Saturday, 26 March 2011


“No one feels another’s grief, no one understands another’s joy. People imagine they can reach one another. In reality they only pass each other by.” - Franz Schubert

A full day, but also enjoyable. We went out, did some shopping, visited a friend, came back home, did some gardening and some chores around the house. Then it was time to have some lunch and to watch a movie. Went out this evening and now it’s time to enjoy some Schubert played wonderfully by Valentina Lisitsa. Here is his Impromptu in B flat major…

Friday, 25 March 2011


“It is better to rise from life as from a banquet - neither thirsty nor drunken.” - Aristotle

Today is Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. On this day Mary received the news from the angel Gabriel that she was to be with child. It was a textbook pregnancy and nine months to the day later, baby Emmanuel was born. It is an important Feast in both the Catholic and Orthodox Church calendars, with much rite and pomp accompanying the doxology of the proceedings. It is one of the high holidays of the church ever since the cult of the Virgin became widespread in early Christianity.

It is also the Independence Day of Greece, as it was on this day in 1821, that the Greek Revolution began, having as its goal the expulsion of the Turks who had held it in thrall for 400 years. It is a public holiday in Greece, it being a double feast day, both a religious one, as well as a lay one. It is customary for big military parades to be organized on this day in the big cities.

As it is the Great Lent and everyone in Greece would normally fast for 50 days before Easter, here is a Lenten recipe which is healthful and vegetarian, but also adheres to the rules of the Greek Orthodox fast. It is from the island of Crete, where during the 17th century the Venetian occupation left some linguistic and culinary traditions. The Cretan Caltsounia are a derivation of the Italian “Calzoni dolci”.

1.5 kg flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 heaped tbsp. sugar
1 cup tahina (sesame pulp, available in Greek or Middle Eastern shops)
1 cup marmalade
1 cup sultanas
1 cup roasted, coarsely ground walnuts
1 cup chopped glacé fruits (cherries, citrus peel, apricots, figs, pears)
Orange flower water (available in Greek or Middle Eastern shops)
Icing sugar for dusting

•    Sift the flour and baking powder, adding the sugar and tahina, mixing well with your fingertips so that it becomes crumbly. Add a few tablespoonfuls of water and knead gently to form a soft dough.
•    Mix the marmalade with the sultanas, walnut meal and glacé fruits.
•    Take a piece of dough the size of two walnuts and roll out till it becomes as big as a saucer.
•    Put a large tablespoonful of the marmalade mixture on one half of the rolled out dough, wet the edges of the dough and then fold over the filling to shape like a half moon. Use a fork to seal the edges.
•    Repeat to use up all the dough and filling.
•    Bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. As son as they are out of the oven sprinkle with orange flower water and dust with icing sugar.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


“The difference between a job and a career is the difference between forty and sixty hours a week.” - Robert Frost

I am in Adelaide for the day today and unusually for Adelaide, the day was rather dull and gray, with the temperatures low in keeping with the season. I say unusually, as Adelaide generally has warmer weather than Melbourne and more often than not one can expect a sunny day here. At least it did not rain and I was able to go everywhere I needed to by walking. Adelaide City is a very pleasant one to walk in and as well as going to our College Campus here I also visited the TAFE SA campus and the UniSA campus. It ended up being a very hectic day, but at least many things got done. It does make for a long working day, however, when one leaves home at the crack of dawn and doesn’t get back until well into the night.

One of the things I had on my agenda today was to have a meeting with students who had some issues with the way the College processes operate. I always like to talk to students directly as someone in my position rarely gets a chance to do this under normal circumstances and I tend to get shielded from such contact by various academic and administrative layers. Information can be distorted as it passes through these layers and sometimes I am unaware of some important issues, or they are reported to me second and third hand, which can give me an inaccurate perception of them. Talking to students directly gives me an accurate idea of what the student experience is like and I can then investigate the issues they divulge in a more informed manner.

I think politicians, CEOs, directors and other executives should always strive to listen to the voices of the people they serve, lead or represent, and if possible do it in a manner that is the least intrusive possible (maybe incognito?). That way they will get an idea of what is really going on and they will be able to understand what is happening at the grass roots level in an unfiltered and undistorted manner. One would have to ensure that the sample was an unbiased and representative one, but many small samples is another way of getting to appreciate the truth of the matters at hand.

My meeting with the students today made me see certain matters in a new light and I took out of that meeting several action items. Tomorrow I shall be able to confront some members of my staff with some apt questions that will certainly highlight a few deficiencies in our system. Acting on the information that I gathered today will be a very delicate matter. One has to be informed, certainly, but one must also allow any party involved the right of reply and justification. We all know that after one hears both sides of an argument, the truth must lie somewhere in between…

The other interesting thing that happened today, was an information session that I attended regarding the changes that are happening in tertiary educational regulation and quality assurance in Australia. Legislation has been introduced into Parliament, which will allow the creation of a single national authority that will take over all such regulatory and quality assurance activities in Australia from January 1, 2012.

