September 28th, 2008
Posted in Uncategorized
Yesterday, we bought 10 bottles of wine for 45¢. Felt a bit like shoplifting, really.
Safeway has a newish program called “Everyday Rewards”, where shoppers get an orange card, and we swipe it to get cents per litre off at the fuel pump. Apparently, every time we swiped it, we were also entered into a store-wide draw for a $150 voucher, redeemable anywhere owned by Woolworth’s (not just Safeway). We found out about this weekly draw when we won it, and got a letter in the mail with a $150 voucher in it. Very nice. Rather than spending it on dull, everyday, useful, grownup stuff like groceries or Diesel, we decided to go on a small shopping spree at Dan Murphy’s – owned by Woolworths.
Here’s what we got:
From left to right, in descending order of cost:
- Pepperjack 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve had this one before, and Dan’s were nice enough to cellar these already, so it’s probably fine to drink right about now.
- 2x Chortle’s Edge 2006 Shiraz. This is the second label from Blackjack Wines, a Bendigo-based winery that can do no wrong. We’ve never tried this one, but being that it’s from Blackjack, it can’t be horrible.
- 9th Island 2007 Pinot Noir. We had the 2006 or maybe 2005 version of this a little while back, and enjoyed it.
- Penley Estate Phoenix 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Not really sure why we picked this one.
- Ingoldby 2003 Shiraz. Again, not sure why we picked this one, aside from the fact it was pre-cellared.
- Whitebox 2005 Shiraz. This was a total punt. Some guy walking past us at Dan’s recommended the one next to it, but it got us reading labels. We already opened it – not bad really.
- Grand Saint-André 2006 Rosé. Because we wanted a rosé.
- Paul Mas 2007 Sauvignon Blanc. Dan’s used to have a delightfully average French white (vin de pays d’ocs) as a cleanskin – we couldn’t find it. It’s handy to have some average white wine around, especially now that summer approacheth.
- Maddens Lane 2006 Sangiovese. We bought it because it was $5. Morbid curiosity, perhaps? It was horrible. Luckily, our cask of red cooking wine is almost empty, so we now have an understudy.
Add to this the case of Blackjack’s 2006 release that arrived a few days ago, and we’re set for a while now.
September 26th, 2008
Posted in Uncategorized
I’m on a roll with the quiz thing. The Age has a monthly glossy magazine called (imaginatively enough) The Age (melbourne) Magazine, and at the back, they interview some local quasi-celebrity using largely the same questions. I’m going to pretend I’m a famous Melburnian and answer them here. Melbn people, feel free to grab and repeat.
- My first memory of Melbourne is
I’d just left Hobart, it was really bloody hot, and the plane was landing into Tullamarine (one of the most euphoniously-named named airports in the world, along with “Tagel” in Berlin and “Charles de Gaulle” – say it with a French accent – in Paris). I looked out the window and saw only flat browny yellow ground. Where’s the city? I couldn’t see it anywhere.
- What would you put on a Melbourne postcard?
The Sydney Opera House. It would be a pretty good joke for overseas vistors.
- What do you always show to overseas visitors?
The Sydney Opera House. No, I’m joking. Depending on what they like, I usually find some little restaurant. I also like taking people up to the Dandenongs to feed the cockatoos.
- Where do you get your coffee?
I don’t drink coffee. Maybe that’s why I don’t fit in around here.
- What’s the worst thing you can say to a Melburnian?
“Sydney’s pretter,” without following it up with some qualifying statement about it being more expensive, the people being not-as-nice, or how horrid their western suburbs are.
- Melbourne’s most underrated suburb is
Balaclava. Great restaurants and shops. Second place tie: Ripponlea, Windsor and Elsternwick. North? Where’s that?
- Best meal I’ve had in Melbourne
Circa, The Prince. A few years ago, when Andrew McConnell was still there. I still remember the smoked eel carpaccio, decorated with tiny nuggets of fruit and edible flowers. I love Andrew’s work – it’s inventive, tasty and playful. Second place is a tie between his Three, One, Two, and a lovely wild boar stew at Café Di Stasio.
- Worst meal I’ve had in Melbourne
I try not to remember them, but there have been a few. Vue de Monde is a contender here, as is 100 Mile Café (sorry, Paul).
- Melbourne’s streets are paved with
- What’s over-rated about Melbourne?
Itself. Melbourne, generally, is far too up itself. Get over yourselves, stop trying to prove you’re “more worldly” than Sydney. It’s an inferiority complex, and it’s annoying and unbecoming.
- If I didn’t live in Melbourne, I’d live in…
Maybe Perth. I’m investigating the possibility. Maybe the middle east (and I don’t mean Knox), or even a small villa in Spain.
