30 April 2012

The Virus

The "Fake" label is an addition!
I don't know where it came from or how it slipped through my anti-virus software (although I have to admit that my Windows updates were lagging a little!), but suddenly my computer was running a program called "SMART" and purporting to scan my files.

It was obviously a virus, and a little research (on another computer) confirmed this.    It disabled everything including my web-browser.

I have now found out that all this virus does is tell you that you've got a number of infections, and that to get rid of them, you need to purchase their software.  In fact, it is itself probably the only infection, and it's certainly not recommended that you buy their software (although one report I read said that when you do, the symptoms do in fact go away - but I certainly wasn't going to test this).  In the meantime, it had incapacitated my computer.
My eventual solution was to re-boot the computer in "safe" mode (press F8 during the start up process) and download then run Microsoft Safety Scanner.  This took under 15 minutes, and cost nothing (although I still haven't managed to restore all the Windows settings that the virus altered).  However, before doing this, I had spent well over 2 hours endeavouring to persuade my normal anti-virus program to fix the problem - to no avail, because it wouldn't update itself in "safe" mode.
How I would have managed had the virus had prevented the computer booting in "safe" mode, I don't know.   Hopefully this is a rare occurrence (but it does reinforce the need to keep Windows up-to-date with Microsoft's upgrade service).

A little while back I was offered a year's subscription to BitDefender, which, due to fact that I didn't follow the instructions correctly during the sign-up process, I failed to take up.   I am certainly now reviewing my anti-virus options, with another possibility (beside BitDefender)  being Microsoft's "Security Essentials" (which, to date, has functioned satisfactorily on another of our computers).

I have also changed the settings on in "Windows Update".   Previously, I thought it would be a good idea not to have updates automatically installed, so as to keep some control over what was going on.  However, I have to admit that I got a little behind on my updates!    As quite a lot of updates seem to be security patches, perhaps the fact that I got into arrears may have been a factor in my troubles.

28 April 2012

Not happy, Metro

I had a couple of bad experiences with Metro this week!
On Thursday, I headed to the city just after 9 am.   The train was about 8 minutes late, and although I squeezed on, it would have been difficult to fit another sardine on.

Before boarding, I noticed the whiteboard that the station hosts maintain (which is a good idea) indicated that in the couple of hours up to 9 am, 3 trains had been cancelled.   At that busy time of day, even when things are OK,  capacity is tight and the trains all have many standing room passengers.  As soon as there's a cancellation, not only are passengers delayed by having to wait for the next train, but the next couple of trains are sardine-like (people are literally sometimes unable to board and are left behind at stations close to the city).   The lack of three trains would have resulted in close to grid-lock for the whole time.  The knock-on effect was evidently still affecting  the train that I caught (even though the immediately preceding couple of trains had not been among the cancellations).

Then coming home on Friday afternoon from Flinders St, the train I planned to catch was over 10 minutes late.   Metro in its wisdom resorted to one of their little tricks to catch up time, and turned it into an express, so it didn't stop at my station.   Annoying though this was, at least the following train was close behind.  However, the announcements were really, really poor.    Yes, when things are running well, the automatic announcements are quite good, but when there's an unexpected change and hence proper announcements are needed,  the manual announcements about such changes tend to be garbled - at times incoherent - incomplete and infrequent.  There were certainly some very confused passengers getting on - and off - the stopping train that was turned into an express.

Although it didn't affect me, at the same time, there had apparently been some platform changes (I noticed a couple of trains leaving from other than their usual platforms).   Again, there were few, if any, announcements about these.

27 April 2012

Sculptures at Chadstone

I know that not everyone goes to Chadstone --- or at least, admits that they do!

Be that as it may, for those of us who choose or are otherwise required to go there, have you ever noticed the various works of art scattered around?  

 To be quite honest, I hadn't!   Perhaps that's just me, distracted by whatever "mission" that I'm on at the time!   But there are quite a number, and in fact they're quite prominent.  Here are a couple.   I'll leave it to others to comment on their artistic merit.

26 April 2012


I've only participated in ANZAC Day as part of Sue's group (some years ago), but after a call out of the blue evoking memories from way back, and on the principle that you have to do everything (well, within limits...) once, Sue and I joined in the march this year as part of my former unit.


