Friday, 31 August 2007

Why are universities full of the children of rich people?

It used to be that going to university was a preserve of the elite. Only the very rich could afford to send a fop off to a gilded existence of drink and sex and little work for 3 or 4 years. The poor just got on with the daily grind.

Then it became axiomatic that universities must be open to all, but somehow, it seems that most of those getting in are still stubornly from the middle and upper classes.

Why is this so?

I had a look at a Greenpeace survey tonight. Have a look at the results and then go to page 9. That is where the survey is broken down by income levels.

The stand-out figures for me are the "don't know" results when people are asked about whether enough is being done about global warming and all that crap.

31% of those earning under $30,000 a year don't have a clue.

The figure is 16% for those earning over $30,000 a year.

That to me says that those earning under $30,000 just aren't following any issues of the day. None. Nada. They can probably tell you to within a cent the price of Winfield Blues at every bottle shop and TAB within a 10km radius, but wouldn't be able to name the Prime Minister.

I know I am using a big brush here, but many of them are the Great Unwashed. They are the Sink of Low Expectations. They are the Dumping Ground of the Unmotivated. Why should we think that the offspring of these types should turn out to be Beethoven?

Yes, the great mixing of genes will allow two gumbies to mate and produce a prodigy. Two rocket scientists can also couple and the result is an intellectual squib (to borrow from Harry Potter). You never know how the dice will roll. But I would have thought that in the main, succesful people breed more succesful people. Proles pump out more useless proles. That is why the middle and upper classes get their sprogs into uni - the parents are succesful, pushy types that have clawed their way up the slippery pole, and they have bred and cultivated their offspring to do the same. No amount of quotas or subsidies or other bullshit will ever overturn that.

What the stupid, quota loving, levelling down leftie idiots forget is that if someone gets admitted to a "proper" university (and not a jumped-up TAFE), it is the result of 17 or 18 years of hard work by the parents, the sprog, their peers and teachers. It is not an overnight thing. 17 years of training, moulding, example-setting and effort produce the required result. Parachuting someone into Uni via a quota is not the way to get the right people into areas of academic excellence.

I'd like to see the questions on this survey

According to a Greenpeace survey, the majority of us say "no" to more coal powered power stations.

I must be in a minority then that prefer not to freeze in winter, have my meat go off in the summer and like to run a PC 24 hours a day.

If you don't want another coal powered generator, good for you. Do me a favour though - turn off your air conditioner and your freezer and your washing machine and your computers and your hot water system and just bugger off in general.

The alternative of course is that the majority may favour a nuclear option instead.

Not something you see everyday

A cop with a radar gun on the ANZAC Bridge. You occasionally see them on the approaches to the other side of the bridge, but never here.

In fact seeing a cop anywhere in Sydney with a radar run is like spotting a dodo or a sabre toothed tiger - they are a species that just doesn't seem to exist...

......except that they manage to hand out millions of fines per year. I just can't work out where all the fines are coming from. Seeing a police car in traffic is no more probable than seeing an alien spaceship. I wonder if they just have a computer somewhere that makes all the fines up?

Get over it

Check out the number plate - 'awesom".

Yeah, as in "awesom tool".

Who lives here?

I snapped this photo earlier this week. It's of a house around the corner from us. I've driven past it dozens of times, but never really looked at it closely. It's funny how you can go past something many, many times, and really only have a very superficial image of the place.

I had a closer look because I was on the bike, and I was annoyed at a car parked out the front of it. This street is quite narrow, and if cars are parked on both sides of the street, it becomes a one way street, and you have to slalom your way up and down the street. I have become quite annoyed at the car out the front because I always have to slalom around it because of the stupid way it is parked.

Well, maybe not for much longer. The rego on the car out the front expired two months ago, and I have reported it to the Council. With luck, they will post a warning sticker on it shortly, and it will be towed away in a month.

Now all I need to do is get the Council to take away the boat parked on the other side of the road.

The front yard of this house is completely fascinating. On top of the abandoned car out the front, there is another in the driveway. Just beside the rear wheel there is a sofa that is covered in 1960's style hi-fi equipment. The yard next to the car is overgrown with weeds that reach to hip level, and the only spots not covered in weeds are those that contain other furniture that has been left outside to rot. I might have to stake the place out to see who emerges - is it a mad old granny who hoards everything, or some drug addled hippies? Or perhaps some students who put more effort into smoking bongs than studying and cleaning up the house.

Regardless of all that, I'd be horrified if the place is rented. Imagine if you owned this house and the agent had let it go to hell like this.

The other alternative of course is that it is owner occupied. That means an insane owner is sitting in a house worth maybe three quarters of a million bucks. If I had a mad aunt like that, I'm pretty sure I'd have her committed and the estate turned over to someone trustworthy - like me.

Will shoddy be made good?

A few months back, I was passing through the city and went past a Rebel Sport store that was closing down. I popped in to have a look, and picked up a pair of Netti fingerless gloves for $20. I bought them specifically for the colour - when I indicate that I am turning, I want the car behind me to see my hand. I figured that bright yellow gloves should do the trick.

The amazing thing is how hard it is to find brightly coloured gloves. Most of the time, you have a choice of dark grey, dark blue or black. Bright colours, or neon colours, and almost impossible to find, which is why I snapped this pair up as soon as I saw them.

It was winter at the time, so I was still wearing my long gloves when I bought them. However, the sun came out this week, so it was time to try out the new gloves.

They lasted four days before a seam gave way and the whole glove split across the palm. The seam in question is not stitched - it is simply glued in place. The glue gave way, and that was that. Four rides was all I got out of them.

I sent Netti an email today, including the above photos, and got a very quick response saying that they will replace the gloves if I send them in, and that they are very sorry etc etc. I like the fact that they responded so quickly, so I have just returned from a trip to the Post Office - the gloves are in the mail.

The question is this - will the replacement set be any better than the originals? My assumption is that these are all made in China or Sri Lanka, and it looks like either the factories are skimping on the manufacturing process or the specification for the gloves is not very good or the design is simply rubbish. My old gloves are now three years old, and they've been through two crashes where they got rubbed into the asphalt and they've done about 8000km worth of being pressed up against the handlebars. They are hardly worn. I only decided to get a new set as the old ones are dark blue, and I want some brighter gloves for safety reasons.

Ah well, it's all in the hands of Netti now. Maybe I'll be responsible for the recall of an entire range of gloves - who knows.

I do know this. The gloves cost me $20. An envelope to post them back cost me $1, and the postage was $3.85. So far, replacing them has cost me nearly 25% of the original cost of the gloves. I hope they give me a free shirt as well, or at least a better pair of gloves.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

The road to fishdom

Picking a route today was a snap. I had a few chores to run, including dropping the car off at an auto electrician to see why the lights aren't working. That meant driving there with the bike on the back, dumping the car and then riding to the Fish Markets.

I haven't been to the Fish Markets for at least 6 months. I used to go all the time, but then the stupid buggers that run the place started charging for parking. I can understand them wanting to stop people from parking there all day and walking to the city, but they should have made at least the first half hour free - enough time to get in, buy a kilo of prawns and shoot through. I hate the idea of buying half a kilo of prawns for $15 and then getting slugged with a two or three dollar parking charge on top. It makes a small purchase of seafood - like enough for dinner - just that much more expensive.

It's not a problem on the bike, since I simply ducked in via the footpath and missed all the parking gates and ticket machines.

I did my shopping at Costi's - for the simple reason that their shop does not stink of fish. Our local supermarket has a seafood section and I always avoid it because it pongs. I've been in there near closing time and watched the staff wrapping the seafood and putting it away, and then been there in the morning when its come out again. I guess that process could be repeated day after day with some fish. Ugh.

What I didn't consider though was the wisdom of buying 2 kilos of seafood, stuffing it in my backpack and then riding home in the morning heat. I trust my body heat hasn't in fact par boiled the scallops. I guess we will find out when I fire up the BBQ for dinner.