- Which Melbourne person would you most like to sit next to on the tram?
Aside from the people I’ve mentioned in this entry already, I can’t really think of one person over anyone else. Julia Zemiro would be cool, but then again, Dame Edna or Dave Hughes (really) would be interesting too. Problem is, we wouldn’t be allowed to speak. Strangers are not allowed to speak with each other on public transport. So maybe I’d just pick someone cute I could perve on all the way home.
- Which Melbourne person would you least like to sit next to on the tram?
Dave Hughes. He might try to talk, and his voice makes my hair stand on end. But he seems like an interesting guy, so I’m torn.
- Who should be Lord Mayor of Melbourne?
Me. No, actually that would be horrible, I’d try to pass all kinds of insane laws. But at least I’d probably manage to make smelly people illegal on trams.
- What do you actually do all day at your job?
Think about things. Sit and type at my laptop. Push bits around from place to place. Look at the pretty fish screen saver to my left.
- What makes someone a Melburnian?
A residential address with a postcode in the low 3000s.
- Describe Melbourne in three words.
Defined by comparison.
September 23rd, 2008
Posted in Uncategorized
It has been said that the Palmerston Hotel in South Melbourne has the best chicken parmagana in Melbourne. For a city so mad about food – and parmas – that’s saying a lot. I’ve been wanting to try the parma there for a very very long time. Tonight, I finally got the chance.
The parma I was served is there, to the right. And yes, it is good. It’s actually very very good. The chicken is real chicken, not processed chicken-bits. The sauce is perfect, with just a hint of herbs. It’s actually breaded and fried. I ordered mine with chips and salad, as is traditional. One can tell a lot about a place by the side salad served with a parma. Too many places just throw whatever onto the plate, old wilted lettuce and all. This salad was crisp and fresh, not buried in a horrible dressing either. The chips were fairly standard, but they were only a side attraction, after all.
But it was not the best parma I’ve had in Melbn. That honour goes to Hobson’s By The Bay in Sandringham. One day, about two years ago, I had a pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-frikkin-rainbow parma there. At the time, I remember thinking “I will never eat another one this good again”. Sadly, I was correct. When we went back there a second time, the ownership had changed, the service had taken a dive, and the parma was eminently forgettable. I still hold it in my mind, the unattainable, the Epicure 20/20, the perfect score, the once-in-a-lifetime parma, the food of gods.
September 23rd, 2008
Posted in Uncategorized
From @snarkattack ’s website.
- What time did you get up this morning?
I was up at 5:55, as usual. I like nice numbers like that. If you’re going to pick a number, make it a good one.
- Diamonds or pearls?
Neither, thanks. I’m not fond of the look of pearls, and the DeBeers thing just so completely turns me off diamonds.
- What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
WALL-E. It was bloody brilliant.
- What is your favourite TV show?
I don’t really have a favourite. Right now, I’m watching “Double the Fist” on my iPhone in the tram, but it’s not great.
- What do you usually have for breakfast?
Müslix and yogourt with tea and pulpy orange juice during the week, and usually something eggy on the weekends.
- What is your middle name?
I’ve got two. Be more specific, generic survey-writer.
- What food do you dislike?
- What is your favourite CD at the moment?
There are lots. Right now, I’m in love with Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis’s “Two Men With The Blues”. A beautiful release.
- What kind of car do you drive?
Vokswagen Golf TDI.
- Favourite sandwich?
Butter, peanut butter, honey, cheddar cheese.
- What characteristic do you despise?
- Favourite item of clothing?
- If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go?
Africa or South America would be cool.
- Where would you retire to?
- What was your most recent memorable birthday?
- When is your birthday?
December 12. Like Hank Williams III, Robert Lapage, Bob Barker, Frank Sinatra.
- Morning person or a night person?
Night person. I get more done at night.
- Pets:Yes, one cat.
- Any new and exciting news you’d like to share?
Nope. I’m not the sharing type. Not with strangers, anwyay.
- What did you want to be when you were little?
Game show host! Still hope for that.
- How are you today?
A bit jittery.
- What is your favourite flower?
I prefer herbs. Does rosemary flower?
- What are you listening to right now?
Oooh this is embarassing. Alanis Morissette “Versions of Violence”.
- What was the last thing you ate?
- Do you wish on stars?
Probably have, but I haven’t seen many stars lately.
- If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Burnt umber. Love the name.
- How is the weather right now?
Warmish and slightly cloudy. No rain though.
- Last person you spoke to on the phone?
David, my Chairman.
- Favourite soft drink?
I don’t really like soft drinks.
- Favourite restaurant?
