Tuesday, March 03, 2015

333 Collins Street

The building at 333 Collins Street is not so old, dating back to 1990. Within the building is a much older building. Property speculation was rampant in the 1880s and it all came to abrupt halt in 1891 with an economic depression, so it is a little surprising to me that work began on the original building in 1891 and completed in 1893 amid a severe property price crash. Banks closed their doors and financial institutions went belly up, just as the building was completed. One in ten Melbourne houses were repossessed by banks and building societies. Bad times for most people including my mother's grand parents who lost a substantial amount of money, real money not paper profits.

In 1973 the Commercial Bank of Australia decided to pull the old Victorian bank down and as there should have been, there were howls of protest and the government stepped in and created the Historic Buildings Preservation Council and the building was saved. In the late 1980s the Commercial Bank and merged with the Bank of New South Wales and the building was sold to the Becton Corporation, a development company. A new building to sit over the top of the old was designed and built and even if you detest modern architecture, you will agree this is a nice example of what can be done. The old bank received a full restoration and the project was completed in 1990. You can see the dome in this photo I put up a couple of weeks ago.

Look at the size of those lamps!

The entrance.

Would you believe the sign was put on the wall a little crooked? No?

Polished brass is lovely, as long as you are not the one who has to polish it.

Gazing upward in the banking chamber....

to the dome, with the new building above.

Beautiful mosaic floor tiles.

Maybe not original, but a walkway through to Flinders Lane.

There is a guard come guide who was showing this lad the model. Where the lad is standing is a cut away into the building to see the old one within.

Perhaps not the original position but obviously a bank serving counter.

Very clubby and comfortable. The guide on the floor was happy to answer questions and there is no problem with taking photos.

One last look at the dome. What a wonderful thing to have a restored Victorian building and a relatively modern building over the top. Credit to the Becton Corportation, who I have not always been so happy with. The Domed Banking Chamber is recognised by the British Society of of Architects as the finest of its type in the world.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Mazda 3 Maxx, A personal review

The new car is not so new now. Our Mazda 3 Maxx is about 6 months old and has travelled a surprisingly high 6000 kilometres. A once weekly visit to Mother by R clocks up some kilometres.

The bad first.

Lack of courtesy lights. I find this really annoying. Even the cheapest Corollas at work have a courtesy light in the sun visor mirror. There isn't a glove box light, foot lights, lights on the interior of the doors that display when the doors are open. This is just cheap cost saving.

Visibility is awful, even at times when driving forward when turning a corner and you want to make sure you avoid a raised concrete island. As for reverse parking, it would be barely manageable without the reversing camera.

No reversing audible alert. It could be added as part of a safety upgrade package costing nearly an extra one thousand dollars. It is becoming a pretty basic thing now, and should be available at a reasonable price.

Road noise levels on coarse road surfaces is better than in our 2009 model, but is still wanting.

Gear shift paddles are a wank.

It took some getting used to Istop, where the engine shuts down at traffic lights, but I have become used to the fuel saving feature. You can turn it off, but it defaults to being on the next time you use the car. It is not quite like the car starting from scratch. The engine stops in a prime position to restart and it only takes a flick of the starter motor for the engine to come alive. It happens as you remove your foot from the brake. A light brake application while stationary will stop it coming on. The car battery has to have pretty well full charge for Istop to work, which solved the puzzle for me as for a few days it did not work. The bad is how it interacts with the air conditioning. Obviously the compressor goes off and no more cold is available other than the residual. The fan speed drops down to a lower speed and depending on the speed setting, the car may restart even while stationary. Istop does not work at all when the fan is on full speed. I would design it for the fan speed to stay as it was and disconnect the connection between Istop and the air con. How long are you ever stationary for? A minute or so? Yes, the air being blown will warm slightly but not much.

There is much good about the car though.

The six speed auto transmission is brilliant. While it is not known as a low torque engine, it feels like it has plenty of torque because of the transmission. It is smooth, changes early and changes often to always make sure you are in right gear. If you are travelling down a steep hill and using the brakes, the transmission will change down to give you engine braking too. The transmission is really quite brilliant.

In spite of it being noisy on coarse stoned roads, it is generally very quiet and smooth.

The seats are absolutely delicious. Perfect shape and great fabrics.

The gear shift is inline, with no more nonsense of a gate, moving it sideways as well as back and forth. Hold the button down and just move it forward or backwards, so simple.

Our old Mazda 3 did not seem to have air conditioning any better than the much older Hyundai. I think our new Mazda has had the air con upgraded and seems better to me.

It is very economical. The average fuel consumption began at 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres. For a while when only being used around town, it rose to 6.8 but now with a weekly freeway trip, it is sitting nicely on 6.6.

