Sunday, 30 September 2007

Bigpond and Firefox

Why is it that if I try to logon to Bigpond to check how much I have downloaded this month, Firefox freezes on me?

I have found half a dozen sites over the last few months that do this, and I hear that it is a result of poorly coded pages.

I would have thought that Bigpond would have been able to afford some half decent script kiddies to put their site together.

Unless those nasty Indians toiling away in downtown Sweatgalore think Firefox was invented in Pakistan...
If you ask me, this collection of signs says a lot about the attitude of the RTA and most councils to bike paths. Money has been taken from taxpayers to build a bike path, money has been set aside for signage, signs have been produced and then handed over to some small brained fuckwit for erection along the bike path.

These signs could only have been put up by a peanut that really didn't give a shit about what they were doing. If you really cared about the outcome, would you put one sign up in such a way that it blocks another? You'd have to be a real blockhead to think that this is a good option.

I guess the afternoon teabreak was approaching fast and this was the most expedient solution.

The people responsible for this should have this sign tied around their necks and then they should be whipped through the streets.

Crime and locking people up

It sometimes seems that every second house around here either has bars on every window or those roll down security screens (that never get rolled up).

Either burglary is endemic around here (and we have just been lucky), or someone has made a killing scaring the pants of the old ducks and convincing them to fork out for some security measures.

I fail to see why honest citizens should have to lock themselves into cages at night to feel safe, whilst those that commit crimes get to roam around free.

I can understand now why transportation was such an attractive option for the authorities back in 1788. Hang the expense - anything to get rid of these blighters is a good thing.

Now if only private enterprise can reduce the cost of space launches, we can start shipping these buggers off planet. Either that, or we need to lease an African country and ship them over there.

It's a long way to paddle back in a canoe.

We're off to Botany Bay

I pushed the ride a bit further today, going past Tempe and heading for the airport and Botany Bay. I have no idea where I ended up, except that I turned around at the Brighton-Le-Sands fishing club. Must look it up on the map.

I had half expected the bike path to be over run with joggers, prams and dogs, but it was actually quite good. Everyone must have been inside watching the grand final. My only scary moment was going around a blind bend and almost riding into a pack of cyclists coming the other way - the idiots did not have the common sense to get into single file when they couldn't see what was coming towards them. Some people are too stupid to be allowed to be put in control of any sort of wheeled convenyance.

The ride had one small bonus, in that I found a $50 note sitting on the path. There was no one in sight in either direction, so I pocketed it. The wind was blowing across the path, so it might not have fallen out of the pocket of someone walking along the path. I see it as payment for my virtue in riding 60km today.

One of the drawbacks of tiding past Tempe was having to go under this railway bridge. I heard a rumour a while back about having to go through a flooded underpass at high tide, but I had forgotten about it until I reached this underpass.

It's not often that you see a "flooding" sign with indicators on a bike path.

On my way south, the tide was not up, so the water was only an inch or two deep. On the way back, it went an inch or two over my feet. Which of course meant that I did the ride home with sodden feet, which is not the best of things.

Since councils these days don't seem to care about cutting back vegetation, it can be a boon for those that like to pick a few wild plants. As I rode past here, there was an old bloke on the other side of the fence cutting plants and putting them in a shopping bag. I did a U-turn and suddenly smelt fennel - he was collecting fennel tops. Smart move. It smelled great.

I also passed a group of blokes picking up garbage. J thinks that today is some sort of world cleanup day, but I have not seen it promoted anywhere. They looked like prisoners on day release to me. One of them said g'day, and he didn't sound like a pillar of the community to me. All had various badly inked tattoos, smoked Winfield Blues and had a fondness for black jeans and flannel shirts. I could be wrong, as I failed to see anyone that looked like a guard. But they all had those rubbish picking up grabby things, and that to me made them seem like a work gang of some sort. I bet there is some beauracratic rule that says that prisoners must be issued with grabby things so that they don't have to bend down - just in case they hurt their backs and are unable to go back to work as a house breaker once they are released.

laptops - the cheaper the better

I am currently working in an office where everyone has a laptop. Some of us already have a PC. I am one of those with both, and I loathe the laptop for most things. The only thing I find it good for is sitting on the couch at home, watching the rugby and being able to read my favourite blogs at the same time. Apart from that, it is a waste of space. I should rename it the "blogatop".

I got into a discussion in the office last week about laptops. The guy to my right, who is an uber-geek, has two laptops worth over $2000 each. They appear to have every bell and whistle known to man. Two of his fellow consultants turned up on Friday, and they also had very expensive laptops with them.

I, on the other hand, have bought two laptops for a total of $1500. They do everything I want them to. They are a bit heavier than your more expensive laptop, but given that most of the time mine is only being carried from the office to the loungeroom, a few extra grams are not going to be a great cause for concern.

I hate laptops for many reasons. I hate the stupid mousepads. I hate the cramped keyboards. I hate the fact that most have two USB ports only (mine have one). I hate the fact that the company that I am working for at the moment mandates that you must have one. Most of all, I hate the poxy little screens.

Now I know that screens on laptops are a good size these days, but my PC has a 20" widescreen to go with it, and the next desktop that we buy will have at least a 22" widescreen. If I can get enough desk space, I will have 2 x 20" widescreens next to each other. A 15" screen on a laptop just doesn't cut the mustard when compared to that many pixels lined up next to each other. Yes, you can get laptops with huge screens. I saw one recently with an 18" wide screen. The laptop was ridiculously enormous - you could not use it on a plane for instance, unless you were in first class, and it cost about $5000.

My attitude to most technology is that you should buy it like business shirts, rather than suits. A shirt is an expendable item - you wear it for a year or two, then it frays around the edges, and it goes in the bin. Our laptops are like that - if we get two years use out of them before they are pounded to bits, I will be content.

Expensive laptops though are like suits. You buy a suit to last a very long time. A suit can last 30 years or more if treated well. Now I doubt that any technology will last that long, but men get very upset when their suits get damaged. They tend to care a lot less if a shirt gets wrecked (unless you only bought it that day). All electronic gadgets will eventually be trashed. Mobile phones and heavily used cameras take one hell of a beating, and tend to die fairly often. They are throw away items, and should be treated (mentally) as such.

Which is why I refuse to spend hideous amounts of money on fancy gadgets. At work, I spent millions of dollars on hardware and software. I have put systems in, only to rip them out a year later because they have been a complete failure. I have seen fortunes spent on technology that was superceded shortly afterwards. Technology is so ephemeral, it seems silly to pour large amounts of the pay packet into something that has such a short life span, and generally limited utility. My mobile phone cost me $50. It does everything I want it to. A $500 phone is not 10 times as good. Given that I have all the features that I want in a $50 phone, a $500 phone is unlikely to be even twice as good. I am not someone that needs my address book to be displayed in colour. Monotone is quite adequate for me.

I think my problem is that I have spent so much money (other peoples mainly) on gadgets, it has taken all the fun out of buying stuff for me personally. Buying useless shit no longer holds any thrills.

Poor me.

Barefoot and happy

Our backyard has a nice lawn. It's not a very big lawn, but it is covered by grass that is very pleasant to walk over or lie on. There are no weeds in it, especially the prickly variety. I can walk around barefoot all day and never feel something intruding into the skin of my foot.

