Sunday, 29 June 2008

Independence Day clouds

Remember the shape in the clouds the spaceships made in Indpendence Day?

Spooky. Sydney is being invaded by aliens.

More knobs with number plates

What is it about the WRX that brings out the screaming knobhead in people.

"REXQU"? Oh please.

When I see people like this driving around the city, I simply point to the West. As in, "If you are lost (you westie bogan), home is that way".

It's a funny old thing

The paper today is claiming that Iemma is going to be dumped as Premier of NSW.

The funny thing is that, as a Liberal, I actually don't mind the bloke. I like some of the things that he is doing a lot.

Electricity privatisation? All for it.

The recent changes to planning laws? All for it.

Recent statements on personal responsibility? All for it.

In lots of other areas, he is completely hopeless, but it is the top two that are giving him the most grief, and I reckon in that area, he is doing a good job.

Those that push through change are never loved. Carr sat on his arse for years and did very little, because he had a desperate need to be loved. I respect Iemma for dealing with the crap that Bob left behind, and for not crying about it.

Friday, 27 June 2008

More stupid number plates

Another in an occasional series of silly number plates. As far as stupidity goes, this one rates really, really low on the silliness scale. However, I took this photo to remind me of another car that drove past just before this one, and it had a plate saying "kokky".

And the driver looked like a komplete kock too.

Planes by night

The two white blobs are not stars - they are aircraft coming in to land at Sydney airport. They're still about 10km short of the runway at this point, crossing over Rodd Point and then Leichhardt.

I tried to take a longer exposure, hoping that the aircraft lights would appear as streaks across the sky, but all I ended up with was some completely washed out photos.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Preparing you for all the fun things in life

Yet another snippet from my days of wearing the part time soldier suit.

Join the Army - it'll make a man out of you.

Hmm, not sure if I agree with that statement. Especially since our regiment had a number of very gung-ho women in it, and at least one poof. Plus the odd sprinkling of wimps, dickheads and people who just had to be shot at the first hint of a contact.

I will say this about what it did for me:

I have never been so cold in my life. I have been skiing in Canada when the temperature hit -35, but I have never frozen as much as standing in a gun pit just before dawn during winter at some training ground like Bindoon or Northam. I have done a long swim down a gorge at Wittenoom that was so deep, the sun hit the water at the bottom for 5 minutes per day, resulting in unbelievably cold temperatures, but nothing beats being rained on in the middle of the night and having to lie still in an ambush position in a puddle of mud.

I have never been so hot in my life. I've done some outdoor and farm jobs in some sweltering summers, but I've only had heat stroke once, and that was in the Reserves whilst practicing assaults on a bare hill in the middle of summer. It's the only time I have ever flopped gratefully into a bathtub full of ice and stayed in it voluntarily for way longer than would normally be thought healthy.

I've never been so tired. Parenthood can be pretty exhausting as far as lack of sleep goes, but the infantry was the mother of all sleep deprivation experiences. I have only had one waking halucination in my life, and that was brought on by utter exhaustion in the middle of a two week exercise at Nannup.

I have never worked so hard physically. I was a rower in my youth, so I know all about pushing yourself out to that ragged edge of physical exhaustion and then pushing beyond it. I've pushed myself to the point of throwing up during exercise, but once again, infantry work took the cake.

It also provided me with some of the most mind-numbingly boring experiences that I can think of.

The pain at times was also something else. The feeling of one set of blisters on your feet popping during a route march, and then of another set forming beneath the raw and open blisters. The chafing of pack and webbing. The blisters on the hands from carrying a stretcher over miles of broken ground. The back pain, the shoulder pain... the knees and elbows rubbed raw from hitting the ground and crawling during contacts - and doing it again and again and again.

About the only horrible thing that I didn't have to do was sew myself up Rambo style, although burning ticks out must come a close second.

The end result is that not too many things bother me anymore, because in most cases, I have been through worse. Which is the whole idea of all that training - it's supposed to prepare one for combat, which is about as nasty and horrible and confronting as things get in this life. But I can say that I am usually able to keep my head whilst all about me are losing theirs.


Seven degrees is all the thermometer could eke out when I hit the road this morning, and that was after the sun cranked up above the horizon. By the time I arrived at the office, the air temp was up a whopping 25% to 9 degrees centigrade, which made my frozen fingers and toes feel a whole lot better.


Podcast worth listening to

It's an hour long, but it is worth it.

Physical activity, obesity and health

Wed, 14 Nov 2007

Professor Steven Blair, from the University of South Carolina, USA, talks about the causes of the obesity epidemic in the US, the relationship between weight and fitness levels, and the importance of physical activity in a healthy lifestyle.

