Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Living out west

We visited some friends on the weekend at their new place in Sydney's south west - around Ingleburn to be exact. Or right next door to Macquarie Fields, scene of some riots not long ago.

The trip down was pretty quick - about 45 minutes, but they told me that on weekdays, the traffic heading into town on the motorway starts banking up at 5.30am and is gridlock not long after. No thanks - that's not for me.

They're on a biggish block in a gated community - 880 square metres, which is a bit under the old quarter acre, but they have a park next door which makes it seem much larger. It's at least double the size of the block that we are living on at the moment, so one can't complain. Our whole house and block could fit into their backyard.

Their house is big and new, but it's definitely not for me. I didn't like the brick finish, nor the interior finishes, or the design. It just wasn't me. It's an off-the-plan design by one of the major builders, and the whole suburb looks very much the same - new, shiny and predisposed to date very quickly.

What got me is that none of the houses in the entire development had any eaves. No one bothers with keeping out the sunlight anymore - they just install massive air conditioners. Instead of installing the biggest model of home air conditioner, they had gone and bought the smallest commercial unit. It was the size of a small Hyundai. It's a sensible choice, but I hate to think what the power bills will be like next year.

The suburb comes complete with two tennis courts, a 25 metre swimming pool and a golf course (got no idea how many holes). You get golf course membership with the block, but still have to pay green fees. To date, they haven't used any of the sports facilities as they've been too busy laying grass and building retaining walls and the driveway and a huge fish pond.

Call me a location snob if you like, but I hope to never move out that far. Yes, the place is free of hoons and graffiti and noise, and there is plenty of room in the backyard and all that, but it just failed to grab me. We could move out there, have an affordable mortgage and a big block and house, but I still prefer to have a horrible mortgage and a smaller house and block and live within coo-ee of the city.

Why is this? It sounds like mad behaviour to me.

Monday, 30 July 2007


Another day, another ride out west to try and find the route to Parramatta. This time, I managed to get lost going around Homebush Bay and ended up riding past Silverwater Prison. I don't know how I ended up there. I got home and had a look at the area on Google Maps and it took me five minutes to work out where I ended up. I was seriously off course. I really need to take a GPS with me. I am crap with directions.

Once I got back on course, I did manage to find the turn off to Parramatta. Like all good government efforts, it was well disguised. You actually had to ride past the sign that marked the route to Parramatta, and be a good 50 yards beyond it before you could read it. I would like to find the idiot responsible for that and beat some sense into him with his own sign post. The only way I found it was to stop every time a bike path crossed the main route and turn to the right (North) and see where it went. That meant a lot of riding up dead end routes, turning around and trying again.

Here is the sign in close up, as viewed from the bike path. No, it is not blurry because I took the photo from a distance - it is blurry because there is nothing intelligible written on it. I got right up close and personal with the sign and it made no difference. It is simply a blank sign.

Here is the view of the sign as you are zooming down the bike path. At this point, I was doing about 35km/h, and the sign is on the far right - almost, but not quite obscured by a huge concrete pylon. The dumb bastards should have actually put it next to the bike path, not 50 yards off to the right. Imagine if you were driving down say the Hume Highway and the sign marking the off ramp to Goulburn was actually 500 metres down the off ramp, and the only way to find it was to drive down the off ramp to see if you had driven off at the correct ramp. It seems that when road engineers get hooked up with a cycle project, they lose all common sense and rationality.

This is quite off topic, but it is the back of Terry Shields Toyota, which is a big time car dealer over here. Check out all the graffiti on that wall. Would you buy a used car from a man that can't be buggered to keep his premises spick and span?

This last photo is just of something plain odd. There I am, zipping along underneath the motorway when I spot this guy sitting in the grass off to the side with his shirt off. His clothes were neatly folded nearby (just out of shot). I have no idea why he stopped here like this - but I was so intrigued, I did a U turn and took a photo of him.

All in all, the ride was a bit of a screw up. I misjudged the temperature, and just about damn well froze as a result. I had to keep my tempo up to a ridiculous level to keep warm, which just about killed me. Next time, I am wearing my jacket. Getting lost also added a bit of distance, and of course once I took the turn off towards parramatta, the signs marking the bike path just died out entirely, and I never did find my way there. But I did see a bit of Harris Park (I think), so I am setup for next time.

44km covered in 1.5 hours. Not bad going for an old fart.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Inconsistent safety nazis

I have been hassling the local Council to paint 10 metres of yellow paint on the road near our house in order to warn motorists not to park there - Council are treating a bit of road as a cash cow revenue raising venture, and it shits me. Especially when I am one of those that gets given a $173 parking fine.

Council of course are less than dead keen to do so. Why smash up a perfectly good piggy bank unless you absolutely have to?

The last letter I got from the Council about it made it sound like painting yellow lines was the equivalent to pulling teeth out with pliers. If that is the case, why are the safety nazis so damned liberal with throwing yellow paint around the school grounds? They had some people in over the school holidays to lay some asphalt in the playground, and a day or so after it was laid, some more people came in to lay a drain pipe through the middle of it, and of course the drain pipe was not buried deeply enough, or the asphalt should have been laid on a few more inches of sand, so the playground now has a small speed hump right through the middle of it.

This "speed hump" is now of course marked by two parallel lines of yellow paint.

Why is it that they can put down 50 yards of the stuff in the playground without batting an eyelid, but putting down 10 yards in the street is the labor of Job? I guess I will have to start telling them that the kerb outside our house is a "safety risk" - then some fool will come around and splash paint all over it.

The hilarious thing though is the inconsistency of the nazis' approach. Here we have steps with yellow paint across the top step, but the other steps have missed out. If I dared to point this out to the head nazi, I am sure that a full blown inquisition would result and the guilty would be srtung up by their thumbs from the monkey bars.

You walk around the corner, and yellow paint is everywhere. Some safety nazi is going to see the inconsistency in this one day and blow a fuse like a confused Dalek.

The really dangerous stuff of course is entirely unprotected by paint or padding. It just so happened that I walked under this set of monkey bars at speed, and collected them with the top of my skull. It still feels a bit weepy where I made contact, and that was two days ago.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

I wish to shoot some Ibis

Our Council, in all its wisdom, has installed bins that are little more than large bird feeders.

Over the course of about an hour, two Ibis managed to rummage through this rubbish bin and extract half the contents and scatter them around the neighbournood. I took one look at it and declined to clean up after them, knowing that they'd be back at it as soon as I had turned the corner and my efforts would be to no avail.

Note to self - must buy .410 shotgun.

Friday, 27 July 2007


At last, the search for a business shirt is over. I prowled through the QVB building this week, thinking that such an overpriced mecca of fashion would have at least one store that could sell me a shirt. And it did - Country Road.

It has been a long time since I have been in Country Road - 5 years at least. Last time I bought something there, it was shoes, and although they are a delight to look at, they are a pain to wear. I have not been back since.

Going in there was a last resort, but it worked out for the best. I walked up to a shirt rack, immediately saw two shirts I liked, tried one on for size and then told the very nice gay shop assistant to pick me out some ties to match. It took about 5 minutes for him to sell me $450 worth of clothes, and then 15 minutes to wrap them all up.

During that time, we had a great chat about where the mens clothing business is going. He said that Roger David are now targetting school leavers rather than the 30-40 year old set, and as a result, their clothes are horrible. Oxford are targetting fashion victims that shop at least every month, and sometimes daily. I guess that's why I can't stand them anymore.

This bloke at Country Road was great - he was the kind of bloke that Oxford used to employ. Someone that knows their clothes, is good to chat to and makes you feel comfortable about what you just forked out for.

I am going back to that shop. No question about it.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Go west young cyclist

I am completely shagged. J kicked me out of the house at lunchtime and told me not to come back for a few hours as she needed to work. So I printed out a map of the bike paths near Homebush, marked it up with magic marker and then forgot to take it with me.