Oooh. Loaded question. There are so many. Ultimate favourite would have to be Tojos in Vancouver, but I haven’t been there in years. Three, One, Two here in Melbourne is brilliant, but closed. It’ll reopen soon, I’m told. Jacques Reymond is well-deserving of its crown of “best restaurant in Melbourne”. I had an excellent meal at Di Stazio as well. Locally, I’m really lucky to have a brilliant Nepalese/Indian place just around the corner from my house.
- Hair color?
- Summer or winter?
They’re both fine. I don’t like the inbetweens. Melbourne can’t do winter well though.
- Chocolate or Vanilla?
If the chocolate is good, I’d take that. Else, vanilla’s fine.
- Coffee or tea?
Tea. Tea rules. Tea taught me patience. Tea and Guinness.
- What did you do last night?
- What are you afraid of?
- Salty or sweet?
More specific please.
- How many keys on your key ring?
- How many years at your current job?
Six or seven.
- Favourite day of the week?
Friday, because I know there are two more days coming up without work.
- Do you make friends easily?
No. I don’t really want to make friends easily either.
- How many people will you send this to?
- Do you like finding out all this stuff about your friends?
Yeah, these things are ace.
September 10th, 2008
Posted in Cult of Steve, Geek
I don’t understand them. I used to categorise music into two genre-busing classifications: “bad” and “good”. However, after getting jiggy with some “bad” stuff, I’ve shifted the categorisations 90° to “interesting” and “boring”. I like the interesting stuff.
The new iTunes 8 eliminates the preference item for turning off that spooty genre browser. Luckily, Mr Paul Milson found the hidden preference item to turn it off again:
defaults write com.apple.itunes show-genre-when-browsing -bool FALSE
Copy and paste that into the Terminal, restart iTunes, and all will be well.
You can also turn off those iTunes Store arrow links with:
defaults write com.apple.itunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE
All will be well again.
September 6th, 2008
Posted in Uncategorized
After yet another day mostly spent sitting at my well-chosen-and-perfect laptop, listening to my well-chosen and perfect music, I realised that my $20 Sony earbuds just aren’t cutting the mustard anymore. My music deserves better than this. I did a bit of research, and (thanks mostly to headphones.com.au), I decided that the best balance of quality and cost (and not really wanting to pay more than $150 or so), were these ones:
Grado Alessandro MS-1 (shown here, modded with Sennheiser 414 yellow pads – like mine is).
They are, by far, the best things I’ve ever had on my head (hats excepted, of course. Hats are in a category unto their own). They’re light and comfortable. The dynamic range is expansive, with both bass and highs very well represented. Higher percussive beats show up much more brightly (hand claps and the like) and it really seems to like rock guitar sounds (not to say it does other things poorly, there just seems to be a bit of a preference there). The … um, sound architecture? is wide open. That’s the wrong word for it, I’m sure – but listening to music with them on my head makes it sound like I’m sitting in the middle of the band.
I’ve run it through its paces with a wide selection of music:
- Born on the FM Waves of the Heart Against Me! This has got to be one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time. Made so much more live by these brilliant things on my head.
- Faded The Afghan Whigs. Big production, multi-layered sounds. Big orchestral rock. This is where I realised how much these babies love rock.
- Hawa Dolo Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate. Gorgeous little number, really just a couple of guitars. I swear I could hear the strings vibrating. The sound was so live it just jumped right out at me.
- Heart It Races Architecture In Helsinki. A brilliantly goofy little song, one of my all-time favourites. Lots of little sonic lollies all over the place, interesting noises, innovative production.
- Sloop John B Beach Boys. Did I say these things like rock? They also like that thing that sounds like a triangle, being played in the background of this song. I’ve heard it countless times, and I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it before. This could mean I’m an idiot with tin ears (likely), but I’d rather talk up the Grados.
- Spinning Away Brian Eno & John Cale. I think this is the first song I heard on my first “real” stereo system. I was amazed to hear there was a baseline, and how resonant it sounded on that system. Then, for years, it disappeared (save for one play on the studio monitors at PBS). Now, it’s back. Hello! I missed you.
I could go on about each song, but I’ve got to stop somewhere (Alone Again Or Calexico; Brimful of Asha (Fatboy Slim remix) Cornershop; Sweet Jane Cowboy Junkies; Rocky World Daniel Lanois; Enjoy the Silence (Shinoda remix) Depeche Mode; Pounding Doves). Okay, stopping now. I only made it as far as the “D”s in my 5-star iTunes list. Point is, this is opening – or re-opening – new dimensions in old favourites. They’re like glasses for my ears.