Not so the verge. When I take the bins out once a week, I usually wheel them down to the front of the house with no shoes on. This involves walking on the grassy verge, and the verge by comparison is now almost entirely weeds from one end to the other. That's not for want of trying. I have sprayed it several times with a weed and feed type concoction, but to no effect.

I get the feeling that my weed and feed stuff is not being sucked into the water jet the way it is supposed to. I bought a big bottle of stuff that you connect to your hose, poke a few holes in the bottle, then you turn the tap on and as the water rushes past the top of the bottle, it draws out and mixes the weed killer and sprays it on your skin with wild abandon.

The first bottle of stuff like this that I purchased worked admirably. It was gone in no time, and the lawn was soon looking marvelously healthy and weed free. It did not lack for suction.

This next bottle is from a different company. By now, it should be empty, but only a few inches are missing from the top. It certainly shouldn't be applied in a lower concentration, so I fear it is just not as sucky as it should be.

I came up with a solution yesterday, and that was to buy a big watering can and to mix this stuff up into a solution with water, and walk around distributing it by hand. Which is so 1930's, but I presume it will actually work. Unless it disolves the plastic watering can, which is therefore not really a can at all. I love how mad inventors come up with these labour saving ideas, which work just enough to make you throw away your existing watering cans, and are just succesful enough to prevent you from buying a new one for 1-2 years, but in the end produce nothing but a verge overrun with prickles.

It could be though that these sucky-top bottles are produced by watering can manufacturers. We might all have to revert to them shortly, since watering lawns with hoses appears to be going the way of the Dodo.

The early birds gets cold

I have been promising myself a ride this weekend, and a reasonably early one at that, but when I woke up at 5.50am this morning, that was just a bit too early. Reasonableness and sanity took hold and I went back to sleep.

It is light at that time, and not too freezing, but I want to go when it is warm enough for me not to require any additional layers of clothing. What I do hate is having to stop, take leg warmers or jacket off and stuff them into a backpack. I am a backpack-less kind of guy.

So it is now a bit before 8am, and I am sitting here blogging instead of riding. My keen ear tells me that the monkey has just woken up, so I fear my blogging is about to be cut short too. Might as well hop on the saddle and go.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Be my mandoline

I finally bought myself a mandoline last week.

I am now wondering how I ever managed to live without it. Yes, you can watch a flash chef like Jamie Oliver slice and dice like a kitchen whizz, but he does it for a living day in day out and if I tried to do the same, I would be short a few fingertips.

I always avoided buying one because they tend to look like the kind of thing advertised on daytime television - especially the Shopping Channel. I can't bear the thought of owning something that is also owned by the type of people that sit around all day watching daytime TV. If I am shopping, and see a gadget with a tag on it saying, "As seen on TV", I quickly put it back on the shelf, find a bathroom and wash my hands. It has probably been lovingly fondled by daytime TV watchers, and you never know where they've been leaving their remote controls.

But I gave in whilst browsing through a kitchen gadget shop, forked out thirty dollars or so and took it home in two minds. It was either going to be great, or it would be in the rubbish bin before sunset.

I tested it by making a Jamie Oliver style coleslaw.

It was great. The coleslaw was marvelous. It is impossible to make coleslaw taste marvelous, but it did the impossible. It is now one of my more favourite gadgets.

I will have to give everyone one for Xmas.

Stephen Fry has a bog

I chanced up a wonderful blog today. Check it out.

If you hate Macs, I'd avoid it if I was you.

And go and make a cup of tea and find some biscuits before going over there - he does go on a bit.


I am re-reading "it must've been something i ate" by Jeffrey Steingarten, which is a collection of articles on food that he wrote for Vogue. (Apologies for the lack of capitals - this stupid laptop keyboard refuses to capitalise most of the time, and I am getting sick of back tracking to fix all the lower case letters).

I read a few chapters today, and found some amazing factoids to write about.

Then I had a nap and forgot all about them.

Now I am going to have to read the bloody thing again. I'm not that bothered - it's a very good read. i wish I could write that well. I blame this laptop - I am sure I could be a better writer if I had a smarter laptop.

ha ha.


I have had an incredibly sore bum all week. Not the freckle - more the muscles and perhaps the bit around the tailbone. I didn't think I was overdoing it when I went for a ride last weekend, but Monday was agony. I was hobbling around the office everytime I got up to get a coffee. Tuesday was bad as well, and I was amazed when I was still sore on Wednesday. Even now, nearly a week later, I am still a bit tender around the tailbone.

I didn't crash. I didn't fall off the bike and land on something hard, like a road. I don't remember a suicidal magpie swooping at me, misjudging the swoop and crashing into my arse.

The only thing left to do is blame the RTA. I must have bashed into some pot holes that were a bit nastier than usual, and bruised the bottom that way. That wouldn't be a surprise, given how nasty some of the roads in this neck of the woods can be, but I don't remember crashing into any elephant-hiding pot holes either.

That could mean that I am so used to kerlunking into suspension shattering pot holes that I no longer notice them. I have been thinking about getting the can of line marking spray paint out of the shed and taking it with me in order to mark all the particularly horrible hazards that I encounter on the average ride, but a single $10 can would only last me about 5 kilometres. Some roads would have to be painted yellow from end to end.

The only reasonable solution that I can think of is to find an RTA manager, hold them down, take their pants off and use a cigarette lighter to turn the can of line marking paint into a flame thrower. Your imagination can supply the rest.

Rent controlled stupidity

Apparently over 100 people turned up to look at a rent controlled "affordable housing" flat today in Annandale.

The SMH of course led with a predictable heart rending sob story:

WITHIN minutes of arriving to inspect the modest two-bedroom flat in Johnston Street, Annandale, Renee Gray's heart sank.

The single mother had barely taken her place in the small queue when scores of people, desperate to secure one of the few rent-capped apartments in the inner city, began to arrive.

It's nice to see that there are still scores of people around who are able to turn up on time. You normally only get a 15 minute window of opportunity to view these things, so the late, the lame and lazy miss out. Given how late people are to appointments (and how bloody rude I think that is), it gladdens the heart to see that there are still some people out there that can keep an appointment.

The swarm of prospective tenants was attracted by the apartment block's affordable housing zoning, which means the rent is capped at $295 - considerably less than the rent on many one-bedroom flats of similar quality in the area.

You reckon? Sheesh, where do they get journalists these days. If something is being offered at well below market rate, people will come from everywhere to have a bit of it. What else do they expect to happen? The more people that turn up, the more it tells me that the place is radically underpriced.

That so many lined up for the opportunity to see a reasonably priced apartment underlines the critical lack of low-rent housing in Sydney.

No, what it says is that although there is plenty of low rent housing on the outskirts of Sydney, it underlines how much some people don't want to move out to the fringe. It shows how desirable an inner-city address is to every class of people.

"People are flocking to these places and that means there is a lot of competition. When that happens there is a concern that people end up bidding for tenancies rather than rents reflecting the actual value."

That is just an incredibly stupid statement. The value of anything is what someone is willing to pay for it. The actual value is what someone will pay. This idiot thinks that the actual value is a price that he thinks is reasonable. Sorry, life ain't fair. Who said that the price of anything had to be 'reasonable'?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

The desire for a proper kebab

I have not been to Greece for a long time - since 1991 to be exact. I spent a few weeks bludging around Corfu and the mainland on my way to Turkey, and it was a pretty pleasant experience. I remember the place being pretty ramshackle - the EU had not turned on the funding tap, and everyone was poor and dusty. Quite a few made a living as kebab vendors by the side of the road, and I have not had a good kebab since then. They might have only had half a 44 gallon drum and a wood fire to work with, but it was enough to do the business when it comes to kebabs.

