Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Racism – What A Contrast

I went to check out Dandenong Market this morning. A number of friends and colleagues had been talking it up. Generally speaking, I found it pretty disappointing. Apparently I was there on the wrong day – Saturday is when it really cranks up. However, I found it to be just another Melbourne market – a meat & fish hall, a fruit & veg hall, and a “stuff” hall (stealing a friend’s description). I was disappointed because I really wanted it to be something that more closely reflected the multicultural nature of the community it supports. It really was just another Melbourne market. I made one purchase – some bones for Spike & Ned. The (Anglo Saxon) stall owner made comment about the weather and I noted I thought it was “bizarre”. I was chided for using the word, because apparently the “stuff” hall was going to be re-named to a bizarre. “This is Australia” were her comments. “Why do they have a use a foreign name like that?” The contrast was stark – 2 people, both of Anglo Saxon background, in Dandenong, with two completely opposite attitudes. And her’s so completely inappropriate. Sigh!

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GOM Warning


A friend suggested yesterday that I need to include a GOM warning on my Twitter posts, and I guess by extension, my blog posts.

BTW, I was assuming by GOM, she meant Grumpy Old Man. I suppose she could have meant Good Ol’ Man, but somehow, I don’t think so.

It made me actually go and do a count of the number of “negative” blog posts recently – to my horror (promise), seven of the last nine have involved me having a rant.


I just want everyone to be reassured that I really am a very happy, easy-going sort of bloke, not prone to outrage or the like.

I am sure this recent negativity can be put down to being laid up for the last five weeks with two slipped discs in my back. There’s no telling what being stuck in bed and not being able to work can do to one. Yeah, that must be the reason.

And just to prove that things have turned around, I promise not to blog (rant?) about my recent experiences with the medical profession (and I use that last word advisedly).

Have a lovely day.

Open-mouthed smile

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While visiting a specialist today about my sore back, I was told I needed to get an MRI done.

Me (to MRI booking person): I’d like to book an MRI for my lumbar spine please.
Her: Yes sir, we can fit you in on the 12th of June (today is the 17th of May).
Me: You’re kidding, aren’t you? Is that because it’s lumbar?
Her: No, that’s the delay if you want it to be bulk billed.
Me: How much will I be out of pocket if it isn’t bulk billed?
Her: $295 and we can fit you in tomorrow.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here folks. We are being ripped off blind by the radiology companies. They are holding us to ransom and there is not a thing we can do about it. Bastards!

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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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From The Age Online. 

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Thanks WordPress

I received a note from the WordPress editor to say my post on Melbourne Aquarium was being promoted on the WordPress home page. It made my day – thanks WordPress.

So someone who averages about 7 hits a day on his blog suddenly had about 1,100 for the 24 hours it was there. It made for an interesting dashboard graph.

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Costco – Thumbs Up, I Guess

Lord knows I hate shopping, crowds and being out in the heat. So it was with some trepidation that, ignoring all three of these issues, we headed off to Costco this morning.

Now I know I’m not exactly on the leading edge here. Early adoption isn’t really me, although I did apply for my myki yesterday. Many of my colleagues have already made the trek. But I generally put them into the categories of:

  1. Families with children who probably spend many hundreds of dollars a week on groceries and who are looking to save as much as they can, as soon as they can; and
  2. Americans who can’t let go. 😉

(Adam, I’m not sure where that leaves you. I guess you’re a de facto American. Right?)

My objective was to work out whether Mr & Mrs Mature, who don’t fit into either category above, would get the benefit. A natural concern was that I had to part with $55 for a membership just to get in the door (yep, having an ABN saved me $5). I have to secretly admit (I guess it’s no secret anymore, is it?) that I really wanted the experience to be so crap that we would never ever contemplate doing it again, and would write the $55 off as a bad investment.

So, the verdict:

  1. The car park is way too small – how did Melbourne City let them get away with that?
  2. The registration process was straight forward – albeit a bit time consuming. If I’d have been more organised, I would have done it on the web. I could have then run a book on which would turn up first, my Costco card or my myki card. Opening odds: Costco – 1/10. myki – 33/1.
  3. Prices for a lot of the non-grocery items don’t seem to be particularly cheap. Indeed, I thought some of the stuff was quite expensive. 46″ TV similar to the one we paid $1,300 for was $1,700. Having said that, $20 for 6 pairs of high-quality sports socks was very good. (Darling, do you really need 6 more pairs of sports socks?)
  4. Grocery items were clearly about 60% to 70% of what they are in the supermarket. One just needs to be judicious in terms of the bulk buy thing. (Darling, do we really need 12 tins of baked beans?)
  5. The checkout process was very efficient.
  6. The crowds were terrible, but bearable.
  7. It’s air conditioned. Nice!
  8. There’s probably sufficient benefit for Mr & Mrs Mature from Mordialloc to persevere with it, so that’s a begrudging thumbs up.

What’s the worst part of it? Carol’s decided the best way for us to Costco is for her to give me a list every month or so and I can head in there after work. Hang on. What about my hatred of shopping? The heat? The crowds?


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Melbourne Zoo has a new nine-month old pygmy hippo calf freshly arrived from Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Fantastic. Read the story here –> http://www.zoo.org.au/Melbourne/News_Events/pygmy_hippo.

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Global weather patterns are still frustratingly bizarre. While we here in Melbourne (and the rest of the country) continue to battle drought, with dam levels down below 30%, I found out today that Ottawa in Canada has had its wettest July ever, at the same time as they are fighting bushfires and heat waves over in the west of the country.

Go figure!

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Anyone who bothers to read my blog entries will know I’ve put a fair amount of work in lately documenting Carol’s and my trip to Canada last year. I used the standard editor in WordPress, and being reasonably new to blogging, didn’t realise there were other (easy) options. In particular, uploading pictures was a real pain in the arse, and you’ll see they’re probably smaller than they should be.

So, after five minutes of research, I’ve found out I could have just done it in Microsoft Word 2007. Doh!

So why a photo of a Vancouver fire truck here? Hey, I’m an emergency services freak, and I’m proving the technology. Believe me, there’s plenty more Canadian fire trucks and ambulances where that one came from.

So Canada Retrospective Part 3 (from Calgary to Ottawa to home, via Niagara Falls) should be a lot easier to pull together. Will I do Canada Retrospective Part 1 Retrospective and Canada Retrospective Part 2 Retrospective? Dunno. J

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