EFC - Year End Summary

Good evening,

Well we got bundled out of the Finals in the first round, beaten by 62 points by our arch-enemy Carlton. As disappointing as the result was, I was hoping for a Top Eight finish at the start of the year and that was achieved, so 'Tick'.

How best to analyse and sum up 2011?

79367-bigthumbnail

Let's start with the coaching staff. It seemed to me the all new coaching team worked together very well, very quickly and seemed to have the 'ear' of the players. The club managed the arrival of Bomber Thompson as well as could be expected. The mid season sequence of losses was unfortunate, but symptomatic of a young team I suspect. On the coaching downside, losing Brendan McCartney to the Bulldogs for 2012, and the Dean Wallis gambling issue late in the season were major disappointments.

On the playing side, Dyson Heppell was the obvious stand out. Playing every game, looking poised from the very start, rarely beaten with sensational disposal and winning the NAB Rising Star Award. A break out year also for David Zaharakis who eventually won the Crichton Medal for our Best and Fairest. Well done David! Third best to my mind was Stewart Crameri. For a Rookie, admittedly of slightly mature age, he was stunning. Big, bustling with a thumping left foot and great goal sense. Best of the rest? Hard to leave Jobe Watson, Heath Hocking and Dustin Fletcher out of any list of committed team players..

Were there disappointments? Injuries, the poor form (on average) of our ruckmen brigade, an occasionally screwy plan for three talls in the forward line, and that mid season losing streak were lowlights.

Roll on 2012!

Bye for now, BomberBoy

The Finals beckon!

The home & away season for the Bombers has now ended and we will be in eighth place, qualifying for a spot in the finals. While we didn't exactly overwhelm over the last few weeks, at least we were better than 'the rest'.

Our final game today against Port Adelaide, who were / are last, had all the attributes of a train wreck for a little over three quarters until the Bombers awoke from their slumber and fairly stormed home in the last twenty minutes. The supporters might like to see a full four quarter effort next time out...

With a bye next week to freshen the team, we play traditional rivals Carlton in an Elimination Final in the second week of September. Be positive, Bring it on!

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Maroochydore circa 2011

Here we are again back at the Chateau Royale apartments in the Cotton Tree precinct of Maroochydore for another two week stint on the gorgeous Sunshine Coast of Queensland.

After just a few days, I am delighted to report that the weather is living up to the usual tourism hype. After departing dodgy Melbourne last Friday, it has been 21 - 23 degrees each day here. I had forgotten what 'sun on your back' felt like!

panorama
Panorama from our balcony taken with the cool Photosynth app on the iPhone - 2011

In addition to great weather, we have found some excellent food so far. A Reef & Beef (sirloin / crayfish combo) at the curiously named 'Naked Turtle' in Caloundra and a barramundi / balmain bug stack at 'Yabbi's' in Maroochydore being the standout dishes so far. On previous visits, the wine snob in us (well in Robin anyway) seemed to struggle a touch to find a decent tipple. But not so this year. Especially on the white front, very decent chardonnays and pinot grigio / gris have been had at 'acceptable' price points given the tourist locale.

L1000199 (1)
Interesting pie marketing plan at Mojos! - 2011

A side event this year is to crank the cameras up looking for the 'money' shot(s). A holiday gallery will be uploaded shortly.

L1000245
Fishing at dusk is popular on the Maroochy River - 2011

We have a rental car but sadly not the Skoda Octavia we booked. A Holden Cruze is our vehicle and it is absolutely awful. No power, twitchy steering, grabby brakes, holes in the floor so you can watch the road pass under you (true!), and seats like milk crates. And of course it is black, the most practical colour for the Queensland sun. I don't believe the vehicle has one redeeming feature. I can't imagine anyone going into a dealership and test driving one and going back to the salesman to say 'This is the car I have always wanted'. Aarghh.. Some may say I have been spoilt car wise, but previous rental cars have been a Skoda and a Camry both of which fitted their roles admirably.

_MG_2926 _MG_2784
Some coastal wildlife! - 2011

More to come soon from a planned Eco waterways tour.

_MG_2421
Ah, the Sunshine Coast - 2011

Other highlights - Maleny milk, Arnica Restaurant, frozen banana dipped in Belgian chocolate from Panny's at the Ginger Factory and sunset cocktails at the Boat House to name a few.

IMG_0435
Post dinner drinks, Arnica - 2011

Bye for now, BomberBoy

More Essendon Updates

Good evening,

In recent times, we have been lucky to be part of a couple of wins by the mighty Bombers.