Around halfway though my visit, I got to see where the kebab meat came from. I blundered into an open air market in a place long forgotten, and everything was done outdoors - including butchering the cows. I distinctly remember seeing a cows head sitting on a wooden chopping block, covered in a thick black layer of flies. Unidentifiable lumps of cow were sitting around in various states of dismemberment, also covered in flies. I was reminded of that sight years later when watching "Three Kings", in the scene where the guys stop to look at a cow, and the cow stands on a landmine or cluster bomb and is blown to bits.

That's how the Greeks produced kebabs. The fillet steak was unknown to them. They just chopped everything up into little chunks, stuck the bits onto wooden sticks and grilled them over hot coals. It was great.

The idea that we have over here that a kebab is created by sticking 100 kilos of unidentifiable beef onto a big metal skewer, then slowly rotating it in front of electric elements, and then slicing of thin slivers of shoe leather is insane. It is nothing like a proper kebab.

I revisited Greece in my mind tonight by cooking some kebabs on the BBQ, then serving them up on homemade flat bread. The bread was supposed to have been baked in the oven, but our stupid oven won't get hot enough, so I did the bread on the BBQ too (with the lid down).

It was great.

The best thing is that the kebabs hardly dripped. Because I made "fluffy" flatbread, and we tore it open and "unzipped" it before adding the meat etc, the fluffy insides of the bread absorbed all the juice and prevented leaks. When you get a kebab from a kebab shop, they use the same sort of bread, but they never open it up. Your meat and stuff is therefore sitting on a slick surface, which is the outside crust. That's why you always end up with kebab juice running down to your elbows.

I am going to be doing a lot more of these over summer.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Kingdom of Heaven

When it first appeared at the cinema, I remember reading some rather scathing reviews of the movie. Therefore, I wasn't expecting much when it was on TV recently.

In the end, I thought it was quite good. Were some of the crusaders religious maniacs? Undoubtedly. It was an age of superstition and magic and witchcraft and all that. I don't think the writers were too hard on the christians or too easy on the muslims. A good backgrounder to this period is "A world lit only by fire" by William Manchester.

I still think the lead character, whatever his pirate name was, is a bit of a poof. I wouldn't have cast him in the lead.

I'd watch it again. It won't go down as an all time great movie, but it sure craps all over "Alexander" and "Troy" and those other execrable historical movies that came out around that time.

Judge dies whilst cycling

ACT Supreme Court judge Terry Connolly died today after suffering a heart attack while cycling around Parliament House in Canberra.

Police believe the 49-year-old was cycling with a group when he collapsed.

"He [Justice Connolly] was in a group of people who were bike-riding when he had a heart attack," a spokesman for ACT Police Minister Simon Corbell said.

"He [Justice Connolly] was resuscitated and an ambulance was called but he was subsequently declared deceased at Canberra Hospital."

I hope Chook was not setting the pace for that ride.

More crumble

Rather than buying a completely rubbish apple crumble from the shop, I made one the other night. I didn't have a recipe to hand, so I did the usual google thing and selected one from half a dozen that looked promising.

I don't know if I made a mistake when writing down the ingredients, or whether the author made a mistake when typing them into the website, or whether someone has a penchant for really buttery crumble, but the recipe ended up using 180gms of butter. I thought that was way too much, so I only put in about 150.

After making it, I checked a few other recipes more closely and found that they only required 40-50. So it might be that this recipe should have used only 80gms, rather than 180, or someone made a big mistake when converting from ounces to grams.

It still turned out quite well, but I blanch at the thought of eating it.

Monday, 24 September 2007

More bike path coming up

One good thing about our council is that it has a bike plan, which appears to be more than most of the other useless councils around here have. The bad news is that it will cost $42 or $46 million dollars to complete, which is about $40 million more than the council will have over the next 10 years. Unless the RTA coughs up some money, most of it is a pipe dream.

One bit that is getting built, bit by bit, is a proper path around the Bay Run. I was going around it the other day when I noticed a new sign (roadwork ahead) and some trucks in the distance offloading concrete road barriers (I have put a red rectangle around them).

1 minute later, I was stuck in a huge traffic jam (me and two cars) as barrier segments were offloaded from a truck.

The biggest impact of these works on local traffic is that this part of the road is going to be one way until the path construction stuff is done. Blow me down if I wasn't driving around there this morning (going the correct way and all) when I just about had a head on with a bonehead that decided to ignore the "no right turn" signs and turned the wrong way into the traffic.

He missed me, and he missed the car behind me, but I am not so sure about everyone else.

It just goes to show that you can do all the risk assesments in the world, erect moutains of signage, stuff leaflets under doors until the Amazon rain forests are no more and there will still be at least one idiot that will disregard everything and try and kill the first motorist they meet that morning.

It's time I had my car fitted with a sideways firing flame thrower.


Will I ride tomorrow? What will the weather be like?

It was lovely today - warm and sunny and quite delightful for a 40km spin down the Bay to Bay path. Spring is definitely here, as the air is full of bugs and flies and tree spoof. Tree spoof is the stuff you swallow as you ride rapidly under a tree and get a lung full of seeds/pollen/other small stuff that has fallen out of the tree as you went by.

I rode into numerous clouds of tiny bugs - bugs that are so small you can't see them as you approach a cloud of them, but large enough to catch on your teeth when you smash through them.

I'm not sure whether I like riding in spring or not.


No, not the one in the bikini. A small matter of a Falcon that has bashed into something.

I spotted this parked on the approach road to the old Gladesville Bridge (which was demolished several decades ago). It's now a quiet cul-de-sac.

Interesting thing is that the bingled car has a council sticker on it saying that the car has been abandoned and will be towed in 30 days etc etc.

If you crashed your car, surely you could arrange to get it towed by now?

Will I get published?

We spent part of Sunday at a local park having a fun ride, as the sign below said we should. The council setup a 4km route around the local streets and bike paths, organised traffic marshalls and signs and all that, plus a sausage sizzle. It was a beautiful day for it.

Someone is going to get boned though. The council paid good money to have maybe 12-15 traffic marshalls stand around on street corners directing cyclists and stopping cars, and when I went around at the start, they were all mooching under trees or having a fag or scratching their arse - but none were actually directing traffic.

And they got busted. This gaggle of three gentlemen comprises two Councillors and a council manager (and a senior one by the look of it). They were having an animated chat about the uselessness of the marshalls. The manager was particularly upset as he had arranged the production of all the safe working method statements ('swims' as they are called) and doing that is a pain in the arse. A royale pain in the arse. He was really offended that none of them had bothered reading up on what they were supposed to be doing after he put all that effort into making it a safe event.

One thing that I gleaned is that you can no longer have volunteer marshalls for an event like this - they have to be paid. Buggered if I know why, but I can see why community events are at risk. If the council has to pay 15 people double time to do a few hours on a Sunday, the coffers will be emptied out pretty quickly, and that will be the end of that.

This guy was from the local paper. Wonder if my mug will appear in the next edition?

More magpies

I was chatting to a Mum at the park today (whilst Monkey was stealing her daughter's ball) and the subject of Magpies came up. Mainly because there was one sitting on the fence behind us, eyeballing our biscuits.

She mentioned that her husband had been bombed whilst out riding, and he came home with blood all over the side of his face after one nicked his ear.