It felt a bit strange marching (well, trying to keep in step) down St Kilda Rd on a cold and showery day.  Yes, it's right to respect the fallen. But somehow things now seem to include a bit more than this. The parade is OK - after all, we have parades for footballers and even racehorses.  But it does seem that the day gets a bit hyped-up.  Perhaps I should just stop here and not attempt to articulate my slight sense of unease. 

25 April 2012


C and P suggested that we have dinner at Juventino.   We hadn't even heard of it, and given that it's in the middle of Camberwell suburbia (in Camberwell Rd, at the "apex" of Glen Iris Rd) we, frankly, had visions of a pizza establishment.  

However, we were very pleasantly surprised.  Sure, according to the website, Juventino had its origins in a pizza establishment, but the food has definitely moved beyond this.  There might still be a little way to go with the ambiance, but it wasn't too bad.  I had gnocchi (no surprises with that choice!) which was really good.  I'm told the other pasta dishes were good, too.   

24 April 2012


Congratulations to brother-in-law Rob on being awarded the OAM!  Based on our observations, it was well-deserved. 

He's assured me that we don't have to call him "Sir Rob" or anything.

23 April 2012

Agapanthus - going and coming....

New "roll-out" grass has filled the spot previously occupied by agapanthus in a bed a little way up the street.  One of the people working there said the costs had been met by the owners of the house facing the nature strip at this point, but the Council had agreed to the work.   
Seems that if you have the money, the Council will allow you to have your way.  But I guess if we're talking about agapanthus, the end may justify the means? 
I had hoped that this might lead to a lessening of the number of agapanthus in the area.   But no, just down the street, there's a brand-new planting!    Such is the wisdom of the Council: what the Council allows to be taken away, the Council gives back....?

21 April 2012


Lift call panel
The building in which I work has what is supposed to be a more modern lift system.   You tell the computer which floor you're going to before you get in the lift, and it then directs you the lift that will convey you to that floor in supposedly the most "efficient" manner. 

It's quite straight-forward, but first-time visitors sometimes take a few moments before they "get" it.

The system means that you seem to have a slightly longer wait for a lift than might usually be expected, but at the outset it was noticeable that, when the lift arrived, there was a minimum of stops (so the journey itself was quicker).  More recently, however, some sort of adjustment appears to have been made, because it's noticeable that the lift journeys definitely stop at more floors than was initially the case.   One wonders if the system now operates so as to keep the number of lift movements to a minimum, resulting in little or no timing advantage over the traditional system? Perhaps, however, we can be consoled by the fact that this may be resulting in energy savings?  

20 April 2012


We've been to Zen before but we returned a little while back for a small family gathering.  Zen is a Japanese restaurant in Hawthorn, and the night was a great success.     Sometimes we've had the set menu, but on this occasion we had a few entrees and starters to share and followed this with individual mains.  My beef was great, and I think everyone else was very satisfied, too.    Our group was in the rear area, which after a while we had to ourselves (it was mid-week).  The service was spot-on and the bill was pretty reasonable.

19 April 2012


A couple of years back, we replaced the front fence and started again with the garden.  It took a while to get the approvals (that's another story), and the work itself was fairly traumatic. 

One of the new plants is a hakea, which has done quite well and is now rewarding us with some attractive flowers.

18 April 2012

Something Italian

We like Something Italian, and were back there a few days ago with B and A.   After a little negotiation, we were seated at a table by the window which was nice. 
As usual, I enjoyed the gnocchi, but the duck must have had some flavour enhancer in it.   We have obviously become a little complacent about checking for MSG (we have never before had an issue at Something Italian), but later on Sue had some discomfort.    Just goes to show, you must always ask about these things.

17 April 2012

Tiger Lillies

We were given some tiger lillies (thanks, Julie).  They were just emerging from buds, and they lasted very well.   As they mature, their perfume becomes apparent.   However, it took over a week for them to pass through the "pleasant" stage and get to the point where they were "overpowering", so we had lots of pleasure from them.

16 April 2012

Христос васкрсе! Ваистину васкрсе!

Yesterday was Serbian Orthodox Easter.  We had a wonderful lunch at N's place.  We ate too much, but it was all good!    

14 April 2012

Reflecting on the Byzantine era

I read the epilogue to John Julius Norwich's work, A Short History of Byzantium, with interest.  He reflects on the empire's 1123 years and comments on its strengths:  illiteracy was virtually unknown in the middle and upper classes;   it preserved much of the heritage of Greek and Roman antiquity during dark centuries in the West when lights of learning were almost extinguished; and of course it produced some great art, restricted though it may have been to mainly religious subjects.  