A sensational, out-of-nowhere victory over Geelong, a come from behind win over the Tigers and a very rare interstate win over the Adelaide Crows. This all got us into the 'Eight' and with some hope for post season action.

However, a thundering loss this weekend to the arch-enemy, Carlton, has put a serious dent in out finals hopes and dreams. On a brighter note, I did enjoy the game of Jake Carlisle. He stood up manfully in defence taking several strong, well judged marks. And he will be forever remembered for providing the stepladder for Andrew Walker's mark of the year!

Oh well, perhaps we can squeak a win over the premiership favourites, Collingwood, this coming weekend...

An update on the update. Just this week, Mark Williams the straight kicking forward recruited from Hawthorn only last year announced his retirement due to ongoing knee issues. Unfortunately Essendon never saw the best of Mark due to this injury.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

The Fitness Program

Good evening,

I have extremely exciting lifestyle news to report! I recently started some golf lessons and the pro was a little (!) concerned that perhaps my body was preventing me making those fantastic twisting moves you see the touring professionals make, and suggested I get some 'physical' support. Enter Dani, risking her reputation, courageously taking me on as a Personal Trainer. Early days, and with a little more discipline to find, progress has been most positive. As evidence, I submit that two weeks ago, I walked the 'Old Course' at The National (yes, the hilly one) for the first time in my life. As a bonus, the weather was superb, as shown by the iPhone happy snap of the 3rd Hole below.

IMG_0359

Gotta go, some more stretches beckon!

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Cultural Outings

Good evening,

Late June / early July was a very 'cultural' period for us. Stop laughing please...

First up was the Melbourne Theatre Company production of 'The Joy of Text', very interesting, well acted but perhaps a bit cerebral for moi. Try this review if you want to really know what went on...

joy-prod-hero8joy-prod-hero5joy-prod-hero3
'The Joy of Text' - Images courtesy MTC 2011

Later in the week it was off to the Classic Albums Live production of Fleetwood Mac 'Rumours' album. Now this performance I clearly understood. It was just a superb rendition of a classic album from the vocals to the guitars to the percussion. Great to hear 'Albatross' and 'Oh Well' included in the second half 'Greatest Hits' set too. Here is a nice promo video from YouTube.

imgres

Finally, there was a musical narrative on the life of original AC/DC frontman, Bon Scott, 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be' at the Atheneum Theatre. Very well played, and (predictably) played extremely l-o-u-d. Nick Barker was most impressive giving a personable and engaging performance in the lead role. A good description and back story here.

372380-the-story-of-bon-scott
Doug Parkinson & Nick Barker - Image courtesy Herald Sun 2011

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Bombers Seasons Updates

Good evening,

IMG_0295
Essendon Football Club Update: Here we are at Round 13 of the AFL season and it has not been a great fews weeks for the Bombers I'm afraid.

We haven't won a game in over a month and are only just clinging on to 8th place. Despite excellent efforts from Watson, Fletcher, Crameri, Heppell, Hardingham and Bellchambers there is much more work to do over the next nine weeks or so if we are going to have a winning record for the season.

Oh well, it is a 'development and improvement' year after all...

One highlight for us has been the quality of the reserved seats we have at the MCG and Etihad Stadium. Both around the 50 metre line on the mid levels with a super view.

Imagine how happy I would look after the game if we could actually win one!

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Happy Easter

Another Easter, another bunch of chocolate eggs. Well, it should be but Robin appears to have forgotten about me...

I went to see Dad today and there was plenty of Easter activity at SomerCare with signs, Easter bunny mobiles, hand outs of eggs etc. Nice.
IMG_0283
Dad was OK, but struggling with his knees, making him unsteady on his feet and not able to walk even with the wheeler.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Bob Dylan in Concert

Dylan Ticket_3
For probably the last time, Bob Dylan is touring Australia, and for the first time, Robin and I went to see the legend perform in his second Melbourne concert at the Rod Laver Arena on April 21. And we were not disappointed!

Not being as organised as I should have been I was unaware of who the support act was. It turned out to be Paul Kelly, one of Australia's greatest singer / songwriters and a perfect choice to warm up the crowd. He was most ably accompanied on backing vocals and guitar by his nephew, Dan Kelly. Moving through some of his recent material with a couple of old hits thrown in, the vocals and musicianship were excellent. An energetic version of 'Dumb Things' had the crowd really jumping.