That hasn't happened to me yet, but I was a bit more careful when I was out on the bike today. I kept a weather eye on them as I zipped past, and was thankful that I managed to sneak up on most of those that I saw. Instead of sitting in trees ready to leap off and swoop and bomb, they were sitting on the ground. By the time they noticed me, I was long gone, and it was too late to get airborne and follow me down the bike track.

It seems that apart from having a good helmet, speed is of the essence.

Flight paths

We live under a flight path. It's no big deal. At times, we get a plane overhead every 3 minutes (that is the difference in the time stamps between the two photos below).

It's not something that bothers me. The planes are generally up high enough so that they aren't that noisy. You occasionally get something going overhead that makes a really good racket, but they're rate - maybe one every few days. At other times, we get no planes at all.

The way I see it, it's the price we pay for cheap travel to interesting destinations both interstate and overseas. You can't have your cake and eat it. You can't fly to Vanuatu for a conference on how global warming will impact on sea levels and then come home and complain about all the planes stacked up overhead.

Their noise doesn't bother me because it is the sound of freedom - the ability to pack up and go somewhere else (for a price). I'm also not bothered because I know that engineers have been slaving for years to make these things as quiet as technology will allow. It's not like the airlines are deliberately flying in the noisiest manner possible. They're doing their best. As time goes by, they will get quieter.

I wish I could say the same for cars. I think we have a much bigger problem around here with wogs driving cars with exhaust pipes the size of a two litre Coke bottle, and a stereo that could be used for psychological warfare across the Korean DMZ. Those people shit me, because they have deliberately made their cars noisier in order to pump up their tiny little egos. It's all about "look at me".

I would love to look at them through the sights of a Carl Gustav. The Carl Gustav is the noisiest thing I have ever come in contact with. It makes a Kiss concert look tame. Sometimes, you just need to make a really, really big noise in order to make all the smaller, but more insistent and annoying noises go away.

Fat bug

Took this photo of a bug in our backyard about 6 weeks ago.

Found the same bug again today. It's fatter, and the leaves on this plant are looking a bit gnawed around the ends. If we can conclusively prove that this fellow is the culprit, it might be squashing time.

Cut their thumbs off

This house has been collecting graffiti for the last few months like a hippy collects fleas.

There are people living here, as I've seen the front door open and kids bikes on the lawn.

I just can't understand why they have not made some effort to get it cleaned up - there's even graffiti sprayed on the front window. Surely it can't be that hard to scrape it off glass?

I was riding up our street on the weekend and noticed an old couple were scrubbing or painting over some tags on their front wall. If they can do it, these bludgers should certainly be able to do something.

I don't care if they're renting - if they tell their landlord, the landlord should take care of it.

Our council is running a big anti-graffiti push, so I've emailed them and asked if council can do something about it - like lean on the owner or the landlord. I know they can repaint commercial premises if they want to (and then charge the owner for doing it), but I don't know what they can do about residential property.

We'll see what becomes of it.

I think the only way to get the window at the front cleaned up is to put a brick through it.

As for the people doing the spray painting, it's bloody hard to hold a spray can if you don't have any thumbs.


I have not seen one of these on the road for a long time - a very immaculate Rover 2000, possibly from 1969 or 1970. Unlike my old one, this has an auto, making it possibly one of the most sluggish beasts around.

The housing market

Is the housing construction market turning down? Judging by the number of demolitions in our suburb, I am not so sure. I have walked, cycled or driven past 5 or so newly flattened sites in the last few weeks, and there are plenty of other sites nearby where workmen are busy adding extensions or doing an almost total rebuild on an old cottage.

I read over the weekend that Auburn has topped the ranks this year for the highest number of mortgagee repossession's. I wonder how much of a discount the banks are prepared to accept?

(Not that I want to live in Auburn anyway).

Retards revisited

I used to work in a large government organisation that was well leavened with retards and boneheads. That's not unusual - in any group of more than say 20 people, one person is bound to be a retard. It's just a law of large numbers of people. You never get rid of the retards. I read a book on GE last year, and they went through the ranks every single year and weeded out the retards and guess what? Next year, they always found another batch to get rid of. I don't know how retards are created - whether they hide in cracks in the system and emerge when you least expect it, but they are like the poor. They will always be with us.

One of the most memorable retards that I have met was a bloke in our regiment back in the early 1990's. He was utterly hopeless and stupid. The recruiters must have been asleep when they let him sign the papers - I am sure the ARES was not that desperate for bodies back then that they just had to let this bloke in.

Anyway, our platoon was stuck with him, and we all knew that if we ever went into combat, we'd start by shooting him and then get on with blatting the enemy. It was nothing personal - he was just a greater risk to us than the enemy could ever be. He's the kind of guy that would pick up an anti-tank weapon the wrong way and fire the round into us rather than the bad guys. He'd fumble and drop a grenade. God help us if he ever got his hands on the radio - he'd be calling in arty on us as day and night.

He had to go. Even if it meant shooting him in the back.

Fast forward some years to my large government organisation. Due to numerous restructures and reorganisations over the years, I worked in companies that had 500 people, 5000 people and 15000 people. Each one had a very different corporate culture, and a very different attitude to retards.

In the small organisation, the number of retards could be counted on one hand. Everyone knew who they were, and they were effectively quarantined into jobs where they were a risk to no one until they could be gotten rid of. They were always gotten rid of in the end. It might take a few years to remove the most limpet-like creatures, but they were always shown the exit. Management was quite relentless about weeding out the knobheads.

Then we merged and found ourselves in an organisation of 5000. Suddenly, the retards went from 5 or less to well into the hundreds. The company was 10 times larger, but the number of retards was probably 50 times greater. They were not 1% of the workforce - they were 5% of the workforce and it made a large difference to how we operated. Some managers were keen on removing them, but most unfortunately were of the "live and let live" variety. The number of retards was fairly static as some were removed, but others always sprang up to take their place.

Some years later, we had another merger and suddenly there were 15,000 of us. The percentage of retards went up to 10%, as the organisation that we merged with was awash with them.

When I say "retards", I am not referring to what are sometimes called "class C" people. You can divide any group of people into three sections - the A class, who are the go-getters; the B class, who make up the bulk of the population and who are wandering along following the leaders, and the C class, who are generally useless and need to be beaten with sticks to do anything.

Retards are in a class of their own. As their name suggests, they actually retard progress. The C class are not retards, as they just sit around on their arse doing nothing. Unless they are sitting in your way, they don't actively prevent you from doing anything. Retards however see it as their mission in life to fuck things up for everyone else.

The only reason they are called retards is that they are too stupid to realise that they are creating havoc for all around them. If they were just malicious psychopaths who enjoyed making life difficult for others, I'd call them psychos. But they're not - they're just idiots who lack common sense, think they know it all and are impossible to reason with. Logic is not a tool that they are acquainted with.

In my last workplace, there were only 3-4% A class people, which is not bad. I reckon they make up no more than 5% of the general population. A really, really good company might attract lots of good people and have 10%, but that's about it.

We had maybe 40% B class - the worker bees. Then we had about 45% C class and then 10% retards at the bottom.

B class people are good to work with. Any company that is 80% or so B class should be a good place to work.

