New Years Resolutions!

Good afternoon,

I am not one for making grand predictions and resolutions for the coming year. I am old enough and wise enough to know that I have little control over the financial, social, environmental and health-related issues that can whirl around my space in any given minute, let alone over the span of 365 days.

That waffling disclaimer notwithstanding, what can I do in 2009 that will be better and different to the year just gone?

The slogan / byline of this site might give you a sense that I buy / collect guy 'stuff'. Most of which is well researched, responsibly installed / used, and some of it is then left to be, while other items have only a fraction of their functionality understood, let alone used. So resolution Number 1 - 'Get more value from my current stuff'. Read the manuals, complete the implementation, enter the data, learn the functions or whatever it may be. Master what you have, Grasshopper.

Elsewhere on this site I have hinted at a diet and health kick. It is going well so far, both weight loss and fitness aspects. Resolution Number 2 - 'Don't go backwards on health & well being'. Even if I don't make the great changes I managed in 2008 next year, just keep it going in the right direction with an exercise regime, smart eating choices and an active lifestyle. I can do that!

Happy New Year to you all.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

My Apple 3G iPhone Review

Good evening,

After a month or so deliberating carriers & plans, I bought a 16GB 3G Apple iPhone (Black) on a Telstra call and data plan in August 2008. This review is based on my personal use, so far only in Melbourne and near country areas. And you, dear reader, should be aware that I am an Apple fanboy, and run a fleet of Macs at home for family use. There is my Personal Interest Disclosure.

The first couple of months saw me just getting used to the device and making phone calls. Fortunately, Telstra recently increased their allowable data on the plan I have so I am now more inclined to use the broadband components of the device. Just surfing the web and syncing my Apple Mail mainly. First impressions? Typical of Apple, the phone looks and feels cool and engenders a pride of ownership far greater than any Motorola, Nokia or Sony Ericsson I have previously experienced. Syncing calendars, bookmarks and contacts with their desktop equivalents was a snap, and of course syncing music, photos, podcasts and videos is essentially no different to previous versions of the iPod. And, at home, in and around Melbourne on Telstra's network, it gave good phone calls. As silly as that sounds, not all phones / carriers delivered such an experience for me. I am not a speed freak anorak, so I have not tried to measure the throughput / response times of my 3G connection, but anecdotally it feels speedy enough for the small hand-held device to be usable.

The intuitive interface (did I say it was from Apple?) and an extremely readable 3.5 inch multi-touch colour screen made getting to know the iPhone and it's obvious capabilities a snap. Therefore I didn't take any time to read the manual (or carrier set up material). So I subsequently got a little disappointed when my user experience didn't grow over the next couple of months. I had some frustrations with ring tone length and the phone switching over too quickly to voice mail. And I hadn't yet visited the App Store......... So mid term, I am still doing what I was doing with the iPhone initially, but no more. A growing suspicion of 'Is that all there is?' filled the room. How could I doubt Steve and the team so badly, especially given all the hype that came before me!

Frustrated by the ring tone length thing, I started to dig into the documentation and query Telstra on this issue. Of course, it was just a simple network fix in my profile to allow the phone to run for 40 seconds before switching to Voice Mail. Now the host of custom tones available (both free and paid) and the ability to mix new ones in GarageBand opens up a whole new world to customise sounds for my iPhone.

Then I kept seeing options to sync more mailboxes to my iPhone, not just Apple Mail. So half an hour later, I had Yahoo, Gmail and two other POP accounts wirelessly being collected on the iPhone. I said earlier that my calendars and contacts were syncing seamlessly but that was when the phone was docked. In a further five minutes I had those applications wirelessly synchronising in real time via MobileMe as well.

Also early on, the keyboard initially frustrated me as my smallish fingers seemed to hit the wrong key. I persevered and continued to use it for notes, SMS etc and I became surprisingly accurate and now have no fears about using it. Probably wouldn't like to use it to write a thesis however.