I am also wondering whether I will get a working vehicle back today. I looked up auto electricians in the yellow pages and there are only two listed in our area. The phone for one of them is disconnected, so it's not like I had a lot of choice in where to take the car.

The best way to think about the shop that I went to is Steptoe and Son, without the son. Driving into that place was like driving into a mechanics shop from the 1970's - girlie calendar on the wall, grease and oil everywhere, filthy tools and a filthy mechanic sitting at a filthy desk with no PC and - get this - using a diary from 2006!

It's going to be an interesting day.....

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Where to next?

One problem with not having a job to ride to is finding interesting places to cycle to. Well, interesting and also places that don't involve sharing roads with mad taxi driver, semi-trailers and buses. The options start to get a bit thin after a while.

Todays choice of route was simple - I needed to find a place where I could buy brake light globes for the car.

I initially tried our local garage. I told the bloke behind the counter what I needed (a 21 watt single filament bulb) and he immediately asked me what I needed it for. "Brake?" Yes, brakes. He rooted around in his bulb collection and produced a 21 watt dual filament bulb.

I told him it was not the same as the one in the car.

"Impossible. All brake lights are dual filament".

Well, they are if your brake lights are also your tail lights. However, in the Disco, the tail lights and brake lights are separate creatures, so only one filament is required.

I didn't argue the point - I just bought the globe and went home.

Of course it didn't fit. The lugs were in the wrong position.

So I hopped on the bike and went back to get the right type of globe - this time taking the old one with me.

He took one look at it - "We no have this type".

Who does?


Where can I find the nearest Repco?

"Search me?"

So I now had a bike route to cover - visit every garage in the suburb looking for the right type of bulb. Of course the first place I went to had them, so from there, I just went out to Homebush again and pootered around for a while looking for a cafe that sold tasty pies.

I had less luck with the pies than the light globes.


Monsters from the backyard.

That's a lot of guns

According to the SMH:

The United States has 90 guns for every 100 citizens, making it the most heavily-armed society in the world, a report released on Tuesday said.

US citizens own 270 million of the world's 875 million known firearms, according to the Small Arms Survey 2007 by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.

About 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the United States, it said.

Now I know that a lot of people get shot in the US each year, but with that many guns lying around, I am surprised that so few people get shot compared to the number of available firearms.

I am not sure everyone else will see it this way.

Anyone for a bit of Turkish?

Last week also brought on a craving for some good Turkish food. I'm not talking about a kebab either - I'm talking about lots of little bowls of really interesting and tasty dips and stuff spread all over a table like I had in Turkey. It's been a long, long time since I had a good Turkish meal - like since about 1995 or 1996. That is a long time to go between nibbles.

It appears that most of Sydney's Turks are concentrated around Auburn, which is only about 10 -15 minutes west of here by car. Essentially you drive past the Flemington Markets (where I go most weekends), go a bit further down Parramatta Road and then turn left.

We need some new rugs around the house, and that area is also full of rug shops, so we made the trip on Monday. We had a look at some rugs, then went looking for food.

We were totally disappointed. The shopping area of Auburn is built around the train station, so you have half a shopping district on one side of the tracks and half on the other. It must be one of the few major town centres that has not had a Westfield Mall dumped in the middle of it either.

The two shopping strips are dull, dreary and very run down. The place really looks like a slum. The buildings are crying out for a coat of paint, and the streetscapes really need to be cleaned up. I don't remember seeing a single tree anywhere near the shops - it is just drab grey concrete, tarmac and bricks.

According to Domain, 40% of the inhabitants are Muslims, and the majority are Lebanese by birth (followed by Turkish). After driving all over the place, we stopped and hopped out and went for a walk. It was pretty clear that we were the most "anglo" people in the place by a long shot. Speaking English seemed to be very much an option. I don't think I'd want to be wandering around the place after dark.

We had a look at a few food shops, and none were that attractive, so we ended up driving home and having a sandwich. I have since done a bit of interweb research, and have found that there is a strip of good looking cafes and restaurants on one street - we actually drove down that street, but turned at a point where we missed all the cafes. Clearly, The Force does not work for me in Auburn.

I also had a look on Domain at property prices. I searched for what we are typically looking for - a 3 or 4 bedroom house (bugger the number of bathrooms). Around here (and for many suburbs around) such a dwelling usually starts at $700,000 and quickly goes up into the millions.

In Auburn, you can get a 3 bedroom house for a bit over $360,000, and prices don't appear to go over half a million.

Having been there, I can see why. It's a tip. You'd have to pay me to live there.

The interesing thing is that I went to the NRMA website to get a quote for contents insurance and the quote was about 40% cheaper than what we pay at the moment. I guess breaking and entering doesn't pay in Auburn.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

How does Triple J lead to beer drinking?

I was listening to Triple J the other night and there was a discussion on Budhism and what the correct practices were. One bloke emailed from Japan to say that he had studied Budhism at school in Australia, where he was taught that it was all about eliminating desire, and then he went and stayed in a temple in Japan and found that the monks all loved smoking, beer and steak! He was shocked to the core, and didn't know what to make of it.

If you ask me, Richard Gere is to blame. He practices budhism the way he thinks it should be done, and then every idiot around the planet thinks that is the way it should be done and they follow blindly. Bloody celebreties and religion - they don't mix.

Anyway, I was driving along and I suddenly got this manic urge to drink Japanese beer. Just the mention of it made me want it really badly.

The thing is, I had no idea where to get it at 10pm at night, so I drove home and put my urge away for a few days.

I had some free time today, so I visited two Balmain bottle shops in the hope of scoring some.

The first place I tried was 60 Darling Street, mainly because it is a famous wine shop with a huge selection, and I thought they might have a good range of beers.

Well, I was wrong about that. I did find a single bottle of Asahi Super Dry, which I duly purchased for $4. The woman behind the counter looked at me really strangely - who buys a single 330ml bottle of beer?

I then tried a normal bottle shop up the road, and lo and behold, they had both Asahi and Sapporo in cans. I bought a single can of Sapporo, which cost me $7.90. The bloke in that bottle shop thought I was mad - paying that much for a tinnie, and he tried to convince me to switch to Tiger beer instead. However, he didn't understand my mad urge. If I wanted to drink a can of formaldehyde, I would have been happy with a Tiger. But I wanted Japanese beer.

The odd thing is that I have no urge to eat Japanese food with it. You'd think that I'd also be running around looking for sushi at the same time, but my stomach is having none of that. It just wants beer.

Personally, I blame cycling around in the hot sun for these silly urges. I'll have to do more of it.

Tacky, tacky, tacky...

Checkk out this tool of a car - and the stupid number plate. "darock". No wonder it's for sale. If I owned something this hideous, I'd park it in a quiet street and set fire to it.

Then again, look at the house. Ugh. The inhabitants probably think this car is the epitomy of style and taste. Some wogs should be drowned when they reach adulthood.

Newington armory

The newly created suburb of Newington is built on the site of the old Newington Armory, which is where the Navy used to store a stack of munitions etc. Part of the site is still closed to the public, but most of it now seems to be covered in horrible, lego-like houses. More lego blocks are being stacked on top of each other as I write in order to cover all the remaining land in horrible monuments to the inability of architects to build something liveable.

If you walk down a backstreet in Paddington, the old terraces look mighty fine. Somehow, I doubt whether these terraces in Newington will evoke the same feelings in 100 years time.

I don't know what the builders were thinking when they put these places up, but they all have the most horrible doors and entrances imaginable. The front door and the entranceway to a house sets the tone for the whole place. I rode up and down a dozen streets looking at doors and failed to find one that was even remotely attractive. I guess the builder went to Bunnings and bought a few hundred copies of the cheapest one on the rack - it certainly looks that way.

I passed the Rivercat on the way around to Newington. Let me say that again - I passed it. It must be restricted to 20 km/h in this part of the river due to the wash it creates. The Rivercat doesn't create a bow wave at all, but it does create an odd wave fro mthe stern. If you look in the bottom right hand corner, you can see a big ripple coming off the stern and leading to the shore.

