove Tuesday.

It was a lovely day, and it was well attended.   There was a range of activities, certainly not limited to pancakes - but they were there.   There was a series of performances on the stage by dance groups and singers from Russian, Serbian, Slovakian, Ukrainian and Polish groups (perhaps others as well), a number of very popular food stalls and a fair area.  

According to the program, there were some events in which you could participate (including a ribbon carousel and tug-of-war). There was a kolo while we were there.

We encountered quite a number of friends and acquaintances, so there was a bit of catching up.  These included a former workmate of mine who I had not seen for over 25 years (he recognised me, but I only identified him after lots of clues!)

Main stage

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Age as a tabloid

I asked the newsagent as I was buying my (broadsheet) newspaper whether he was selling more copies of the Age now that it had gone tabloid - oops, sorry, "compact".   Somewhat to my surprise, he told me that, although it was only early on the first morning, yes, he had sold a few more.   Why this might be so eludes me, but apparently this is consistent with the research as cited by Jonathon Green.

Jonathon Green says that the research looked at everything from the average arm-reach of female readers to commuting habits of non-newspaper consuming youth. Well, maybe.....  However, I still find it hard to believe that there are potential buyers of newspapers out there who make their decision based on the format.   It's a bit like choosing a meal in a restaurant according to the colour of the plate on which it is served.

The last weekday broadsheet issue
But even if there's a potential for an increase in sales,  I can't help but think the real reason for the change may well have been tucked away in Bruce Guthrie's piece.   He says that it's about cost cutting:   " changing formats Fairfax can print the Melbourne and Sydney papers at regional printing plants, allowing it to scrap expensive Melbourne and Sydney facilities and save tens of millions of dollars each year...".   Now this really does seem to have a ring of credibility about it!

Green's comments about the broadsheet being traditionally linked to "quality journalism" are interesting, although he points out that the real reason for the broadsheet format was that it was needed for newspapers that carried large volumes of classified advertising - no longer an issue for the weekday editions of the Age.

My personal take is that it's been a pity that the reverse hasn't applied:   maintaining the Age as a broadsheet until now does not seem to have preserved the quality of the journalism as cost cutting has taken its toll.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The school reunion

I don't look back on my secondary schooling with any real degree of affection.   It's not that I have anything to complain about nor was there anything wrong with it, but it was the "baby boomer" era when the education system was barely coping with the basics.  Modern thinking was only just beginning to creep in.  However, at least I received an education that, for the most part (there were exceptions), was reasonably competent, so I suppose I ought to be grateful for that.

Thus, in the many years since I left school, I've only been to one "old boys" function.  However, this year marks a particularly significant anniversary, and I attended the reunion event.
Still a nice view

The evening was pleasant enough but I can't say that I was overwhelmed.   Yes, I spoke to a number of people whose names I remember from school days.   I got on well with a couple of people with whom I got on well at school.   But since I wasn't a sports type of person then (not that anything's changed), and in those days the school looked with great favour on those who did well in sport, there were quite a few students who were given positions of responsibility because of their sporting eminence.   In those days, I didn't have a lot in common with a number of these.     The good news is, all these years later, I found I could now easily mix with some of them.  But there are still some with whom I don't have a lot in common!
We were given a conducted tour of parts of the school.   The changes over the years have been enormous.   Given that the facilities we had were in many respects pretty basic, this was good to see.
That's a fly loft under construction, above the stage

But the works continue.  Yes, the fund raising foundation is in debt, but given the ambitious nature of the current project, and the amounts of money being spoken about, I was left thinking that the foundation's biggest concern seems to be to find ways of spending money rather than raising it!

As the fee payable in year 12 is over $26,000 (and did I read somewhere that private school fees have risen at twice the rate of inflation over the past decade?), I wondered where it's all heading.

Friday, 1 March 2013


Down at the end of our street, parking restrictions have been imposed (previously there were none), and now for just a small stretch it is "permit only" 7 days a week during the day.

In our part of the street, there is a 2-hour limit (unless you have a permit).  It depends on which side of the street you're on whether this applies on Saturday mornings (remember, shops used to close at midday on Saturdays!)

Around one corner, there are no restrictions. Down another side street, there is one hour parking for a distance, then it's permit-only, 7 days a week.

Why do the restrictions vary within the space of a few metres (especially the transition to "permit only")?  Is there some grand plan behind all this?  If there is, it isn't apparent to anyone who lives here.   The only answer to this that I can think of is that the restrictions depend on the policy-whim of the council at the time they were first imposed.

I accept that parking restrictions, unfortunately, have become inevitable in the area.   We are fortunate to have a park and tennis courts nearby, but these seem to be used by an increasing number of people, many of whom come by car.   There's a kiosk at the park, and not so long ago the old milk bar re-opened as a trendy coffee-shop.  These all attract people.  In particular, the new coffee shop seems to have a group of customers  who call in each morning for a takeaway coffee to drink in their cars.  Hence, it can be difficult to find a space at certain times of the day (sometimes before 9 am - when the timed restrictions start!).

Moreover, I suspect that if parking was unrestricted, we would have cars belonging to residents of the blocks of new "apartments" (well, many are "studios")  that are being built in nearby High Street with the blessing of VCAT with virtually no parking (supposedly the occupants and their visitors will use public transport or bikes!)