31 October 2011

Christmas Cards

Christmas cards are, I think, nice, especially as a means of keeping in touch with people that you hardly ever see.   However, in this electronic age, is the Christmas card sent by mail outdated?    But if you receive an electronic greeting, how do you put it on the mantlepiece?   And isn't there still an element of (shall we call it) "romance" in going to the mail box and finding a card there?   And if you do go electronic, do you still send a traditional card to those on your list who don't have an email address (or whose email address you don't know)?  These are often the very people that you want to send a card to.
Bearing in mind all these issues, and in line with my traditional values, we are still all for Christmas cards.  We're then faced with the question - where do we obtain them?   Until a few years ago, the answer was quite easy - at the VCOSS Christmas card shop in the city.   For quite a few years, this operated in premises provided by St Paul's Cathedral, and to outward appearances, appeared to be quite successful.  However, it did appear that the average age of the volunteers was rising, so whether it was for this reason or some other reason, this shop ceased to operate a few years back.
Certainly, other options exist.   You can buy cards directly from charities, either at their offices (one year I bought some at Wesley Mission in Lonsdale Street) or by mail.  There also appear to be internet sites, and as what I would regard as a last resort, you can go to the newsagent or even the $2 shop.  However, fortunately I was pointed in the direction of the Camcare shop in Camberwell.  Although a little challenging to find, when you do, it's just like the former VCOSS shop, with a good array of cards from a variety of charities.  They even take EFTPOS - not bad for a shop operated by volunteers, I thought.  So I made my annual pilgrimage there a few days back and I am now stocked up, ready to go.    Next thing is to update my address list, which looks as though it might be a greater challenge than finding the Camcare shop!

30 October 2011

Gen Y

It's a pseudo-long weekend (take Monday off from work and you've got a 4 day break including Cup Day), so Gen-Y daughter and partner head off to Hong Kong to attend a friend's wedding.  As, apparently, you do.   Lo and behold, Qantas then ground their aircraft.     I send this news by text to daughter, and receive the following respose:
"Yea - extended stay in HK! .....We r having a great time so we can stay a while at travel insurance expense".

28 October 2011


We've been reading in the business pages of the newspapers that a number of mining companies are very interested in Mongolia - as well they might be, as the country is fairly big and is known to have significant deposits of copper, gold, coal and other minerals.    It's also relatively unexplored from a resources perspective, so there is potential for more finds.   So it was nice to be asked  at work a few questions about the laws there, which I'm pleased to say I could answer.   I did have to say that laws do change and it's been a little while since I've been there.   Realistically, I think it's unlikely that any of these nibbles will develop into interesting assignments, but in the meantime it gave me an incentive to review some of the materials I filed away over the years.   In this process, I came across some photos I took in May 2007 around Ulan Bataar.  Here are just a few.  The first one is a view from the hotel room looking out from the hotel in UB, the second is the Bayangal hotel (from which the photo was taken), the next is a freight train on the Trans-Mongolian railway (I never managed to photograph the passenger train that forms the Trans-Siberian), and note the kitsch palm tree in the 4th!

27 October 2011

Bowling Club Centenary

This seems to be the year of centenaries (see earlier post re St Andrew's centenary).    The Malvern Bowling Club is celebrating its centenary with a series of functions.  We attended the centenary dinner, which was a spit roast and presentation night for one of the teams which won its division.   Although we're not bowlers except at the most casual level, at all the functions we attend, the atmosphere is always welcoming and there are invariably interesting people to talk to.  We even found out that there is a club song - the first line is "We are the gold and blues".  Apparently any resemblance to the Carlton FC song is a mere coincidence.   Anyway, the evening moved along smartly and the speeches were succinct.  The bar prices are pretty good, too!  

26 October 2011

The day of the Queen's visit

Melbourne turned on a lovely day for the Queen's visit, but for some reason we weren't invited to join her on her tram ride or to meet her at the Government House reception.   Instead, we had lunch with Jim A at the Kooyong Tennis Club.    Good company, a great atmosphere and enjoyable food.   We sat in the "in-between" part of the bistro, not on the deck itself, nor in the inside part, but the in the area that, while being closed in, has a good outlook - very satisfactory on such a nice day.

24 October 2011

Vanilla Omelette

What's Vanilla Omelette, do you say?    Well may you ask.   It's actually a local Thai Restaurant.   It was previously White Elephant (which does sound more like a Thai name!).  There was a fire upstairs a while back and the restaurant was badly damaged by water.  It took a while for the new fit out to occur, but the result really is quite stylish.
We went there with the daughters and their husband/partner  and another couple and had a good night.  The great thing about Thai food is that, as well as tasting good,  it looks good!
It was actually a belated family catch-up for Sue's birthday.  What have we come to when the family birthday gathering is more than a week after the actual day?

(PS - photos aren't mine, they're just to illustrate!)

23 October 2011

The Big Fella

My literary diet largely consists of detective stories and travel books.  More about that some other time.  However, I do try and diversify occasionally.   One recent foray was to read "The Big Fella", which is the story of BHP Billiton by Peter Thompson and Robert Macklin, published in 2009.
While the book deals with the entire history of BHP Billiton, I found that the insights given by the book  into the events of recent years to be very interesting.  Since arriving in the late 1980s at the law firm which had just finished acting for Robert Holmes à Court, I've watched BHP Billiton, although of course strictly from from the outside.  More particularly, I've had the privilege of being involved in a small way in a number of the transactions over the last decade and a half which are described in the book, and so it was interesting to read the book's "take" on  these.    The authors rely greatly on detailed interviews with many of the people involved, and there are liberal quotations from these.  As a result, the book is quite easy to read, but as a result of the focus being on the attitude of the individuals concerned to the various events, it is in parts a little disjointed if the reader is seeking to understand the underlying transaction.    However, in fairness there are obviously compromises that have to be made when portraying events which have many facets.

