Bruce Stainsby's Blog: Muttering from the mo

Beers of our travels.

August 26th, 2014

As we are about to head off on another trip, I thought it might be worth publishing this list.

It’s by no means a complete inventory of the brews I have tried over the last couple of years, but it does cover many of them.

The one thing I’ve noticed, each time I return to Australia, is that there’s an increasing number of craft beers on offer. For that reason I have added some of these to my file.

My rating system is arbitrary.

It’s based as much on the time, the place and my mood at that time and place, than the quality of the beer.

I intend to continue building the list, as we slowly make our way west from China through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and into Iran, where there will be no beer at all.



August 10th, 2014

Colour or color

When I first became involved in graphic design, colour was all about print and the Pantone Matching System (PMS) was my bible.

We either used the four colour process (CMYK) or what were called ‘Specials’ or Spot Colours. These were colours mixed by the printer to PMS specifications.

I then found an abandoned book in an agency and it became an indispensable tool for developing colour schemes.

Now most of my design work is done on screen, using Red, Green and Blue (RGB) or Hexadecimal colours (Hex) for web.

Like conventionally printed work, design for the screen is restricted to what appears best on the web.

Now my colour bibles aren’t books but websites.

Here are a couple of sites that Hayden and Evan alerted me to. They are extremely clever in the way they develop screen friendly colour schemes.


Adobe Kuler | Paleton

Hoddle’s Grid.

July 15th, 2014

The Hoddle Grid is the street layout of Melbourne’s CBD.

It was named after its designer, Robert Hoddle (1794 – 1881) Hoddle was an accomplished artist and surveyor.

Hoddle’s Grid covers the area from Flinders Street, in the south to Queen Victoria Market in the north and Spencer Street in the west to Spring Street in the east.

The State Library of Victoria have just released an iPhone app that has used over 300 images of old Melbourne and combined them with stories and historical detail.

“The app uses your location to reveal rarely seen photos and stories of the surrounding buildings and streetscapes, as well as amazing aerial views.”

I have only spent a brief time using it while walking around the city and found it fascinating. It sadly reveals just how many old buildings have fallen to Whelan the Wrecker’s demolition ball.

Hoddle’s Grid: Street history of Melbourne is only for iPhones so Android users will unfortunately miss out.

The old fish market in Flinders Street (gone)

The old fish market in Flinders Street (gone)


First Class, Business Class, Economy Class
and now Amoeba Class.

June 23rd, 2014


We usually fly economy, especially on shorter journeys. The service, food and legroom has alway been of a high standard, especially with Emirates, our preferred carrier for flights to Asia or Europe.

On our recent trip to Tonga we flew with Air New Zealand.

Little did we know that we had purchased a basic flight option, which was called ‘Seat+Bag’ This was, as it suggests, a seat in the plane and 1 checked bag.

Nothing else.

No food, no drinks, no movies, just tea, coffee and water.

We made the trip to Tonga in two legs. Melbourne to Auckland (3h 30m) then Auckland to Nuku’alofa (2h 50m)

We arrived in Tonga at 10pm, so by the time we had been processed through customs and immigration, and made the slow drive to our hotel, it was midnight.

As expected, the kitchen at the Little Italy Hotel was closed.

Another by-product of Amoeba Class is that, because it costs extra to have stowed luggage, a lot of passengers only travel with cabin bags.

Some of these are huge and way larger than the official size.

We seemed to always be the last to be called on board, so by the time we got to our seats all the overhead lockers were full. You are then forced to stuff leftover luggage under the seat in front of you.

Now the Amoeba is one of the lowest forms of life, and that’s how we were made to feel on Air New Zealand.

But I guess that’s a consequence of budget travel.

Peace and not so quiet on Fafa Island.

June 7th, 2014

The sounds of domestic animals was now replaced with the more melodic chirping of birds, and waves gently lapping on the beach outside our fale on Fafa Island.

Fale is the Samoan word for house, however it is widely used in other parts of Polynesia.