The new body is TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency), which will take over from AUQA, various Offices of Higher Education that are state-based, and will also assume the responsibility of overseeing the education of international students in Australia. This new system promises to be a unified and unitary system that will have greater power to intervene and enforce compliance, combining regulatory and quality improvement activities.

It will simplify much of the bureaucracy that now rules several related areas in regulatory and legislative compliance and will increase the efficiency of all processes relating to oversight of tertiary education in Australia. It is something that was triggered by the 2008 review of Tertiary Education in Australia carried out by Denise Bradley. I am personally overjoyed at this turn of events as it will reduce the cost of our regulatory compliance, decrease the time we need to accredit and approve our degree programs, but also increase the overall efficiency of all of our compliance-related activities.


“An act of love that fails is just as much a part of the divine life as an act of love that succeeds, for love is measured by fullness, not by reception.” - Harold Lokes

I’ve had a very busy couple of days at work, and in particular, today was rather stressful as the whole afternoon was taken up by a couple of staff mediation interviews that were very tough going for everyone concerned. Dealing with staff issues and their resolution can take up a great deal of time and one must invest in the process much effort and sensitivity, as well as proceeding in a fair, transparent and unprejudiced manner. These interviews today were unpleasant, but I was satisfied with what was achieved under the difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, I felt drained at the end of the day…

The autumnal weather is continuing and more rain is predicted for tonight and tomorrow. Temperatures are low and the skies leaden, with the occasional shower bathing the vegetation and carrying messages of winter’s approach. More leaves turn to yellow and the chrysanthemums are budding, while the garden is slowly becoming a place less attractive.

Here is a poem I wrote a long time ago, but remembered today as it was written in a autumnal mood and during the time of fall.


A pity that you failed to accept me
As the gift that I made of myself to you,
Freely and earnestly given.
You sent me away, lost me, forgot me,
Killing what was most beautiful in me.
I am a desert now, a burnt and barren wasteland
Filled only with cold gray ash.

A pity that you didn’t learn the language of tangerines,
You didn’t catch the moonbeams I handed to you plaited in a skein,
Forever lost as they sublimated around your clenched fists.
You failed to appreciate their worth,
Failed to even outstretch your hand in a token gesture of acceptance,
Leaving without turning back,
Leaving behind all of my offerings.

A pity that the syllables I whispered in your shell-pink ear
Secretly spoken with vowels of daisies and consonants of lilacs,
Fell softly, echoing briefly in empty rooms.
A pity that you stopped your ears lest you hear
The speech of affection and the song of love.
You didn’t feel, didn’t understand, didn’t even sympathise
With my savage need and urgent desire.

A pity that I was lost to you, was distanced from you,
All on a whim, you exiled me and banished even my memory,
Leaving with me only the remembrance of your rejection.
A pity that my heart remained a scorched place,
Refused the nourishing rain of your presence.
A pity that you left me, negating even my ability
To say that I lost you as I never had you.
A pity, as the greatest loser is you.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” - Thomas Fuller

Water: Essential for life, indispensable nutrient, great solvent, excellent cleanser! Our bodies are about 70% water and 71% of our planet’s surface is covered by water. However, only 3% of this water is fresh water and even less is safe for human consumption. We can live many weeks without food, but without water we die within a day or two depending on our environment…

International World Water Day
is held annually on 22nd March as a means of reminding people of the importance of fresh water and advocating for the sustainable management of fresh water resources.

An international day to celebrate fresh water was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day. Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of fresh water.

This year’s theme, Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge, aims to spotlight and encourage governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the challenges of urban water management. This is the first time in human history that most of the world’s population live in cities: 3.3 billion people, in fact are city dwellers and the urban landscape continues to grow as urbanization becomes more widespread in the very populous developing countries. A significant proportion (38%) of the growth is represented by expanding slums, while the city populations are increasing faster than city infrastructure can adapt.

The objective of World Water Day 2011 is to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialisation and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems. We expand our cities, our population grows, pollution becomes more widespread, rainfall less reliable and ground water contaminated, while demand for fresh water of good quality increases every day. And even in cities where tap water of excellent quality is to be found (we are fortunate in Melbourne to enjoy this), the amount of bottled water marketed is ridiculously high.

Water is life and without water, there is no living. Water is so essential, that when scientists explore the universe for life out there in the galaxy, they look for signs of water. Over 1 billion people in the world lack sustainable access to fresh water. Safe drinking water and basic sanitation are intrinsic to human survival, well-being and dignity. Cities cannot be sustainable without ensuring reliable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Coping with the growing needs of water and sanitation services within cities is one of the most pressing issues of this century. Sustainable, efficient and equitable management of water in cities has never been as important as in today’s world.

Within two decades, nearly 60% of the world’s people will be urban dwellers. Urban growth is most rapid in the developing world, where cities gain an average of 5 million residents every month. The exploding urban population growth creates unprecedented challenges, among which provision for water and sanitation have been the most pressing and painfully felt when lacking. Next time you turn the tap on and you fill your glass with clean, fresh water that is safe to drink and bathe in, spare a thought for the majority of the people on our planet who cannot do that and many of whom risk dying of thirst and dehydration, or of water-borne diseases.