I took the now familiar route out to Homebush, and then tried to find my way to Parramatta. Along the way, I ran into a line marking gang. I could have zipped around the cars and gone on my way, but the paint spray was blowing across the road and it stunk. I didn't want to risk ending up covered in white line marking paint from head to foot, and I don't think the bike needs to have that speckled look about it.

The interesting thing is that the paint appeared to dry almost immediately. You can see here a very shiny white line, which is a big change from the almost non-existent markings that were there before. I think that since we are now in a new financial year, the Council is madly spending the maintenance budget.

Once I got to Homebush, I looped around to the north of the stadiums and things (going past the archery park of all places) and ended up on an excellent bike path that goes around the Newington Armoury. The armoury obviously used to move munitions around by a small train, as the track is still in place, and there are signs up where the track crosses the bike path.

I don't think there is much chance of being hit by a train, since the rails have a lot of rust on the surface. If the track is in use, the trains going past scrub the rust off and leave the rails nice and shiny. The Homebush tracks look like they have not seen the steel wheels of a train in years.

Still, I guess some shiny bummed bureaucrat figured that safety warning signs needed to be erected anyway. If they had any sense, they'd tell you to be careful when crossing the tracks, as the skinny tyres of a road bike could be thrown off by hitting the tracks at an angle. I wasn't thinking when I crossed the tracks, and reckoned that if it had been wet, I would have ended up on the bitumen.

The bike path is excellent - wide, flat and well surfaced and there was almost no one on it when I went around. There were only two annoying pedestrians - annoying because as I approached them, I rang my bell to warn them of my approach, and one moved one way and one went the other and they ran into each other and managed to block the entire path! Before I could collide with them, the more sensible one grabbed her partner and pulled her to their left, thus clearing the way.

I meandered this way and that and soon ended up on a bike path that goes along the side of the M4 motorway. Here is a photo of some awful road side sculpture - these things always remind me of sperm.

After a few kilometres, the path takes a new approach and goes under the motorway. It's kind of eery how it twists and turns beneath the concrete columns of the roadway above. This bit is great - smooth and flat, but it is bedeviled by roads that cross it at very regular intervals. You have to stop at each intersection, since the roads are terrible and it would be death to just zoom across without looking really carefully. That annoyed the hell out of me as I was zipping along at a nice 35km/h, and then I'd have to stop, cross and build up to cruising speed again, then stop and repeat the whole exercise.

At some point, the bike path comes out from under the motorway and it then follows a canal. I thought this sign was a classic - cycleway subject to flooding. I never expected to see one of these on a bike path.

The canal itself is a complete festering eyesore, and is a good reminder why no sane person would live in this area. It's a shithole. Graffiti over every flat surface, rubbish everywhere, empty factory units all over the place and a generally rundown, crappy atmosphere.

The canal a bit further along reminded me of T2 and the chase scene with the truck.

The graffiti along the canal is the usual mindless crud. I am at a loss to know why can of spray paint are still on sale. If you need to paint your car, you use a proper spray gun and compressor. It's not like they cost a bomb anymore - you can go to Bunnings and buy a cheap Chinese thing to paint for front gate for not much more than the cost of a few cans of paint. The bloody things should just be abolished.

It was not long after this that I came to the end of the line. It was a sudden stop - I was cycling on a good bike track, then it just petered out in a back suburban street. A big problem with this cycle path is the lack of signage - there are paths peeling off left and right every few hundred metres, but not a single sign to tell you where any of them lead.

When I got to the end, I spotted a path with some unusual "no entry" signs posted on it. I could not work out why you shouldn't be allowed to walk up this path to the structure that I have badly outlined in yellow.

So I went up and had a closer look. If you peek through the gap, you can just see one of those blue emergency phone signs - this thing leads into one of those breakdown bays on the side of the motorway. I guess you can abandon your car and walk down this path, or the NRMA can park in a side street and walk up to the bay.

On the way back, I just had to stop and take a photo of this small factory. It is the stinkiest thing that I have smelt in months. Years even. I don't know what they are doing in there, but it reeks. I tried to get around the front to see if there was a sign out the front, but that would have involved dismounting and carrying the bike over a kerb (twice) and I couldn't be that bothered.

Speaking of railways, this bike path crosses a railway as well. It's some kind of siding for a cement company. The rails looked shiny enough for me to suspect that it is used every now and then, but I felt there was no risk in just bolting across this line. That's two railways crossed in one day.

At one point, I was riding along with no idea as to where I was. Then I looked through the trees to my right and saw the M4 toll gates, and I knew exactly where I was. I didn't know where I was going, but at least I had a landmark that I could work with.

The final photo. This one was taken just outside of Homebush. It shows the cycle path disappearing into a spot where it appears that there is not much headroom under a bridge. As it turns out, the path drops away dramatically and there is enough room to get under the bridge, but there is not a lot to spare. If I sat up straight, my helmet probably would have collected the concrete undersurface of the bridge.

All up, it was a 40km ride, and it took me 1 hour and 50 minutes. A good 20 minutes of that was spent standing on the side of the road reading maps, or taking photos, but that dragged my average speed for the whole ride down to 23km/h, which is about what I normally average going to work (allowing for stop signs, traffic lights, traffic, pedestrians, dogs etc).

The big difference is that this ride is really flat. There was one small hill in Auburn, and whilst it was longish, it was not steep. I was happily cranking along at 40km/h in spots, only to have to come to a crashing halt when the bike path ended suddenly at an 8 lane highway. The weather was lovely - 21 degrees and almost no wind. Perfect.

After getting home and studying Google maps and some RTA maps, I think I now know how to get to Parramatta. Todays ride finished shortly after I saw a sign saying "Westmead - 4km". I now plan to make it to the other side of Parramatta.

I hate these signs

I can't stand going past a public school and seeing signs like this plastered all over the fence. It doesn't matter where you go - the bloody teachers union have stuck them up.

I find this one to be at the lower end of the annoyance scale. The ones that really tick me off are the ones that proclaim public education as the only form of education that deserves any funding at all, and that scolds parents for deciding not to use the public system.

I get annoyed because I feel that the Teachers Federation wants all kids to be taught in the public system, and for parents to have no choice about where they send their kids to be educated. I find that to be incredibly offensive. We're lucky around here in that we have some reasonably good public schools and the teachers that I have met seem to be competent and useful. That's good. I also know that this is not the case across all schools, and I'd hate to move to an area where the schools are crap and the teachers useless and for us to have no choice about where the kids can be educated.

If that was the case, I'd go for home schooling.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Yellow snot

I had the strangest experience today of blowing out yellow snot.

I've blown out bright green snot whilst in the depths of the flu.

I've blown out red snot after a blood nose.

I've blown out black snot after working in a shed full of charcoal.

I've blown out brown snot after working in sheep yards.

I've blown out white snot after spending a lot of time driving in limestone country with no windscreen.

But I've never blown out yellow snot. It was almost bronze. I was so amazed, I stopped blowing my nose for fear that my brain fluid was leaking out. It was most bizarre.

It happened after going for a reasonable ride on a cold day, and I've had the flu for months, so I might have finally burst some horrible pus filled sack in my nasal cavity and this was the result.

Either that, or the dust at the building sites at Rhodes contains some nasty stuff.

Stay tuned for more snot news tomorrow.

On the road again - again

Finally, I managed to wring a measly 34 kilometres out of my body today. That involved riding out to Homebush, stooging around a bit and then crossing the Parramatta River to have a look at Meadowbank (and to try and follow the route to Eastwood - wherever that is).

This photo is from the Olympic Park at Homebush. I have just noticed that there is not a single person in this shot. On a weekend, you'd expect maybe 50 - 100 people to be walking along here. The place was dead as can be today.

I took this photo for the paving. Architects seem to love laying down stupid paving bricks in fancy patterns. I have no problem with the use of pavers, but in this case, they have used pavers that leave a large gap between each brick. At each corner, there is a hole the size of a 10 cent piece.

