Archive for May, 2011

Emma Louise

imageCongratulations to Triple J for Unearthing Emma Louise, a new artist from Brisbane. Just heard her new song Jungle for the first time. Wow, what a great voice. Do the right thing and buy it – don’t download it illegally.

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Oddball Radio

I had to listen to the footy (St Kilda v Carlton) on the radio tonight, having not had to do that for a while. The choices were:
. Drivel M (MMM)
. Red Neck Radio (3AW)
. Tobin Brothers (ABC)
. Blokes Radio (SEN)

I went with Blokes, with two legendary footballers – Dermot Brereton and Kevin Bartlett. Pretty painful commentators though. With Dermie, the game is constantly over-analyzed and it’s all crap. Also, I have never heard anyone destroy the English language like he does.

KB commentates in the usual pigheaded way he played the game – he’s never wrong. I do agree with him though, on this bizarre situation that happens in football all the time now. Why the hell does someone who has just scored a goal get dragged off the ground for a break? Both the player and the team are on a high after the goal – take advantage of it for goodness sake!

The comment of the night was from KB – “Never get your ambitions mixed up with your capabilities, Dermot”. I think he borrowed it from Casey Stoner though.

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I love beer! Not the crap that gets churned out by Tooheys, CUB, et al. I love craft beers. Boutique beers. The sort of beers that punch out your cheeks when they first hit your mouth.

As an aside, having been laid up in bed for twelve days now on a regime of strong pain killers, I haven’t had a beer. Something about the potential to become a psychotic mass murderer. I don’t understand. But it’s been hell!

As I’ve said before, I like to write about things I like. And things I don’t like for that matter. I’m not necessarily going to write in detail about why I like something. So, for example, when writing about a beer, you’re never likely to see me writing about the unique combination of cinnamon and chicken fat that blends on the palette with reminders of lychees that have been dried on a Chinaman’s grave for three days. What a load of crap!

So I simply wanted to provide some links to my two favourite craft beers at the moment and strongly recommend you give them a try.

imageWhite Rabbit Dark Ale is brewed at the White Rabbit Brewery at Healesville. As they are owned by Little Creatures, it could potentially be argued they don’t fit into the craft beer market anymore. Making a visit to the operation at Healesville will quickly change that idea.

They have two beers – I definitely prefer the Dark Ale to the White Ale, which I find lacks a bit of character in the flavour. Probably more appropriate for summer when you are looking for something a bit lighter.

White Rabbit is reasonably readily available at outlets around town, no doubt taking advantage of the Little Creatures distribution network. Dan Murphy’s now carry it.


imageI discovered Red Duck Bengal India Pale Ale only recently. There’s a small beer and wine store in South Melbourne Market and I grabbed a sample of a few of the Red Duck beers. The Red Duck Brewery is another Victorian native, based in Camperdown.

The Bengal IPA just blew me away. Massive amounts of flavour that are really hard to describe. Maybe it WAS lychees roasted on a Chinaman’s grave. I’m certainly looking forward to the depth of flavour as we get into the colder months. It’s 7.0% as well, so make sure you’re not planning on driving afterwards – definitely one to be enjoyed at home in front of the fire.

This one’s a bit harder to get and a bit more expensive, but well worth it. The Red Duck folks have a list of suppliers on their website. I managed to pick up a slab at an Albert Park outlet.

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I learned to drive in a Volkswagen, all those years ago. It was one of the old VW bugs, in fact the first of the models released in Australia with the curved, instead of the straight windscreen.

They were funny days, in hindsight, trying to master a handbrake start on a slight hill at Merrimac, behind the Gold Coast (although it’s probably an integral part of the Gold Coast now). And seeing the look on my father’s face when I mounted the gutter and ended up on the footpath at the end of our street, thankfully pulling up before we slid down into Boobegan Creek.

For a time, when Dad was out of work, our family of six was a single car family, with the VW being the single car. It would certainly by frowned on by the constabulary now, probably was then too. But I can confirm that the luggage compartment behind the back seat was the perfect size for a small child. Do you remember that, Ian?

I’ve owned one VW prior to the Golf, a VW Bora (now called the Jetta), which I thoroughly loved, and I traded in for a Citroen CX3, which was a piece of crap. But that’s another story.