Here are the government figures for our old Mazda and the new one. Both engines are 2 litre.

Combined, which I think is a mix of highway and city driving. 2009 old Mazda 8.2. 2014 new Mazda 5.7

Urban, Old 11.3. New 7.5

Extra, I really don't know what this is, maybe extra careful. Old 6.3. New 4.7.

Do we like the car? Yes.

Later edit: Note Whiteangels comment where a friend sold on her new Mazda 3 because the car has such poor visibility from the driver's seat. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015


I thought I would take a self guided walking tour of Melbourne University but instead had a mosey around the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. RMIT began its life as the Working Men's College in 1887. It focused on teaching trade subjects to students, both practical and theory with the motto Perita manus, mens exculta, a skilled hand, a cultivated mind. The number of subjects taught has increased manyfold and  a campus in Ho Chi Min City has been opened. RMIT owns a lot of property in this part of town.

To say what was constructed between the two old buildings of the RMIT was controversial is an understatement. It is truly ghastly and now fading badly and something will have to be done with the offensive modern structure. Note it is now RMIT University, and I suppose it is a Uni really, but what an ugly name.

I entered to have a look around and there was a lot of building works happening. Here is some completed much earlier.

Lighting for down below. Many of these in Australia have been filled in or removed. They were often branded Luxfer, but this ones seems not to be.

A happy mix of the old and the new? You can judge.

There were some art gallery spaces within. I don't pretend to have a clue about any of what I saw, including these television screens.

Two cameos would light up accompanied by a sound for perhaps thirty seconds and then another two would light up as the previous two went out. I am just not getting this modern art.

More television screens, showing something that is probably artistic.

This did amuse me slightly.

Maybe something to do with Australia's aboriginal history? Maybe?

These teeth were in a passage way and you can guess what happened when you went up to them to examine more closely.

A little trickery with endless film tape spooling down from the film projector above.

In a room of its own. It is a...............installation?

Well, that is enough of modern artistic culture for me. I am back outside to see things I better understand.

I did not know there was a large space behind the main RMIT buildings with some rather nice buildings.

This is only of interest because in the background you can see the police radio mast on the long closed Russell Street Police Station, the site of a terrible car bombing many years ago. The building is now apartments. The police radio system was known as D24 and you may on odd occasions still hear it referred to as such, "Call D24".

Old entrance lamps either side of the doorway.

Entrance lamps appropriate to the age of the building.

Again, lamps roughly appropriate to the age of the building.

I'm sure it looked terrific in the architectural drawings.

Will such buildings ever be loved?

Aboriginal studies?

Enough of the learnin' institution. Out in Franklin Street is the City Baths, renovated in the 1980s and still popular for swimming and exercise. The new building I think is by the developer Grocon or it could be Multiplex. It sits on the old site of the giant Carlton United Breweries. While I remember the beer trucks coming and going from the brewery, it was long before my time that the area was an unsavoury place where the youth gang the Carlton Roughs used to hang out.

Still in Franklin Street, I had no idea this place was there. What to make of Vampire Vaudeville? Not sure it is my thing.

Just across Swanston Street is Hardrock, a place for rock climbing of sorts. From what I have seen from the outside, although nothing like real rock climbing, it is quite difficult and best left for the younguns.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A not so great evening out

Our Malaysian friend Manny is here in Melbourne. We arranged to catch up for dinner at a hotel with our other friends D & R. I had the day off work and was feeling quite relaxed. Then R came home from Thursday take mother out day in a foul mood. He goes an hour earlier now and leaves an hour earlier to miss heavy traffic on the way home, but the traffic at 3.30 was really bad and a one hour trip was nearly one and a half hours.

"I bought her new shoes today", he said.
"What? You paid for them?
"I didn't say she bought new shoes did I? I said I bought her new shoes. I don't want to talk about your ******** mother. Give me half the money, $60."
Look out Andrew.  He is stressed.

The traffic had not improved when we set off for dinner and what is normally a 15 minute trip took 40 minutes. The street parking on the hotel side was all taken but there were some spaces on the other side which would have us pointed in the direction of home when we left. I patiently waited half in and half out of a side street to make a u turn but R was not waiting patiently. 

"Why didn't you park in the carpark? I don't know how I live with you and put up with this."

I neatly made the u turn and nimbly, just lucky for once, parked the car very well.  R stormed off to the hotel well in front of me. I dawdled. R was at the bar buying us drinks and I walked over to where D was sitting and he was texting. 

"Hello", and I was ignored. "Is your R inside playing the machines?" I was still ignored. I sat there glumly for a minute or so while he texted on until R arrived with the drinks. R was not to be ignored and when he was repeated what he said to D in a louder voice, which did get a response.

