Saturday, January 28, 2017

Frustration and Good Fortune

This past week has been rather trying and frustrating, but it ended well eventually.

You might guess that it had something to do with computers, and you’d be right on the money.

It was not something that the computer did inadvertently, but rather my own choice to update the operating system from Windows 7 32 bit, to Windows 7 64 bit.

I had purchased the Windows 7 64 bit software several months ago, and was all fired to update it at the time, when I noticed that Mercury was Retrograde and thought better of it, knowing how frustrating things often are when that planet is in that configuration. Mercury rules transport, communications and information technology, so when it goes retrograde (appears to be going backwards) all sorts of delays and setbacks occur. So, not a good time to upgrade your computer.

Being clear of any Mercury backward influences I decided to gird my loins and update the computer last Monday. This meant I had to wipe C: drive and reinstall the operating system.

The new installation was a success, but I was unable to access the files on my second hard drive, which held all my data. I had backed up to an external hard drive everything I wanted to save on C: drive, but assumed (foolishly it turns out) that the bulk of my data was safe on E: drive.

It wasn’t.

Rather than search for days on Google for a solution to the problem, I gave up and took the computer to the trusty Computer Repair Shop, Cnet Technology, in Preston, which was where I purchased the computer in 2014.

Whilst there I thought I’d upgrade my graphics card as I’d been thinking of doing for a while,  the original card  being incredibly noisy. It also generated heat inside the case that was hot to touch.

The heat was actually caused by the burn out of one of the CPU fans, so it was lucky that we took the machine to be repaired or it could have been disastrous in the near future. Also, it turned out that the second hard drive was on the brink of death - the reason the files couldn’t be accessed.

The marvellous Michael at Cnet Tech was able to copy all the data from the dying disk to a new hard drive.

It all ended up being quite pricey, but with disaster averted, it was worth every penny and I have a quiet, fast, squeaky clean computer again.

The only problem is that my old monitor is not compatible with the new graphics card and needs an adaptor to work at all. It’s an old fashioned square LCD monitor, so I’m forced to update to a wide screen HD monitor, which I’ve been resisting doing for years.

Having to put up with a resolution of 800 x 600 pix until the new monitor arrives (the screen blacks out if I try to increase the resolution) makes the prospect of a new, bigger, wide screen quite attractive.

So what started out as a frustrating week was conversely fortunate. If I hadn’t tried to update my computer, pretty soon it would have been cactus, so the timing was perfect as it turned out.

I’ll never trust a hard disk to keep on keeping on ever again.  Some do seem to last forever, e.g. the one in the old XP computer which must be getting on for nine years of age. At least I know what to look for now if it’s on the point of death and back up my data regularly.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Scene of the Crime


A helicopter hovering above Bourke Street Mall.

A series of dull thuds.

A sudden outcry as of a demonstration marching down the Mall.

A person lying in the intersection of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets as if they’d tripped and fallen.

The sudden shrill of emergency vehicles; police cars travelling at speed up the Mall, crossing the intersection and tearing up towards Queen Street, and others coming from Flinders and Lonsdale Streets and turning at the corner of Elizabeth Street also heading west to Queen.

What had happened?

That was my impression of the horrific incident in Melbourne yesterday.

I was standing on the tram stop outside the old GPO as the tragedy unfolded and didn’t actually see the crime, a stationary tram on the other side of the street blocked my view, so I didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t find out until I got home and looked it up online.

It all happened in a very short space of time, so I’m only left with the above fleeting impressions, but the huge number of police cars present indicated that something serious was afoot.

Ignorance is bliss, as I didn’t feel very alarmed at all, just puzzled by the drama. I thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t on the other side of the street or it could well have been a different story.

Bourke Street Mall is generally a laid back spot with  buskers entertaining the crowds sitting on the GPO steps, while tourists take photos of themselves on the Public Purse sculpture which lies on the footpath outside the GPO on the tram stop.

That’s the closest proximity I’ve had to a murderous crime, but have been in hearing range of several others – the Russell Street bombing in 1986 and the Hoddle Street massacre of 1987 – which freaked me out more than did yesterday’s crime.

Everytime I wait for a tram from now, on the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke, I’ll remember yesterday’s outrage, even if I didn’t witness it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Music Master–Tim O’Brien at Caravan Music Club

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Tim O’Brien live at Caravan Music Club – 11/1/17

Caravan Music Club, out in the wilds of Oakleigh, on the other side of the Yarra, is a fair way from where I live. But it’s such a pleasant venue that the long trek getting there is generally worth the effort.