I'm glad I don't wear stilletos. Women in heels would be totally unable to walk down this path. I hate it because riding over it is horrible - it's like riding over cobblestones. This is a park for kiddies and things - not the route of Paris-Roubais.

These next two photos show apartment constructions at Rhodes, which is just across the water from Homebush. Whenever I ride out this way, I always remember that these apartments are built on top of a toxic waste dump.

On the other side of this street, there are a row of these funny little houses. The houses look worse than crap. I don't know why the developer didn't snap these up and flatten them and drop another row of hideous apartments on the site. Then again, maybe that will be the next stage.

This photo shows the bike path that has been laid over the old railway bridge that crosses the Parramatta River (the new rail bridge is on the left). The old bridge has seen better days - it certainly hasn't seen a coat of paint in years (and I don't include the graffiti to the right).

Turning it into a bike bridge was pretty easy - they just laid some kind of fibre cement sheeting over the rail lines and nailed it down - if you look over the edges of the sheeting, you can still see the sleepers underneath (and the water down below).

I put this next photo in to show how wonderfully well bike paths are sign posted in Sydney. The yellow circle indicates the path - half hidden by untrimmed trees and completely lacking in signage. Well, there is a sign, but you only see it after you have ridden past the path - and if you happen to glance backwards to your right.

If any cyclist does in fact find their way onto the path, they'll pass over the traffic counter pictured below. The RTA or local council must have been hoping that zero bikes passed this way, giving them an excuse to further neglect this hidden infrastructure. I turned around a rode over it several times for good measure.

One thing that I do on these rides is look at property. Funny that just around the corner from home, I should find this abandoned house.

I can tell it's abandoned by the boarded up windows, the graffiti on the fence and the totally overgrown garden. It's interesting that even with really high house prices around here, a place is just left to go to hell like this. I would have thought that it would have been demolished and replaced with a McMansion by now.

I might have to check it out - spooky dead bodies and all that kind of thing.

A sport I will be avoiding

I read this lovely snippet today:

"Attaching kites to surfboards has spawned a generation of airborne beach-bums and a gruesome new chapter in sailing injuries (kite-surfers tend to smash at high speed into the balconies of beachfront hotels)."


A long way for a five dollar part

I managed to track down a supplier for a small bit of plastic for a broken wing mirror. It was up in Vineyard, which is 54km from here.

It was a good excuse to test out the new GPS, so I went for a drive this morning to pick up the part.

I had to go through two tolls ($2.20 each) and the round trip of 110km would have used about 13 litres of diesel, which currently costs about $1.30 a litre.

The part cost $5.17. The transport cost was around 4 times that.

At least I can now seen down the side of the car. It's rather disconcerting driving around with a wonky mirror.

The GPS is fine by the way.

I am so over Missy Higgins

I never want to hear that whinging, nasal whine ever again. Please, go overseas and tour for a couple of years and settle down in France... or Thailand... but don't come back.

I am going to have to ban the use of the radio in the car in case she comes on. It's going to be a long time listening to the iPod.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Local wankers

Here is a lovely selection of graffiti around our suburb.

To start with - "smash the system".

What system? Idiots.

Then there is this knobhead - spraying a tree. This idiot should be hung from this tree by his thumbs.

This is someones house. What I don't get is that this house has been like this for weeks. They have spraypaint on their lounge room window. What type of person doesn't clean it off their windows?

And then there is this at the local skate park - "fuck scooters". I guess the skateboarders don't take kindly to scooters being ridden around this park. Kind of like surfers not liking esky lids, and skiers hating snowboarders.

Xmas in July?

This house is on a road that I have been cycling down for several years now. Each year, this place has a stack of Christmas lights up, but they never manage to take down their big "Merry Christmas" sign. It's been there for at least 2 years now - maybe 3.

These things are worse than political posters for the Greens - they never get taken down.

Get buried elsewhere

I snapped this photo as I was walking past a local funeral home today. I loved the bit about how "we are still able to serve you"...... as if the dead are going to care.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Finding spare parts

Yesterday afternoon was spent in the delightful beer garden of a Balmain pub. The weather was cool, but not wet, and the beer garden was enclosed in a big plastic tent and had a gas heater every few feet, so it was quite pleasant.

The smokers however were banished to a small area outside the tent. Funny that, given that if they continue, they might end up inside an oxygen tent in 30 years time.

There were not a lot of smokers there - 3 or 4 max. Someone mentioned that pub trade has crashed since the smoking ban was introduced. Well, that might be the case, but the slack is being taken up by families with kids. The beer garden was only half full, but everyone there was a family with kids from about 12 months up to 15 years. The pub itself was almost completely empty - even the pokies area was bereft of patrons, which is something that I never thought to see in my lifetime.

Whether this trend continues is something to be seen.

The shitful thing was that when we got back to the car, I found my wing mirror had been half knocked off by a passing car - or a bus more likely. We were parked on one of the main arteries of Balmain, but it was a narrow and well choked artery. It was one of those streets where traffic going one way would have to stop so that traffic going the other way could proceed past the parked cars. A bus must have taken liberties with the space available and banged up my mirror.

It wouldn't matter if everyone in Balmain drove Smart cars - the streets are still too narrow for two Smart cars to pass abreast.

The annoying thing is that the mirror itself is not smashed - it's the mounting bracket that is broken. I decided to do the modern thing today and Googled Landrover suppliers in Australia. I found four, and had a quick look at their web sites.

Their websites were rooted. Absolutely amatuerish and completely lacking in catalogues and useable search engines. I tried searching for "mirror" on all of them and they returned nothing.

One of them said, "If you can't find the part in our catalogue, contact us using this online form".

To start with, I went through the entire site and was unable to find any further reference to a catalogue. There wasn't even a page that said, "We don't have an online catalogue, but if you rng this number, we will post you one".

They did have a "contact" page though that you could use to submit a request for a part. I filled it in and submitted it and got some sort of apache server error. "mail server not found". So I guess my request was never properly submitted either.

Tomorrow, I'm going to have to track down this part the old fashioned way - pick up the phone and start making calls. Some people just don't get this while internet "revolutionise your business" thingy. But then again, a lot of people are boneheads.

Harry Potter frenzy?

What frenzy? We went down to Kmart at about 6pm last night and bought a copy of the latest book. It was easy to find - it was stacked 20 high just inside the front door, and the stack was about the size of a Mini.

I almost tripped over it of course. Stupid place to leave a pile of books.

There was hardly anyone in the store, so we breezed through the checkouts as well. All up, it took 10 minutes to buy the book, and 8 minutes of that was spent in the kitchenware section choosing which set of tongs to purchase.

We then left the store, and I didn't bump into any Potter-maniacs walking around with their heads in the book and not watching where they are going.

I even managed to read a few chapters of it last night before going to bed as the rest of the household happily shared the book.

I presume they still sold a squillion copies on opening day anyway. It's just that the sales frenzy was nowhere near me. Then again, I did buy it at Broadway, which is very much a University type mall, and Uni students probably think that it would be very uncool these days to be seen as a Potter-maniac. Kind of like being into Dungeons and Dragons.

Friday, 20 July 2007


I finally managed to get the local Police Station cleaned up. As I rode past today, I noticed this bloke extracting rubbish from the hedges with one of those extendable grabby things. He had a rather large sack next to him, and it was looking pretty full. Just around the corner was his ute - the sign on the door said something like "Property Management Services", so I take it they got a kick up the bum and an order to clean the place up quick smart.

How did this come about?

I rang the Police Commissioner's office and asked a lovely lady there if she had any record of recieving a letter from our useless local member. She searched the computer system for 10 minutes, and could find no trace of it. She gave me a fax number and suggested that I fax my letter direct to her. I told her that I wanted to make my useless local member earn her pay, so I emailed the MP and told her that the Police never got a letter from her, and passed on the fax number that they should send it to.