He singles out the deesis in the south gallery of St Sophia and the Anastasis in the parecclesion of St Saviour in Chora as being amongst the masterpieces (thanks to Bill, the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora was already on my "to visit" list).

The Anastasis

Lord Norwich  notes that it has been maintained that the greatness of Byzantium lay in the "Triple Fusion":  that of a Roman body, a Greek mind and an oriental, mystical soul.  Nevertheless, the Byzantines were human, and their follies were many, as were their sins, but he suggests that it is inappropriate to condemn them to obscurity which they have to some extent suffered.

He concludes, in relation to the fall on Constantinople: "That is why five and a half centuries later, throughout the Greek world, Tuesday is still believed to be the unluckiest day of the week;  why the Turkish flag still depicts not a crescent but waning moon, reminding us that the moon was in its last quarter when Constantinople finally fell; and why, excepting only the Great Church of St Sophia itself, it is the Land Walls - broken, battered, but still marching from sea to sea - that stand as the city's grandest and most tragic monument."

13 April 2012

Autumn colour

I know I've already posted some images of the colour in some of the nearby streets, but here are a few more from around the area!  

12 April 2012

Constitutional change - Local Government

The April issue of Quadrant magazine has a couple of articles on the current proposals to amend the Australian Constitution.   There is a proposal is to recognise local government, and the other is to include some form of "indigenous recognition" in the Constitution.

Malvern Town Hall
The proposal in relation to "indigenous recognition" has received more publicity, and perhaps I'll leave my musings on this for another time.

One of the articles is by James Spigelman (it's actually an edited version of an address he gave), and is of particular interest as he chaired the Expert Panel  on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government.

In relation to the recognition of local government, the first question to ask is, why bother?   There have been three previous suggestions that this ought to be done, namely in the Constitutional Convention of 1891, and the referenda put forward in 1974 and 1988. The 1891 Constitutional Convention looked at the issue in some detail and the outcome was that local government wasn't mentioned in the Constitution.   Both the 1974 and 1988 referenda were lost, with a "yes" vote of only 33.61% in the latter case. 

The expert panel had 18 members (rather more than Spigelman anticipated, it seems from his article.)  These included "experts" such as Senator Bob Brown and Tony Windsor and, according to Spigelman, most of the rest had current or past associations with local government.  The local government lobby ran a campaign focussed on empowering the Commonwealth to make direct grants to local government (at present there is some doubt about its ability to do this, in view of the decision of the High Court relating to the fiscal stimulus package (Pape v Commissioner of Taxation)). In Speigelman's words,  "...perhaps not surprisingly, because of the composition of the panel, this was the option which the panel eventually put forward".

However, the tone of Spigelman's article suggests that, perhaps, he didn't support this recommendation quite as strongly as some of the other members of the panel.  He comments that although the majority concluded that there was a reasonable prospect of success in a referendum in 2013 (if there was, amongst other things, a "nationally funded education campaign about the Constitution generally"), other members (a minority) made a different judgement.

In view of the lack of whole-hearted support from the expert panel (notwithstanding its composition), and that any "no" case would stress the creeping centralism almost certainly inherent  in any such proposal, one wonders whether  in the current political climate the present Federal government will fulfil its 2010 agreement with the Greens and push ahead with a referendum in 2013 on this matter.

11 April 2012


It remains one of my goals in life to photograph a lightning strike, but as yet I haven't got anywhere near to achieving this.  However, I did manage to capture a rainbow a little while back.

10 April 2012

The "Nanny State"?

We were having dinner with some friends, when we heard what sounded like firecrackers.  Next morning, on the front lawn there was  evidence that this had indeed been the case - see image.

I have happy memories of "cracker night" when young.  We were living in a new part of the city, with unmade roads and vacant blocks of land.   It was traditional for the whole street to build a bonfire on one of the vacant blocks and to get together at dusk to light it and let off fireworks.

At the time, it all seemed harmless enough and a very small part of me says that perhaps the banning of fireworks is a symptom of the "nanny state" culture.  But on balance, I do accept that fireworks just had to go (along with school cadets carrying their .303 rifles on the train to school!)   So, although I do have concerns about the "nanny state", I'll reserve my comments for developments that really do amount to an intrusion by the state into areas where the individual ought to accept responsibility.