C class people are a pain in the arse. They are the ones that sit around all day, reading the paper and failing to do all the things that you told them. They are the people that need to be reminded 8 or 9 times a day that they are being paid to sit there, so they should get on with counting the paper clips. They used to be called lazy or useless. A good company should have no more than 10% C class, and they should ruthlessly weed them out every year. You can imagine what it was like when 45% of the people I worked with were like that. Managers spent all their time trying to get them to do some work, and then dealing with the complaints of the B people who were totally overworked because they had to do their job and that of the C's.

Then there was the shoal of retards. I can handle maybe 1% retards in an office, especially if the retards are not in management positions. However, the worst retard of the lot was a manager (not mine thankfully), and the retards were scattered right through each division of our business group. Weeding them out was next to impossible - they were thoroughly entrenched, unionised and knew their "rights" down to the last paragraph.

It was a tough place to work as a result. Me - I just would have shot the lot and been done with it. But I couldn't do that - I had to "counsel" them and "empower" them and "facilitate" all sorts of crap - and they knew it was crap. They were just coasting along, drawing a salary and throwing a daily handful of sand into the great gearbox of life.

The only answer I came up with was to leave. If you can't shoot them, then you should shoot through.

But there's more.

We got a new big boss, and this person had the impression that if we brought in a private company to do the work, everything would be rosy because they'd have lots of A type people on the books, some B's and no C's.

Well, I spent some months with these people as I was heading out the door, and I can say that I met maybe one A type in all that time. Maybe 2. They had a reasonable proportion of B's, but also an amazing number of C's. I never met a retard, but that company was not full of superstars. If anything, it had fewer A type people to actually drive the entire show, and their proportion of C types was probably 30%. The quantum leap in quality that our new boss was looking for is never going to materialise. I dont know what planet they originated from, but it ain't this one.

Even more hilarious is the fact that I am now working for a large private sector company that is supposed to be a world wide leader in what it does.

I have not met that many people so far, but my impression is that the A types are thin on the ground. Very thin. It also seems to have ranks of C types slaving away in the cubicle farms (or perhaps loafing away).

I haven't met a retard though, so things are looking up.

Sunday, 23 September 2007


Had a bit of a slow week on the bike - only managed to get up to 90km in total. The weather was nasty for most of the week - wind and just enough rain to be annoying, so I didn't get out much.

I did go for a spin this morning though. The weather was deceptive. I had all my cold weather gear on, and when I was in the shade, it was cold. Not freezing, but not warm enough for me to take any layers off.

Then I stopped, and suddenly I was sweating like a pig. Weird.

I made the mistake of latching onto two other blokes at the bottom of our street. They'd been riding for some time, and were warmed up, so they were moving. I was not warmed up, but decided to stay on their tails. The legs are really feeling it now - they have been punished by being forced to climb hills too quickly too early in the ride.

I like riding with other people from time to time, but the buggers always seem to be too fast or too slow. I have not found anyone yet that is happy to ride at my pace.


I've just done a survey on a new TV series. The deal is that you download the pilot episode, watch it and then answer some questions on line.

The show is set in Melbourne, and it looks like a dud to me. It plods along. The characters are not that interesting. There's no car chases of interesting special effects or real mystery to the show. It might as well have been scripted by mormons. Mormons on tranquilisers.

It may yet surprise me and succeed, but I doubt it. I really don't know what demographic is going to watch it.

The political views of teachers

I have been reading a dissertation of some sort that is a history of the Labor party in the Leichhardt area. Some leftie luvvie has spent months sitting in pugs interviewing old activists about "the old days" and written hundreds and hundreds of pages about council meetings in the 1970's.

Don't ask me why, but I have read a couple of chapters of it (it's online, but I don't have the link on the laptop). Well, maybe skipped through a couple of chapters.

Several interesting things of note.

To start with, the term "right wing" was applied to any old style unionist that had a trade in a blue collar occupation. That is, men with three fingers on one hand (because they lost two in an industrial accident of some sort). And it was mainly men, since until the early 1970's, the only women at a branch meeting were those serving the tea and biscuits and perhaps someone to take the minutes.

The term "left wing" was applied to the newcomers that were white collar professionals or managers or some sort. ie, the basket weavers.

Amazingly, at one point, 20% of the members of the Labor party in the area in question were teachers. That says a lot about teachers and their political points of view.

I was stunned that crusty old buggers who were probably wharfies and boilermakers and painters and mechanics and so on would be classified as "right wing", and the term should become one of abuse. Weren't they the type of people who founded the party, and what the Labor party is supposed to be all about? The working class?

The left came to hate the right because the right didn't give a bugger about all the pet causes loved by the newly arrived left - the PLO, the whales, the trees, aboriginals etc etc.

Magpies revisited

Got bombed by another magpie whilst out riding today - that is the third time in a couple of weeks. The buggers don't even give you a warning squawk before they attack - the first you know about it is when a beak goes 'clack' against the helmet.

Must remember to check helmet for beak marks.


This coming weekend is the October long weekend, which also happens to be the traditional time for the first post-winter swim in the ocean.

In previous years, we've been sensible and organised to be somewhere up the north coast on this weekend, since the water appears to be a few degrees warmer 500km up the coast. Unfortunately, the first dip this year will be at the normal spot - Bondi - and the temperature gauge looks like it won't be interested in getting over 21 (that's air temp, not water temp).

I hate to think what the water temp will be like.

I have got all week to think about it - just so that I will really be really dreading it at 7am on Saturday morning.

Saturday, 22 September 2007


I've been bombed twice in the last week by magpies. They clipped my helmet both times - I was zooming along and there was a sudden "clack" on the plastic where a beak or claw had impacted with the helmet.

The first time it happened, the magpie came back for a second run. The sun was above and behind me, and I could see the shadow of this hovering magpie on the ground in front of me. It was a really spooky effect - I wish I could have taped it. He hovered there for a few seconds less than a foot from my head, and then gave up as I exited his territory. You don't see that everyday (the shadow thing).

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Let's seen how they handle this

We live near a school. Which is great, as the school has a couple of good playgrounds and we can take monkey down there to work up a sweat once the inmates have gone home. When we moved, I thought that living near a school might be a bit of a trial (screaming kids and all that), but it's fine - apart from the idiot mums dropping their little darlings off each morning.

The only bone of contention is that their bulk rubbish bin always gets emptied at the most god-awful hour. It's one of those big bins where a truck drives up to it, sticks a couple of forks into it and up-ends it behind the cab, giving it a good shake in the process. I have no problem with a truck turning up at say 8pm to do that, but the driver that has this patch likes to turn up at midnight to do it.

If they can't land planes at Sydney airport after 11pm because of the racket, what makes him think he can drive down quiet suburban streets after that hour with a bin-shaking truck?

I've tracked down the email address of the school and sent them a quick note asking them to get the company to do their thing a bit earlier in the night.

I'm interested to see if I get any response, let alone any action.

Firstly, our state schools don't seem to be wired up to this interweb thingy too well. They understand email to the same extent as cavemen understood mobile phones, so I am not sure anyone will actually read it, since it requires turning on the computer thingy that is sitting in the corner under a drop sheet.

Then there is the matter of taking action - picking up the phone and calling the rubbish company and having a word with them. Since many teachers these days seem to have issues with having words with a 7 year old, I can't imagine how they will take on a rubbish company manager.

We wait with baited breath.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Three bike article that caught my fancy

I was checking out back issues of Australian Cyclist this morning when three articles caught my eye for different reasons.

The first regards a "buttguard", whatever that is - there is no accompanying photo with the article, so I can't see what it looks like.