I hope they are feeling suitably useless.

I then rang the local Council and went through the same exercise. A very helpful bloke searched and searched and searched and could find no trace of a letter from my MP about this problem. So I emailed the MP a second time to let her know that the Council never got a letter from her either.

Sounds like she is good at sending out phantom letters. What I don't get is that when I wrote to her, they should have registered my letter. They would then write to the appropriate department on my behalf (it's called making a representation) and they should have put a flag into their system to follow it up if a reply was not forthcoming within a certain period (say, 1 month). The useless buggers couldn't even be bothered to follow up. If I had not heard back from the Police after 2 1/2 months, I would be wondering why and starting to make phone calls.

I could have sorted all this out a long time ago by using a contact in the Police Force. One call to them would have done the trick. However, I wanted to test the useless MP to see if she really was as bad as I have been told - and I was right. Just a complete waste of space.

Food photos

I stopped for lunch in a Japanese eatery in Chatswood today - a good sashimi bento box for $15. It took forever to make, but it was pretty good in the end.

As I sat there reading the paper and waiting for my meal, I watched a series of dishes being photographed professionally for a new restaurant that the owners are opening somewhere else. The photographer had one of those big umbrella type flashes, and he disturbed my paper reading every time he snapped a shot. Thankfully, he seemed to know what he was doing, so he didn't need to take 50 shots of each dish.

It was worth putting up with it, because the owners offered tastings of the dishes to those of us sitting there after the photos were taken. There were only half a dozen of us in there, so I got to try some interesting things, including a crispy friend sushi roll. It's not everyday you get to see food being photographed in a restaurant - I had always assumed that they did it in a studio, rather than on site.

Pity I did not have my camera with me to photograph the photographer.


I tried baking muffins for the first time in my life this week. Don't ask me why it was muffins - it just was.

I tried two recipes - one from a Delia Smith cook book (which is an excellent book) and another from a Donna Hay magazine.

The Delia Smith muffins were good (apple and pear), but they failed to muff. I did two batches, and each turned out flat, but tasty.

The Donna Hay ones turned out much better (chocolate and orange) and they disappeared faster than the other batches. The also muffed up much better.

After re-reading Delia, I found that I was probably over-mixing the mixture. With muffins, apparently all you do is stir it just enough to combine the ingredients, and no more. Trying to get the lumps out will wreck the rising process. I think I am too used to stirring the hell out of everything. I will have to try again tomorrow - they have been such a success that 36 muffins have been scoffed in 2 days.

They're not big muffins though - they're not like the huge, crumbly things that you buy at a cafe. They are more like cupcakes, and they are moist and definitely non-crumbly. They might not be fluffy, but they are delicious.


Since this blog is ostensibly supposed to be partly about cycling, I will mention that I went for a ride today.

It was short and not altogether happy. The wind was blowing, it was about 12 degrees in the sun and I am still not completely rid of the flu. I am still sucking on the cough medicine every now and then to keep a nasty tickle in the throat under control.

The result was that my ride was one where I felt like I had a cloth soaked in sulphuric acid wrapped around my mouth. My lungs really started to burn after a while, and I completely failed to cough up any of the green goo that is still sitting in my throat and annoying the bejesus out of me.

I did manage to blow my nose on my brand new riding jacket though. I have never managed to snot on myself whilst riding - until today. My neck must be quite stiff still - I just can't rotate it enough to get the left nostril up high enough to squirt snot over my left shoulder.

The riding jacket is the best thing that I have bought in a while. It cost me $199, and it's warm and windproof. I really felt quite snug and comfortable in it today. It's not waterproof, but it should be fine in a light shower. I am wondering why it took me so long to buy it.

Sizing problems are the reason why. It was really the only jacket in the shop that would fit. If you watch the Tour de France, you'll notice how skinny all the riders are, and how they have no shoulders. That is not my body shape. I tried on the largest jacket from one supplier, and I couldn't do it up. The next one was not much better - I could do it up, but not breathe. I bought this jacket mainly because I could do it up and breathe.

After all that, all I managed was a paltry 15km, which is pathetic. And I got home and just collapsed on the couch and fell asleep. I must have more flu running around inside me than I first thought.


Buying new business shirts is giving me the shits. I usually wear a shirt until the collar frays, and then it is time to buy a new batch, because it means every shirt in the last batch that I bought a few years ago is about to suffer from terminal collar fraying. I don't go out and buy a shirt every few months - I buy a box full in one go and try not to set foot into a clothes shop for at least two years.

I have written previously how I feel badly done over by Oxford. It used to be that you could walk into their shop and walk out totally outfitted for life in the business world - a suit, shirts and matching ties. Their salesmen were excellent - if they couldn't sell you five shirts and five ties in 10 minutes, they were hopeless. I loved the buyers, since they did their job so well, the salesmen had to do very little except carry clothes from the change rooms to the cash register for you. They stocked stuff that just sold itself.

Then something happened, and the whole focus of the chain shifted. Their demographic was no longer the well dressed young man who worked in the city and simply wanted to walk in, spend $1000 and walk out half an hour later feeling comfortable with his purchases. The new demographic was young, drug dealing wogs who spend their lives either in their rice burning cars or in nightclubs. Due to the mega profits available in the drug trade, as opposed to working for say NAB, the price of shirts doubled overnight.

I hate them now. Bastards. They have made my life incredibly difficult.

I spent a day in the CBD this week doing nothing but trawling from mens shop to mens shop looking at shirts. I failed to find a single shirt that inspired me. Nothing leapt of the shelves screaming "buy me". It was a waste of a day.

Then I spent half of today doing the same thing at the Chatswood Mall. You'd think that Westfield would be able to stock a mall with at least a few half reasonable mens shops, but it was a complete bust. I spent more time in places like Dick Smith and JB Hi-Fi looking at cameras than I did in the pathetic number of mens shops.

I guess I will be heading back to Oxford St soon. I have tried to avoid going there, as the last time I did, I bought some great shirts that just haven't done it for me in the long run. They are made of magnificent cotton. They are simply gorgeous, but they are all double cuffed, the sleeves are a fraction too long and they are a pain to iron. I love them, but I am over wearing them. They also seem to be "flouncy". If Oxford St doesn't do it for me, I guess I will be visiting a shirt tailor and having some made up.

It can't be that hard to buy a shirt can it?

Open your purse now please!

I hate women who go shopping, unload all their stuff at the checkout, watch it all being put through the scanner, and just stand there like a dopey cow breathing through their mouth. The cashier totals it all up, turns and reads the total amount, and then they start searching through their handbag for their purse.

A few minutes later, after extracting their purse, they start searching for a method of payment. Shall I pay cash, or use a credit card? If I use a credit card, which shall I use? Visa? Mastercard? If so, from which bank shall I select a credit card? Hmm, do I also have a FlyBuys card or other loyalty card for this store? I must have - it's in here somewhere.....

It's around then that I wish that I had put a can of flammable fly spray and a lighter in my trolley. A quick flame thrower squirt to the hair of dopey cow should set her on fire enough to get her out of the way and into an ambulance, thus allowing me to proceed through the checkout at a reasonable pace.

I will get really depressed if stores start sticking up signs at the checkout saying things like "Please get your credit card out NOW". It will be a sad indicator of how many dopey people exist in our population. I will have to blame welfare as usual - if they weren't handed money each fortnight by the government, they would have starved to death years ago, and would not be causing so many foulups in our supermarkets.

In fact the productivity of our nation could be considerably improved by removing these oafs from our supermarkets altogether. I just wish supermarkets could ban the dopey, leaving them to stand around outside begging people walking in to buy them a loaf of bread.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

A very good management book

Go out and buy a copy of this book. I don't often give stupid management books a plug, but this is not a stupid management book. For once, we have an author that puts the boot in. A complete breath of fresh air.