And that leads to me to the gem that is the App Store. Now I am not a great fan of the iTunes store, not for any DRM reasons per se, but because the bit rates are so low and the prices are so high here in Oz at least. I much prefer to buy the media and use it on my home audio system as well as being able to take the digital version with me at a decent bit rate (the Apple LossLess Codec seems OK). But the App Store is a whole different business model. There is free stuff (yay!) and commercial applications to purchase but usually only for a modest outlay of a buck or three. And the range of the possible is just a staggering testament to human ingenuity. What some people can think of to do with a processor, a screen, a GPS module, a camera and an accelerometer is simply incredible. Is there junk in the App Store? Absolutely, but only in the eye of the beholder because one persons rubbish is another's golden find. But there really is seriously good stuff in there.

So what apps am I using? The free Bloomberg client for my US stocks and global indicies; Google Earth just to waste time; Quick Voice recorder for messages on the run; Remote to control iTunes, Shazam, an incredible app that de-mystifes song / artist when you hear a tune on the radio or TV but don't know who the performer is; Sports Tap, an all sports news & results portal; free Sudoku and Solitaire games to while away the time; and my current favourite is Dynolicious, a vehicle performance (acceleration, braking, horsepower, lap times etc) measurement application. And I have only just started to scratch the surface of the 10,000+ applications that are available.

Any post purchase options? I replaced the standard ear-buds (you just have to!) with a pair of Etymotic HF-2 ear-canal headphones. They have an in-built microphone and remote control to answer calls, skip / pause tracks and playback. And they are black which match the iPhone beautifully. I recently purchased a Richard Solo Smart Backup Battery Pack just to make sure I didn't run out of juice needlessly while on the road. The only other must-have option is of course is some iPhone protection. I have a Griffin hard-ish shell case. Works just fine to protect my baby with all controls and ports still easily accessible.

What is not too like? Well, as a first generation 3G phone and software suite, there is plenty left to add. In no particular order:

  • The battery life is nothing special. The add-on battery packs seem like a good idea for power talkers;
  • A measly 2GB camera is an easy upgrade path in a future release;
  • The inability to sync Notes and To Dos from your Mac suite or other PIMs seems like a huge oversight;
  • With the enormous range of apps, software and media, a maximum (and fixed) storage of 16GB is pretty limiting. No question capacity upgrades will be part of the 2009 releases;
  • No accessible file storage systems to create, store & forward business apps & documents (iWork or Office);
  • All data needs to be created & entered - no copy / paste, short cuts etc
  • A more inclusive / standard implementation of Bluetooth. While I can make and receive calls in my new-ish Lexus, I can't exchange address book data between the iPhone and the car;
From the initial disclaimer, you probably figured that this was going to be a positive review, but the iPhone is just a gun weapon and the only mobile phone I have enjoyed owning and had fun using. Nice work Apple!

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Health and Well Being

Good evening,

My major news at the moment is that after some recent surgery I am now on a serious health kick. Yes, yes I know. Heard it all before. Well, this time it is different. Promise. Low fat everything, walking miles a day, water being consumed by the ‘gallon’ and you are more likely to see me these days in a Juice Bar rather than a Sports Bar.

And did I mention the Pilates sessions.........

Mid December Update: And also the Gymstick exercise program............

Christmas Eve Update: And the weights sessions to strengthen the core muscles started this morning............

It is never too late to start looking after yourself. Start now!

Bye for now, BomberBoy

In the Kitchen

Good afternoon,

Ah, spring is in the air, and a young man’s fancy turns to ............. food & wine! The Weber ‘Q’ BBQ has been getting a very serious workout with some decent lamb & chicken roasts and tasty pork & beef steaks being recent highlights. Who would have thought that BBQ’ing would be such a science now. Weigh the food, measure the thickness, set the temperature and calculate the cooking time. Wow! At least it is still something guys can do outside with a drink in one hand!