But the PA sound quality was shrill and high-pitched to the point of nearly being painful. I was getting nervous for the main event. I needn't have worried. From the moment the roadies and guitar techs swooped on to the stage to set up Bob Dylan and His Band's instruments, even the tuning sounds were much more normal and balanced. Phew.

The stage set was very simple. No giant insects, cranes, walkways/runways, massive screens, just a curtain for projecting colour and simple images. Dylan led off with 'Gonna Change My Way of Thinking' and two things immediately struck me. Firstly the backing band (drums, bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar and lap steel/banjo/mandolin) was stunning. Tightly focused on Bob and the music, they really grooved. The second thing was, and this is no surprise, the venerable Mr Dylan has little or no voice to speak of. Pardon the pun. A bit of spoken word mixed with a slight bark. And guess what? I knew that, most of the audience knew that and nobody cared! And while I am being honest, Bob didn't engage in small talk with the audience. Not once. Again, who cares. Not an insincere 'Hello Melbo-o-o-r-ne' was heard from the stage.

IMG_0281
Nice shadow from the Dylan Show stage lighting - 2011

After a couple more songs, I was starting to become restless as the song selection and arrangements sounded more like the house band at a high-end' Chicago rock & blues club than what I was innocently expecting of the light & shade of a Dylan concert. After an interesting version of 'Tangled Up in Blue' things really started to move into high gear. The set list was: 

1 Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
2 Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
3 I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
4 Things Have Changed
5 Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
6 Tangled Up In Blue
7 The Levee's Gonna Break
8 Not Dark Yet
9 High Water (for Charlie Patton)
10 A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
11 Highway 61 Revisited
12 Simple Twist Of Fate
13 Thunder On The Mountain
14 Ballad Of A Thin Man


Then came the stunning encore of 'Like a Rolling Stone', 'All Along the "Watchtower' and 'Forever Young' which were all simply breathtaking. Sadly, after one hour, fifty minutes it was all over. A collection of reviews of his first night in Melbourne town can be found here.

So if Bob Dylan didn't sing well or speak to the audience, what did he do exactly? Well, for an artist almost 70 years of age, he did a hell of a lot. He was clearly the 'bandleader' with his supporting cast hanging of his every verse, chorus and musical interlude. Apart from singing (!), he played electric guitar, organ and harmonica particularly effectively, riffing, vamping and wailing, demonstrably adding to the overall feel and quality of the performance. Of course they are his songs, probably his old (and new) arrangements but the guy can still PLAY MUSIC and perform on stage.

I said at the start that Paul Kelly is one of Australia's finest singer / songwriters, but by the end of the evening it was clear that we had witnessed one of history's finest artists. It takes a very special talent to write, record and perform for more than fifty years without selling out or becoming a parody of themselves. Seemingly always re-inventing himself and his music, take a bow, Mr Zimmerman.

Bye for now, BomberBoy

Lorne Holiday

Good afternoon,
_IMG1226
Robin decided that we needed a break from the stresses and strain of being self-funded retirees so she booked us in for a three night / four day holiday in the seaside town of Lorne. We made a late morning start on Tuesday in the Boxster for the two and half hour drive around the bay to the Surf Coast.

Our home for the stay was the refurbished Grand Pacific Hotel (pictured at left), built in the late19th century. Not restored totally to it's former glory, but modern-ish facilities, decent-sized balcony rooms overlooking the ocean / bay and a nice bistro (with no pokies) made for a very pleasant stay. The food was excellent and the wine list sensibly chosen not the usual suspects one typically finds. We particularly enjoyed the Simpson Valley Riesling from Clare in South Australia. Crisp, dry and sensibly priced to boot.

Interestingly no breakfast is available in the hotel during the week, so one either starves (not a valid option for the Humphries party), the lazy can drive or you walk about a kilometre to the township where a range of breakky treats are readily available. We found the walk enjoyable and the exercise valuable. Cafe Lick & Sip was the preferred venue with good coffee, great fresh juice and carefully prepared bacon, eggs etc.

Wandering back to our hotel one afternoon we were met by a couple from Adelaide who wanted to talk about AFL but the conversation easily moved on to golf, travel, house renovations, work reunions and nocturnal escapades... Thanks for a great afternoon Scott & Belinda!