It took me quite some time before I could engage in normal conversation with anyone. I was not a happy egg at all.

D was texting Manny who was in Essendon and said he won't get to the hotel for another hour and that we should eat without him. An hour later Manny texted and said it would be just too late, which I was relieved about because I did not want to hang around after dinner and we didn't.

My meal was just ok, but to sum up the evening, somewhat of a fizzer and I rather wished I had stayed home.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Cracker

Language is always something evolving. New words are added. Old ones are lost. Occasionally you come across a word you are surprised about because you did not know it. Two nights ago I was surprised that R was not familiar with the word hipster. It is such a loaded word, and lordy, if you add beard in front of it, a bearded hipster, it can be thoroughly derogatory.

I thought the name came from hippies, but as R said, the only hipster I know is the low rise pants. Hipster pants of the seventies? That is what is is all about. I am generally not so keen on hairy men, and I remember the warnings of my childhood, never trust a man with a beard, but I find some bearded hipsters pretty hot.

Oh, I meant this to be be salient and I ran off on a tangent before the third sentence was started. While waiting for the lift one day with Sister and Little Jo, I began the rhyme in reference to which lift would arrive first with Eenie Meenie,  Miny Mo, Catch a Nigger by the toe.

Sister: "Brother, you can't say that".


"It is tigger, you can't catch a tigger by the toe."

"What's a tigger?"

Yes, as I often am, I was being a little disingenuous.

I feel in Australia, we can get away with saying the word negro, but probably not nigger. Well, maybe not really negro either. Is black person offensive?

This is not a word familiar to me but I have learnt about it. Its origins are when black slaves on plantations were hit by a whip to make them work harder or as a punishment. Crack the whip, the person who cracked the whip was the Cracker and white.

In modern terminology, black people would like the word cracker to be a term like nigger, derogatory.

Allow me you to give you a context, and if US readers are also rolling their eyes and not knowing about cracker, then I am probably way off key. I do believe that cracker is a word among popular black culture in the US though.

"Come to the party bro".

"I ain't goin' man. The room will be full of crackers."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Oh my, it's just too big

How big is Australia? It takes about five hours to fly east to west or north to south. If you are flying to Australia from the direction of Europe, do not bother touching up your lipstick and putting on your hat and gloves as you cross the northern Australian coast. You probably still have a way to go yet.

The placement of the overlay of Australia on Europe amuses me. Perhaps this is Australia's European take over plan. Let me explore my plan.

Seems some Portugal is ok, but most of it isn't. I hope we have the bit where Nandos chickens are farmed and there are cute little trams. We don't want the Spanish Mediterranean beaches or the Rock of Gibraltar? I think we've got all the vineyards in though.

Yes, we can well live without Sicily and the Italian mafia in the south. Have we got Venice? Not sure from the map. Fair Italians in the north are a bit more like us, so good that we have them, especially as they actually work for a living. We can retain the name of Italy for our bit and the rest can be renamed Bunga Bunga Land.

Oh dear, poor Tasmania with only sea and a bit of Egypt. Tasmanians aren't really used to deserts and Moslems, and looking at their own Sphinx will do their heads in, both of them.

Way cool, we have lovely green Ireland but without the troublesome Northern Ireland and it looks like we aren't taking on that huge social security and health care drain on the public purse, Scotland. Deep fried Mars Bars, followed by a fag and a glass of scotch indeed.

I've got a theme happening here. How many countries can I insult and stereotype?

Most of Norway is in but sadly not all of the southern fiords. Where is Findus? Plenty of fish fingers for all. Ah, maybe that is in Abba Land next door. Well, anyway, we have Mary back in Australia with the inclusion of Denmark. Finland, not much point to having that now that Nokia is but a shell of its former self.

I'd like to exclude Russia as it could be very dangerous for our PM to cross the Ukraine border and shirt front Putin from there.  But if we moved the map left, we would bring back in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We'll just call the Australian bit of Russia a de-militarised zone and that will keep the Ruskies out of Ukraine. Err, do we really want Ukraine? Ditto Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Estonia. Would they be useful at all? Ever?

Melbourne was once the third largest Greek speaking city in the world. Well now Greece is in Australia, they can all go home and help pay off their homeland debt, and no you can't take your Aussie pension with you. Can supply ouzo, olives and fresh fish.

Switzerland, gold bullion, pretty cows, chocolate and funiculars, great. Cuckoo clocks, nah. The gnomes of Zurich will be useful though.

Poland, once we have dug up all of our coal, we will embrace Poland and dig up theirs. Possibly they could build a ship for us in Gdansk. 

Germany, a Mercedes for all Australians and high speed roads to smash them up on and feel great schadenfreude when we do so. Mrs Merkel can be in charge of administration and sit at the front desk to welcome and charm visitors.