This time around (October 2010), I was in the market for a mid-sized station wagon, because I have two large dogs that need to be transported from time to time. On that subject, you should have seen me when I was trying to transport them in the CX3. I already had a Holden Astra Wagon, which was doing an OK job, but I’d decided to head up market a little bit.

What were my buying criteria?

  • Mid-sized wagon;
  • Cruise control;
  • Climate control;
  • iPod connectivity;
  • Mobile phone connectivity.

The first car I looked at and drove was the Hyundai i30 wagon. A reasonable sort of car, but just didn’t do it for me. Without wanting to sound too snobby, I really wanted something that was a bit more up market. I know that sounds funny from someone who had an Astra. The other problem was the sales guy at the dealership. “Hey buddy, you’re selling to a salesman here. Don’t promise me you’ll do something and then don’t do it. That really pisses me off.”

The thinking finally came down to two cars, the Peugeot 308 Touring or the VW Golf Comfortline. I really liked the glass roof arrangement on the Peugeot and it looked like a really cool “unique” car. As well as that, family and colleagues who owned Peugeots swore by them. One downside was that along the way I’d decided I wanted a diesel and, from memory, the diesel was only available as a manual transmission at the time. As well as that, after the Citroen, I swore I would never buy another crap French car again. Finally, the sales guy at Booran in Dandenong was an absolute prick. I thought all those old time car salesmen had died and gone to hell. Apparently not. “Hey buddy, don’t tell me stuff where you can be found to be a complete liar with the click of a mouse button.”

When contrasting the Golf and the Peugeot, I had an interesting conversation with a colleague that went something along the lines of:

Me: “Hey I believe you have a Peugeot 308”

Him: “Yes”

Me: “How is it?”

Him: “Yeah, it’s really good”

(Conversation progressed and I found out his wife owned a VW Golf)

Me: “ So when you need to go down to the shop for the milk, which car do you take?”

Him: “The Golf”

Me: “Would you buy another Peugeot?”

Him: “Um, ah, um, ah. No”

The ultimate question. Would you buy another one?

It was probably that single conversation that persuaded me to head down the Golf path. So what do I have? It’s a silver 2010 Volkswagen Golf 103TDI Comfortline (http://www.volkswagen.com.au/en/models/golf_wagon/variants.html). Which basically means it’s the top-of-the-line with regard to appointments, with a 2.0 litre diesel engine and 6-speed automatic gearbox. All my buying criteria were met, the latter two by after-market addons.

So what do I think after 8 months? Absolutely love it. Firstly, I just can’t believe how much grunt I get out of the 2.0 litre diesel. It really makes me wonder how quick the smaller, lighter hatch would be with the same engine.

I still, even after eight months, struggle with the Direct Shift Gearbox a bit. While it is an automatic transmission, it is a bit like a manual that’s being controlled automatically. Funny way of describing it, I know, but hey, I’m not a mechanic. It struggles a bit in that black spot between 1st and 2nd that those who drive manuals will relate to –  while moving, do I put it into first with a big lurch and over-revving or second with low revs and ride the clutch? It’s a bit slow on the pickup when one needs to change down in a hurry as well.

There is just something about German cars though. A bit spartan perhaps, but absolutely rock solid and great engineering. It’s amazing the number of people who have commented on the solid “thunk” of the doors as they close. The economy is fantastic – I’m averaging 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres around town. I find that if I shop around, generally using www.motormouth.com.au, I can get diesel for about the same price as unleaded, so there is definitely a saving in that regard.

There have been a couple of dramas along the way. The phone kit packed it in after a couple of weeks and I had to get it completely replaced. On top of that, when the transfer of registration came through from VicRoads, it was for the wrong registration number. The error wasn’t picked up for six months after I bought the car and now, two months later, I’m still trying to get it sorted out. I suspect the fault lies with VicRoads, rather than Camberwell VW, where I bought the car. In fact, as an aside, the folks at Camberwell VW were great and I would definitely recommend them. I thought the new owners’ seminar was a great touch.

So, in short, I really look forward to driving my car every day, and would thoroughly recommend the Golf. I’m guessing that, having jumped around all over the place (Austin / Toyota / Mazda (x2) / Ford / Saab / VW (x2) / Citroen / Holden), I’m now solidly in the VW camp for good. And thankfully, I haven’t come close to driving it into a creek.

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