The weather forecast on the news every evening always talks about 'west of Cape Otway' or something similar so when out touring we saw a sign that read to Cape Otway we gave it a go. It was a former lighthouse station but now is a tourist spot, has onsite accomodation in the old lighthouse keepers cottage and offers tours of the lighthouse. It would be very quiet (and creepy) staying overnight I reckon. Shipwreck ghosts, yeesh.

Cottage 1.Readings

Robin 1.Electric Light
Cape Otway Scenes - March 2011

After a slow start to the next day, we decided to try the Otway Fly, a raised rain-forest style walk on a platform suspended some 25 metres above the forest floor. It was an adventure just finding the place with narrow winding roads through towering trees and verdant ferns and undergrowth. Eventually we arrived, paid our money, walked down to the 'Fly'. I made it only about 75 metres before retreating. Robin probably did 200 metres of the 700 metre walk. It was high! And a see-through floor and sides. And it shook! Pass me.

Fly Station
A viewing platform on the 'Fly' - March 2011

And of course no visit to Lorne is complete without a dinner at The Pier Seafood Cafe. Local seafood from the co-op next door doesn't get any fresher and the crayfish mornay I ordered was stunning. All washed down with a Bellarine Peninsula dry white. Excellent!

Cray Boy
Guess which one went in the boiling water first?
Photo by Robin Humphries - March 2011

I should mention the driving. The Boxster S drove superbly the whole time, usually with top down, just purring and slicing through the countryside. Of course everyone knows how good the Great Ocean Road is. And that includes caravaners and motorhome folks and overseas tourists who are sometimes challenged by the concept of driving on the LHS of the road. Interesting... But off the GOR, the road out of Lorne to Deans Marsh is fantastic, and so is the run from Apollo Bay to Lavers Hill. Both highly recommended. So after some 770 kilometres of touring, we travelled back to Queenscliff to take the ferry trip to Sorrento then home a little after lunch on Friday.

Boxster
Our Boxster @ rest - March 2011

Bye for now, BomberBoy

2011 AFL / Bombers Predictions

Good evening,

Another year of AFL is upon us. Shock improvers, surprise losers, sacked coaches, off field indiscretions, and more!

Already, this is shaping up as the best year Essendon will enjoy in recent memory. My estimate is for us to finish somewhere between 8th and 12th. Courageously, I am going to go out on a limb now and predict a finals appearance for ‘King’ James and the boys. The lid is well and truly off!

Why so optimistic? Four simple reasons:
  1. ‘Disunity is death’. The Essendon Football Club is united again after three and a half years of turmoil following the messy ‘assassination’ of Kevin Sheedy, the bumbling along of the Horsburgh/Jackson period, the flirtation with Michael Voss leading to the hasty and disastrous coaching appointment of Matthew Knights; and more recently many months of senior management dithering as the club plunged to it’s lowest depths on and the off field in decades last year. David Evans, the board and management team finally found their vision, spine and mojo, amply demonstrated by the assembling of the off-field team mentioned below, and the courageous Windy Hill relocation decision;
  2. The recruitment of the best coaching & support team in the AFL, Hird, Thompson, Wellman, Goodwin, McCartney, supported by Dean Wallis in Player Development and Danny Corcoran looking after Player Welfare. An outstanding off-field team that will bear significant fruit in 2011, but will show even greater value in two or three years time;
  3. A new defensive oriented game plan. Much has been written about this in the press already. Put simply Essendon now looks like a competitive 21st century football team;
  4. A pretty strong list when combined with the two factors above. This year has the best crop of new recruits I can remember for ages including Crameri (has a real ‘X’ factor about him so get him off the Rookie List fast!), Hibberd (is poised and hard-at-it), Heppel (an absolute gun) and Browne (classy with good skills) to name just four. And you can add to that list ‘virtual’ recruits like a fit David Myers and Mark Williams along with the continued development of Jetta, Howlett, Riemers, Colyer, Melksham, Zaharakis, Davey, Bellchambers, Hardingham and Hurley. With the improved upfield pressure, I like our defensive structure that includes rotations of Hooker, Pears, Myers, Slattery, Fletcher and Dempsey. Also throw in the big guys Ryder and Gumbleton supporting ‘old stagers’ in Watson, Hille, Stanton and McVeigh and I think you may find that some of our middle-ranking players who consistently ‘mailed-it-in’ may be struggling for a game under the new regime… Competition is good!
Are there any negatives? Only three that I can see:
  1. Injuries, especially to our key on-ballers and defenders. No different to any other side really;
  2. A tough early draw. Even if we play OK, we could find ourselves in a 0-5, 1-4 win-loss position which may sap the confidence of the players, both in themselves, and with the new game plan;
  3. With a new, high energy game plan plus the reduced rotations off the interchange bench, and with a number of younger, lighter bodied players, you might expect that the long AFL season will at some point take it’s toll. If that is sooner, rather than later, it may limit the win count by the end of the season;
‘We are One!’ Robin and I have heeded the cry, and are paid up members again this year, adding home game reserved seats to our package, I even signed up for AFL Membership again (Essendon club support package). This entitled me to free entry to the pre-season NAB Cup games. I attended our games against Melbourne and St Kilda so I have seen two wins, for 'free', already. Great value!