The fales all have names and ours was called Niu, which means coconut in Tongan.

It was set in a secluded tropical garden surrounded by palms. We had our own private beach with two sun lounges. There were also more sun lounges in the garden and on the veranda, and a large hammock, hanging in the shade.

There was certainly no shortage of places to do absolutely nothing – which is what we did for most of the time.

The quiet was broken briefly on Saturday morning when a boat load of Chinese tourists arrived from the mainland for a day trip.

The Kingdom of Tonga has 176 Islands scattered over an area of 700,000 square kilometers of the South Pacific.

Only 52 islands are inhabited and Fafa is one.

This idyllic Robinson Crusoe style island is only 17 acres in size and dotted with coconut palms and surrounded by sandy beaches and coral reefs.

Fafa was developed in 1982 by Rainer Urtel, a German hippy, who fell in love with the Island.

Now in his 70s he still comes every year, for two months, to manage the property. For the rest of the year two other couples take over. Heidi and Martin, from Austria, were currently in charge. Heidi has been working on Fafa for the last ten years and other members of staff had been there that long as well.

She told us that she had tried to escape the island a few years ago but its magnetic charms drew her back.

At low tide you can circumnavigate Fafa. It only takes about 30 minutes and that’s with plenty of time to take some snaps.

When the tide is high there is a bush trail that runs through the eastern part. This section of Fafa is uninhabited and again only takes a short time to explore.

Bird life is everywhere and come dawn the squeak, squawk and screeching of the locals is deafening.

There are even some rather rare Fijian parrots, that were originally brought to Tonga for their feathers but now roam freely around the island.

One afternoon we spent a pleasant couple of hours snorkelling on a reef that was closer to the main island. The coral wasn’t great but there was a good variety of fish.

Our boatman, Moses, had great fun getting the some members of the group back into the boat, after the snorkelling.

He claimed that the boat’s ladder had been stolen, but I think he enjoyed the entertainment too much.

On our last day, the usual morning chorus was interrupted by a sudden downpour. It didn’t last long, however the weather had changed and it was a lot cooler.

This didn’t stop us having another snorkel, this time off the beach, in front of our fale. There were fewer fish but the coral was much better.

Fafa was made a Marine Preserve in 2013. This has already helped to protect the coral reef from over fishing and return it to a more natural state.


The sounds of Nuku’alofa, Tonga.