Gambling for a living

Went to a small drinkies thing tonight and met a bloke who gambles for a living. I didn't really get into the deep details of what he does, but he gambles on rugby league and horse racing mainly (I think). He got into it after being retrenched from the public service after 15 years, and he does it all from home by using a PC. He has some sort of connection into the TAB network and is able to upload his bets via a text file.

He is mad about sports statistics and watches 30 hours of rugby league games a week.

I don't know what else to say really, except that he thought that the TAB web site was completely crap, and that it crashed every Saturday at lunchtime for 3 1/2 years. I guess he was looking for an answer from me as to why that was so.

Probably because the TAB employs some idiots. It's not like the TAB would have set out to employ idiots - it's just that it worked out that they employed them and found out later that they had some idiots in the ranks.

The trouble with so many organisations these days is that they tolerate the idiots instead of booting them out. Take your average AFL team. At the end of the season, they always discard the players that are the weakest links, or who have outlived their usefulness. It's nothing personal - it's just that they may well do better playing for another team. Another coach, or some different team mates may do wonders for the performance of someone that is failing at their current club.

We think of this as perfectly natural, yet people get hot under the collar when the same thing is suggested at the office. The weak links must be expunged. They may go on to do great things elsewhere, or they may turn out to be complete screwups at everything they try. Some people are like that. But that's no reason to keep them on as a form of welfare.

The performance of so many companies could be improved if they forgot about trying to develop a new strategy or calling in the consultants to write a report and instead they just sacked the useless mouths. It's funny how morale can be lifted by a few judicious sackings. People tend to think that if the dead wood is sacked, then the morale of the rest of the troops will collapse. I have been a troopie and have had people around me removed, and I have thought that it is the best thing since sliced bread. There is nothing worse than having to work with or for a loser, and having to work extra hard to cover up all their mistakes, or their laziness. Off with their heads I say!

Shopping in town

When I worked in town, one thing that I could not stand was to go shopping in town. I worked there. When I finished work, I wanted to go home. I wanted to get my lunch over and done with as soon as possible so that I could get back to work, and thus leave and go home at a reasonable hour.

Now that I am no longer working in the city, shopping there is suddenly something of interest. I need some new business shirts, so I spent a pleasant hour this morning perusing a variety of suit shops and checking out their shirts.

I have not had to buy business shirts for a few years (thanks to the new work slacker dress code), so I am quite out of touch with the latest fashion in shirts. I found that although I like a few shirts, I could not bring myself to buy them. I just wasn't comfortable with the collars, the cut or the colours. I am going to need to spend some more time in shopping malls looking at shirts in order to regain that comfort factor.

Funny how the brain works when it comes to buying something as simple as a shirt. I need to be "in the groove" in order to purchase one.

One thing that really ticked me off today was the stupid cut of the collars. I like a nice, normal, old fashioned collar. Half the shirts that I looked at had the collar cut away radically. Now I know that fashions change from year to year and all that, but I just want my business shirts to stay the same. I'd be completely happy with a wardrobe of 20 white shirts, all identical, so long as they fitted well and were comfortable and didn't have stupid pleats and creases and double buttons at the neck.

I get the feeling I might have to buy some tailor made shirts......

An unusual sight

I was walking through Wynyard station today when a bloke on a motorbike went past me.

Given that I was two floors underground and in an area that branched into an arcade, it was an odd spot to see a motorbike.

It turned out that it was an Ambo on a bike. I walked a bit further and a door opened and a stretcher was wheeled out with an old gent on it. I assume he must have slipped on the stairs and banged his head - someone was holding a compress with a fair amount of blood on it.

Indoor ambulances that can drive right to the scene of the accident - what will they think of next?

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Leaping lizards

We were doing a cleanout of the backyard today when this little fella was unearthed in a bag.

It was pretty cold out, so he wasn't moving that fast. In fact he was moving so slowly, J thought he was dead. He woke up a bit once I picked him up and took him across the road to the park.

The last one of these that I picked up was at least four times as long. Even though I had him by the back of the neck, it was big enough for it's rear claws to be able to reach up and rake my hand. This little one lacked the reach to even tickle me.

The other risk in picking these guys up is that they crap all over you. It might have been a while since he last had a feed, as nothing untoward came my way.

Number one asked after I had released it if we could keep it. I was in half a mind to suggest that, but from the way J was looking at it, it was a question best not asked.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Bike paths? What bike paths

Our local Council has a bike plan. They've had it for years - since 2004 in fact. I know that because I printed it out today and tried to follow some of the routes.

What a disaster. Most of the routes that were planned in 2004 went onto the map as dotted lines - routes we'd like to build "one day". Three years later, most still don't seem to have been done.

According to the map in my pocket, when I got to the end of this street, there was supposed to be a bike path going around this oval. Ha ha. It was the same everywhere I went - I'd go down a dead end street expecting to be able to get onto a path at the end, and find that the only way to get to the path was to dismount and lift the bike over an 8 inch high kerb, and then walk it up a concrete gutter that had been put in place to channel rainfall.

So much for joined up infrastructure.

The Council is making progress though. They recently went down one of the main bike routes and removed the existing lane markers and painted in bike lanes, which was a first. They've gone for the cheap option, which involves putting down two lines of white paint about a metre apart, with a bike logo every hundred yards or so. I doubt we will see any of the lanes filled in with red or green paint.

I was particularly interested in riding past some of the local schools, since kids under the age of 17 would surely be those most dependent on a bike for getting around. The route past one school went down the roughest goat track that I have been on for a long time. It was a truly abysmal surface. If you gave someone a bike, and that was the first bit of road that they rode on, they'd give it away for good there and then. Bike routes need to be many things - safe, convenient and comfortable. By the time I finished my ride, I was starting to question the bike plan on all three aspects.

This next photo shows where one of the routes crosses over one of the main roads in our area - Great North Road. You actually need to do a dog leg to the left at this intersection in order to get across Great North Road and to continue onwards.

The amazing thing about this intersection is that the Council or the RTA have built a concrete island smack down the middle of the road in order to stop cars turning across Great North Road, which of course makes it really difficult for bikes to follow the bike route. They've conveniently cut a hole through the island for people to walk across the road, and I presume that is also there for bikes, since I dashed through it today.

The amazing thing though is that just behind me is a primary school. The main users of this route would be kids in the 10-12 year old age bracket, and they are expected to use this abortion of a corner.

The plan was developed by consultants of course. I am glad that the Council at least had a go at coming up with a plan, but the consultants have not really thought everything through. I have to wonder sometimes whether the consultants actually rode any of the routes that they were planning on paper?

I was a bit sceptical before my ride about the routes, so I had a look at where I was going on Google Maps before heading out. I could see that I had to cross several parks and a golf course, and that there were no paths visible across them. If you zoom in as far as you can go, you can generally see concrete walking or bike paths on the Google Maps aerial photos. So I was pretty sure before I left that I'd be let down, and I wasn't wrong.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Keeping up with the Joneses

I was in a computer shop yesterday buying more RAM for the new laptop. Once I had stuffed 1GB into it, the bloody thing actually started to work like it should. I curse all computers companies that sell you a computer loaded with Vista, and fail to install 1GB or more of memory as standard. I have 2GB on the PC, and that I think is the bare minimum for a machine that gets a half decent work out.

I digress. The shop also sold the new media workstations thingys. I have never seen one up close and personal before. The one on display looked pretty fancy - at first, I mistook it for an old fashioned overhead projector. Once I got past that, I grabbed a brochure and perused the price list.

A basic unit starts at $2600, and the quickly go up to over $3500 as you add more features. Forget it - I don't need an "entertainment hub" that much. I am still fit and active enough to get off the couch, get a DVD out of the cabinet and load it into the DVD player. Yes, it would be nice to have 1TB of storage with hundreds of hours of stuff on it, but what sort of stuff am I going to put on it? Movies? Watch most of them once, and never want to see them again. Maybe once more in 10 years time. Why clog up your hard drive with something that gets viewed that often?