22 October 2011

Concert night!

We attended the combined Melbourrne Savage Club/Lyceum Club concert recently.  The theme (which was followed somewhat loosely) was bike riding, with mentions of Cadel Evans and others.  In the company of some good friends, the result was a great night of music and comedy, with plenty to eat and drink, too!   It's really amazing what how much talent often exists among people you see sometimes quite regularly, but because it's underneath the surface, you don't realise it's there.   And it's very impressive that people have the courage to get up on the stage!
The image below is of the social room at the Savage Club, but the furniture was re-arranged for the concert.

21 October 2011


I admit I am not a watcher of television.  The nightly news and sometimes "7.30" (and, yes, the odd bit of football....)(EDIT - and "Grumpy Old Men" had a certain appeal, I wonder why?) are quite enough for me, and if I miss these, that's definitely no great loss .  However, even though my exposure to what I still think of as Channel 2 is limited, I haven't been able to avoid their promotion of "Crownies".   So, it occurred to me, perhaps I really am missing out on a part of life that I need to know about, especially given the legal theme.
Hence, I watched one episode.  It may be unfair to judge a program on such a small sample as there may be on-going themes.  But without going into detail, nothing I saw convinced me that my "low TV" diet needs to be changed!  

Tax time

I've been a bit quiet over the last few days because I've been finalising my tax return.   In fact, I did most of it (using "e-tax") some weeks  back, but put it aside while I checked a couple of points.  Needless to say, this resulted in a mental block, meaning that I found every possible excuse not to some back to it!   However, with the end of October looming, I have now forced myself to finish the task and finally to press the "submit" button.
E-tax can be "challenging" at times, and has a few quirks, but having used it for a couple of years now, I think I've got the main principles sorted out.   But there's always room to improve.  This year I noticed that  there was a specific question dealing with a particular item that I'd included under a more general heading last year.   Hope the ATO is tolerant if they pick me up on it!

20 October 2011

A centenary

We went a service celebrating the centenary of St Andrew's Uniting Church, Gardiner.   Rev Alistair Macrae preached, and after the service we greatly enjoyed lunch prepared by the Korean members of the congregation.    The music was of a very high standard, with two string groups and a recital after lunch by Gardiner's very talented organist.

12 October 2011

Lunch at Fairfield Boathouse

Sue had a birthday recently, so we headed off with another couple to the Fairfield Boathouse.   This really is a great setting, just 5 kms from the city, but you could be far away in the country (well, apart from the freeway noise, but even that is fairly subdued!).    We sat on the deck and enjoyed the casual but quite satisfactory food!

10 October 2011

Spring time

The cherry blossoms have been good this year.   There are a number of cherry blossom trees in nearby streets.  These are a relic of the days when there was a Malvern council.  Stonnington prefers to plant hardier types, such as plane trees!

09 October 2011

Clybourne Park

We went to see the Melbourne Theatre Company production of Clybourne Park.  This relates to events (50 years apart) in the same house in an inner suburb of a US city.   In 1959, the couple who are selling are confronted by white neighbours who don't want the house sold of a black family.   In 2009, black neighbours object to the house being demolished by a gentrifying white couple.   The issues of race and real estate remain constant, but the time gap of 50 years has made a big difference to the way in which the issues are expressed.
The play includes some very funny lines and addresses the underlying themes in an intelligent and credible way.  We certainly enjoyed it,  notwithstanding a couple of minor reservations on my part (Is bad taste found so much more often in white people?   Did the  "jokes" towards the end have to be quite so offensive?)


Today was "Community Open Day" at the bowls club.  We're social members, so we had a bbq lunch and glass of wine and watched while they looked out for talent.    Seems they did in fact spot talent, in Kevin!    Thjey made sure he had a membership application form in his hand before he left!

05 October 2011

Computer nerds

For some years (with a break while we lived in Perth), I've belonged to the Melbourne PC User Group.  My theory is that development of computers has been a bit like the development of cars, albeit on a compressed time scale.   When cars were first developed, in the early 20th Century, a car owner had to know how the car worked (or employ a chauffeur who knew all about the car).    However, that stage passed, and now it's almost got to the point where a car owner doesn't really need to know even how to lift the bonnet to look at the engine.  Likewise with computers, in that when personal computers were first available, you had to understand what was going on inside (remember DOS commands?).   However matters have now progressed to the point where no-one needs to know very much about how the computer is operating in order to get results.
I think this shows at monthly meetings of the PC User Group.    Yes, they can be quite interesting (the main agenda item this week was a presentation about the NBN (I'm even less convinced)), but many of the attendees were the same people who went to these meetings 15+ years ago so as to keep informed as to the workings of their computer - and now of course, they're 15+ years older, and this is reflected in the average age of those present.  Hence, one of the Special Interest Groups is the "Retired and Interested Persons" group.ired and Interested Persons" group!

02 October 2011

Dog owners vs cat owners

Tilly [EDIT] is getting bigger.    Nearly 4 months old, and weighs over 11 kg (on her way to about 25 kg, we're told).
We accompanied her on a trip to the park.  The fraternity of dog-owners is very interesting.   They come up to you and introduce themselves and their dogs without a second thought, and everyone readily exchanges information about their respective dogs.    We have, of course, been life long cat owners.  Like cats, when we go the park we watch others from a respectful distance!
EDIT - since posting the above, a comment has been made that I might be interested in getting a dog.  Let me be clear - Tilly is fine, and she can come for visits BUT when it's time for her to go home, that's what she has to do.   I couldn't handle another cat full time and definitely not a dog!