I have also turned my attentions to making a mess inside the house as well. One of the more memorable creations of late was a tasty serve of Garlic Prawns. All washed down with a very nice Ten Minutes By Tractor Sauvignon Blanc from the Mornington Peninsula. This wine is made in the Sancerre style with a little oak and is much more complex and enjoyable (and cellarable) than your average grassy (and one dimensional) sauv blanc. Special mentions also go the t’Gallant Juliet and the Pier 10 Pint Gris. Both excellent with seafood IMHO.

December update: One dish recently created was BBQ Pork Chops with Grilled Summer Fruits. Tomato, banana, pineapple and watermelon grilled along wit the pork made for a very tasty and refreshing summer dish. And simple to prepare and quick to serve.

I am now on the lookout for domestic quantities of Wagyu beef to check out if it is as tasty and enjoyable at home as it appears to be in a high-end steak restaurant.

Don’t get me wrong, Neil Perry & Gordon Ramsay have nothing to fear! There have been a couple of ‘Clangers from the Kitchen’ of late where I didn’t quite get the ingredients absolutely (or close to) right. But it is great fun when it works.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Our new friend......

Good evening,

A newcomer has adopted our place as home. Yes, you guessed it from the picture. No question, it’s the Dacelo novaeguineae. Or the terrestrial kingfisher. But more commonly, a kookaburra.

Such a strong looking thing, with muscular body and long, bold beak with of course that distinctive call (or laugh). This little guy (or gal) has a liking for prime mince (not surprising as kookaburras are carnivores) which we ration just enough to keep him / her interested.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

My Essendon FC Year End Report

Good afternoon,

Well, for the Mighty Bombers the season of 2008 is over. Roll on the off season of surgery, trades and hope!

My year end review is not much different to what I wrote for the mid season report.

Overall, as a club I would rate our year 6/10 based solely on results, not potential or effort.

Coaching staff - 7/10

A good year by Matthew Knights and his support staff. As a relatively inexperienced group (except for GO’D), I thought they coped well in the aftermath of Sheedy era, a savage early season slump, injuries to nearly the entire side and some pretty heavy media scrutiny of the ‘new’ game plan.

I thought Matthew Knights stood out with his confidence in his game plan, the support he appeared to give his players and his ability to manage the list and to apply appropriate discipline as necessary.

Early days, but a promising start as a leader.

Playing Group - 6/10

Can’t get too excited based on performance which was principally limited by the massive injury toll the club suffered. While I have no reason to doubt John Quinn’s talents as a high performance fitness coach, I am very much hoping that the recent change in this area helps the club keep more of our best players on the park next year.

It was pretty hard to find a consistent player over the entire year but David Hille must be close to the Crichton Medal winner. Leadership, physicality and skill were highlights to me.

Matthew Lloyd stood tall and showed a lot of backbone and pride under heavy criticism when the entire world (well the media at least) were putting him down and writing him off. Not flamboyant, but was a strong part of Knights club leadership and direction.

Other notables - Jobe Watson, Mark McVeigh and Andrew Welsh were impressive both in effort and leadership. And I loved the spunk of Kyle Reimers and the run of Brent Stanton.

Disappointments - The ongoing injuries to Scott Gumbleton prevented him showing the faithful his undoubted talents.

Farewells - Thanks and good luck to Rama, Jason Johnson, Damien Peverill, Mal Michael, and others who may move on over the course of the off season.

I look forward to an exciting trade period and for the Bombers to contend for the ‘Eight’ in 2009.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne

Good evening,

We took a drive out to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne this morning. A total of 363 hectares of heathlands, wetlands and woodlands are accessible to the intrepid. What sounds on the surface to be a bit dull, was a most enjoyable visit.

Specifically, within the boundaries of the overall property, is the Australian Garden. According to the literature, it contains 100,000 plants, 100 trees in 15 different landscaped environments. To me the most impressive element was not so much the flora, but the way it was layed out. Lots of variation and creativity which made the tour most interesting. The attention to detail in flower beds no bigger than two metres by five metres was incredible. Some of the exhibits discussing drought-tolerant plantings and the use of water features were also excellent.