Such was the case last night, where we saw American master musician Tim O’Brien show off his expertise on guitar, violin and mandolin in a one man show.

Tim O’Brien last toured Australia in 2011, and I had the good fortune to see him perform at the Port Fairy Folk Festival and at the now extinct East Brunswick Club.

As well as being a whiz on various instruments, Tim also has a great singing voice, a warm tenor that suits the kind of music he favours – bluegrass, folk and gospel.

He started his show with one of his own compositions Workin’ a sort of Dylanish monologue detailing various work scenarios. Señor, a Dylan song he recorded on his wonderful Bob Dylan bluegrass tribute album Red On Blonde, followed, and provided an interesting and appropriate segue.

He changed the mood with a traditional English folk ballad Pretty Fair Lady In The Garden, then performed the comical title song from his latest record Pompadour.

Quite a few of the songs on the night were from the Pompadour album.

Tim O’Brien is touring Australia in the company of his partner, Jan Fabricious, whom he invited on stage to sing harmony in the next few songs – Wichita, I Gotta Move, What Happened To Me and Go Down To The Water.

Jan Fabricious at Caravan Music Club 11/1/17

And so the night progressed, Tim switching from guitar to fiddle to mandolin, singing or playing 22 tunes in his main set.

I was a tad disappointed he didn’t play banjo, but you can’t have everything.

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Tim O’Brien live at Caravan Music Club 11/1/17

Several of the tunes were instrumental, such as traditional fiddle tunes like Ditty Boy Twang, Say Old Man and Kid On The Mountain, but the whole show was varied in terms of musical styles, making it a very enjoyable and engaging concert.

There was a good crowd in attendance, many of my vintage, who all appreciated the rare pleasure of watching Tim O”Brien play his instruments so effortlessly and with masterful skill.

Set List (stolen from the stage)

Tim O’Brien Set List for 11/1/17

Set List Translated (to the best of my ability)

  1. Workin’
  2. Señor
  3. Pretty Fair Maid In The Garden
  4. Pompadour
  5. Wichita
  6. I Gotta Move
  7. Whatever Happened To Me
  8. Go Down To the Water
  9. You Were On My Mind This Morning
  10. Say Old Man (fiddle tune)
  11. Working On A Building
  12. Ditty Boy Twang
  13. Kid On The Mountain
  14. Not Afraid Of Dying
  15. I’m A Mess For You
  16. Brother Wind
  17. Jack of Diamonds (Drunkard’s Hiccups)/The Crossing
  18. Nellie Kane
  19. The Tulips On the Table
  20. Gentle On My Mind (John Hartford cover by special request)
  21. The Water Is Wise
  22. Look Down That Lonesome Road


Before This Time Another Year

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Adam Wolfe: Dark Detective

adam wolfe

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of computer games and I generally have one on the go most of the time, to fill in the lazy hours of leisure that is part and parcel with being retired from work.

My preference is for Adventure games, but occasionally I will play hidden object games (HOGS) when I run out of good adventures, or feel like something new.

A great many HOGS are the same old stuff, fantasy or supernatural horror – take your pick - and are generally amusing to play if you like solving puzzles. But it often seems that you’re playing the same game over and over again,  the titles all vanishing from your mind as soon as you finish playing.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a HOG called Adam Wolfe, the brain child of Mad Head Games, and started to play the first episode and was blown away by its originality.

It’s like no other hidden object game I’ve ever played, being more of an action adventure interactive movie that sweeps you into its world from the get go.

The game is set in a dystopian San Francisco and you play Adam Wolfe, paranormal detective, who is seeking his missing younger sister Allie, who disappeared two years before the story opens.

Adam’s search takes him to some dark places and pits him against evil sects and time lords over four episodes. It’s a fast moving game, and very engaging to play.

You are sucked in and become involved in no time flat. There are puzzles to solve and hidden object scenes that integrate smoothly with the story line. You even get to shoot a gun and fight with the baddies every so often – unencountered in other HOGS!

The graphics are beautifully rendered and the sound (an essential component) is suitably edgy and moody. Plot driven, the story is interesting and unpredictable.

Scene from the game

I’ve played all four episodes and I must say it has been a while since I  enjoyed a game as much, and a HOG at that. I didn’t want it to end and plan to play the game again shortly.