I've heard that the pollution problems that have been experienced in this area of late are a result of the wash created by the Rivercats - they don't create any turbulence on the surface, but apparently they stir up the river bottom something fierce. All the heavy metals and pesticides and so on that were happily sitting on the river bottom for decades doing nothing were suddenly all stirred up when the rivercat started plying up and down.

I almost ran over a couple of ducks a bit after this shot was taken. They were waddling across the path in front of me, and showed no inclination to get a move on. I suddenly thought that if the fish are full of heavy metals, then these ducks are probably so full of lead and cadmium, that they could barely float - let alone fly.

This is the wharf in front of the armory. There are a couple of old cranes on it, as well as a very narrow gauge railway line that leads into the armory. It's pretty easy to imagine ships tying up at the wharf and a train trundling out with ammunition that was then swung out via the cranes. Today, it has some nice benches and BBQs as well as a series of cute fountains down the back.

For once, I ran into some other cyclists who were out and about. One group headed on down the path towards Parramatta (at least that is what the sign said) and another group sat on the wharf waiting for the ferry to come back. It's not often that I see other cyclists when I am out, mainly because I am stooging around in the middle of the day. If it was a weekend, or 7am on a weekday, I am sure I would be running into them all over the place.

I wanted to actually look around the armory, but it is only open on weekends. I can't figure out why, but I was in no mood to jump the gate and find out the reason.

The jaunt around the armory extend todays ride by a smidgeon - my total now stands at 60km over 2 days. Pathetic, but better than zero.

The weather was lovely today - it was about 27 degrees when I was out, with a slight breeze. Again, I hardly broke a sweat - going west, everything is flat as a pancake. Unless I really crank up the speed, I am not getting much of a cardio workout.

To stockpile or not to stockpile?

Should one stockpile enormous quantities of toilet paper, or is it better to purchase it on a regular basis?

I ask this question as I was in a supermarket the other day, and when I went to pay for my goods, the checkout chick told me that I could get a better deal on toilet paper by swapping the rolls I had selected for a 12 pack that was piled up behind me. I pondered it for a second, and then said "Nah" and got on with it.

Now if I was a stockpiling type of person, I would have bought half a dozen packs and that would have been enough to last us a few months.

The problem is though that you get used to having unlimited toilet paper in the house, so you don't bother checking how much you have or buying it on every second visit to the supermarket - until that day when you find that the unlimited stockpile is empty.

So I figure it is better to just buy it on a regular basis.

Monday, 27 August 2007

A very, very funny blog

Conversations with a nasty taxi dispatcher.

SBS - begone already

Paul Sheehan savages SBS in the paper today. It's not a bad article. My only insight into this is that my in-laws are from a foreign land, and although they get a weekly paper from the home country, I have never seen them watch SBS. They watch the local news, since that is what is relevant to them (no use seeing what the weather is like in southern Europe at this time of year - you want to know whether to wear a cardigan today or not). They watch the same movies and soapies as you and me.

And now they have the internet. Email does not seem to be much use, as all their relatives back in the old country aren't online, so the only people they can email is us, and all concerned still prefer the weekly phone call.

But I am digressing. I guess before long they will dump the subscription to the newspaper and read all their news from the old country online. Last time we visited, I noticed that they had bookmarked quite a few sites like that.

So what use is SBS?

I like watching Top Gear (when it is on) and junior loves the horrible cartoons like South Park. Frankly, I would prefer that SBS just ceased to exist so that he wouldn't be able to watch them anymore.

The overseas news is a waste of time. If I want to know what is happening in say the UK, I go to websites like the BBC, The Times, The Independent or even (shudder) the Guardian. I figure that people from say Greece now do the same thing. SBS is redundant. If a business case was put up today to set it up and fund it, it would be rejected out of hand as totally stupid. It's time has come and gone. Fold up your tents and be done with it.

To ride once more

Finally, the weather has started to warm up (a lovely 24 degrees today with little wind) and my lungs have cleared. So today it was back on the bike.

Since my last ride ended in disaster, sickness and bed for a week, I took it very easy today. A gentle, flat 28km in about 75 minutes. In other words, a short dawdle. I didn't even break into a sweat.

What I did find is that I started to chafe towards the end, so it is a good thing I kept it short today. Chafing has never really been a problem for me before, and it's a worry if it is starting after a measly 28km. The forecast for the rest of the week is more of the same, so I am planning on doing a week of easy rides - nothing over 40km - and nothing to sweat home about.

Just for kicks, I took some photos of rubbish during my ride. This shows a trap in one of the canals that the bike path follows.

For perspective - that coat hangery type building on the far left is Telstra Stadium.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

"Baggy pantes" should be "faggy pants"

Another missive from the interweb:

I would like to point out that the “style” of wearing loose jeans low originates in prison, where “bitches” (weak ineffectual little excuses for human beings) wore “easy access” pants to advertise their status.

I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine just how homosexual the entire “gangsta rap” movement has been since day one.

Things to remember when getting arrested

Read the blurb at this site.

Lovely San Francisco

I found this today whilst browsing a blog:

The biggest reason why there are so many homeless in SF is that SF has the most liberal guidelines for public welfare qualification of any city in America. The city is largely financed by taxes from high-techs, which explains the ridiculously high rents and housing prices, too, as the workers of these companies are making loads of cash. However the extra money is pretty much given away, so all manner of homeless/ homeless-mentally ill move to SF and immediately get on the welfare rolls. Can you blame them?

There is no way any city could have this huge transfer-of-wealth without the wealth, and Silicon Valley supplies it. It's that wealth that also drives up the prices of things, contributing to the problems the "underclasses" already have. That's the crazed dynamic at work.

Oh yeah, another factor: SF does not enforce laws around marijuana possession or prostitution. Basically it's like hanging a giant "Come here, we love you!" sign for every druggie and streetwalker in the country. Other American cities are, believe me, much better-representative of the typical American situation than SF. SF is, it's fair to say, utterly unique in the American city-scape.

It's been at least 10 years since I was in SF, but this pretty much sums the place up for me. The place was just covered in homeless people. There was a park near where we were staying at it was just homeless people with shopping trolleys from one end of the park to the other. It was not the sort of place that you'd stop in to have lunch.

I always think of SF when people in Australia start raving about the "homeless problem". We don't have a problem.

Take your rotten teeth and fuck off

My local federal member, John Murphy MP, has been trying to raise his profile recently. I spotted him standing at a corner near our shops on Saturday handing out pamphlets and chatting to old ladies. He has also letter dropped some crap under our door.

The latest crap from the Labor Pary is about dental care. His pamphlet says that 650,000 people lack adequate dental care, and that the government needs to spend more money on it. A big problem is kids getting cavities.

Why? If people can't be bothered to floss and brush and all that, fuck them! Why should the government have to spend money on something that is generally preventable, like cavities? People should just brush their fucking teeth and take care of them properly and that's that. If they need to have their teeth looked at, they can pay for it. Just like you have to get your car serviced - why should dental treatment be free?

Fuck, some people have such an entitlement mentality. If people can afford to drink millions of cans of Coke, and thus get cavities, then they can afford the dental care that goes with it.

John Murphy - screw you and your stupid policies.

Think of the poor strippers at Scores. I am sure they all have perfect, white teeth. Because they have paid to have their teeth fixed, and they take care of them. Think of the strippers.

Movie making

I did some movie making last week, and for the first time, added some music to my movie. I've never done that before, since I generally produce 20-30 second clips of the latest antics of the little monkey for the rest of the family. Music on that type of clip is redundant.

My movie though was over 30 minutes long, rather than 30 seconds, and it required music as it was a ski movie. I selected half a dozen clips and went to stick them into the movie. It was pretty easy, except that about the only format of music that you can't use is a clip from iTunes. Since I have imported all my CDs into iTunes, I had to go and dig a pile of CDs out of storage and then import them using Media Player. When was the last time you played a CD? Ours are all sitting under the coffee table, and they have not been touched since we moved house. Next time we move, I am going to stick the whole lot into plastic boxes and put them into storage.