It only takes a couple of hours to do the Australian Garden justice but more if you wander further afield (lookouts, picnic grounds etc). Volunteer master gardeners are available to share their knowledge and educate the vistors. The gift store had interesting stuff and we enjoyed a tasty lunch in the cafe which featured local produce, both food & wine.

Go take a look for yourself would be my recommendation. These pictures are a bit dull, but if the sun comes out, take your camera and you should get some really interesting shots of the native Aussie landscape.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

My New Lexus GS430

Good evening,

Woo hoo! Some new wheels have arrived at Chez Humphries. The criteria for this vehicle were: a decent boot for my golf clubs and electric buggy, a comfy rear seat to ‘chauffeur’ my Dad around, and an easy drive and a smooth ride to soothe me in my declining years.

The options considered included the new Falcon, in both G6E Turbo and GT-P guises, the Mercedes-Benz E320 or E500 and Lexus GS, either 430 or Hybrid. All had their strengths and not many weaknesses but there can only be one winner. A one year old, Lexus GS430 came out on top, based on perceived value, impressive features & options, cosseting and luxurious drive, generous warranty and superior dealer attention & support (thanks Peter Cheung @ Lexus of Blackburn).

(‘Lex’ and proud owner at Lexus of Blackburn - July 2008)

After a couple of months, I have no reason to doubt or question the decision. It is a superb vehicle. I especially like the integrated Sat Nav / Bluetooth phone / iPod connectivity / trip computer for it’s clarity, ease of use and functionality. I wasn’t looking for an overly sporting drive (luckily I have other vehicles for that) but the sweet revving quad cam V8 and ultra-smooth six speed electronic gearbox (with sequential shift) and Sports settings for the suspension makes for rapid progress when the need arises. But otherwise the most attractive element of the car is it’s deafeningly quiet drive train and ride. It is eerily quiet. As for fuel consumption of the 4.3 litre V8, I am achieving the advertised combined average 11 litres / 100 kilometres.

(Lexus GS430 in driveway - July 2008)

Any quibbles? Well, it does have a bit of the ‘nanny state’ about the plethora of on-screen warnings and audible alarms that blare out if you don’t do everything the car expects in the right sequence or at the right time. The cabin lighting is a bit too much mood lighting and not bright enough for my ageing eyes.

Not everyone is in love with the styling, particularly the rear 3/4 view, but it is at least individualistic and looks stunning from other angles, including directly side on. It has great road presence overall I reckon.

(Cosy Interior - Charcoal & Walnut)

Bye for now, BomberBoy

My Essendon Mid Season Report Card

Good evening,

The Bombers have started to show a little over the last month or so I am happy to report. Overall I would rate us 5/10 to this point with I hope better to come. I am delighted that their recent efforts have resulted in a couple of wins on the trot. Always pleasing to beat Carlton, even more so when it is twice in one season. But I feel we have under-achieved a little to this point.

Kyle Reimers, Jay Neagle and Sam Lonergan have really caught my eye this year, along with continued improvement in Monfries, Slattery (gutsy), Dempsey (until injured) and Jetta. Really sad for Scott Gumbleton to be seriously injured yet again and Alwyn Davey going down with a knee. Looks like 2008 will be a lost cause for them.

Other disappointments? Mal Michael hasn’t provided the on-field influence I hoped for this year, although I am sure he is giving plenty at training and around the club. With the speed in which the ball has been coming into our defence, Paddy Ryder has been under the pump this year and hasn’t had the influence on games I expected. But he is still learning I am sure. The back up ruck position is still weak, with Jason Laycock not providing enough consistent support to David Hille. Winderlich and Dyson haven’t really excited me so far either. And the jury is still out for me on Rama (pace) and NL-M (consistency).