Adam Wolfe is available on Big Fish Games (in two parts) and Steam (episodes 1- 4).

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year at Flemington with Black Caviar’s Daughter

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Oscietra Black Caviar’s first foal

After the tragic end to 2016 with the death of our beloved cat, I needed cheering up, so headed out to Flemington to welcome the New Year and witness Black Caviar’s first foal, Oscietra, have her first start at the race track.

She was set to run in the first race on the program, so I caught the first train to Flemington, along with a good crowd of other racing enthusiasts. Many of course, like me, were only going to see Oscietra.

There was plenty of time to cruise out to the stalls area and a big crowd was gathered outside Oscietra’s stall to get a first look at the star mare’s daughter.

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Crowd outside Oscietra’s stall – there’s even a guy wearing a Black Caviar cap

I managed to wriggle in and got several photos of the filly. The atmosphere was reminiscent of the days when Black Caviar was at the track.

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Oscietra standing calmly in her stall

Oscietra took the attention calmly as if she’d seen it all before, even though it was her first day at the races.

Alas she wasn’t able to emulate her mum with a win, being outgunned by the more experienced filly Limestone, but was far from disgraced running third.

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Oscietra in the mounting yard

Oscietra pinged out of the barriers and led for most of the race down the middle of the big Flemington straight, and was only overtaken by Limestone in the last 200 metres.  Miss Wahoo ran second.

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Limestone overtakes Oscietra close to the finishing line.

It is probably a blessing that Oscietra didn’t win her first race, as expectations will not be as high next time round, where she has the potential to be the star act.

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Limestone returns to scale

There was a larger than usual crowd in attendance for such a low key meeting, and Oscietra’s race was the feature race as far as most were concerned.

I stayed for two more races, the first of these being the  Straight Draw Handicap, run over 2000 metres. Flying Light was the starting favourite and he didn’t disappoint winning by ¾ length from Master Zephyr with Kourkam running third.

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Flying Light wins the Straight Draw Handicap

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Flying Light returns to scale

Race 3 was the Byron Moore Handicap, a race over 1600 metres.  The wonderfully named Crocodile Rock, a Lloyd Williams import from Ireland was the favourite, but he left it too late in his run to overtake eventual winner Gervaise who romped in at good odds.  Stone Warrior ran third.

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Byron Moore Handicap finish – first three across the line – Gervaise, Crocodile Rock, Stone Warrior

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Gervaise returns to scale

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Crocodile Rock returns to scale

As trains were not scheduled to leave Flemington until 5.00pm, I was obliged to make the long tramp to Epsom Road to the tram stop. The journey home took about a hour, the 57 Tram being an old slow Z class vehicle that weaves its way through the north western suburbs to the city.

The autumn racing carnival kicks off in earnest in February, so there’s not long to wait for first class meetings, with various build up races occuring in January.


It is now a week since Willy’s death and we still miss him, and expect him to appear and demand attention at any moment.

Talya by contrast is a quiter, less demanding  cat, so it’s no wonder she’s now emerging from Willy’s shadow and taking over where he left off.

This morning she waited for me and occupied my lap as Willy used to do. She never got a look in when he was around. She’s asleep on my pillow as I write, another invasion of Willy’s former domain.

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Talya – the Queen of the Universe

And I’m pleased to report that she has finally given up pulling her fur out, so is looking much prettier these days with her fur grown back.

As for the rest of 2017, I’m hoping for small pleasant distractions to offset the gloom of the new world order.

For a start, I have three concerts to attend in the near future, the first being Americana maestro Tim O’Brien at Caravan Music Club next week.

In February I’m going to a Bruce Springsteen concert. I have never had the pleasure of seeing him before and wouldn’t have gone had not Frontier Touring had a Boxing Day sale, where I acquired tickets at a discounted price. 

And I’m keenly looking forward to seeing the Dixie Chicks in April, from second row seats at Rod Laver Arena.

As for books, there’s nothing much that has piqued my interest so far, but I believe that Hilary Mantel’s final book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy will be out later this year.

Cross fingers,  John Crowley’s Little, Big (25th Anniversary Edition)  may be finally published this year.  I’ve expressed this same wish every year since this blog was started, and hope not to write it again in 2018.

John Crowley also has a new book in the offing which is rumoured to be published sometime in 2017 – always something to await with pleasurable anticipation.