Anyway, after stuffing around for a few hours, I had some songs to use. I inserted the music, and then went to adjust the volume of each track.

That's when I got annoyed.

My movie has some talking in it - people talking about how cool a run was and that kind of thing - and I didn't want the music to drown it out. It was at that point that I discovered that if you adjust the volume on the sound track, you adjust it for the entire length of that particular sound clip. I only wanted to drop the volume for 10 seconds or so, but the bloody software reduced it for the entire 3 minutes.

I figured that one way around it would be to slice the sound clip into three segments - a loud segment, a short quiet segment that would be the length of the bit of movie where people are talking, and then a loud bit at the end when people are just skiing.

But who wants to go to that level of trouble when splicing together a dozen clips of people skiing down a hill? Bugger it. In some segments, you can hear people talking but the music is quiet, and in other bits you can't hear a thing that people are saying.

This modern media stuff is not all it's cracked up to be.


I had a look through my blog list today and found that over 90% had a similar theme - they are all about people working in organisations where life sucks. The Police, ambulance crews, the NHS and teachers. They spend all day dealing with idiots, have little control over their lives, are subject to stupid political controls and are managed by brainless gumballs.

I guess I like to read what they have so say as it puts my life in perspective. I used to work for a sucky organisation, and working there got a lot of my co-workers down. It rarely bothered me, because I saw in the blogs that people doing much more important work have a much tougher time than me.

If this keeps up, it could put a lot of shrinks out of business.


I frequently have to use headphones to listen to stuff on my PC whilst at home. It's all to do with having a two year old trying to sleep in the room next to the office. Mark that one down for experience - never put a bedroom for young kids anywhere near where you want to get some work done at night.

My headphones are of the USB type, and I was cursing them last week because I had plugged a black USB cable into my PC and the headphones were not working. I figured that the kids must have gotten hold of them again and damaged them beyond repair.

A week or so later, I discovered that I had in fact plugged in the new black cable that came with my GPS unit, not the black cable that is part of my headphones.

This wasn't a problem until I got the GPS. My camera came with a white USB cable, so there was a clear separation between functions. I am now wishing that USB cables came in lots of different colours, including some with stripes and polka dots. Either that, or it is time everything went wireless.

The great cooking chocolate conspiracy

For the last few months, I have been making a weekly batch of chocolate/orange muffins using a Donna Hay recipe. I am now up to batch eight, and none of them have looked remotely like the muffins on the cover of her magazine. I must ask her art director to pop over one day and tell me the best way to light the muffins when I pull them out of the oven and plonk them on the bench.

Apart from the colouring, the biggest bugbear that I have with this recipe is the leftovers. It calls for a cup of sour cream. The only way to buy sour cream is in a 300gm tub, and I found that this equates to a cup and a bit. What am I supposed to do with a "bit" of leftover sour cream? Leave it in the fridge until it goes really sour, and then goes in the bin? No - these days, the whole lot goes into the muffin mix and bugger the measurements.

The recipe also requires the zest of an orange, plus two tablespoons of orange juice. Now I have squeezed 8 oranges so far - navel, seville and blood - and none of them has produced exactly two tablespoons of juice. One produced about 1.5 and another 6. I have also said "bugger it" to the juice and now the whole lot goes in. I have given up even trying to measure it.

The worst offender though is the chocolate. The recipe requires 150gm of cooking chocolate. You go to the supermarket and try and buy a 150gm block or container of cooking chocolate. It can't be done. It only comes in 200gm blocks.

For the first 7 batches, I chopped up the required 150gm and left the remainder on the bench, where it was quickly consumed by the rest of the household. I couldn't be bothered with the last batch and simply threw the whole lot in.

Funnily enough, it was the best batch so far.

That aside, I wish recipe writers would consider shopping and storage requirements when coming up with their recipes. For a bloke, it is so much easier to read "Tip entire contents of 300gm sour cream tub into mixture" than "attempt to measure out a cup of clotted sour cream, which is next to impossible, and only adds to the burden of washing up later on".

And you think Sydney buses are slow?

There are only two ways to get around Hotham (if you aren't on skis) - walking or by bus. In the old days (ie, when I first went there), they didn't have buses. They had tractors that pulled a kind of open platform on wheels - like a long, low trailer. If you ask me, the trailer was much better for moving skiers around. Buses suck, unless you are not in ski gear and are going to the pub. It takes too long for people in ski boots to get on and off a bus through doors that are designed for commuters in suits.

When we drove into Hotham (ie, when we paid the extortionate entry fee), we were given a brochure that exclaimed that buses run every 10 minutes.

Ha ha ha.

I caught the bus about 14 times. On four occasions, it took 20 minutes for a bus to arrive. One one, it took 25. I don't know how long it took otherwise as I only started timing my waits towards the end of our stay. I don't know what sort of fantasy land Hotham management is living in, but their pamphlet is for dreamers.

I don't know why the service has gotten so bad. I have been to Hotham 5 or so times now, and this is the first time that I have noticed a crap bus service. Maybe they need more buses. Maybe they need more drivers. I don't know.

The thing I do know is that the mountain was not full when we were there, and we were there for the peak season. I'd hate to think how bad things would be if the place was chock full of people. As it was, buses would often have to pass stops by because the bus was already full, and no one was getting off. I made a mental note to never stay at one of the places halfway down the hill between the Big D and Zirkys. Always stay at one end or the other - it is the only way to guarantee that you'll be able to get on a bus.

Dave blames the new management - the place has been bought out by some property trust, and it is becoming apparent that they know little about running a ski resort. The staff are all in revolt, and the managers appear too clueless to realise even that is going on.

One snippet - we put junior into ski school, and paid for a 5 day lift pass with 1/2 a day of lessons each day. After two days, he started doing lessons all day. I thought the staff would be asking me to pay the difference (about $25 a day), but none of them gave a shit. He got all the extra lessons for free.

J also did a lesson each day. The staff are supposed to "clip" the ticket after each lesson, but few of them bothered. J could have done a lesson in the morning and another in the afternoon if she wanted. No one would have pulled her up.

The ski instructors were also telling clients that if they booked a private lesson, to book it for one person (even if you showed up with 3 friends to create a class of 4 students). A lesson for one person is cheaper than a lesson for 4, and the instructors were so annoyed at the ski school management, that they were conspiring to cost it revenue.

McDonalds great training program?

We stopped for a feed on the way back from the snow at a McDonalds in Albury. Or was it Wodonga? I am not sure. There is a new freeway bypass around those cities, and I have no idea where we ended up once we took an off-ramp. I didn't even know that a bypass had been built. It was a surprise to be driving along and suddenly finding that we weren't being routed along a goat track through the centre of the city anymore.

Getting into Macca's proved to be something of a chore thanks to the road system - we had to go around the block and then search for the way in. That's something I have never had to do before - normally, getting into a McDonalds is the easiest thing in the world. After all, people are lazy. If they can't figure out how to get in within 2 or 3 seconds, they'll just drive on down the road and eat somewhere else.

If it wasn't for the coffee, I would have done just that.

We probably should have done just that, because once we found our way inside, we also found that a bus load of kids had arrived before us, and the queue was 10 deep in feral teenagers.

I don't know what it is about teenagers today. When I was one, girls dressed nicely. They looked good. Today, they just look like slappers. And unfortunately, more than half look like fat slappers. It's not a good look. The Veronicas have a lot to answer for.

Normally, a queue like that is not a problem. McDonalds is a well oiled machine when it comes to feeding people. If you read "Beneath the Golden Arches", which is a good history of the company, you'll find out how the McDonald brothers re-engineered all the food they were serving to make cooking and serving it as fast and efficient as possible.

Like I said, they are "normally" pretty good.

Our problem is that our queue was being served by a bloke called John, who looked about 14, and it also seemed to be his second day at work. He had a "trainee" badge on, and he had no idea how to work the cash register. Running up a simple meal took him more time than it has taken me to type this blog entry so far. By the time I got to the front, I was looking around the place for the staff member that usually has a "Trainer" badge pinned to their shirt. Clearly, the poor bugger needed help, and it was the trainers job to see that he got it.