Music? All the music that we have takes up around 5GB, and it would take more than a week of continuous listening to get through it all. Given how we listen to music, and how much we like the radio, it will take a year to get through the whole thing.

Home movies and photos? The thousands of digital photos that I have taken still easily fit onto a single DVD. It will take another 2 years of frantic snapping before I fill a single DVD. Home movies are different - they are fat as hell and take up a lot of space, but most of the footage that I have taken is garbage. One thing I learnt from Top Gear is that they have a 100 to 1 ratio of footage shot to shown. They have to shoot 100 hours of video to make a good one hour program. I reckon my ratio is about the same. I try to not shoot anything longer than 30 seconds, as most people get bored of a home movie after about 20 seconds. By the time I edit out the crap, I usually have a 20 second clip. That's all we need. We don't need two hours of footage of junior waving a chop bone around at dinner in a barbaric fashion - 10 seconds is more than enough thank you very much.

I rigged up our own entertainment hub today for $8.95, which is what a cable cost me at a hi-fi shop. I can now plug the laptop into the amp, and the laptop can read the music libraries on our other PC's, so we can play all our music in the loungeroom on good quality speakers via the laptop. If I fart around a bit more, I will probably work out how to do the same with movies, but why play a movie of a PC in another room? Why not just get it on DVD and put the DVD into the DVD player and watch it like a normal human? I have seen downloaded movies played via PC's on enormous plasma screens, and they look shocking. The quality reminds me of when I dropped my old film camera in a stream and later had the film developed. It was half ruined. That's what ripping and compressing does to perfectly good movies. Given that I can rent a DVD from my supermarket for $3, why would I stuff around with downloading a crappy copy of it?

Of course I never get around to renting any as I don't have time to watch anything - blogging has filled the space that movies used to occupy.

Can anyone tell me the height of the ANZAC Bridge?

I want to know how high the top part of the deck of the ANZAC Bridge is above sea level. Not the height of the towers - the deck that the cars drive on.

The reason is that I want to get an idea of how high I climb each time I ride into town. I start on a hill, go down to water level, then climb a steep hill, drop into a valley and then climb onto the ANZAC Bridge.

I have tried googling it and can't find a single link that provides any technical info on the bridge.

I think I am just going to have to put my GPS in my pocket (when it arrives), ride to the top of the bridge and take a measurement.

I thought the internet was supposed to have the answer to everything?

Useless non-functional Top Gear web site

The Top Gear boys might know a thing or two about producing a good TV show, but their web site is currently a steaming pile of crap.

They have a lovely feature where you can watch popular clips online. I tried it with both IE and Firefox on two different computers and got this:

The only reliable way to watch their clips is to search for them on Youtube. The BBC should just drop this whole video streaming idea and post stuff on Youtube - it would be better for all concerned.

Oh God, I think I killed the cake

Don't ask me why, but I have had this hankering to eat lamingtons for a while. We bought some lamington fingers at a shop last week, but after eating a few, I felt quite sick. After reading the list of ingredients on the side of the packet, I felt even worse.

How hard can it be to make a lamington? You get your hands on a sponge cake, make up a chocolate icing mix, dip the spongey bits into it and cover with dessicated coconut.

Try buying just a plain sponge cake these days. We tried all the local bakeries, plus half a dozen supermarkets, and none of them carry sponge cake. They all sell lamingtons though - I guess there is more value-add in a lamington.

We did spot one interesting glitch in the market - Michel's patisserie sells a single lamington for more than the price of an entire tray of lamington fingers at a supermarket. On the other hand, the lamington fingers almost made me throw up, so there might be some value in buying a flash lamington.

Given the paucity of sponge cakes in the shops, I decided to bake one for myself. It can't be that hard.

Well, maybe it is. I just pulled my sponge out of the oven and the centre is so deflated, it looks like a donut with an incompletely formed hole in the middle. I guess I can salvage the outer bits for lamingtons.

I can see I need some practice at this.

Don't you just love young drivers?

I snapped this photo before lunch. Note the glowing headlights in the middle of the day.

I went back an hour later and the lights were still on.

But dimmer.

An hour later, they were completely off. I wonder if we will hear the howls of anguish when the young owner returns sometime later today?

And guess what? I no longer own a set of jumper leads. It's going to be tough titties I'm afraid.

I never want to own another car that lacks one of these two features.

It has a warning chime if you leave the lights on and open the drivers door.

The lights automatically turn off when you switch off the ignition (well, they turn off after 30 seconds or so).

HP must be short of cash - sell, sell, sell

I bought a Compaq laptop last month. It came with a $100 cash back offer, which I duly filled out and sent in.

I then got this email:

Your claim has now been validated. Please allow up to 75 days to receive your promotional offering, as per the terms and conditions of the promotion.

If they need to hang onto my money for 75 days, they must be suffering cash flow problems. Either that, or they are processing the claims in Zimbabwe, after they have been transferred there by donkey cart from Egypt.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Circle work on school grounds?

The impressive bit of lawn lifting in the school grounds shown below was not done by some of the local hoons in a stupid coloured WRX. It was done by the digger in the background. The Edumacation Department has a bee in its bonnet about using woodchips as a surface in school grounds, so these holidays, the whole lot are being dug up and replaced with god knows what. Rejected tofu perhaps?

Great wodges of lawn have been sacrificed to this project. Given the weather at the moment, our grass is growing about 1mm per month. I doubt I will have to mow the lawn until September the rate it is going. I doubt that the school grass will recover either over the next few months, so the kiddies will have to put up with a mud pit for the next semester. Good planning.

The safety nazis have really been to town at the school with the yellow warning paint. Every dip, rise, bump and knoll on the school grounds has been liberally coated in yellow paint to warn those that don't look where they are going that there is a trip hazard in front of them.

Personally, I hate this yellow paint idea. It gives people the idea that they are no longer responsible for watching where they are going, and for their own personal wellbeing. If you don't want to fall into that pot hole in front of you, get the mobile phone out of your ear and concentrate on where you are walking - you pillock!

I believe all the trip hazards should be painted a deep, dark black. That way, you'd really have to look hard to see them, so people would be walking around with a look of intense concentration on their faces, rather than the vacant, mouth breathing look that so many adopt in this day and age. Either that, or they'd be covered in bandages and unable to move at all thanks to all the plaster wrapped around their limbs.

Thank goodness for Top Gear

Top Gear is back on SBS. Thank goodness for that. It's been months since I have seen some good old fashion stupid television. I was missing it so much, I even went and bought a Top Gear DVD. I know that it's possible to download episodes, but they are no fun to watch on the PC. I like to sit back on the couch and enjoy an hour of mayhem, silly cars and ridiculous banter.

I also love the fact that the boys are in trouble again for driving across a salt pan in Africa.

Hmm, salt pans. I understand that they are nice and flat because when it rains, some of the salt disolves, and when all the water evaporates, it leaves a lovely flat surface.

Ok, maybe it doesn't rain in that part of Africa an awful lot, but I doubt that the tyre tracks are going to be there forever. Next time it rains, all the evidence will disappear.

Presuming it ever rains again (thanks to Global Warming).

All I can say is that thanks to Top Gear, I now know that the thingamajig salt pans exist. I never knew that. I didn't really want to know that either.

OK, I just looked up the pans on wikipedia - I suggest you do the same. I doubt the tyre tracks will be there for long.

"In context"

Got an email yesterday that used the dreaded term "in context". Then I saw it used in an article this morning in the paper.

This is one term that needs to be stamped out. I can't stand it, and I can't understand it's popularity.

I am going to have to respond to the sender and ask, "Please explain?"

How is this calculated?

The ABC is holding a poll at the moment at the site that they have setup for The Great Global Warming Swindle.

What I find amazing is that the "no" vote has been stuck on 75% for the last 2 days. It has not budged, even though the number of votes has climbed from 2000 to about 5500 since I started observing it. I have checked in every few hours, found that a few hundred more votes have been added, and have noticed that the no vote does not move from 75% or 76%.

