Cafe of Nightmares

Book-club this month had selected the book Cafe Scheherazade, which it turns out is actually based on a real cafe in St Kilda. Not unusually at all for Melbourne, it’s an eating establishment created by migrants for migrants (and anyone else wanting to sample traditional food from the motherland). But as this was a novel, it focussed on all the stories of those migrants…

Cafe Scheherazade

Intermingled tales of escape from war and oppression

This book by Melbourne literary author Arnold Zable is a set of stories within stories. It is at a superficial level the story of a journalist trying to capture the stories of the founders of a Jewish restaurant/cafe in St Kilda, but this is really just an excuse for characters within the novel telling their own tales. And they are not exactly pleasant tales.

The characters (all based on real people) have endured World War II and the subsequent atrocities, and journeyed to Australia as refugees. It was eye opening to read about life in Russia, life as a guerrilla fighter, and the role of Japan and China in the migration of Jews out of Europe.

Unfortunately, the sheer number of stories, and the style used in jumping between them, doesn’t make it an easy read. The lyrical style used principally at the beginning of the book allowed me to treat the writing as poetry, and let the words wash over me without spending too much effort keeping track of the story. Towards the end of the book the style changes into more of a linear narrative that was easier to follow.

I found it an okay read, certainly educational, but probably wouldn’t recommend it to most.

My rating: 2.5 stars
**1/2

A good telco analysis

Telstra’s pretty good at internal comms – almost every article or TV story about Telstra gets sent around the company in no time flat. However, it has emphasised to me the amount of confusion that is out there about the current situation with Telstra, the ACCC, the G9 and the Government. It’s not surprising – it’s pretty complicated.

But then I came across an article written by Greg Peel at FNArena that summarised the Australian telco debate all in lay terms. I’d never heard of FNArena before, but it seems that they have people who appreciate the messiness of the current messy situation. Not that I agree 100% with it all, but it’s the best writeup I’ve seen in the mainstream media. If you’re a little confused by it all, I do recommend a read of it.

And recently Greg Peel’s written another piece; a shorter one this time. It basically brings the previous article up to date with the recent government announcement. It will be interesting to see if his forecast comes true.

Anyway, I’m going to be keeping an eye out for his writing in future.

101 Entries!

99sauces LogoA few of us having been working on a new sort of food website concept, called 99sauces, and today it passed the 100 entries barrier. In fact, it’s now 101 entries, which is a lot better than 101 dalmations, I’m sure.

“What makes it new?” I hear you ask. Well, unlike the hundreds of other food and dining based websites out there that relate to Melbourne, this one is based on the wiki principle, which is that anyone can contribute and edit the contents, even if they haven’t registed. (You may be familiar with this sort of thing from Wikipedia, which is also a wiki).

But that’s not all. It’s also not just about places. More importantly, it’s about people – the people behind the places. There are entries for the chefs, owners, and anyone else of note. When your favourite cafe goes downhill, you can find out that the chef has left, and where they’ve gone to!

But that’s not all. It doesn’t contain any reviews itself, but it refers to reviews from elsewhere, even old reviews. So, you can see a variety of opinions about a place, and whether people think it’s improving, or something’s going steadily wrong.

Since this is the first time I’ve mentioned this anywhere publically, I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us (my co-moderator Cathy and I) with this project, by providing advice, contributing entries/comments to 99sauces, and even designing our logo. You know who you are, and I won’t list all of you here. But a heartfelt Thanks!

Cycling

This rambling monologue is a week late, but better late than never. So, last weekend I went riding in Melbourne with Kate and Claire. It was my first ride since arriving here about a dozen years ago. And it was great, but it was one of the worst rides I’ve ever had.

I might not have ridden in Melbourne before, but I assume that bikes here are meant to work pretty much like bikes anywhere else. I hired my bike from Hire a Bike (on the river near Fed Square, phone number 03 9654 2762). Initially it seemed okay, but a few minutes into the ride I found that the seat was loose and would rock backward and forward as my weight shifted. Then, when I was over an hour into the ride, the handlebars loosened and rotated. It made it impossible to ride it, but luckily we were stopping at around that point anyway.

We had ridden along the Yarra River to the Collingwood Childrens Farm and had lunch at Lentil As Anything cafe in the nearby Abbotsford Convent. The cafe wouldn’t lend me a spanner (I’m not sure they even knew what one was), but the adjacent bakery was kind enough to lend me one and I fixed the seat and handlebars. I bought some nougat and florentines from them in return, and because they were very tasty.

It was a beautiful day, and as we rode along the river, I saw Melbourne from a perspective that I’d never seen before. Cycling on the trail, you can almost feel that you’re in a different city. There are places where the river is peaceful, only a few, old houses can be seen, and the green banks hide the suburbs around. You won’t see these places if you drive in Melbourne, or travel by train, but only by being on that bike path.

It reminds me a little of when we were in London, and your mode of travel set your perspective on the city. If you travelled above ground, you would think the city was laid out completely diferently than if you just travelled on the Underground. And just before we left, we met someone who lived and travelled on London’s canal system. It would’ve been good to try that as well – I think it would’ve been pretty amazing.

Anyway, it was pretty amazing to cycle along the Yarra. Although after that loose seat, I had a really sore butt.