The trainer was nowhere to be found, so John struggled through my order. He had to re-enter it four times, and each time he went to punch in a menu item, his fingers had to roam the entire keyboard looking for that elusive item. Imagine trying to write this entry if you had to search the keyboard for each letter. "Now, where is that pesky 'e' key. Found it! Now I need the 'n' key". And so on.

The only thing that helped me keep my patience intact was watching the little monkey run around the place creating havoc. To start with, he ran across the store from where J was sitting to where I was standing, and that involved running through the legs of 50 people queuing at the counter. He'd get to me, I'd go to pick him up and he turn around and flee back the other way. No one trod on him, as the queues were set in concrete thanks to the slow service. No one was moving forward or back.

Then he found the high chairs, which are on wheels. He grabbed one and started pushing it around the store. After finding a good parking spot (in the middle of where everyone was walking past), he went back for another one and pushed it to the same spot. He then went back for the last one.

If I tried to move a high chair out of the way so that people could get past, he'd race back and re-position it and give me a scolding look. Clearly, a work of art was being created.

Once all the chairs were in position, he'd take them all back and start again.

It says volumes about the glacial pace of service that he managed to do this a dozen times or so before we got fed. He got away with it because everytime he passed a table full of slappers, he'd stop and give them a huge smile, and they'd all smile back and go "He's so cute!" etc etc. Little kids with a big grin can get away with murder.

I was waiting for the manager to come out and tell me off for letting him do it, but I had a reply in mind. "This is a 'family restaurant'. We're a family. This is what kids do. Deal with it." But no manager appeared, so we let him carry on.

Albury joins my rather short list of useless McDonalds restaurants.

At least the coffee was good, and they actually managed to get my order right. Small mercies.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Teenagers vs Mexicans

Big story in the paper today - 60% of Australian teenagers have a job, vs 43% in the US.

Apparently this means that our teenagers have a "strong work ethic".

More like that we don't have millions of illegal south american immigrants willing to work for 60 cents an hour - mores the pity. I wish one of our teenagers would babysit the kids for two bucks an hour, rather than the 25 which it generally costs us (with a minimum of four hours plus booking fee).

Friday, 24 August 2007

The black toe

I did get a case of black toenail at the snow again this year. I used to get two black toenails, which would then fall off (or get stuck on something and ripped off) about two months later. I now get one, and it is nowhere near as black as it used to get.

Only my left toe is black, and it's because I am leaning back on that side - I can feel my toe being jammed against the top of my boot, and after a while, it gets pounded black. I seem to be fine on the right.

I have resolved to get lessons every day next year to resolve this fault. I hate spending a few months being paranoid about rolling over in bed in case my toenail catches on the sheet and rips off in the middle of the night. It's even worse if it gets caught in the middle of nookie. Trust me - you don't want to go there.

A coffee in two places

After several road trips, the inside of the car was starting to look like the floor of an Arnotts biscuit factory - crumbs of various types were so thick on the carpet, a large family of rodents could have lived in the car for the next year or so. Today was the day to visit a car wash place to have the thing thoroughly scrubbed out.

Being a cheap bastard, I go to a place run by a Korean just up the road. He looks like a hard bastard to work for, but a complete clean of the Disco only costs $47. An equivalent clean in Mosman costs about $90. He even gives his coffee away for free, whilst the car wash cafe in Mosman charges $90 to clean the car and then $3 on top of that for a coffee.

I settled down to read the papers and accepted his offer of a coffee.

I shouldn't have bothered - it was complete shite.

Thankfully, I was heading east to visit an old friend, and she wanted to have coffee at an arty cafe on Bondi Road.

Now I have been going to Bondi for many years, but I never knew there was an arty cafe anywhere near the place.

It turns out that the cafe is nowhere near the beach - it's about a mile back up the road towards Bondi Junction. I always avoid that strip of road, so it is no wonder that I never knew about this cafe. Apparently only the locals know it is there. Penny told me that "Muggles can't see it" (she lives just around the corner, so she is not a muggle).

As an aside, Penny confessed a complete infatuation with Severus Snape. She suggested that I Google "I love Severus Snape" because apparantly millions of others do too.

I have not taken her up on that suggestion yet.

Anyway - the cafe. I am not going to tell you anything more about it as then more people might go there and that would spoil the marvelous ambience and make it harder for me to get an excellent coffee and would intrude on my time to chat with the magnificent waiters and I wouldn't be able to find space on one of the ratty old sofas - so screw you. You'll have to find it yourself.

Just look for a place with arty looking wankers out the front. Normally, I avoid places like that like the plague, but this one is worth it.

Thredo vs Mt Hotham

I have mentioned to various people lately that we recently had a week in the snow at Hotham. They have all immediately piped up and asked, "Why go to Hotham and not Thredbo? Isn't it more sensible for a Sydney resident to go to Thredbo?"

For a weekend, yes, it is more sensible to go to Thredbo. If you don't meet any traffic and make minimal stops, you can get from our front door to an apartment in Thredbo in 5.5 hours. It took us more like 10 hours or driving to get to Hotham - that is out of the question for a weekend.

But we went for a week, so a few hours extra driving is not an issue.

I came to the conclusion three years ago that Hotham is so much better because the village is at the top of the mountain, rather than the bottom (like Thredbo). In itself, that might seem like a silly reason, but consider this: skiing consists of zooming downhill on two planks and then catching a chairlift or T-bar back up to repeat the process.

Now I love skiing early in the morning when the air is crisp and the snow is crisp and there is no other bastard on the mountain to get in my way. You can do that at Hotham - you simply walk to the top of the Big D (a major chairlift) and ski down the run. That can be done at around 8am when most people are still in bed and most of the lifts aren't operating. The sensible thing is to wait for the ski patrol guys, then follow them down.

When you get to the bottom, almost always an obliging liftie will let you get on the lift (even though it does not officially open for another 30-45 minutes) and travel up to the next peak. You can then get first tracks wherever you like. It's heaven. It is far and away my most favourite skiing time.

Now consider Thredbo. You start the day by getting in a line at the chairlift at the bottom of the hill, and stand there impatiently for half an hour waiting for the bloody thing to open. It always opens late. By the time you get to the top for your first run, your legs are cramped, your blood pressure is up and 500 people are tearing up the snow in front of you.

Screw that.

I'd happily never ski at Thredbo again for the continual opportunities to ski at sparrow fart at Hotham. I've figured out what makes me happy, and if I have to drive a few hours more to get to it, so be it.

Don't step under a bus

State Transit are going to stop running buses along Druit St in the CBD because 11 people have been hit by them in the last two years.

It might help if those 11 people had been sensible enough not to step in front of a moving bus! Why should they stop running buses? Knowing the way commuters jaywalk in front of anything in this city, they should just put a bunch of cops along the street and ticket every bastard that crosses the road incorrectly. God knows I nearly hit 11 people a week when I was riding home down Kent St - dickheads would cross the road without looking, or caring, or whilst jabbering on their mobile and looking in their purse. Their attention would be anywhere but on the road.

I hope State Transit has sued all 11 idiots that held up our bus system for lost income and damages and that sort of thing.

Step in front of a bus, get in the queue for a Darwin Award.

Rice pudding

After watching The Cook and The Chef last night, I was all enthused today about making rice pudding with rhubarb.

Then I went to the shop and discovered that rhubarb costs $5 a bunch at the moment. I just bought the rice.

Then I got home and studied the recipe and found that I needed evaporated milk. Back to the supermarket I went.

Then I made it, stuck it in the oven and waited 2 hours.

Out came a milky solution with a bit of rice rattling around the bottom. It was milky rice, not rice pudding.

I ranted at The Cook for about five minutes for screwing up the recipe on their web site, then went off to do other things.

An hour later, I had to get the milk out of the fridge. I bought this carton of milk at a different supermarket than the one I am used to. In very small letters, almost too small to read, was the word "Light" written across the label.