Belgium, not necessary. We will run Europe from Canberra. Thanks. Collect your pay on the way out.

Netherlands, we'll just let them be smoking their bongs and they'll be no bother at all. They will all eventually cycle into a canal while stoned anyway, so their numbers are really self limiting.

Slipping south again, Bulgaria. Beautiful women and hot sunny beaches. Not interested in either.

Turkey? Almost a good example to the world that Moslems aren't so bad. Almost.

A little north, Yugoslavia. All those countries that fought and changed their borders and names in the 1990s, bugger orf. I wouldn't be so harsh if I could remember what was what used to be and what is now.

Except for whatever country Prague is in this week. It can run the Euro/Aussie public transport. 

Hungary? I believe it will be quite useful to be employed to deal with gypsies and provide opera. As a punishment for homophobia by the state, the parliament house in Budapest on the banks of the Danube will become a wedding chapel for gays. 

England, well it ain't the economic powerhouse it used to be. We'll just National Trust classify the whole place and leave it for tourism.

The elephant in the room? France. What to do with France? Our local media reporters will never get used to the idea of not reporting the bed hopping of politicians. What can we get from France that we can't get from another European country, apart from a nasty rash in an embarrassing area? Two years ago the best champagne was produced in England. Snails are to crushed underfoot, not to eat. I don't know. As for eating fungus grown on tree roots known as truffle, quelle horreur. Any suggestions?

If your country has been left out, that is because it is not important enough to bother about.

Ah, but there is one significant one I have left out, Strudel Land, and so Austria will be my personal country and I will rule Europe and Australia from Vienna. I did see a very nice palace there and I think the Highrise furniture would blend in really good.

Almost every post I write is for you to read. Today I just wrote one to just amuse myself. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A win after a consumer back lash

I would judge this as a consumer win. If you have forgotten, the story was that Glad's Cling Wrap had the metal cutter on the bottom of the box removed and replaced by a serrated cardboard cutter on the lid. Apparently the metal cutter can be very dangerous, and that was their argument and it was nothing to do with cost cutting. I expect the same mother company produces blister packs, that can slice through your skin at the drop of a hat when you try to open the pack.

I mentioned the matter here when I was very cross at the change and then discovered many other people were also cross with the changes.

Credit due to the company who did respond to so many complaints. Who is the company? It took some drilling down through minor companies and majors, along with takeovers. But I just knew it would end up with a big one, Procter and Gamble.

From Face Book, and the company does not actually say the metal cutter will be restored.

Glad Australia
Following the overwhelming amount of feedback we have received, we are pleased to announce that we are going to change the cutter bar on all our Cling Wrap products back to its original location.
We are also maintaining the stronger box, the 50% better cling, the tighter seal, the easy roll start and easier box opening.
Our intention has always been to give consumers a better quality product, a better experience and better value; however, our loyal consumers have spoken passionately about the new packaging and this is something we won't ignore.
Once more, we would like to thank you for all your comments over the past few weeks. Our team will be working day and night to get the new product to people as soon as possible, so please bear with us and we will confirm timings very soon.
Thank you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mine is bigger than yours

I have been comparing Victor's nearby erection with my own. The original front and rooms of Albert Park Manor are being kept but the rear was demolished. There are demolition photos and information about its former purpose back here. The graffiti on the hoardings has since been painted over.

A crane was needed to put a crane in place.

A well paid job, I should hope.

Grace has now left the room.

See the bloke out towards the end.

Counterweights need to be added.

Pretty well complete now. I have never taken too much notice of cranes and I assumed, without thinking about it, cables ran to the end bit, around a pulley and then down to the ground to pick up and lift. Not so these smaller cranes. About half was along the horizontal blue bit (sorry about the tech jargon) is a thingie with pulleys. It can slide back and forth and that is what does the lifting from down below. I guess it is controlled but when the crane is without an operator, he moves itself around according to wind direction. At times when in use, the tower part sways back and forth.

Work has progressed and a few concrete floors have been formed. This one had just been poured.

Instead of just one height been done as had been, the latest is these very tall walls were lifted into place. I would guess this will be the height, plus roof top equipment. Note how the new wall wraps around the side of the original part. No one from the ground will really see that. There has obviously been some effect on the apartment building next door, but remember there was and old part of the hotel at the back that was demolished.

This small building sits next the old Manor and where the windows are papered was our local cafe for many years, especially in our early times here when not very much was available nearby in the way of food and coffee. After a couple of changes of ownership we stopped going there. It had lost its 'feeling'. Next door is a convenience store and apartments above which I don't think are occupied now as it is about to be redeveloped with a tall extension at the rear. I am not quite sure where at the rear as there is very little space.