I bookmarked it because of this paragraph:

Personally I like fitting a rear mudguard to my bike: it makes people think I’m hardcore enough to ride in the rain.

Oh for crying out loud, don't be such a wimp. If it rains, you get a wet arse. In fact if it rains, you usually get wet all over, even if you have a natty rain jacket. It's just a fact of life. You are exposed to the elements, therefore you get wet.

Hardcore. Pfft.

The next article was about riding to work. Since 90% of my riding up until now has been the ride-to-work variety, I linked to it because I can empathise with some of it.

Some of it I can't.

I did like this quote:

Early on in my racing career I earned the nickname “Aspirin” because I would dissolve whenever I got wet – racing or training, I couldn’t ride in the rain.

Aspirin - I like that.

The last article describes riding out to Liverpool, which is a Bridge Too Far if you ask me. I liked it because it explains that it really isn't that scary riding out there, although I would prefer to take a Glock with me if anyone asks me to do it.

It talks a bit about the Cooks River Cycleway, which I have been riding of late. I am about to get off my fat behind and go and do it now actually. Just need 15 more minutes of web browsing to get enthused....

Death to ibis

I contacted our council a while back about the evil ibis, which is a native bird around here. The pesky little bastards are fearless and stick their long beaks into everything in search of a feed. That includes rubbish bins like these. On the day I took this photo, one ibis managed to almost empty this bin whilst looking for a few tasty treats. That left the ground covered in crap - literally - since this bin is outside a playground and the bin is usually half full of nappies.

I asked the council to consider putting in bins with lids instead. I got a very nice response, saying they had bins with lids previously, but some little bastards (not their words) set fire to the bins. As they were plastic, well, you can imagine the rest. The response was to replace them with steel bins with fixed lids that can't be ripped off.

My response was "shoot the birds and the vandals". I don't think I will hear back from council again in regard to this matter.

I am a little bit ticked off, in that the usual reaction was a knee jerk reaction. I should have asked how many bins were sacrificed to Baal. If it was only one, why not put that down to drunken adolescent stupidity (been there, done that) and replace the bin with another plastic one and carry on?

What is the acceptable rate of bin burning before you cut your losses and switch to a different type? I have no idea what bins cost, but I would have thought that unless half a dozen are being immolated in the same spot per year, you'd stick with a model that is easy to empty, yet bird-proof.

I'd hate to think that the council fell for a spot of moral panic and decided to switch out the bins after just one or two bonfires. That kind of thing annoys me. There will always be idiots. Generally, they grow up and become half responsible, only to be replaced with another generation of idiots. It's a fact of life. You just have to accept a certain amount of stuff will be written off by idiots, who then grown up to become taxpayers, and have to pay for the stupid stuff that the current generation is doing. That's what I call an inter-generation transfer of stupidity tax.

My solution to bin burning is simple. Glue a large plastic bottle full of napalm, with a suitable explosive charge, to the inside of each bin. When the bin is set alight, the napalm bomb goes off, and you simply scour the burns units of the closest hospitals for likely suspects.

Or you scrape their blackened corpses off the grass and replace the bin (and bomb) with a new one.

Works for me.

Progressives and teachers

I hate these signs.

I hate them so much, I am thinking of making up my own with some catchy slogans and then sticking them to school fences. Something like:

"Public education: our useless teachers are unsackable".

I read a good post over at Kerplunk today about "progressives"

Kerplunk - Common sense from Down Under: The intellectual adolescence of "Progressive" politics

It's a long post, and "progressive" really is a yank term, but it helped me understand why I hate signs like the above. What are they really saying when they write "Our children are the future"? That the children going to private schools are the past? That private school kids have no part to play in the future, or they are horrible conservatives that will take us back to 1956?

Then there is the question: the future of what?

The future of jail populations?

The future of drug abuse?

The future of dole bludging?

I'll always remember dad telling me that Hitler was a progressive. He wanted to change the world. He also wanted to kill all of us, but he thought that was a change for the better.

Progressives. Can't shoot them, have to put up with them.

Monday, 17 September 2007

What the f....?

I bought a loaf of bread tonight.

Spotted on the side was a sticker proclaiming that it is "98% fat free".

Since when has bread been full of fat? Am I missing something here?

Risk vs uncertainty

The best explanation I have read regarding the difference between the two.

Truth in photos

If you scroll down a bit, you'll find a photo that I took outside our local House of Plod. It's a beer bottle in a brown paper bag, with the Police sign in the background. I reckon it is one of the best photos I have ever taken.

I could have made it better by fiddling with the location of the beer bottle. As it stands, all you can see is the bag, and not the bottle it contains. However, I decided to take the photo as it was, and not mess with it. It's still a powerful photo.

I wonder how many media types could resist the temptation to move the bottle in order to frame the shot a bit better?

I dare say the answer is nil.

Why can't the media just be truthful and accurate about the little things?


We put our old couch out last night for the 6 monthly rubbish collection.

We put it back together after moving it (ie, put the cushions back on etc) so that it looked like a nice couch, and didn't cover the footpath in rubbish.

It's a sofabed couch. Some turd has come along, pulled out the sofabed thing to look at the mattress, then just half stuffed it back in and left cushions strewn all over the road.

I will say it again. Why does the government not issue shooting permits for occasions like this?

Local govinmunt

You find the most amazing stuff on this interweb thingy. You trawl around and all sorts of stuff just pops up in front of you. No, I am not talking about Britney Spears - I am talking about the minutes of a Leichhardt council meeting.

Before you write me off as a completely boring old bladder, go and have a look at the minutes. This is how our elected local government representatives spend their time. And our rates.

The first few pages are just complete tripe. It must have taken them an hour to get to the meat of the matter - the performance reports from the various divisions of council, and those are just glossed over.

I'll be glad when this particular council gets chopped up and fed to the surrounding councils.

Winos vs Police

I took this happy snap on the way home the other day. It features a beer bottle in a brown paper bag out the front of our local plod shop.

Nice. Says a lot about how safe I feel about walking around Wog Dock on a Saturday night.

On a positive note, I did get plod to clean up their yard. Or at least I got them to tell their contractor to clean up their yard.

Here's how it went.

I walked into the plod shop and asked to talk to the Plod Commander (Station Commander).

Plod "We don't have one."

Me: "In that case, I'd like to talk to the Plod in Charge".

Plod: "We don't have one. What's it about?"

Me: "It's about all the rubbish in your yard. I want it cleaned up."

Plod: "That's not our problem. A contractor does it."

Me: "I know that. I have seen the bloke out the front with his truck. I want you to get him to do his job properly, and actually pick up the rubbish".

Plod: "Well, you seem to know more about the contractual arrangements than we do. It's all taken care of by the Local Area Manager (LAM) at Burwood."

Me: "Who is that?"

Plod: "I don't know. Call the station and ask to speak to the LAM."

Me: "OK".

Plod: "It's been like that for 6 months. Filthy isn't it?"

Me: "Yes. Bye".

I am halfway home when I go, hang on - if the plod knows the yard is a complete disgrace, and the plod knows who to call to get it fixed, why is plod telling me to ring the LAM to get it fixed? Why doesn't the lazy bloody plod pick up the station phone, call Burwood, talk to the LAM and get it organised?

Sheesh. Talk about a total lack of drive, direction and management.