Amazing. Does this mean that people are voting in a consistent proportion of 3:1 against? I would have thought that the polling numbers would have swung about somewhat - down to say 60%, then maybe up to 80%, then down again etc. Having them stuck on 75% for so long is deeply suspicious.

Someone at the ABC wouldn't be tampering with the results would they?

Spare us any more cloned concerts

Live Earth (or whatever it was called) - another music festival brought to you by McDonalds.

Well, maybe not McDonalds, but it had all the hallmarks of McDonalds.

A bland, safe, boring product that was nicely packaged and served up in a mild and inoffensive manner. The same boring pap reproduced seamlessly all around the world. Take your pick - a cheeseburger or a Live Earth concert.

Personally, I don't mind having McDonalds every now and then - like when I have a hangover - but I really prefer a custom made burger from a caravan parked near an isolated surf beach somewhere. A burger that is whipped up on the spot, and drips sufficiently to leave grease spots all over your clothes. They take longer to produce, no two are ever the same, they generally cost more - but boy, are they ever so satisfying. A good burger can live in your memory for years.

How long does the memory of a McDonalds cheeseburger last? 10 seconds? Maybe longer if you get reflux and burp for the next 200km of your road trip?

If I want to be bored to death, I'll go to the next mass-produced "event". But somehow I doubt it.

Monday, 9 July 2007

The death of video

The SMH has a story today about a video store that is selling 5000 VHS tapes for $2 a pop.

The statistics show why this is happening. In 2000, Australians spent $176m renting videos and $157m buying them. In 2006, we spent $0.5m renting videos and $3.6m buying them. The graph goes in the opposite direction for DVDs. In 2000 we spent $10.2 m renting DVDs and $59.5m buying them. In 2006 we spent $175m renting DVDs and $1,014m buying them.

Back when I worked in a video rental shop, we used to buy new release videos for $100. They went up to $110 or $120 just before I left. That was back when a new release rented for $5. We only used to buy about a dozen of each title - even if it was a blockbuster - because they were so damned expensive. With the tide of new releases coming out, each video did not have long to turn a profit.

Think about it - each video had to rent 20 times before it made a profit for the store. That's three weeks of being rented out every night.

Many vids were complete duds of course. We'd get 10 copies and few of them would ever leave the shelves. The store bought some absolute stinkers.

Where the store made all its money was from really old stuff. The boss would go to a store that was having a big sale of old stock and buy a boot load of videos. And I mean a boot load - he bought and bought and bought until the boot of his car was full.

Then he'd bring them to the shop and we'd have to clean them up, put them into the computer and find room on the shelves. They only rented for $1 a week, but given that he probably bought most of them for 50 cents, they turned a profit at the first renting.

The price of a new release also went to $6 just before I left due to the distribution companies ramping up the cost of new releases to $120. If you ask me, they were killing the golden goose.

The thing that I got out of this article is the amazing growth in DVD purchases. Look at the numbers - we are buying 7 times more DVD's per year than we ever bought videos. If you ask me, this is a big reason why sales of music CD's are declining. It's not on line piracy - it's the fact that people have a certain budget for buying entertainment. In the past, because of a lack of choice, most of it was devoted to buying CD's. When the option of buying movies came along, people simply shifted a proportion of that fixed budget from music to movies.

Let's say I budget $100 per year for entertainment. In 2000, I would have spent 100% of that on music, since I thought that buying videos was a crap way to spend my money.

In 2007, I might spend 60% of that $100 on movies and only 40% on music. The whole market has changed, and I don't think the record companies have a clue. They don't seem to get that people don't generally have a music budget, they have an entertainment budget. As more options come along for taking chunks out of that budget, spending on some items has to decline. The music industry seems to think that we have a music budget that is separate from all our other personal budgets (food, clothing, travel, rent etc) and is not impacted on by other close substitutes.

Now it could be argued that the $100 budget should be larger by the year 2007 due to growth in incomes and that sort of thing, but frankly, mine has shrunk quite considerably as I have gotten older. If I spent $1000 on music in 1995, I would be lucky to spend $50 in 2007.

And guess what? Most of my entertainment budget is now spent at places like the ABC Shop on Wiggles DVD's.

Bloody technology

I am still gobsmacked at the kind of technical know how you need these days to solve IT problems.

I have been having trouble with my new PC connecting to the internet - downloads have been slow, things have been timing out - so I did a bit of searching today for answers.

Turned out that I had an incorrect port mapping table in my router.

I presume that would be completely incomprehensible to about 98% of the population. How the hell are most people supposed to figure that out on their own?

On the upside, if technology companies continue to produce products that are as difficult to configure as this one, there'll be a job for me for years to come.


I have been trying (without success) to buy some brightly coloured cycling gloves from my local bike shops. I keep getting fobbed off with the excuse that "the manufacturers only make them in blue and black, so that's all we stock".

Watching Le Tour though, that statement appears to be bollocks. I had a quick look at the front of the pelleton today and noted that all of the riders had white, yellow or orange gloves - which is what I want.

Why is it ok for those guys to wear bright colours (obviously in their team colours) but not ok for shops to sell them? I want a bright pair so that they stand out, particularly after dark. When I indicate that I am turning right, I don't want some dickhead car driver to try and overtake me just as I turn right across his bows. The result could be quite painful - for me.

Le Tour

It's on again. Thank goodness for the digital recorder, since SBS starts its coverage just before midnight. I record 2-3 hours per night, and watch it the following day when I'm sitting on the couch with laptop on lap (like now). It's like the cricket - you can just keep it on in the background.

One nice thing about cycling is we will hopefully never see "bike cams" mounted on any of the entrants. Since cyclists are paranoid about every gram of weight, no one would want to take on a camera, battery pack and transmitter. The stupid gimmicky cameras that most sports now seem to employ have gone too far.

When it comes to most sports, I never devote 100% of my viewing attention to watching the game - even if I am there live. If I go to the cricket, I take a newspaper and read the paper in between balls. I even like to have something to read at the footy. Tennis is the pits when it comes to continuous action (or a lack of it). I might spend a maximum of 50% of my time actually watching what is going on - unlike just about everything else on TV (apart from music videos), it does not require continuous attention.

Unfortunately, producers of TV sports seem to want to grab up to 100% of your attention, which means endless gimicks designed to keep your eyeballs on the screen. I don't know why - if the sport is half decent, I won't be changing channels, and sometimes the ads are more interesting than the sport. They should only really care about getting my attention when the ads are on - that's what's paying the bills after all.

The beauty of recording Le Tour of course is that I can fast forward through the minimal number of ads that SBS screens.

Digital reception

I got a nasty shock last night - not an electric one, but a digital one.

Our digital set top box/recorder has two TV tuners. You are supposed to be able to watch TV on one tuner and record on the other, or even record on both. It's a great feature when there are two things that you want to watch on at the same time.

Because we don't have an external amplifier, I had to rig up two aerials to get enough signal for the receiver to work. What I didn't realise is that the jury-rigged aerials only provided enough signal for one tuner to work. We can no longer watch something on one channel and record on the other.

Some landlords need to be shot.

What is in white bread these days?

ur toaster has a dial that allows you to change how much toasting you give your bread. It goes up to 6 (This toaster was not designed by a fan of Spinal Tap). When I toast normal Tip Top mush, we set it to 3.5 and watch it like a hawk to ensure that it doesn't burn.

When I make my own bread, I have to toast it twice. It takes about 3 times the toasting of store bought bread. That's even when I slice my bread into wafer thin slices. Even then, the crust starts burning before the middle is properly toasted.

I'd like to know what the difference is, since all my bread contains is flour, water, yeast and salt.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Live Earth - what a crock

I hope Live Earth crashed and burned (and release millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in the process).

