All that wine…..

When travelling through the South Australian Riverland earlier in the year, I was struck by the extent of the grape vines.  On the other hand, when in Rutherglen recently, the opposite seemed to be the case:  a lot of wineries and, frankly, although there are quite a few grape vines, there aren’t the large expanses that we’d seen in other areas.    But there’s a lot of “Rutherglen” wine available and there is a constant stream of big tankers on the road marked to show they’re carrying wines (or or at least, grape juice).

Reading the labels on some of the Rutherglen wine we bought, the language seems carefully chosen:  “A perfect blend of two grape varieties that shine in Rutherglen …..”.

Ah yes, shiraz and durif may indeed be grown in the Rutherglen area, and the winemaker may be located there, but was the shiraz in this bottle actually grown in Rutherglen?    Call be a cynic if you like, but I’m left wondering!



My Health Record

I’ve seen some mention of  “My Health Record” in the media, but hadn’t really taken much notice of what was going on until I attended a Melb PC User Group session which included a presentation about this.  It’s not new, as it dates from about 2012  under the opt-in  “Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record” system.  The change that’s now occurring is that  previous “opt-in” system is being changed to an  “opt-out” arrangement.

Although the processes for content were carefully described, I won’t go through all that here, save to say that each individual has a lot of control over this.   But, I thought that there would be more “push back” on the security aspects.  In fact, there seemed to be general acceptance that the concept was a “good idea”.  There was a notable exception, in that one person in the audience claimed that her information had been uploaded without her consent and then deleted, and was concerned what “the government” knew about her.

The security arrangements were  along the lines that would be expected, such as all the standard firewalls and monitoring systems.  In fact, the biggest risk of improper use of the information is perceived to be at the medical practice level, but it was pointed out that the information on the My Health Record site was considerably less than would usually be kept by most  GPs and probably was a lot more secure.  As to a widespread “hack”,  it was pointed out that a lot of information was already centralised in the  Medicare system.   It was stated one security measure was that the records are held separately in some way.  I didn’t understand this, but the message seemed to be that the way in which the records are held would make them less interesting for a hacker, because if a hacker did get into the  system, they couldn’t download information “in bulk”.   I must look into this concept in more detail.

Overall, as I’ve said, the group appeared to consider that the ready availability of essential health information out-weighed any possible disadvantages.    There are extensive rights to “opt out” and to control/limit access, but for whatever reason, it seems that the opt-out rate is running at around about 5%.  This seemed to be regarded as being on the low side, but perhaps it will increase, as GPs engage with patients about uploading each person’s “Shared Health Summary”.

All that having been said, I checked my own record via the MyGov site.   It wasn’t there, so I created it.  I assume from this that records aren’t actually being created until the opt-out period ends (in November).

NBN – “Coming soon” (3)

We received a communication from NBN well over a year ago  telling us that we could expect to be connected to NBN during the then current quarter.  And some physical progress appeared to occur soon afterwards.  We also received communications from various “Retail Service providers” tempting us to take up their NBN “offers”.

But nothing happened……..  I gleaned from the news that a delay occurred with NBN connections via the HFC cable, which the NBN site tells me is the method to be used at our address.

Be that as it may, it now seems that activity is resuming.  We got a letter from NBN stating that someone might want to look at our connections at some indeterminate time in the future (although nothing has happened yet).

 And now, markings have appeared just down the street suggesting that some digging might occur.  I can’t see the need for the latter, but who am I to comment on these things?

Anyway, the NBN site indicates that we’re scheduled to be connected in the 1st quarter of next year.  Presumably our arrangements with the service provider will have to be updated when we get a connection, which I’m not looking forward to, and additionally it looks as though my carefully located internal cables will be in the wrong places, so I guess we’ll just have to go completely wi fi (we have it for some but not all of our devices at present).

Did I need a “touch screen”?

My laptop (the one I take on my travels) was acting strangely.    Intermittently, the screen was showing two cursors, one of which was flashing unnaturally and the other of which was taking over control at times.   Very annoying indeed.   So I googled for an explanation and turned up various suggestions, including some to the effect that perhaps the laptop was reverting to “tablet” mode.   The various suggestions didn’t lead to a long-term fix, however.

It was then I noticed that there was a small crack in one corner of the screen.   Somewhere along the way, it must have received a bump.   Although having a crack was less than optimal, it wasn’t really annoying, as from most angles the crack wasn’t even visible.   But it dawned on me that one of the features of this laptop is that the screen is capable of being used as a “touch screen” (hence the ability to go into “tablet mode”), although I never use it as such.

It seems that the crack in the screen was leading the computer to consider it as a “touch”.    A little more googling, and the suggestion came up that in the “Device Manager” part of “settings”, it was possible to disable the touch screen function.    Well, worth a try, and, yes, problem resolved.    The screen is still cracked, so I’ll have to be careful not to do anything to make it worse.

I obtained an on-line quote for the replacement of the screen, but the cost was about the same as I originally paid for the computer!    Hence, I’ll live with the slight damage.

I guess the touch screen feature might for some be “nice to have”, but it wasn’t a factor for me when I decided to purchase this particular model.   In hindsight, it has been just one more thing to go wrong!

“Avoid card surcharges”

Until now, I’ve “topped-up” my toll account with “Linkt” (it used to be Citylink but seems to have changed) by using a direct credit from my Visa credit card.

However, I’ve now received an email stating that these payments will now attract a “surcharge”.     The surcharge doesn’t just apply to debits from a credit card;  it also applies to transactions from debit cards (but at 0.25% instead of 0.52% for Visa/MasterCard accounts).  Linkt justify this by saying that they’re merely passing on fees charged to them by the banks.   Somehow, this pass-through didn’t seem to be necessary previously, but in this day and age, I guess the banks are fair game?   I wonder, too, if the move (especially in relation to debit cards)  this has anything to do with the banks issuing new debit cards recently?

“Considerately” Linkt suggest that I change my automatic payments over to a “direct debit”.   This was easy enough to do on the website, but the whole issue irritated me somewhat.


Our foundations

The contractor who is going to fix up our foundations arranged a geotechnical report as part of the preparation work.    The geo-technician probed around the house and gave us a verbal report.

In short, our house, like much of eastern and south-eastern Melbourne, is in an area of “Brighton Group sands”.   We’ve got sandy loan to a depth of about 600 mm, then clay beneath that.   Unfortunately, when our house was built, the footings only extended to the top of the clay, so when the clay shrinks and expands (as it does as it dries out and becomes wet again), movement occurs.

Gotta do something about those cracks!

The “good news” is that our soil is typical of the area.   Other parts of Melbourne are built on silty sediments, which apparently require much more work in order to be underpinned.

I tried to research the underlying (pardon the pun) geological issues, but when I encountered this article, I gave up!  Obviously geology is very complex and technical;  hardly surprising given the millions of years during which the earth has developed.  And all we want is for our house to be stabilised for the next few years!


Well, everyone’s aware of the strawberry contamination scare that’s been going on for the past little while.  I noted that there were no strawberries on the shelves at a couple of supermarkets earlier in the week,  However, they were back yesterday, and they were from Queensland, too.   There was a sign referring to the contamination issue.   As a matter of principle, I bought some.  I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t the only one.   Even though the whole issue seems to have been blown out of proportion and I’m not really worried by it, I think we’ll be slicing them before eating them.