Saturday, March 07, 2015

Pride before motorists' fall

Pride is a dangerous emotion. Pride before fall and all that. I have fallen in the past in many areas but I like to explain it away as being caught and not a loss of pride. Make of that what you will.

I obtained my driving license in 1975 and between then and 1977 I received three parking fines. One a friend paid, because it was her fault and the other two, I took a chance and lost. Mea culpa. Honestly, I was only a couple of minutes, M'Lord. Well one was really well deserved when I parked for hours illegally in the city while we saw a movie. I was surprised police bothered booking people for parking offences, but apparently they can and do. I consoled myself with the fact that his handwriting on the ticket indicated he was ill educated. Umm, if you have seen my handwriting you may very well suggest that I am calling the black pot, vermilion.

With the same person in my car who generated my first parking fine, I was pulled over by police in Noble Park at 2am. I am not sure why I was in Noble Park at 2am. I am not sure why anyone would be in Noble Park at all, for any reason. They accused me of speeding. I replied no, I was overtaking a slow car but I did not travel faster than 35mph. They asked me where I was going. I said I am taking my friend home to Elwood and then returning to my home with my grandmother in South Oakleigh. While my friend in the car, a woman my senior by about nearly twenty years, smiled nicely at the officers. She could be very feisty, but she played the game well and smiled ever so sweetly at them. The cops told me to be on my way and to be careful. Some thirty years later, I am still careful, to not get caught.

Lest you think I am a paragon of virtue, at the age of 18 on a quiet and straight country road, I tested out how fast my Chrysler Valiant could go. I got to 96 mph (155 km/h) and then valve bounce set in. Foolish yes, but as a youthful activity in the country, not unusual.

After those parking fines, I decided I would not receive another one and I haven't, not have I been pulled over, apart for a random breath test, or received any traffic infringement notice.

R received notification from his volunteer place of a traffic infringement. He filled in the appropriate paperwork and for quite some time, has not heard back about it. He went through a red light .08 seconds after the light turned red. I was just following another car, was his plaintive wail. I've heard it before. I was just keeping up with the traffic etc etc.

While Victoria doesn't have radio shock jocks to level of New South Wales, radio 3AW's Neil Mitchell comes close. He was interviewing the police commissioner and started to bang on about government revenue raising from speed and red light cameras. He had been nabbed in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda by a speed camera at Lakeside Drive. There was no warning, he complained. The police commissioner pulled out a map and showed him some twenty such 40 limit signs in Fitzroy Street, including flashing LED signs.

R recounted to me, and after my response said I was a government revenue raising stooge, about a volunteer mate who was caught at the same location and his wife caught a week later. The volunteer mate said it just suddenly changed from 60 km/h to 40. I am very familiar with Fitzroy Street. A while ago I posted photos here of the camera flashing constantly at the very location. The forty limit was not suddenly changed. It was slowly introduced and with a very long grace period. R prefers to believe his volunteer mate than me, when I argue that it was not suddenly changed.

I get cross at all these whinges. If I can pretty well stick to the speed limit and not go through red lights, then it just ain't too hard. I am not a paragon of road virtue and it is just as well I don't own a gun or I would be taking out all the hopeless drivers on our roads.

The crux is what people should be arguing about is the appropriateness of the speed limit and in my opinion the speed limit at that location is wrong. While some of Fitzroy Street should be 40, the part where the speed camera is at Lakeside Drive has very little in the way of traffic conflict or pedestrians. The speed people travel at is a fairly good guide to set a speed limit and when so many breach a speed limit, then perhaps the limit really needs to be reviewed. For mine, 50 would be appropriate here.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Hold the presses Rupert

In the small northern Welsh  village of Trelawnyd this day John Gray of Wales is to wed his partner Chris. Good wishes, gifts, messages and payola have poured in from around the world and as an avid reader of John's blog, I certainly wish them well.

If you are not a reader of John's Going Gently then you miss out on great tales from a small village, personal anecdotes and John's life surround by many creatures great and small.

Good luck from Down Under chaps.


"You must be tired of cooking every night my dear. I will make fried rice tomorrow night."

"Nice try. We are going out for dinner tomorrow night."

"Don't be sarcastic. I forgot. I will make it tonight then."

I put the proper recipe up years ago and it is nothing special but the only thing I cook and is quite tasty. Just a few details.

I leant a lesson very early when making fried rice don't put all your eggs into one glass. I was breaking the third egg to the glass and it was off and so had ruined the first two. Now I break each egg into a glass and pour it into the another glass once I am sure it ok. While this only happened once, I hated wasting two eggs.

A congealment? of garlic, ginger and chilli. About two teaspoons of each for a cup of uncooked rice, a bit heavier with ginger and chilli.

Ingredients are prepared. The rice is cooked. That is the hard work done. The egg will be fried in the wok first and chopped as it cooking. I don't blend it in the glass too much. I like a bit of cooked white and a bit of cooked yellow. I kind of break it up in the glass and into the hot peanut oil it goes.

Wok must be hot.

Red capsicum has been briefly cooked with the spices after the egg was removed and then the Chinese pork sausage was cooked for less than a minute, until the fat became clear. The peas were microwaved. The spring onions go in uncooked.

The wok was cleaned, more oil and sesame oil heated and the whole lot goes in together and the rice thoroughly heated as your throw the mixture around the work, and with a dash of fish sauce mixed through, it is ready to serve. I've tried it with lean bacon, but it is not as good. It would probably be quite healthy if it wasn't for the fatty pork sausage..........and the salty fish sauce, and the peanut oil

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

From the deep

Frilled sharks are seldom seen by humans and that is not a bad thing if you are prone to nightmares. They live in the depths of the ocean and are occasionally caught in fishing trawler nets, as was this one near the Victorian coastal town of Lakes Entrance. What happened to nature? Why did these not evolve to something a little more pleasant in appearance. Take a close look at those teeth. Nothing will escape. It strikes its prey like a snake, rearing back then thrusting its head forward. Fearsome. Your trivia for the day is that they have the longest gestation period of any creature with a vertebrae.

Ready to strike.

Click. Make it bigger. I dare you. There is no escape from those teeth.


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.