September 5th, 2008
Posted in Things that go in your mouth
We bought The Age God Food Guide today, and used it to find a new restaurant to try. We ended up at Pizza Vini Spuntini, a medium-sized place just off Glenhuntly Road in Elsternwick. Turns out it’s just one door away from Arabesque, a perennial favourite of ours.
The menu featured a good selection of Italian fare, with an emphasis on Sicilian regional choices. Everything about the experience, from the room to the service to the food, was simple, satisfying and unpretentious. I had a grilled (actually seared, but I’m being picky) yellowfin tuna on a bed of greens in a simple balsamic reduction. Mica had what was possibly the lightest risotto dish ever, and Lola had calamari, presented with three dipping sauces (they matched the colours of the Italian flag, a detail not missed by us discriminating connoisseurs).
Dessert is always a tricky thing, because in too many restaurants it ends up being an afterthought. I use dessert as a bit of a test of the attention to detail in an establishment. The half-dozen items in the dessert section were varied and well thought-out. Lola ordered the lemon raspberry crêpes and proclaimed them the best crêpes she’d ever eaten. That’s high praise. I ordered the custard and rhubarb millefoglie, which is a kind of multi-layed puff pastry sandwich, filled with (in this case) custard and rhubarb compote. Holy crap. However good the tuna was, this was even better. A truly magnificent dessert.
The service was friendly and efficient, and the food arrived promptly. This isn’t a place to linger over a romantic candlelit dinner – it’s designed to be a trusty local restaurant, a place where you can take your out-of-town rellos for an impressive meal without breaking the bank. The owners started off with a by-the-slice pizza place in Chadstone, but don’t let that turn you off this excellent local restaurant. The Good Food Guide gave it 12.5/20, and that’s a fair grade, although their reviewer complained about an “overpriced” swordfish dish. Because I didn’t have the swordfish, I’d rate them more highly; a 14 or so. In short, if you live nearby, it’s worth a visit (or two or three), but it’s not worth crossing the Yarra. I’ll be back.
September 3rd, 2008
Posted in Uncategorized
I originally posted this in a private online community for people who are better, smarter and who have more pleasant body odour than you do. However, I thought it deserved a wider audience, now that Google have re-imagined the browser. So here it is.
I feel that tabs are a poor application-level solution to a larger window-management problem. I find them jarring and un-natural, as they change the window management paradigm from a windowing system to a tabbing system. It wouldn’t be so bad if the GUI of the windowing manager was fully tabbed with no way to move and overlap windows (and there are some of those out there), but having some of it tabbed and some not just feels inconsistent.
Also, tabs hide window contents, so it’s harder to find quickly. During the course of a day, I open dozens of windows (browser and otherwise). To find a window, I use Exposé on my Mac. I’ve configured it so that moving my pointer to the upper-left corner of the screen shows me all my windows. Anything in a tab isn’t included in the mix. The window’s there, but the content that’s in the tab is still hidden. I can’t find it. To find content that’s hidden in a tab, I have to read the tabs – or look at the little favicons, if there are any, and if they’re unique. Not that I’m against reading (!), it’s just a slower process than being able to spot the window that I want as a miniature based on its content.
When tabs first debuted, they seemed to be a Windows solution to a problem. Ironically, Windows doesn’t have as good window management as the Mac does (IMHO), and using tabs probably seems more natural over there. I don’t spend much of my life over there, so I wouldn’t be able to say for sure.
September 3rd, 2008
Posted in Melbn
“Unlike the Opposition, the Brumby Government invests in public transport.” (From The Age, a story about the myki people getting even more money for a crap job.)
Attention Brumby government! As a service to you, I am reprinting the definition of “invest”.
- To commit (money or capital) in order to gain a financial return: invested their savings in stocks and bonds.
- To spend or devote for future advantage or benefit: invested much time and energy in getting a good education.
- To devote morally or psychologically, as to a purpose; commit: “Men of our generation are invested in what they do, women in what we are” (Shana Alexander).
- To endow with authority or power.
- To install in office with ceremony: invest a new emperor.
- To endow with an enveloping or pervasive quality: “A charm invests a face/Imperfectly beheld” (Emily Dickinson).
- To clothe; adorn.
- To cover completely; envelop.
- To surround with troops or ships; besiege.
Nowhere in there does it say anything about throwing good money after bad. There comes a point where someone needs to realise that they’re no longer investing in something – they’re throwing money down a pit. The quote, from the public transport minister who does not want to run a train system, tries to justify this foolish spending by calling it better than nothing. However, spending foolishly is no better than not spending at all.
(Aside: The real reason why there’s such a push behind this myki thing is that the company that supplies machines and parts for the current system is not supplying them anymore. For all the money spent on myki, we could have easily bought that company and told them to keep producing parts.)