As for the coaching staff, I rate Matthew Knights 6/10. He has shown courage (sometimes bordering on stupidity) and confidence (again sometimes overly so) but hasn’t buckled under the intense scrutiny of stepping into Sheedy’s shoes and having his game plan attacked and ridiculed. He has been a staunch defender of his playing group and seems to have maintained their spirits & confidence. As for the rest of the coaching staff, I would like to see more of them but I suspect this is a learning year for the likes of Camporeale and Prescott as well.

My pre-season prediction was, I think, Essendon to finish between 8th and 11th. Sadly, even the latter might be a bit of a stretch but with Lloyd & Lucas standing up, Watson, Lovett & Stanton maturing, Fletcher still playing good footy and Welsh, Hille, McVeigh & McPhee adding leadership & poise, and with the development of the likes of Atkinson, Nash, Myers, Bellchambers, Daniher, Pears & Co, we might j-u-s-t make it. More soon.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Guitar Upgrades

Good morning,

With a little extra time on my hands, I am planning to play a bit more guitar and have taken the opportunity to re-fresh my amplification. So the old solid-state Fender has gone and a lightly used Fender ’65 Re-Issue Deluxe Reverb arrived today. 22 watts of creamy Fender ‘Made in the USA’ Groove Tube tone. Let’s hope my playing improves to match!

(Fender ’65 Re-Issue Deluxe Reverb)

Bye for now, BomberBoy

The Mother-in-Law's Birthday

OK, I know this doesn't sound like one of my more exciting topics, but please read on.

(Max Humphries, Margaret & Ian Cleland, Robin Humphries)

On Monday, April 14, a select group met for lunch at Chatterley's Restaurant at Cloudehill Nursery in the Dandenongs to celebrate Margaret Cleland's birthday. I had never been to this place before, but at 12.10pm on a Monday, I was delighted to see a 'Sorry, Booked Out' sign at the front door of the small, comfortable dining room which overlooks the gorgeous gardens.
The company was excellent, the conversation lively, the food (small blackboard menu) prepared with care & fresh, local produce, and a modestly priced wine selection made for a very enjoyable couple of hours.

(The Birthday Girl, April 14, 2008)

That lemon tart looks fantastic! Many happy returns Margaret!

Bye for now, BomberBoy

New Essendon Supporter Gear

My retirement gift from work was a genuine leather / wool Essendon 'Bomber' Jacket. I have always wanted one of these and I am looking forward to wearing it with pride at the game.

(Farewell presentation - 31 March 2008)

Also in the 'goodies' bag, was a throw rug, some Sheedy memorabilia, a golf towel and a Bombers watch! Wow.

Update! The new gear was successful as I wore the jacket to the Essendon / Carlton game on Saturday night and the Bombers had a good win. Fantastic!

Bye for now, BomberBoy

End Of An Era

Good evening,

Well, it is the end of an era. I am officially retired. Well sort of. I am technically 'between opportunities' as I write this. Although I think for the next few months, Sir Isaac Newton got it right:

'An object at rest.......will remain at rest........'

(Farewell Dinner Guests - Rockpool Grill, Melbourne, March 31, 2008)

Bye for now, BomberBoy

2008 in Prospect

Here we are in 2008 already. And forget the cricket, footy season cometh.

My thoughts / predictions / guesses are:
- The Bombers will finish in 8th to 11th place
- Matthew Lloyd will be the Coleman Medallist
- Most improved will be Courtenay Dempsey
- B&F winner will be Mark McVeigh
- Matthew Knights will be viewed as a 'good choice' by year end

- I am most interested in the development of Bachar Houli, Scott Gumbeton and Kyle Reimers

- It will be interesting to see how the 'new look' coaching staff handle a full season and the growth, development and fitness of a relatively young list.

We are planning to get to a few more games this year and have seats already booked for three of the first six games.

Go Bombers!

Bye for now, BomberBoy