Download MP3 [28MB] | Press release

Saturday, 21 June 2008

New bogger feature

You may have noticed a new list on the right hand side of this blog. Blogger released a new feature recently that allows you to add blog lists, and they are listed by the most recent entry.

Very nifty.

The really nice thing is that if you click on one, it opens it in a new tab (at least it does with Firefox - I have not tried it with another browser), so you can use it as a launch pad to all your favourite blogs.

The root of all Aboriginal problems

You'll laugh; you'll cry - just read the comments that came with this recent 4 Corners story.

When it comes to dealing with Aborginal issues, it's time we started playing Bullshit Bingo.

Some key words:

  • Elders
  • liaison
  • communities
  • environment
  • alienated
  • segregation
  • indigenous
  • agendas
  • nonpatronising
  • atrocities
  • stolen
  • generation
  • culture/cultural differences
Feel free to add your own.

Summary of annoyances

What a fucker of a day. I'm not going outside anymore - there are too many annoying people out there.

I go to the dry cleaner to pick up some stuff. Just as I get there, the power goes off, which means the shop computer is dead, so they can't find my clothes on their totally automated system. The shop also happens to contain a big fat bastard that has no idea of how to act appropriately in front of customers. Not swearing is a good start.

The about 5 stupid pricks cut me off whilst driving too and from work. It was one of those days on the road. I was tailgated, had people change lanes without indicating and had to deal with two fools who were so intent on talking on their phones, they couldn't stay in their own lane. I don't know what got into people today, but as I continue to say, it is a good thing I don't have a firearm in the car. If I did, it would be a case of "I see dead people". Here is one of them.

Note the stupid fluffy animals on the back window ledge, and the phone glued to the ear. This guy had a heavy beard by the way.

What else?

I go to Gloria Jeans for a coffee, order a 'regular' sized one and am given an enormous beaker of horrible coffee - and that was $3.80, thank you very much. The pricks have caught the Starbucks disease. Am avoiding them in future.

I broke my favourite screwdriver.

I walked past a newsagent that had a big poster in the window stating "Aussies now worlds fatest", so I went next door and bought a chocolate eclair. It was very average. Not eating another one of them.

I went to a kebab shop for lunch, one that I have never tried before, and they wrapped the kebab in foil before grilling it. The result was bits of tinfoil baked onto the bread, and I had to spend a few hungry minutes picking bits of tinfoil out of my lunch. I hate getting tinfoil on my fillings. Worst feeling around, apart from that of having the fillings installed in the first place. Not eating there again.

Yesterday was not much better. I was scolded by a pedestrian for blasting through a cross walk in front of her, but I only did that because (a) I was going 50km/h downhill and (b) she decided to not look or give any indication of wanting to cross there before darting onto the crosswalk right in front of me.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Most cyclists don't go very far

From The Times:

The latest figures show that the number of cycle trips has fallen, down from an average of 17 trips per person in 2000 to 16 in 2006. The average cyclist made six trips a week by bicycle in 2006, spending just under two hours in the saddle and covering 14 miles.

Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary,said: “A quarter of journeys made every day by car are less than two miles. Cycling could bring real health benefits to millions of adults and children as well as helping them save money and beat congestion.”

I don't know how to feel about numbers like that. I do 8-10 trips a week and spend 6-7 hours in the saddle and cover 100-160km (depending on the weather).

I can't imagine driving 3km. I also can't imagine cycling that short a distance. I used to walk up to 20km a day (7km each way to work, plus the usual here and there that the average day involves), so I tend to walk if I can. I don't get on my bike for anything less than a 10km ride - on a weekend, anything less than 25km.

But they have a point - if I had a "knock-about" bike, I might be more inclined to jump on it and do short runs of 1-3km. But our helmet laws don't make that very enticing. I have a manky helmet - and you would too if you sweated rrofusely into it twice a day.

Must remember to wash it tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Should I worry about state surveillance?

I don't get worried when the Police or ASIO or some obscure intelligence agency demands more power to snoop into our lives.

I don't worry because the same cretins that are running our health and education systems, and who are responsible for our crappy roads and empty dams and useless welfare system are also responsible for the Police and intelligence agencies.

If our state and federal governments had public servants that were halfway capable, I'd start to worry. But I have worked in the Belly of the Beast, and I know what a cauldron of crap they really are. Terms like "couldn't organise a pissup in a brewery" come to mind.

When you see a bumbling public servant in action, you aren't seeing some well meaning, kind hearted, knowledgeable and hard working person having a bad day. You are watching an incompetent, brainless, couldn't-give-a-fuck, wouldn't-work-in-an-iron-lung retard performing business as usual. Some of the people that I worked with in government were so dense, they'd have trouble working out the instructions on how to open a jar of Vegemite.