09 April 2012

Byzantium History (2)

Having a few hours wired up while under observation in the cardiac unit gave me the opportunity to finish reading John Julius Norwich's Short History of Byzantium.
Lord Norwich displays a most impressive mastery of the details of this era.    The details of various battles and conflicts, the often-complex relationships between the numerous emperors, their families, their allies and their foes, the religious issues and much, much more, all seem to be described.

If there's an issue with his work it's that, if read from cover to cover,  the mass of detail might be thought to obscure some of the events that history would judge as having been really "big".  No doubt this is because things such as the adoption of the Greek as the official language instead of Latin (by Heraclius who ruled from 610 to 641), the Great Schism, the various Crusades and their fates, the taking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade (well, along with the Venetians and the Franks) and such can only be truly understood in the context of all the other circumstances that contributed to and led up to these particular events.

Lord Norwich does, understandably, devote reasonable space to the actual fall of Constantinople, although this, too, must be seen in context, as being the inevitable result of a long period of decline.    Geoff has suggested in a comment to a previous entry that I could read The Fall of Constantinople, 1453 by Steven Runciman, so perhaps I'll keep my eye open for that.   I might also come back to Lord Norwich's works (either the Short History or perhaps the individual books in his trilogy) and take them more slowly,  so as to more gradually absorb this lengthy era .

08 April 2012

Chest pains

I woke up in the night with intermittent but recurring spasms in the upper left breast.    I got up, walked around, came back to bed, but they continued.   Not exceptionally painful, but annoying, and recurring.   And nowhere near any part of my body where I would expect indigestion.
After nearly 2 hours, I came to the view that this might not be a very serious matter, but it had to be investigated, and better that this should occur while the matter was still recurring.  So off to Cabrini emergency at 5.30 am.    They were excellent (as they had been when I had my appendix episode a few years back), and by 8 am I had been seen by the cardiologist who wanted to make quite sure that nothing was amiss.  Hence, off to the Cardiac Care Unit for observation.

Happily, after a day of being wired up and a couple of blood samples later, all the tests came back negative, and I was home by 7 pm.   I still don't know the cause, but I remain convinced that it wasn't indigestion (although I would have preferred it if this word hadn't appeared on the records!)   But at least I can stop worrying about my heart.

07 April 2012

The Bellarine Railway

I guess one of the down-sides of travelling on "off-peak" days - as we mature citizens tend to do - is that not all of the attractions are open.   So, the Bellarine Railway wasn't operating during the time we were at Point Lonsdale.    This railway is now operated by an enthusiast society and runs excursions between Queenscliff and Drysdale.

It's now 3'6" gauge, although it was originally constructed (in 1879) as a normal Victorian Railways line with a gauge of 5'3". It was converted when the society took over.
Even though little was happening,  we went past the station and took a couple of pictures. However, the steam locos weren't on show.

When I young, I can remember seeing the Sunday excursion train arrive at Queenscliff.  This train originated in Ballarat, with Melbourne passengers having to travel by connecting train and change at Geelong.  In the 60s, this was last remaining passenger service on the line.   I probably took a photo of this at the time, but if I still have it, I don't know where it is.

06 April 2012

Church St Enoteca

The food here is described as “Modern Italian”, and we were impressed.   Our group shared some primi dishes, and followed this by mains including the  lamb, the hapuku and the steak.  
With my lamb, first the gnocchi arrived and then the braised lamb was scooped out of a pan.   Only one of us (not me) had a desert - the semifreddo, which looked good.   I think every member of our group was satisfied.  The service was very good, the room is pleasant and the wine list offered a reasonable range.   But this quality doesn’t come cheaply.

I was pleasantly surprised to be be able to park nearby in Church St, although the congestion in this part of the world can be horrific at times (especially if there's football at the MCG).

05 April 2012

Tim Fischer's book

Tim Fischer's book Transcontinental Train Odyssey is described on one web-site as, "Train enthusiast and former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia's very personal guide to the great transcontinental railways of the world. Full of colourful anecdotes, descriptions of the greatest stations in the world, as well as enough rail history and technical specifications to satisfy the most ardent trainspotter".