The BOM gets it wrong

Well, we all know that they get it wrong, but that’s not surprising since it’s a tricky job to predict the future. However, since they don’t ever tell us how accurate they are, we never knew exactly how wrong they were. Until now.

Average of differences between temperature forecasts and observations (Melbourne, Sydney and Perth)

The chart above is the result of some analysis on the data I collected over a month (between 25th February and 25th March 2007) for the cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. The first thing you’ll notice is that the 7-Day forecasts are not as accurate as the 1-Day (i.e. tomorrow) forecasts, and that as the forecasts head off into the future, they get less accurate. This is as you’d expect.

Other things to notice are that (i) Maximum temperature forecasts are generally less accurate than Minimum temperatures, (ii) The Melbourne Maximum temperatures are the least accurate, while Sydney Minimum temperatures are the most accurate, and (iii) none of the curves are heading towards zero, i.e. the forecasts for the following day are still a surprise.

Since the data is collected over the course of only one month, it’s hard to say if this sample is representative of all Bureau of Meteorology forecasting, but at least we now have some idea of their accuracy. The rule of thumb seems to be that the next day forecast will be out by on average 1.5 degrees, and the 4-day forecast will be out by on average at least 2 degrees. This is better than I thought it was going to be, to be honest.

I’ll probably continue to crunch the numbers and see if anything interesting comes out, but I think I’ve won my bet.

Hints for hinges

We’ve had fun over the last couple of weekends putting together IKEA furniture. It was our first wrestle (although probably not the last) with assembling their flatpacks, and easier than I feared. Although, I now have to agree with a friend who pointed out that IKEA is a conspiracy against single people – it would be very hard to put together if there was no one to help hold things. On second thoughts, it’s more of a conspiracy against friendless, orphaned, single people. See, we all knew IKEA couldn’t be as squeaky clean as they tell us.

Anyway, there was a point in assembling one of the pieces that the instructions failed us. In case anyone else has the same problem, hopefully a web search has sent you here and all will be solved. We had a problem with the IKEA hinges. They are very good hinges (actually produced by a company called Blum), but we had a problem attaching the two parts of the hinges. But only on one piece – the Effektiv storage cabinet. Different hinges are used on different items, and the Effektiv hinge is on the left, while the Pax hinge is on the right.

Effektiv IKEA/Blum hinge Pax IKEA/Blum hinge

The hinges look very similar, but require slightly different approaches to attach. The Pax hinge (on the right) snaps on by clipping the clasp piece on the door onto the end of the cabinet piece nearest to the edge, then pressing the the hinge until it clicks at the back. The Effektiv hinge (on the left) is similar, but can fall off after you’ve done the above, unless you also tap the hinge with a mallet. This is all that’s required in order to fix the hinge.

I hope no-one else gets stuck like we did…

Forecasting Conspiracy?

Weather Station, MelbourneOn the weekend, I (perhaps impulsively) agreed to a bet with a friend who claimed that Melbourne’s weather forecasts are accurate, while I suggested that they were slightly better than totally random. I am to record the 7-day forecasts for the next month and see how accurate the 4-day forecast is for Melbourne (compared with say, Sydney or Perth).

Since the Bureau of Meteorology does not publish their historical forecasts on their website, or indicate their forecasts’s probabilities, I think they must be embarassed by how imperfect their art is (at least when it comes to Melbourne). In a month’s time, we’ll know if that’s true, or if there’s a more likely explanation…

Back from India

Sitting on the Cancer sundial in JaipurAlthough Kate’s written a great summary over on the travel blog, I just wanted to mention that I’m back from India. It’s full of amazing sights, sounds, and smells. And, it was incredible to be a small part of AD’s wedding over there.

The only negative was that I picked up a bug over there and fell sick the day after we got back. On one of the internal flights, I sat next to a guy who coughed on me for a couple of hours, so it’s no surprise really that I caught it. It’s just a bit mundane that it wasn’t the water, the food, or the animals, and it’s the sort of thing I could have picked up on a flight to Sydney. Anyway, all’s well now!

Benno at CES

A friend of mine, Benno, is in Las Vegas at the CES conference this week. He works for Bluebox Devices and they’re launching their new media gizmo this week. After all the years of effort he’s put into it, it must be great to be there at CES showing and telling everyone about it.

Ron, David and Benno at CESHere’s a picture showing how excited they all are.

Well, maybe they are just tired. It’s from Graeme Thickins’ blog, where he covered several of the Australian contingent that’s over there at the moment.

Good luck guys, and hope you make lots of deals!

You can’t do this when you rent


Living Room – During

Originally uploaded by 4ndrewScott.

After much stress, we finally completed settlement on Friday for the new house. I can’t begin to tell you how outraged I was with the unprofessional conduct of certain parties on Friday, but we got the keys, and that’s the main thing.

On Saturday, Kate and I, together with Tim and Lynne, removed all the floor coverings in the front half of the house. The carpet in the front two bedrooms was easy, but the pink tiles in the hallway, living room, and dining room were more effort. It turns out that the tilers who put them in were very thorough; maybe a bit too thorough. The tiles were glued to a type of board, which was nailed to the floor. There were nails every 5cm or so. All up, a lot of nails.

We got a good technique going, and all the tiles were up by the end of the day. On Tuesday, new carpet will go down on the floorboards, and we move in on Thursday!