The recipe required full cream milk. Sorry Maggie Beer, your recipe is probably fine. But fuck you Franklins for putting stupidly labeled milk on your shelves. When I was in your store, 80% of the customers were over 80 and they were all bent double over walking frames and were trying to read things through coke bottle glasses. If I can't tell the difference between and bottle of light and full cream milk, what hope have they?

Friday, 10 August 2007

The end of the big breakfast

For many years now, my main chore on every trip to the snow has been to cook breakfast. It doesn't matter what people eat at home normally - when they are at the snow, they want a big, hot breakfast to give them enough get up and go to get through the morning without stopping for more food.

Cooking up a storm has generally not been a problem as we've been staying in apartments with 2 or 3 bedrooms and 8 or so guys racked out across every room (including the lounge room).

Cooking for that many always meant getting up at sunrise - and I have many photos taken at sunrise to prove it.

The usual feed was a bacon and egg roll. That sounds simple, except that the roll was toasted under the grill with some cheese on it (so that the cheese melted into the roll) and it also came with lettuce, carrot, tomato and avocado. And mayo. A good bacon and egg roll should have lots of mayo.

I am not much of an assembly cook, so cooking up 8 rolls usually made the kitchen look a bit like a disaster area. No one ever complained though, since the rolls did the trick, and the washing up really was minimal.

This year however is going to be a first - it's a family snow holiday, so instead of having 8 farting men packed into a small apartment, it's just going to be the four of us in our own place. It's going to be "civilised". It's going to be the same for almost everyone else who is going - kids are popping out all over the place, so we even have a nanny that we can all share.

I can see that the next logical step is to join a lodge and see if we can book everyone into the same lodge for the week. Sounds more sensible to me.

Photo frames

Digital photo frames seem to be reaching the point where they might soon be a few in every house. I have mixed feelings about them. On the one hand, I reckon they are great, as they can reduce a lot of clutter from your shelves - we have several shelves that seem to be nothing but photos in frames, and we are always breaking the frames (well, the little monkey breaks them).

On the other hand, a lot of photos that are taken are just terrible. I reckon that if we put a digital frame into the loungeroom to replace 10 normal photos, I'd be lucky to find 30 good digital photos to load into it.

I also think that they can be a terrible distraction - as bad as TV, if not worse. When people come to visit, the TV goes off. The last thing I then want is their eyes being drawn to a digital frame that changes picture every few minutes. Very anti-social.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Parramatta and the slappers

We did a bit of a field trip to the Westfield mall out at Parramatta this evening. Personally, if you asked me what I wanted to do on a Thursday night - go to Parramatta or perhaps clean up a dead dog that has been lying out in the street for 17 days - I'd probably pick the dog. Even if the dog had to be scooped up by hand. Parramatta is just one of those places that fails to entice me with its glamour.

The main reason for the trip was to get some appropriate footwear for our trip to the snow next weekend. All my old boots fell apart last year, so they were binned before we moved, so I needed something for shuffling around in the slush. So did number one. We have been explaining to him for a week that wearing non-waterproof trainers and getting wet feet when the temperature is below zero is not a good idea, but it's pretty much impossible to get that concept through to someone who has never seen snow and never seen the thermometer in negative numbers. I ended up with blue toes on my first trip to the snow, and I don't want his trip to go the same way. Having no feeling in your toes for a year is not pleasant.

So we got some boots, and then whiled away an hour or so watching the silly slappers walking past. The whole mall was unbelievable in terms of odd looking people. We got the boots at Kmart, and all the serving staff looked like a member of the Munster family. I can understand employing maybe a few Munsters, but employing an army of them must smack of nepotism after a while. Or a serious case of suburban inbreeding.

There was one woman that encapsulated Parramatta for me. She was maybe 21, rake thin, ugg boots and pushing a pram and had a four year old in tow as well. She was standing a few feet from me, yelling at the 4 year old at the top of her lungs, and in an accent that threatened to peel the paint from the walls.

She finally managed to collect the errant youngster and was on her way. It was then that I noticed that she was wearing a Playboy bunny singlet.

I can put up with 17 year old tarts wearing those things, but once you start to squeeze out the kids, I think it is a good idea to start dressing a bit more like a respectable adult and less like a pole dancer. There's that whole idea of setting a good example to the kiddies. Clearly, she had no idea.

Getting out of Parramatta brought home the worst aspect of it - they've messed with the street system in order to make it really hard to leave. Once you're in there, it's damned near impossible to get out.

Now that is a scary thought.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Is this integration?

We were at a restaurant last week celebrating a friends birthday. There were 20 or so of us on a couple of tables on one side of the room and another long table for another birthday on the other side of the room.

The food was lousy by the way and I am never going back, but that is another story. It was Italian, and the meal consisted of about 23 courses - except that we only discovered this when courses 8, 9 and 10 came out and we found that there were still plenty more to come. By that point, we were all loosening out belts.

At around course 12, a young girl detached herself from the other table and came over to ask us some questions. It turned out that she was 17, and had been dared by her friends to go and talk to the "old people" at the table next door. We invited her to sit down and we yarned away for a good half an hour. In fact talking to her was the best part of the night. She was joined a bit later by her twin brother, who couldn't believe that she had taken up the dare.

One of her first questions was to J, and it was "Are you Croatian?", the answer being yes. She then fired off a pile of Croat at J, who just looked at her blankly and tried to work out what she was jabbering on about. After a few minutes of grinding the cogs, J managed to start to string together enough rusty phrases to chat away.

Here's the rub - this girl was 17, was born here, and her parents were actually Italian! But because she goes to a school that is 70% Croat, and they are all still madly Croatian, she knows more Croat than J.

The kids at her school all totally support some Croat soccer club, they all go to Croatian school on the weekend and I guess the parents all read the Croat Daily News in Croat. They are all still totally immersed in being Croatians.

What got me is that these kids were probably 2nd generation Australians, yet as far as they were concerned, they were Croatians who happened to be living in Australia.

What's the point? If you want to be a Croat so much, just jump on a plane and go back. Surely it can't be that hard?

I've had it with quacks

You know what I'd like to find?

A Doctor that actually listens to you. I have dealt with about half a dozen different quacks in the last year, and none of them really bothered to listen to me when I told them about my neck problems. I'm trying to get the blasted thing fixed, and none of them have listened enough to what I have to say to actually offer an opinion on how it might be better treated.

It really makes me wonder how much of our health budget is squandered on these silly buggers misdiagnosing or mistreating because they fail to open their ears properly.

Monday, 6 August 2007


I tried a simple experiment this week in the best way to loosen snot in your sinuses.

My first method was to stand under a nice hot shower and to suck water up my nose. That did no good at all - didn't dislodge a single thing.

I should explain. I have not slept properly for a week. I am a zombie. You know when you buy a magazine and they have some special promotion for a tea bag and so they've stuck a tea bag to a page with some sort of latexy goo? Well, I have about a litre of that liquid latex stuck to my mouth, throat and sinuses at the moment, and it refuses to budge. It doesn't exactly stay still though either, and that is the problem. As soon as I try and sleep, it loosens up just enough to start vibrating, and I start making noises that sound like a Vogon choir singing "Doom to Planet Theta in a Most Disturbing and Horrible Manner". I reckon I sound more like a choir than a single Vogon as I am grunting and greebling enough to wake myself up with the sheer racket of it all.

I tried a nose spray. All that did was re-arrange things internally. I tried hot water.

Then I got up at around 1am and tried snorting cold water. The temp was down into single digits by then, so the water was pretty icy. It hit the inside of nostril land and before you knew it, it was like the bursting of that tailings dam in PNG a few years ago. The bathroom basin was awash with green goo.

I am working under the assumption here that as snot gets colder, it gets harder and thus more brittle, so that when you blow nice and hard, instead of it sticking in place and just vibrating a bit, it actually snaps off like a stallactite.

That said, snorting cold water at 1am is not a fun option. But it does seem to do the trick.

Up until around 3am that is.