May 28th, 2014

Pigs squealing, dogs barking and roosters crowing.
These were the sounds of our first night at the Little Italy Hotel in Nuku’alofa.
The most predominant sound however, was of the rain pouring down, as the weather was stormy and the sky grey.
On our first day we headed into town to visit the Talamuhu Market. This is the main market on the island of Tongatapu, where all the local farmers bring their produce to trade.
Everything is available.
Fresh fruit and vegetables, handy crafts and a huge variety of clothes, both local and imported. Plus Father’s Day cakes, that were either in chocolate or banana and covered in a thick icing, then decorated with sprinkles and candles.
Father’s Day should be September but it has been decided to move it closer to Mother’s Day, just to make sure that the dads aren’t forgotten.
Mother’s Day was last Sunday.
The market isn’t restricted to the city centre but extends along the Vuna Road towards the port. Here the produce is cheaper and the customers stop by the roadside to haggle for the best price before buying.
On our second full day the rain gave way to wind and we ventured out on to the deserted streets of Nuku’alofa. It was Sunday and everything was shut except the churches and they were alive with gospel singing combined with choruses of amens and hallelujahs.
We joined the service at the Centennial Church, built in 1983 but looking centuries older. It’s the site of the main basilica of Nuku’alofa that was founded in 1885 by King George Tupou and originally the Free Wesleyan Church.
This is a grand but crumbling edifice, greatly in need of repair, much like at lot of what we have seen in the capital.
We were welcomed into the church with broad smiles and many questions as to our origins.
The choir and brass band were seated in the centre of the church. They were all dressed in white and the women wore hats that would do the Melbourne Cup proud.
The rain held off in the afternoon so we decided to walk across the peninsula to the Fanga’ Uta Lagoon. There were many church services in progress as we made our way south. Once at the lagoon we were befriended by a local boy who insisted on showing us “His Church”. He told us that is was a beautiful house and designed to look like a boat in full sail.
Unlike the basilica, the Constitutional Church was a contemporary design with stained glass windows that paid homage to Piet Mondrian, the Dutch modernist who was part of the non representational movement of the early 20th century.
As we arrived, with our newest best friend, we were joined by his friends who tagged along as we explored the church.
We then walked back into the town centre in search of a cup of coffee. Breakfast had been a lean affair, as the kitchen was closed, because it was Sunday and also Father’s day, so we were given a boxed meal, sans the usual caffeine hit.
We did find a café that was reluctantly open and there, together with the other tourists, got our morning stimulus. However by this time it was well into the afternoon.
Walking back to the hotel we passed the Royal Palace. This is about the only building in Nuka’alofa that is kept in a state of repair.
However the most recent Kings don’t live there, as they have large properties scattered over the island.
The wind was rising and the roar through the palm trees was punctuated by the rumble of the approaching thunder storm.
On Monday the sky cleared and we walked back along Vuna Road, skirting around the palace and down to the port.
The fish market was meant to be open daily, so we thought this would be a good place to get a feeling of local port life.
It was open but there was only a handful of vendors selling a very limited range, most of it frozen.
Dogs are everywhere in Nuku’alofa. We were told that the Tongans don’t like have their dogs inside so they have a free run outside. They pay scant regard to the cars that seem to skillfully avoid hitting them. The drivers are equally adept at avoiding the pigs and piglets that also scurry across the streets.
Surprisingly there is very little ‘road kill’ in Tonga.
Having brought the obligatory postcards we now went in search of the recently relocated post office.
It was way out of town and the walk there took us past the local girls high school. Thea was continually approached by groups of giggling girls wanting to have their photos taken.
It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we walked back to the hotel and the sun was low in the sky.
It was the magic hour for photography, so we went down onto the beach in front of the hotel. It was low tide and the water was sparkling. Even the wreck, that’s directly opposite the hotel, took on a special look. The locals were also there but they were busy fishing or repairing the large fish trap that’s also in front of the hotel.
We had booked a hire car and planned to tour around Tongatapu. It was a black VW Beetle, that on the outside looked very smart. However on closer inspection was a little worse for wear. It had only done 80,000 km but it looked like it had done a lot more.
We very quickly discovered why.
No sooner had we left the town centre, the roads deteriorated quickly and we found ourselves driving at 5 km/h, in some areas, to avoid the water filled pot holes. The roads, do however, dramatically improve when you approach a royal residence.
Our first stop was the blow holes on the southern coastline, near Houma. Here waves send the water spouting meters into the air, as it is forced through natural vents in the coral rock.
Ten minutes of photography was followed by ten more minutes of cleaning our camera lenses.
From there we headed west, along the Liku Road, toward Ha’atufu, the site of Abel Tasman’s landing in 1643.
Then it was back east along the Loto, Taufa’anau and Tuku’aho Roads to Captain Cook’s landing site. This is the place where Cook, in 1777, named Tonga ‘The Friendly Isles’ as the people there seemed very welcoming. Little did he know that they were planning to kill him, they just hadn’t worked out how to go about it.
This site was very dilapidated, much more so than Abel Tasman’s.
As we drove around the Island there appears to be little industry. That’s except for the telecommunications providers, which are all controlled by the royal family.
We continued our circumnavigation of Tongatupa, visiting the Ha’amonga Trilithon. Known as the Stonehenge of the South Pacific, these standing stones were erected in 1200AD. There are a number of theories as to their origin or purpose. The latest is that they are a form of solar calendar.
Driving down the east coast on the Liku Road we visited Anahulu Beach and ventured inside the stalactite caves. We didn’t get very far as the steps were wet, it was dark and we only had our iPhones to see by.
Next stop was the Hufangalupe or Pigeon’s Doorway. This is a large coral bridge where the sea rushes through a narrow opening many meters below. The coastline is spectacular in this part of the island but the road to get there had me wishing I had hired a 4WD, not the Beetle.
By our last day on Tongatapu we had just about seen all there was to see, so we had a slow walk into Nuka’alofa and wandered around the oldest part of town. Even though the buildings are run down they still have a Pacific charm about them.
Although this was a break full of different sounds, we had a very quiet time. We are now off to Fafa Island, where it’s bound to be even quieter.