Bring out your dead

It's that time of the year again - our lovely council has organised to take away any old crap that you can be bothered putting out on the verge. It's done twice a year around here - I wish it was done 4 times a year. People need to be encouraged to ditch old junk more regularly. It's the only way to keep the Chinese economy powering along, and thus continuing our resource boom. C'mon, if we aren't throwing stuff out, we aren't buying stuff. Do it for the miners - buy something.

I started doing a little photo essay on what the neighbours are chucking out, but I was too slow. The scavenger vehicles have been doing the rounds as well and I reckon they have nabbed all the good stuff before I have had a chance to photograph it.

I blew up our old microwave a few weeks back. I put a cup of coffee into it to reheat, and the blasted thing caught fire. I put it out on the verge last night, and by the time I went inside to get the camera to take a photo of it, someone nabbed it.

Who on earth would want a fried microwave? Surely they must have noticed the big black melted section inside? Ah well, I guess they will when they plug it in and turn it on...

Here is a short selection of what the neighbours are ditching. Nothing of any great interest unfortunately. Sometimes you see really fascinating stuff being thrown out, but I think because we are in a high-wog area, the old wogs won't throw anything out until it is totally and utterly knackered. A chair has to be down to its last leg before they'll toss it.

These chairs though look like stolen property - from St Albans.

The esky contains pebbles - the sort you normally find in ornamental gardens or fish ponds. I was looking for the fish tank, but there was naught to be seen.

Here is one of the sly bastards doing the rounds picking up all the good bits.

This garage door was not being thrown out. I took a photo because I was fascinated that someone would let their door get this bad. I'd be out there with a tin of paint in a flash if this happened to me.

Then I'd rig a claymore mine to a sensor that detects aerosol paints.

I will have to walk the streets again this morning to see what else ends up out the front. There has to be something half interesting out there.

I have only spotted one couch so far - ours. As soon as I found out the bulk rubbish collection was on, we hot footed it over to Crows Nest, which is the land of sofa shops, and bought a new couch. It won't be here for 4-5 weeks, but we took the opportunity to get rid of the old one in anticipation.

The old couch still has plenty of life left in it, but it's too short. We have bought something that is long enough for people around 6 1/2 feet tall to stretch out on. I guess the old one will end up at Bondi.

Sunday, 16 September 2007


Spring has sprung, so we've been busy filling up the garden with stuff to eat. First off is our very crowded rocket pot. It's only been in there a week and some has already started to flower. I think we will be eating some of this tonight.

Rosemary. Why do we have three tubs of rosemary? I have no idea - we somehow collected it over the years, and one day woke up to find that we had three times more than we need. I used a lot of it on lamb chops.

Sage - something for the piggies. A few weeks ago, this was completely dead looking. It was just a collection of twigs in a pot. Suddenly, it has taken off. Slugs or caterpillers seem to love it, so I am always spraying it with horrible chemicals and dropping slug pellets around the base.

Thyme - and lemon thyme at that. Something for the chickens. I make up a thyme and lemon rind butter and stuff it under the skin when I am roasting whole chooks. It's fantastic. I must remember to halve it at the start of winter so that we have two thyme plants next year.

Basil, coriander and chili - all laid out in what passes for rows around here. The bugs just love the basil as well - chemical warfare and basil go hand in hand like pork and sage.

Chives - love them in omelettes and when stuffing the chooks.

A crowded lettuce collection. I understand these will be replanted sometime today.

Mint. This time, I have left it in a pot. The last mint plant I had was stupidly planted in the garden and it spread like a weed. This one goes in drinks and into salads. This particular variety also tastes much better than the last one I had. Never knew mint could be so variable.

This is a two level planter - a survivor from my days of living in flats. It's designed to clip over the rail of your balconey.

Up top, we have tarragon and coriander. It's french tarragon, not russian. I made the mistake of planting russian tarragon last year. It tastes like crap. The french stuff is great in a simple salad of grapes, goats cheese, a bit of green stuff and tarragon - dressed with a red wine vinegar and shallot dressing. Very pungent, but very good.

Down the bottom is oregano, which mainly goes into pizza sauce.

Another view of our only bit of dirt - this is where the basil and tomato plants and coriander live.

The tree stump on the left is the remains of some horrible tree that left its roots all through the garden. The yellow patch is unplantable - there is a terrible tangle of roots just under the surface, and the only way to get rid of them is to rent a roto-rooter or stump grinder. And I'm not going to bother with that.

There is also some dill in a pot in this photo - must remember to plant it out today.

I am not going the whole hog like I did last year, when I planted capsicum, cabbage and cauliflower. The cauliflower did well in the end, but it takes up a lot of room and the bugs love it. Besides, it all came good at the same time, so we ate nothing but cauliflower for a week, and then had no more for the rest of the season. Same with the cabbage (I did purple cabbage). We got so sick of eating it, I gladly left it to the bugs.

You really need enough garden where you can plant stuff a week or two apart, so you get a continual flow of goodies through the season. I'm just not that organised.

Come in spinner

Here is my almost new Zyliss salad spinner. I had the brain wave of putting my sliced tomato into it in order to get rid of the excess water.

A few spins later, this is how much came out - lots.

Of course I failed again to slice up enough tomatoes to cover a single pizza. I must remember to cut up 4 of them, not 3.

More experiments in pizza

I was reading a new cook book the other day and it gave this idea for pizza topping.

Instead of making a tomato sauce to cover the base, finely slice some tomatoes and spread them across the base.

I tried it last night. I sliced three of them, then flicked out most of the seeds and gave them a slight squeeze to get rid of some juice and then salted them lightly and left them to drain in a collander for an hour. When I got back, there was a reasonable amount of water under the collander, so my draining theories seemed to be working.

I then made two lots of dough with just white flour - no wholemeal and no semolina. Just white dough - kind of how you get it at your local pizza restaurant.

I rolled out the first bit of dough, brushed the top with olive oil that had been infused with garlic (ie, I crushed a few cloves and bunged them in a small pot of oil for an hour) and then laid out the tomato.

I was planning on doing two pizzas, but soon realised that I had underestimated the amount of tomato required by half. It was the worst estimation of food required since Napoleon woke up one day and said, "I understand Moscow looks delightful in the snow. Let's go. Gather then lads - we march in the morning".

I managed to cover most, but not all of the base in tomato. I was planning on lapping the tomato slices over each other, but had to give that idea up pretty quickly and spread them around with gaps in between the get the required coverage.

As for topping, I grilled a zucchini on the BBQ, along with two baby eggplant, and added some leftover baked leek and capsicum from the night before. I then threw on some goats cheese and pine nuts and hoped for the best.

It was absolutely superb. At least that's what I thought. J gave it a mediocre score, but then it's not her type of pizza.

I just know that next time I try it, I will fuck it up completely and it will be a disaster.

Fair trade vs food miles

For reasons that I will not go into, I sought out and visited the Fair Trade cafe in Glebe last week. I specifically went there to have a cup of coffee. Fair Trade coffee, as you can imagine by the name above the door.

Getting there was no big chore - it is just around the corner from a shopping centre that I go to in order to buy my favourite salad dressing, so all I had to do was walk out of the parking thingy and up the hill a bit and there I was - in folk and charm music heaven.

Glebe is awash with cafes. It's like a hippy with lice - they are everywhere. I have walked up and down Glebe Point Rd many times, and tried a lot of cafes, and as usual, where there is a cluster of cafes, I use the Force to choose which one to dine at.