I have come to the conclusion that Thai entrees should never be eaten any further than 50 feet from the kitchen where they were cooked. Those little nibblies are so spicy and scrumptious, they deserve to be eaten piping hot and crispy.

We live about 250 metres from a good Thai restaurant. Even if I ring and place an order in advance, then walk down and collect it, and then hurry home, the little packages of yum have started to turn into congealed blobs of ick.

There's just no substitute for eating in and having them delivered to your table fresh as fresh can be.

Should we whack the little buggers?

I read these comments with interest today on a teaching blog:

"A survey found that a significant majority of parents believe pupil behaviour had declined since then and over half were in favour of the return of corporal discipline in schools.

"It is worth noting, that the argument against corporal discipline, was largely along the lines that; if you treat children violently (and opponents classified corporal discipline as violence), it will produce a violent society.

"Interestingly, though corporal discipline has not really been used in schools since 1987, violence and discipline problems appear to have become much worse since then and a greater problem now than ever."

This was from a UK blog. I wonder whether the supposed increase in bullying can also be traced back to the removal of the cane? Back in the old days, bullies always knew that there was a bigger bully than them - either the headmaster, or a teacher who might be known as a particularly ferocious caner. If you were found to be bullying some little kid, the teachers would simply bully you a few times with the cane until you got the point that they'd stop whacking you when you stopped beating up other kids.

These days, the "big bully" has disappeared. There are no rough, tough teachers on the playground that will pull young dickheads into line with a few strokes across the backside.

Why else might bullying be rife? Is it a perception thing, or is there really a lot more of it going around than when we were kids? If there is a lot more of it, then why has it grown so much?

My two cents worth is that the potential for bullying is present in most young males. I don't know about young females. Unless you keep a very firm lid on it by threat of physical coercion, it will break out all over the place. It's not something you can eliminate - all you can do is control it, and controlling it requires a firm hand.

Unfortunately, the namby pambys seem to hate that idea, and believe that "counselling" will do the trick. I remember being a young boy. Being spoken to never did me much good. I used to think of it as soft and weak and not worth listening to.

But I did listen intently in maths because the teacher that took it was also the football coach and he was prone to throwing dusters at your head - and he did not aim to miss, and he did not pull his throws. When there is a good change of you ending up with a duster sized bruise on your forehead, you become very quiet and obedient. We didn't mind the dusters - it was better than him having to cane you.

An $8 billion contract?

I saw in the paper recently some fluff about a RailCorp train contract being worth $8 billion, and it being the largest private-public partnership in Australia yada yada yada.

Journalists are such suckers for numbers that they never bother to question. "$8 billion" just sounds like such a marvelously huge number to throw around, so they use it without question.

I presume that the bulk of that $8 billion is not being spent up front, but rather over the 20 or 30 year life of the contract. It must be 30 years. Given the way NSW keeps trains running for longer than that in general, I am surprised they didn't go for 40 years. If we can keep B52s flying for that long or longer, we should be able to keep train carriages trundling around without falling to bits.

The up front cost of building the carriages isn't a lot - maybe a billion and a half, with the other six and a half being spread over the next 30 years. That's what - $200 million per year? That seems an awful lot to keep some nuts tightened on a bunch of carriages. But who am I to tell?

What annoys me is that the government tries to make that expenditure look like it is spending "new money" - that all this money is going to flow into the economy and create jobs and provide BMWs for all. Bollocks. The money was going to be spent one way or the other and you can't pretend that it is "new money". These new carriages are simply replacing old clapped out ones, and the taxpayer is already spending millions per year maintaining them. The maintenance work could be done in house or outsourced and it wouldn't matter - it's still the same old annual maintenance budget, just that it's being spent on different trains or being done by different people.

The only thing that really screws the government is that they can't fly the trains overseas for maintenance in China, like Qantas could do with its aircraft. I'd bet they'd love to do that.

What a difference a postcode makes

When I was out west last week, I had the misfortune to ride into a pack of slothfully perambulating bogans. I didn't actually hit any of them - I just came up behind them on a combined bike/foot path and asked them politely to get out of the way.

I asked once, twice, three times and then really started to raise my voice. The stupid buggers were wandering around in a daze with not a care in the world. They seemed shocked to actually see someone on a bicycle on a bike path - I presume everyone out that way hankers after a car with a fat exhaust and a pumping sound system and some pimped up wheels. Bikes are for dilletants from the east.

Like me.

The thing is this - they were school kids. Or should I say, skool kids. I have never seen such a slovenly bunch of no hopers. Their haircuts were amazing - mullets with the sides of the head completely shaved and that kind of thing. I just took one look at all of them and thought "unemployment queue for you boyo". Except that in this full employment economy, they'll get a job somewhere with some desperate employer who will take anyone.

I wonder how they will fare though when things turn down. I expect they will be the first on the scrap heap, and they won't know why. They'll just find themselves at home one day, drinking beer out of longnecks at 10am and watching the WRX being repossessed and wondering why?

I don't have to wonder why. I just read the latest edition of my old school magazine. It was a bit of an eye opener looking at the photos - the kids looked so clean cut, I expected most of them to be putting down "Duntroon" as their place of residence next year. There was nary a hair touching an ear to be seen - lots of short back and sides in evidence.

And they're all wearing jackets and ties and looking comfortable in them. The bogans that I ran into looked uncomfortable in shoes. I guess that's one major difference between us and the rock apes.


The latest flap to hit Sydney is street racing. Two lovely old ducks were cleaned up last week by some car racing fools on some major highway, and so the paper has been full of stories everyday about cars being confiscated, people being charged and today - another prang. This time, no one killed.

I just can't believe it's taken the cops this long to work out that racing on our freeways is pretty much endemic. I witnessed my first drag race years ago. I was driving down to Goulburn when these two cars in front of me slowed right down to about 30 in a 110 zone. I was mighty annoyed with them, but then they planted it and took off. Might have been a pair of BMW's. They shot through in a big hurry. By the time I had the tank back up to 110, they were gone.

Now this was not out in the sticks - this was about 20km from the CBD, and it was mid afternoon. Since then, I've seen quite a few more like it. It's not unusual to see a couple of arseholes weaving through the traffic as they race each other.

I guess it will all blow over in another week or two and we can move onto the next crisis.

Newspapers and military rank

The SMH had an article in it this week about a Sergeant who was busted with a huge cache of weapons. All obsolete of course - like the stupid F1 sub-machine gun that I had to learn to use back in 1985. The F1 I believe was a knock off of the Sten, which itself was a cheap and nasty sub machine gun made from very thin metal. It was fun to fire, since it was 9mm, had very little recoil and a 20 or 30 round magazine, but it was a waste of space. The magazine was top mounted (I think) and you had to look down the side of it to aim it.

The Corporal that instructed me on it told us a memorable story about using it in Vietnam. He said he emptied half a magazine into the back of a fleeing VC, and the bullets practically bounced off the blokes backpack. He ditched it after that and carried an SLR. And there we were, learning how to use it 20 years later.

Anyway, this Sergeant was charged with having 500,000 rounds of ammo, some SKS rifles, the aforementioned F1 and some other things, but the classic bit is that he was described as being "in charge of the school of artillery at puckapunyal", or wherever it was.

A sergeant. The CO of an artillery school.

Yeah right. Somehow, I think the paper stuffed up something.

Deja Vu - have I seen a film this bad before?

I just sat through about 3/4 of Deja Vu. What I mean by that is I watched the first half (which took an hour) and then fast forwarded through the rest, avoiding big chunks along the way until I got to the last five minutes.

Hasn't Val Kilmer gotten fat? That's the only new thing to come out of this movie.

I feel I can tell you the entire premise of the movie, since it's so awful, you will never want to see it, but the premise is so bad, I don't think I should even put you through the pain of reading it. Denzel Washington is crap. Val, as noted earlier, is fat and his makeup creases around his neck. There is lots of time warping technology which is just dribble. I just couldn't bear it.