Well, the book certainly does contain a lot of interesting information, especially about interesting trips the author has taken and out-of-the way places he's been.   BUT interposed at regular intervals are expressions such as the trip arranger "had worked closely with our ambassador....",  the "...diplomatic officials who travelled with me..." etc.  True, there also are some anecdotes from his pre-parliamentary days, but it does indeed seem that many of the impressive journeys described were in fact undertaken in the course of parliamentary travels - at taxpayers' expense!  Nice work if you can get it.  In fairness, the book does state that part of the royalties are to be donated to good causes (the Fred Hollows Foundation, Frontier Services, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and "the South Australian government" -- not sure about this one!)

It's also apparent that he had a big role in the decision to build the Alice Springs to Darwin railway.  I guess that deserves to be commended as a "nation-building" exercise, but I wonder about the economic rationality of it, at least in the short term and given that other possible rail improvements may have resulted in a better return.

It does indeed seem that, one way or another, Fischer  has been to a number of interesting parts of the world.    But hardly a mention  of Mongolia!    To overcome this deficiency, here's an image of the trans-Mongolian rail line, alongside the Ulan Bataar rail museum.  

04 April 2012

Cafe Bedda

Guided by T and W, we ventured to Northcote a little while back, in search of Café Bedda.   It's Sicilian, and although I'm not really qualified to pass judgement on this, it certainly seemed authentic with its checkerboard floor and wooden tables.   The food and wine were good, too.
On their website, they set out a number of facts about themselves.  They’re definitely “up front”!  For example, they tell you that "The restaurant can be a little loud on the busy nights… Exactly like a Sicilian home would sound like during dinner".
High Street, Northcote isn't the most car-friendly place in Melbourne, so we trammed it.  This was very successful.  Although the trams only run every 15 minutes in the evening, with a little pre-planning everything went very satisfactorily.

03 April 2012

Byzantium history

We're planning to spend a few days later in the year in Istanbul.  My sister recommended that I read up on the history of the Byzantine empire so that I would appreciate the era that followed the founding by Constantine the Great of the Roman Empire of the East on 11 May 330.  Since I knew very little about this era, this seemed an excellent idea, especially as she lent me the first volume in John Julius Norwich's Byzantine trilogy The Early Centuries.

Well, a few weeks passed, and I hadn't finished the book.  I had absorbed numerous emperors, including a number of Constantines, a Constantius or two, Justinian and others.  Lord Norwich certainly packs it in: all the conquests, defeats, religious arguments, plots, sieges, blindings, mutilations, mutinies, marriages of convenience  - the lot.   But I was only up to the death of Constantine IV in 668 (murdered by an attendant with the soap-dish while he was in the bath).   Part of the problem was that I had to give up reading the book in bed before falling asleep, as it's hard to relax with the thoughts of the massacres of 80,000 troops or the self-inflicted drowning of 2000 attractive maidens or the killing of 30,000 civilians in the Hippodrome (ending the Nika revolt) reeling in your mind.  

But then I found the library had a condensed version of the trilogy (A Short History of Byzantium).   It's still got many of the gory details (such as Pope Martin being thrown into prison with murderers and common criminals and deposed emperor Romanus being paraded for 100 miles or so on a donkey "his eyes gouged out and his face and head alive with worms..."), but it compresses the events a little.  I've recently passed the bit where the Eastern and Western churches finally split, when on 16 July 1054 Pope Leo IX's legation led by Cardinal Humbert purported to excommunicate Patriarch Cerularius, so there's at least there's some hope of getting through the remaining years until the conquest of Constantinople on 19 May 1453.  

How many of the details I'll be able to recall when we get to Istanbul is a different matter!

02 April 2012

Palm Sunday

The Uniting Churches in Stonnington had a combined service for Palm Sunday.  It was at the Serrell Street, East Malvern church.  I had not been there before, and was interested to see their modern and functional complex.

Rev Peter Beale had arranged a service that flowed very well, illustrated by an extensive array of images.   The service climaxed with a moving video based on a number of classic paintings which had been prepared by Peter - see

The congregation arranged a impressive morning tea, and it was nice to catch up with others from other congregations in Stonnington. 

01 April 2012

Daylight savings

I have to concentrate so as to remember which way the clocks move at the beginning and end of daylight saving.  Yes, I know the saying, "Spring - forward; fall - back", but it's still an effort.   At least this year there seemed to be sufficient reminders about the need to change the clocks (sometimes the event appears almost not to be mentioned), although the fact that the mornings are darker and we're beginning to get some nice autumn colours helped.