The first thing I look at is the decor and fitout. If it has cheap, formica tables and looks dirty, I'll avoid it (which is why I avoid eating in most country sandwich shops).

The next thing I look at is how crowded it is. Large groups of people can't be wrong. And before you say, "But look at McDonalds - lots of people go there", I will respond, "I like McDonalds".

I don't eat there every day. I don't eat there every week. Sometimes months will go by and not a single quarter pounder will pass my lips. But that doesn't stop me from respecting the company and liking their food. I don't crave it, like I crave good Thai or Indian food (unless I have a hangover - then I would kill for McDonalds), but I like their food. It is not crap. It's not great, but it's good enough.

Anyway, I look at the volume of patrons (and by that, I do not mean how large each patron is). It was a weekday, around 10am, so most of the cafes only had say 6-10 people in them.

Fair Trade had 1.

That is never a good sign. But I persisted.

They have these great windows that open out onto the street, and the window ledge is wide enough for one to spread the paper and eat breakfast at. That includes a paper as big as the SMH. I didn't feel like a feed, so I just had a coffee.

That might be a good thing.

Whilst waiting for the coffee, I had a poke around the cafe. The counter was covered in the usual hippy pamphlets - "come and see Lailieaphaedron perform a harpsichord phenomena dedicated to celebrating the coming birth of the earth-mother" and that sort of dribble.

The menu actually had meat on it, in the form of bacon and a hamburger, but that was it.

The menu also described the origins of the coffee that they serve. It's fair trade, and it's a blend of beans from PNG, East Timor (or Timor Leste as some prefer) and Peru.

Peru? Who ships goods halfway around the world for rich westerners to consume as pleasureable items? What a waste? Think of the CO2 emitted to ship goods from Peru! And bulky goods at that! Add up the food miles and you'll see how many polar bears were microwaved as a result!

Oh, it's fair trade coffee is it? Well, that's all right then.

I wonder what happens when the fair trade people end up in the same room as the food miles people. I guess it's similar to when the spartacists turn up at a meeting with the trotskyites.

And the coffee?

Terrible. Burnt. Bitter. Nasty. Really, really nasty.

I decamped back to the shopping mall and spent five minutes walking around trying to find something that would get rid of the terrible taste in my mouth.

Gloria Jeans? Nope, don't want another coffee.

Sushi? Don't think it will work.

Vanilla slice? Don't think that will work either.

Sausage roll? I'll give it a go, but I don't have 20 cents for the sauce. Ugh, a dry sausage roll.

It worked though. Somehow the dry, flakey pastry managed to strip most of the raw, burnt coffee husk taste off my tongue.

That said, I will apply my golden rule of cafe rating and go back for a second attempt. The hippy on duty might simply have been unable to work the coffee machine, or she might have been too blissed out on whale music to be pulling the right levers. I will also give the food a go next time around.

Apart from that, it seemed like a pleasant place to hang out. Except that I hate the thought of it being busy - packed with stinking hippies from the floor to the rafters.

Gun stuff

Regular readers of this blog (all two of you) might have noticed how ticked off I get when some gumby reporter jumbles up his or her facts when it comes to reporting on things military.

When I worked for a large corporation, I also used to get ticked off when I found the paper/radio/TV news to be full of basic mistakes about what we did.

It appears to me that the news media in particular is full of people that are just unable to write accurately or truthfully about what they see any more. I despair that those that are supposedly bringing us news really don't have a fucking clue.

I am not alone. Check this out.

I also wish I was that creative and dedicated. Make sure you watch the bloopers at the end.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Some really interesting art work

I had a look at this site because the Leichhardt Council commissioned her to do a bit of street art.

My suspicions were immediately raised - anything that those deep green morons at Leichhardt do is automatically suspect.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see how good the artwork is. I'd love to have something like this at home.

Flemington Markets

I have written about Flemington Markets a few times in the past, but never taken my camera until now. It's a bit of a madhouse, and these photos don't really do it justice.

There are two places two park - at street level, where it is a fight to find space for a scooter, or upstairs where it's almost always empty. Most of the punters don't seem to realise that they can park upstairs in the parking station, but they might not want to park up here because it involves lugging groceries up several flights of stairs.

This is what the parking is like for the goons that decide to stick to ground level. If you can extract your car from here without it being dented or extensively scratched, you are doing well. Most of the cars look like they have had a narrow escape with a crusher at a wreckers yard. I stay well away from them. Then again, the drivers also look like they hold an Albanian drivers license, or collected their license from a packet of breakfast noodles.

The markets are held in the big shed in the background there. Getting there involves crossing a road that is normally thick with trucks, goonhead drivers and forklifts, with the forklifts generally going backwards at full speed.

A slightly better view of the shed, with a forklift zooming around.

Here's the outside of the shed. There usually seems to be a bloke selling eggs and watermelons at this en, and all the Asian greens are to be bought along the wall. Walking along here is a bit like wandering through Hong Kong.

Many people rent a shopping trolley, which is a good business in its own right. You pay $10 for a trolley, and get $7 back when you return it. I wish our local supermarket had a trolley deposit like that - there were 3 trolleys outside when I went to the markets this morning.

The trolleys are enormous - much bigger than your average Woolies trolley. Unfortunately, most of the people who rent them are no better at pushing a trolley than they are at driving a car. I usually spend half my time keeping clear of them in order to save my ankles. The best bet is to get there by 7.30am, as after that, it gets really crowded with trolleys, and you can spend half your shopping time stuck in trolley jams.

Other regulars take "grannie" shopping baskets, which is a great idea. I must get one some day.

This is one of my favourite stalls, although I rarely shop here. It's the spcie stall - each of those buckets holds a different spice. The smell is something else.I screwed up the photo though.

This is my spud man. He is selling kipfler spuds for $3.50 a kilo. They are $11 in my local supermarket. His selection is three times greater than our supermarket, and his prices are lower. Why would you go anywhere else?

The photo above illustrates the main reason why I go - the range and selection of produce. Most of the time, you can actually buy a wider range of fruit and vegetables in your local supermarket, but that's because half of them have been sitting in cool rooms for six months. The stuff at the markets is all fresh. When I say "range", I mean the range within a particular fruit or vegetable. I can buy 9 types of spuds from the spud guy. Most supermarkets offer two, and who knows when they were dug up.

The end result is that our spud plate in the pantry looks something like this:

My main problem is that I keep forgetting which type of spud is good for what.

Check out these two apples. The one on the left came from our supermarket, and cost $7 a kilo. The one on the right cost $1.60 a kilo from the markets. Both are the same variety.

The apple from the markets is slightly undersize, but it is actually the perfect size for Junior's lunchbox. A standard sized apple from the supermarket is just too bloody big.

Some of the market apples also have blemishes, but I don't care as I am going to chop them up to either make apple sauce to go with some pig, or into an apple pie. Who needs a perfect skin when you're going to cook the blasted things?

The humble tomato at the moment costs a packet. Those in the bowl cost me up to $12 a kilo at the supermarket and they taste like shit. Even though they are bright red, they are devoid of flavour. They've kept their shape, but that's all they are good for.

The ones at the bottom cost me $5.something at the markets, and they smell and taste so much better.

Here is the clincher - pine nuts. I use a lot of them. The bag on the left cost $25 a kilo - I bought 250gm worth.

The packet on the right holds 40gms, and cost over half what I paid in total for 250gm at the markets. Just shows what putting them in a nice bag and hanging them in a supermarket aisle can do for value-add.