The worst thing is the direction. Remember how really jumpy camera movements were just so action-like when they were first used in the dog fighting sequences in Top Gun? The way the camera raced around to show a Mig zooming by, then lost it, then found it again etc etc? It was really, really good.

Top Gun was directed by one of the Scott brothers - I can never remember whether it was Tony or Ridley, but whichever one it was, he just can't let go of the technique. Especially when he is making a movie for Jerry Brucheimer, as is the case here. It's gotten so bad, you have two people sitting in a cafe having a coffee and the camera has to leap around so much, you start to think that the cameraman is actually a monkey with a bad amphetamine habit. I am so over it. One day, someone is going to get really frustrated and nail Tony or Ridley's camera to the floor and that will be that. I personally would like to be the person that does it.

Friday, 3 August 2007

The ride to Tamiflu

I've been off the air for a few days because I have been as sick as sick can be. I had such a fever, I was halucinating when I was awake, and having the same halucinations when I was asleep - and it was the same bloody halucination over and over again. I got pretty sick of it after a while, and it was not very good - it was about a computer game of all things.

It all started with me wanting to be able to ride to Parramatta Park. I have no great desire to see the park - it's just that there is a cyclepath that heads north from the park, and if I wanted to get onto that path, I needed to get to the park first.

Over the last two weeks, I have made two abortive attempts to find the park. Well, two abortive attempts to find Parramatta in fact, which is pretty hard, given that it is supposed to be the second CBD in Sydney. Typical of the RTA that the signage that they erect on our cycle paths is so bad, you can miss an entire CBD.

On my second attempt, I actually took the correct turn off (or at least one of the available alternatives), but my ride petered out several hundred metres off the cycle path because those dicks at the RTA had not bothered to erect any signs telling you where to go once you get off the path.

The thing about following a cycle route is that it is generally not a straight line. If you were to drive from A to B, you would not deviate from your path if there were some nasty hills in your way, or if the traffic on certain bits of road was fast, crowded and nasty. Taking a bike route is lot more of a meander - you try and go around the nasty hills, and you definitely avoid the shocking bits of road. Your course is anything but straight. That means you need lots of signs to say to cyclists "this way" and "that way", and you need them to be numerous and obvious.

That is obviously not at all obvious to the RTA.

I wasn't going to give up after two measly attempts. I went home and studied the RTA bike maps for a while, then compared them to Google maps and tried to make sense of where they wanted me to go.

It was a bloody nightmare. None of their maps have street names on them, so I'm not sure how you are supposed to work out which street to take. I simply took a best guess, and trusted in the Force.

As soon as I turned off the cyclepath into suburbia, this is what I found. Christ, what a lovely area.

Until now, my main considerations for the route that I take revolve around speed and safety - with safety being foremost. But I've only really considered road safety. I'm now going to think about the risk of being mugged!

On my way back, the poor bastard that owns the car was standing there with a mobile mechanic. He was obviously trying to get some new wheels for the car. It made me think - this car is a piece of junk - just what type of wheels did he have on it that someone wanted to steal them? Did dipshit put several thousand dollars worth of wheels on a car worth about the same?

Some people are such tools.

I didn't want to take a photo of the meathead and his car as he looked like he was not long out of prison. I just glanced his way and kept on going. Discretion being the better part of valour and all of that.

I won't bore you with the details of how I found my way to Parramatta Park - let me just say that I am considering printing the RTA maps on soft paper and hanging them next to the toilet. Backing the filling was the order of the day.

Once I got to the park, I found it quite nice to ride around. It's one way, there is a lane for pedestrians (which, like pedestrians everywhere, they stray out of), a side lane for bikes and a single lane for cars. Speeds are kept down to 30. I was toodling around the park when I went past this woman setting up her racing wheelchair. I kept going to a bit, then pulled over, took some photos of some birds to pass the time and then snapped her as she went by. She was the first wheelchair athlete that I have seen out and about.

They don't actually grab the wheels with their fingers when they go to push - they have these big rubberised pads on their gloves, and they push the pad against the wheel and push. The pad must have enough grip for them to impart a lot of force on the wheel. She was obviously warming up, because she was as slow as a wet week on that first lap (about 20km/h). I followed her for a while to watch her action, then took off. Those wheels are also canted right in as far they will go - there is about 1/4 inch of space between the wheels and her sides.

Once out of the park, I needed to find a way home. I was not going back the way I came in, because that way was crap. Along the way, I passed the dead centre of Parramatta.

Did you know that people living in Parramatta can't be buried in this cemetery?

Of course - they're not dead yet.

By the time I got to the cemetery, I had done about 30km and I was feeling a bit the worse for wear. I know I haven't been riding an awful lot of late, but I shouldn't have been feeling that bad. I managed to get back to the cycle way without too many problems, but it was not long before I was really hurting. I had to stop every few kilometres for a breather and then promise myself that I'd call J for a lift when I got to point X. All I had to do was get to point X.

Point X came and went, so I gave myself a new point X and kept on going. This went on until it was complete agony, but by then, I was close to home, so I said bugger it and kept on going.

All up, it was not a fun ride.

By the next morning, I was a complete mess - fever, chills, sweats, joint pain, hallunications, pressure behind the eyeballs and the cough from hell. At one point, I was coughing violently every 15 seconds, and it went on for hours. I couldn't sleep, and I could barely breathe at times. As a result, I've wrenched every muscle from my groin to my armpits from coughing.

A day later, I was barely in shape to go and see the quack. How I wish these guys made house calls still. He prescribed Tamiflu, but warned me that it cost $70. It could have cost $700 and I would have paid for it. I also would have paid him a few hundred dollars to make a house call. When you are that crook, even leaving the house and sitting in a waiting room is agony. Sydney's completely crap roads don't help. The jolting there and back just about killed me.

To cut a long story short, the Tamiflu kicked in about 30 hours later, and 40 hours later, I am able to do some writing (but not much else). My brain feels like mush, my head is full of snot and my voice is completely wrecked from coughing.

All in a days riding really.


I was in the supermarket the other night, browsing through the tinned goods and minding my own business when four people in suits marched up to the shelf next to me and started examining the Nutella on display. I was quite intrigued by them, so I hung around a while to listen to what they were saying. I take it that they were managers of some sort from the supermarket chain, or a wholesaler, or the company that owns Nutella. I never did work it out.

Or they could have been connected with the company that sold the Nutella-knock off that was languishing on the bottom shelf. I forget what it is called, but it is nut-something. That's brand recognition for you - I have passed that shelf almost daily for several years now, and I have bought quite a few jars of Nutella, and I have never noticed the competition lurking on the bottom shelf.

And lurk it does, and lurk for sometime as well. A woman from the group grabbed one of the jars from the bottom shelf, turned it over and announced to the rest of the group (and sticky-beak me) that the jar had been sitting on the shelf for over a year and had expired 54 weeks before. That brought forth some groans from the group. Another jar was pulled out, and that one had a clear band of white around the top where all the fat or oil had separated out and solidified on the surface. That one was also out of date. Another out of date jar was manipulated and found to be as squishy as anything.

All those jars went back on the bottom shelf, so I think that rules out them working for that company. If they cared about their product, they would have removed it from the shelves straight away and tidied up the remainding stock, which looked like a dogs breakfast.

A comment was made along the lines of "We sell 53 jars of Nutella a week and have not sold a jar of this other stuff so far this year". So they could have been from the supermarket.

The thing is, its been at least a week since I saw that group in the aisle, and the crap nut spread is still on the bottom shelf. If they had been from the supermarket, and they wanted some action, they should have pulled the junk from the bottom shelf by now and replaced it with another line of stock.

I still can't think of what it's called. I walk past it daily now and have a look at it and the name just doesn't stick in my mind.

I'm certainly not going to buy a jar of it, but that is probably the only way that I will be able to remember what it is by the time I get home.

I have read that thousands of new products are tried out on supermarket shelves each year, and most of them fail. Here is pretty clear evidence of one of the failures. I get the feeling it is a solid brand in its home market, so they've shipped some over here, and backed it with zero marketing.

Managers who do that kind of thing really need to be taken out and shot.