I am so over these stupidly large outdoor concerts for one cause or another. I go to see a band because I want to drink beer and listen to really loud music that I like. I spotted a poster today that told me that Magic Dirt will be playing at the Annandale later this month. How I'd like to go to that. That's my idea of seeing a band - a small, crowded pub, with pub beer prices and the band so close, you can be sweated on by the lead singer if you feel like it.

The last outdoor show that I really enjoyed would have to be the debacle out at Eastern Creek in around 1995. I can't remember the name of the tour, but it was billed as a competitor to the Big Day Out, and it just failed. It toured all the major cities, but it was a once off event. I think part of the problem is that it poured down with rain in Sydney, and that stuffed their budget. The promoters probably went bust as a result.

The reason I liked it so much is that it was anarchy. The rain came down all day, and the fields turned into mud. People were climbing a small pimple of a hill, running downhill and then jumping and belly sliding to the bottom. The mosh pit was just a huge mud fight. After a while, people tired of throwing mud at each other and started throwing it at the stage. The promoter came out with a microphone and threatened to cancel the whole show if people didn't stop chucking mud, but all that did was prompt everyone to throw mud at him. It went from say 50 kilos of mud in the air per second, being thrown around amiably, to about a tonne of mud in the air per second, all being viciously hurled at him. The result was that the entire stage ended up being about a foot deep in mud. The band playing at the time didn't seem too worried - I guess if you smash up your set every now and then, getting a bit of mud in the speakers is not such a big issue.

Yes, it was cold and wet, but that just meant that you had to jump around all the time to stay warm. During one particularly ferocious set by Faith No More, we could barely see the stage thanks to the huge clouds of steam that were coming off the people in front. We sent up enough steam to create our own clouds, and possibly more rain.

Anyway, I loved it because of the disorganisation, the lack of trying to rob everyone blind with ticket and drink prices, and the fact that we all ended up drunk, stoned and covered in mud. We had to leave early after one of the people I went with dropped too much acid and started having a bad trip involving rats during the set by Nine Inch Nails.

Ah, such is youth.

Anyway, the modern version of this sort of concert is just so saccharine and absurd. They're so bloody nice and woolly headed and dull. People in hemp shirts run around proclaiming slogans about saving this or that. Screw that. I want mud, beer, people jumping up and down relentlessly and loud, loud music without all the cant and crap that gets served up these days.

If I see Toni Collette in the street, I'll have to remember to deck her. She's partly responsible for turning these shows into the music version of "The brady bunch". The brady bunch being a particularly sickening and soppy soapie.

Hmm, methinks the thing out at Eastern Creek might have been Alternative Nation, but I am not sure about that.

More hospital madness

We had to make another trip to the Emergency dept at RPA last night. Thankfully, we were seen to pretty quickly. There were some dregs of humanity in there that were complaining that they had been sitting there since 3pm (this was about 9pm) and they were wondering when a doctor would be available to see them.

Given that I couldn't see anything wrong with all of them, I presume the staff just left them sitting there until they got sick of waiting and wasting time and left. There was one young wog there complaining of chest pains. He was a real pinhead. By the look of it, he was having chest pains because he had snorted too much coke (or some other drug). He was a really greasy guido, and he spent half his time trying to chat up the nurses through the bullet proof glass. We just rolled our eyes at him, which is pretty much what they did as well.

The stupid thing is that when you first turn up, you get seen by a triage nurse who decides what to do with you. We spent five minutes with the nurse, describing symptoms and that sort of thing, and he diligently took it all down on a form. That form disappeared into a file somewhere and we were told to wait.

Within 15 minutes, we were shown through to a ward where we were seen by another nurse (eventually). At least they had a TV in the waiting room, so I caught the end of a Harry Potter movie. The second nurse pulled out another form and took all the same details all over again. That took another 5 minutes, and the same tests that the triage nurse were run all over again.

Some time later, a doctor turned up. Thankfully, the doctor actually read the file instead of pulling out a form and taking down all the info again, but it would not have surprised me if all our stuff was taken down - by hand - a third time.

And you wonder why it takes so long to be seen by a nurse or a doctor - they are all double or triple handling the same information! They could probably see people 50% faster if they actually bothered to send the file around with the patient.

Hopeless. Is this why the medical system is always screaming for more funds? To buy more forms to fill out in triplicate?

Saturday, 7 July 2007

The Spanish Civil War

I have almost finished "The Battle for Spain" by Antony Beevor. It's been a cracking book. I can now see why the war was such a biggie.

How the Russians managed to beat the Nazis in WWII is beyond me - they were so totally hopeless in Spain, it makes your eyes water. I guess they simply had more troops to throw away, and they threw them away with gusto.

I have also read "Stalingrad" by Beevor. All I need now is a copy of "Berlin". I've read part of it by borrowing a copy from someone else, but I want to read the whole thing now.

Having read Stalingrad, I find it hard to see why some "experts" were saying that the battle for Baghdad was going to be a second Stalingrad. What rubbish. There's all sorts of reasons why the Germans screwed up Stalingrad, and most of them are not to do with street fighting in a major city. Just because Baghdad is also a big city, doesn't mean that the yanks were going to get bogged down in street fighting and lose the war. Yes, it's easy to say that in hindsight, but anyone with half an idea of what happened at Stalingrad could see it was utter crap.

Beevor was out here recently for a writers festival. I wanted to see him speak, but was too sick with the flu to go. Pity. He writes a good book.

Fish oil

Egads, I think I am going to have to start taking fish oil tablets. I had them as a kid, and I can't think of anything worse to have.

I started getting really bad pain in my knee joints a bit over a month ago. I suffered through it for a few weeks, then I started thinking about diet. I was no longer eating sushi for lunch 4 to 5 times a week - I was missing my raw fish.

So I went and ate sushi three days in a row. A week later, the pain had almost gone.

I have a choice - find a good Japanese place that does cheap sushi, and have it every second day, or start on the tablets. Personally, I prefer the sushi method, but the Jap place near here just isn't up to scratch, and the nearest alternative is Balmain. I don't think I want to be going to Balmain every second day for sushi for lunch.



We have a new laptop. It cost us $699 at Office Works. Well, actually it cost $799, and then I had to send a form off to Compaq to get a $100 rebate. I don't know why they buggerise around with these things. Why now just give us the cheap laptop?

What do you get for a $700 laptop? Well, you get something that is quite adequate for sitting on the couch and blogging on. It's got a 15 inch screen, a hard drive that is 10 times larger than we need, and a processor that seems fast enough for now. It's not overly light, but then it is not significantly heavier than the others that were on sale - it's a bit under 3 kg. I don't know about battery life, but I suspect that like all laptops, it is a lot less than what they advertise. If we get an hour out of the battery, I will be happy.

The main apps that we'll be using on it are a browser, Outlook and maybe Word. It doesn't need to be the most powerful beast ever invented. It just needs to be able to run a browser, which it does quite well.

My only gripe is the lack of RAM, and you can't buy extra RAM at Office Works. It came with 512MB, so I need to take it to a local computer shop to buy another 512MB. The instructions that it came with of course say nothing about the type of RAM that's already installed, so I will have to take it to the shop, open it up and see if they have something similar.

I even had a look at the Compaq web site, and it tells me nothing either. Why can't they give you a list of part numbers so you can just ring up and say, "send me a unit of XYZ".


A trap for oven buyers

We got a new oven recently. Because our old one gave up the ghost.

The new one has some amazingly stupid features. Let me list them for you.

It is too narrow for our roasting tins. The external dimensions are the same as the old one, but it is several inches smaller inside. It's like a reverse Tardis.

It only goes up to 200 degrees, whereas the last one went to 260. Bread making and pizza baking are going to be a real challenge with this wimpy oven.

The heating element only comes on if you turn the timer on. And the timer only goes for two hours, so if I am slow roasting something that needs say 4 hours, I need to go and reset the timer after two hours, because if I don't, the heat goes off.

What a cheap bit of crap.