Monday, 21 March 2011


“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” - Oscar Wilde

At the weekend we saw the 2009 Oliver Parker film “Dorian Gray”. It is based on Oscar Wilde’s only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, first published in 1890 in Lippincott’s Magazine. The plot concerns a handsome young man, Dorian Gray, who becomes the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is infatuated by Dorian’s beauty and believes that this portrait and Dorian’s beauty is responsible for a new phase in his art. Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil meets Dorian and the young man finds a surrogate father figure in Lord Wotton. Unfortunately, Lord Wotton is a hedonistic roué who suggests to Dorian that the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfilment of the senses. Dorian realises that his beauty is ephemeral and he half-jokingly expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than himself. Dorian’s wish is fulfilled, and he plunges into debauchery and heinous crimes. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.

The novel of course is powerful and allegorical, it is full of Wilde’s wit and beauty and holds a worthy place amongst the great literary works. It is a gothic horror story but nevertheless, full of philosophical questions, explorations of the human condition and the nature of the soul. The film follows the novel, but is an adaptation and introduces some variants, stresses some parts (the bawdy bits) and glosses over some other more important ones (the philosophical and emotional bits), which is an attempt to make the film more marketable and appealing to the 21st century audience with the jaded palate. It is inevitable that any novel adapted for film will be changed and reinvented for the new medium, however, a good adaptation preserves the spirit of the novel, rather than magnifying the sensationalist parts and ignoring the essence.

In terms of the actors, Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray was miscast, in my opinion, as he is not striking handsome nor “beautiful” in the way that Basil sees him. His acting is poor and he simpers throughout most of the role and once cannot garner enough emotion to love him or hate him. He inspires boredom more than anything else. Colin Firth as the hedonistic dandy Lord Wotton is a better choice, although his part is rather static (at least for the first three quarters of the film) and his lines predictable. Ben Chaplin does a good job of tackling a bit of a pastiche of the role of Basil as there is not much time nor character development meted out to him in the film. Rachel Hurd-Wood as Sybil Vane looks delightful and plays her small part beautifully.

The scenery, costumes and cinematography are well done, however, the special effects are more worthy of a B-grade horror film. The music was not memorable, therefore unobtrusive and adequate. The direction a trifle pedestrian, and the emphasis placed on Dorian’s licentious sexual escapades in the bedroom overly long. Not much is done to explore Dorian’s fascination with murder, drugs and his relationship with Lord Wotton. As was mentioned above, this is an eminently marketable film, and as it aiming towards the masse of illiterate crowds, it did the best it could.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.” - Banksy

The weather was just perfect today, warm and sunny with a slight breeze. We had a leisurely breakfast, ambled about in the back garden and then decided to go for a drive down to Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. This is a famous Melbourne street which is trendy and modern, old-fashioned and retro, sophisticated and daggy all rolled into one. There, one can find restaurants and cafés, galleries and exhibition spaces, bookshops and clothes stores, gift shops and flower shops, pubs and wine bars, warehouses and boutiques. The people are as mixed-up and crazy as the shops. Innocent young teens, goths and missionaries, arty types and yobbos, rednecks and multicultural intellectuals, flibbertigibbets and strong silent hulks, druggies and squeaky clean preppies, straight and gay, all are represented here. Add to that the “sightseers” and “tourists” who are always ambling up and down to check out the place.

For many years I had a part-time job in a College off Brunswick St, so I know this neighbourhood and its denizens quite well. It is still a fashionable place to have a stroll in and as we hadn’t been there for ages, we decided to go there and have lunch in one of the many cafés. One of the features of this neighbourhood is its many pieces of street art. There are mosaics on the pavements, decorated ceramic benches, statues, cast ironwork, fancy shop signs but also lots of graffiti and posters on many walls. This street art together with the galleries and exhibitions lend a rather bohemian, arty cast to the street.

Many people are annoyed by the graffiti, but I feel there is a place for it if it is confined to certain areas. It can be harnessed to decorate and make a social comment, it can amuse and surprise, it can sometimes achieve interesting and amazing visual effects. However, there is also the mindless, destructive graffiti of the “piss-on-the wall”, “mark-my-territory” variety that is boring, ugly and defacing. Also of course, graffiti that is inappropriately placed is rather hideous and obtrusive, as well as offensive.

For Art Sunday today, here is a large piece of Brunswick St “graffiti art”, well in keeping with the unconventional and avant-garde nature of this non-conformist part of Melbourne. It is brash and colourful, more than a little tongue-in-cheek and very well executed. Not the sort of thing most people would want to have on their wall, but for where it is just right… I know some people that object violently to any graffiti, wherever it is and whatever it is. In many parts of Melbourne, graffiti is part of the streetscape and some progressive councils actually collaborate with graffiti artists in order to use graffiti in a decorative and streetscape-enhancing manner. What do you think?