As for my overall 2011 season predictions, stick these in your time capsule!

Collingwood are the reigning premiers, have lost nobody of substance, recruited well and are still young. Deserved flag favourites. Gee, that was hard to write! As for the rest of the ‘8’, that is more difficult. The Saints are treading water with limited fire-power and a one-dimensional game style in my opinion and if it ain’t this year then they could be headed south. The Western Bulldogs are a chance with a strong list and some youth coming through, although Johnson is a big loss. I had Hawthorn as a GF contender last year and they let me down badly but with Hodge, Rioli, Franklin and Roughead fit and going around, they must be a threat, although Brown is a spiritual and onfield loss. Fremantle are too dependent on Sandilands and Pavlich. If either of those two go down injured forget it. Hard to like Carlton, except for the Judd factor, and after the off-season mass exodus from Cat-land, Geelong has looked pretty ordinary pre-season. I have them still in the eight, but they would need to quickly find some consistency and form with their new coaching direction.

Hard to see any of the bottom nine teams threatening those sides above them. Melbourne has made a grave error in shooting their experienced club men (Essendon in’09 anyone?) while investing too heavily in youth and they will struggle in 2011, and the Swans have stalled. Adelaide are rebuilding given their retirements last year, and North, badly hit by early injuries, and Richmond who need to find support for Jack Riewoldt are the best of the rest. It is going be a long, cold season for Port, West Coast and Brisbane. I like the building of the Suns list, but history shows year one in the AFL is a tough gig. Anything above 17th would be a very successful year.

Ladder:

Collingwood
Hawthorn
St Kilda
Bulldogs
Fremantle
Carlton
Geelong
Essendon
Sydney
Adelaide
Melbourne
North Melbourne
Richmond
Port Adelaide
West Coast Eagles
Brisbane
Gold Coast Suns

Wooden Spoon: Gold Coast Suns (just)

Coleman Medal: Jonathan Brown (Brisbane)

Brownlow Medal: Chris Judd (Carlton)

NAB Rising Star: Dyson Heppel (Essendon)

First coach sacked: John Worsfold , Dean Bailey or Michael Voss

Bye for now, BomberBoy

The 'Greening' of Chateau Humphries

Good evening,

Don't think that I have shared this before but we continue to 'green' our property and lifestyle, minimising our footprint on the planet (if you ignore the cars of course...).

Previously we installed water tanks (some 50,000 litres total storage), installed a pumping station to send water to the garden beds and animal troughs from the dam and planted scores of trees for shade and O2 generation.

And now, we have added solar panels to utilise clean energy to power the property. On a good day we are energy positive, that is we are adding solar energy back into the grid as we are generating more than we are using. Well, we would be if the power companies would get their act together. It remains to be seen how successful the generation is in the winter months. Will post more technical detail when I understand it. Don't wait up.

Overall, I suspect the cost far outweighs the dollar benefits as the installation / rebate / refund scheme seems like a bit of a scam, but we feel we are doing our little bit for the environment. Cue the playing of violins...

_IMG0912

Bye for now, BomberBoy

AmpliTube iRig for iPad

Santa did a nice job of squeezing an iRig, by Amplitube, guitar amplifier adapter / iPad app down the chimney for me for Christmas.

main

More details on the device here.

It is very easy to use. I have it connected to me Fender Strat at one end and some Grado SR-60 headphones at the other. There are lots of in-app options (amp cabinets, effects, pedals etc) to be added but it is pretty useful straight out of the box.

One cool feature is the iTunes playlist integration. My buddies and I have a garage-band set that we play whenever we get together. I made playlist of the original tracks in iTunes so I stream those through the iRig and just play along to the best of my limited ability!

Entry level cost is around $A60. A very good investment IMHO. A gadget I actually use!