A good dose of comedy might cure the spread
of boring advertising.

April 16th, 2014

Last weekend we went to two different shows that were part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

I had forgotten just how well a comedian can hold a mirror up to society and reflect our silly side.

Good advertising can do the same thing, only with a commercial message attached.

If we laugh at a joke in an ad, and that joke is relevant to the product, then there is a far better chance that we will remember that ad and therefore the product.

One of the acts we saw was Ronny Chieng, a Malaysian comedian who was educated in Melbourne. Ronny had that wonderful ability to be both self deprecating and an astute observer of human nature.

He could poke fun at himself while making fun of his audience.

Many advertisers take themselves and their brands too seriously. This results in boring, predictable advertising that tries too hard.

More ad men and marketers should learn the art of comedy. Maybe they might produce better ads, that sell more products, without boring us senseless.


Ronny Chieng

Ronny Chieng

I want to ride my bicycle.
I want to ride it where I like.

April 1st, 2014

Over the course of our travels in Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, I have come across bikes in all sorts of environments.

Being relatively cheap to buy, easy to maintain and requiring no fuel, except the rider’s sweat, they are the the world’s most popular mode of transport.

These bikes aren’t owned by lycra wearing, latte drinking, road racing followers of the Tour de France, but simple people who need their bikes for everyday living.

There are over a billion bikes in the world – here are a few of them.

Sapa, Vietnam

Same, same but very different.

March 17th, 2014

Automobiles really haven’t changed much in the last 100 years.

A box on 4 wheels with seats, lights, windows and something to steer the whole thing with.

It’s what the designer does with those elements that sets each car apart.

Take these two for example.

On the surface they look very similar. It’s only when you look closely that the quality of the design shows through.

The designer of Hyundai has integrated all the elements – the curve of the lights blends into the boot and bumper.

While the same features in the Lexus seem to be thrown together, with little regard for harmony or aesthetics.

Admittedly I am only looking at the surface features and not the build quality or engineering.

On face value the Hyundai, at $36,390, is better value, at least visually, than the Lexus at $91,138.

Automotive design

A different view of Melbourne.

February 8th, 2014

For my most recent birthday Thea shouted me a joy flight over Melbourne.

It was booked through RedBalloon and was in a vintage Tiger Moth.

The de Havilland Tiger Moth is a biplane that was first built in the 1930s and was primarily used as a trainer. This one had a six-cylinder Gipsy Major engine.

The one I flew in was painted in PMS300, my favourite shade of blue.

Lionel, a local Bayside character, was my pilot and he took me on a wonderful 35 minute adventure over the city and the bay. We left Moorabbin Airport at 8am, the sky was a little hazy but the air was warm and still, so the flight was very smooth.

Our flight path took us north to the city, via Flemington Racecourse, then over the Melbourne Sports Precinct and the MCG. From there we went to the top of the CBD, and over St Patricks Cathedral, the Exhibition Buildings, then across to the Queen Victoria Market.

Flying west we then headed over the Docklands Stadium and out towards Williamstown. Dropping from our cruising altitude of 1,400 feet to 500 feet we flew down the bay and past the Tasmanian ferry terminal. Then hugging the coast we flew south past the Bayside suburbs of Middle Park, St Kilda, Brighton, Sandringham, Black Rock, Beaumaris and then circled back to Moorabbin.

I managed to take 107 snaps as the wind rushed through the cockpit and my moustache.

I am not sure how those ‘Flying types’ kept a stiff upper lip and their mo in control, back in the day.