I do not see them as a threat to me liberty.

It doesn't mean that I don't like ever more restrictive laws and more intense surveillance - I just don't fear our bumblers. They're not clever enough to be a threat.

Is it a man? Or a woman?

I was at one of my several places of work recently when I looked through a glass partition and saw a woman on the other side. Now this was quite incredible as I have been working on and off at this place for 8 months and, apart from the receptionist, I have never seen a woman in the place. It is more of a male preserve than the gentleman's clubs of yore.

Then she opened her mouth to talk on her phone, and I was suddenly having second thoughts - her voice was deeper than mine, and I have been told once or twice that I could work on radio doing those sappy love song dedications, since I sometimes have more gravel in my throat than the average farm driveway.

I just had to get closer to find out what was going on, so I went into the area where she was working and checked her out more thoroughly - or at least as thoroughly as you can be when you have about 0.5 seconds to glace at someone so you don't look like you are staring.

No Adams apple. Hips the right shape. Slight hint of breast.

I did the old head-tilt thing at my work colleague and he also checked her out. Then we got in the lift, waited for the doors to close and burst out laughing, saying "What the fuck?"

Don't get me wrong - I am used to trannies and drag queens and the rest of it, having spent a few nights in a certain pub in Newtown being entertained by the "artists" (and getting my knob grabbed) and also having walked home via William St many times late at night. I don't find queers or trannies or anyone of an unusual sexual persuasion to be odd - but this woman just cracked me up.

I am still uncertain as to whether the "no women" rule at this work site has been broken or not.

(By the way, there is no "no women" rule as such - it's just that the particular industry segment that I work in has a vanishingly small number of women working in it).


My ride to work takes me right under the flight path into Sydney airport, and the planes can be pretty low at times. On a really humid day - generally just before it is about to start bucketing down with rain - the low flying planes leave impressive dark grey vapour trails behind them.

The trails behind this aircraft are quite unimpressive compared to some that I have seen. Please excuse the fuzziness - I was riding along at about 25km/h and taking this photo one handed whilst trying to zoom in at the same time. I does my best.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Dismount? My arse!

I don't know who the culprit is here - a silly council or the UTS rowing club, but someone has gone to a lot of trouble to paint some white warning stripes on this corner of the bike/pedestrian path, along with a big sign on the ground saying "dismount from bike".

Now I don't have a problem with the safety message that these people are trying to send, but I do have a HUGE problem with the way they are trying to stop people crashing into each other on this corner.

A word of explanation - the path at this point snakes around the rowing club in an S-shape, and it is quite narrow at one end and visibility is badly impeded by trees, large shrubs and of course a 2-storey rowing club. Essentially it is a pair of blind bends, and only fools go tearing around it like there is no tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the world is full of fools, and I have had a number of near-miss head-on collisions at this corner with other cyclists who have declined to apply the brakes before fanging it around a busy, blind corner. Since all of them were smaller than me, and I was on the correct side of the path (and they weren't), most had no option but to swerve and take to the shrubbery, which is no fun on a bike. One guy went into the bushes and crashed to the ground, and I didn't bother stopping and going back to help him up, since he was a complete dickhead.

However, apart from the stupid cyclists with a death wish (if they crash into me, I will beat them to a pulp), there are many other potential hazards at this corner:

  • Drunken patrons who stumble out of the club, then gaggle in the middle of the S-bend and fill the entire path with no regard for passing joggers, cyclists etc
  • Pram pushers who try and take the bends two, or even three, abreast, thus blocking the path from kerb to kerb
  • Walking groups (generally families) who walk 2, 3 and even 4 abreast, and steadfastly refuse to get out of the way of anyone coming the other way, or up behind them
  • Dog walkers who keep their mutt on a loose leash, meaning that they are walking along one side of the road and their dog on the other, with a leash connecting the two
  • Joggers who jog on the wrong side of the path
Now I guess the easiest group to pick on are the cyclists, since they are the fastest moving, but I am yet to see two cyclists trying to go around these bends side by side. I have always taken the sensible approach, which is to get down into bottom gear and amble around the bends at a pace slightly above that of a fast walk. In other words, I have as much time to avoid a collision as a speedy pedestrian, which presumably puts me at about the same risk of smashing into someone else.

I'm buggered if I am ever going to get off my bike. The council or the rowing club can stick it up their bum as far as I am concerned.

A wee wee

Getting into the carpark at work involves going down a narrow alley which has a dogleg partway down it. I was going around the dogleg the other morning when I almost hit a Chinaman having a piss behind the rubbish bins. It's not like it was 2am on Saturday morning - it was about 8am on Tuesday morning, and he showed none of the signs of being worse for wear.

He just needed to siphon the python, and thought our alley was the place to do it.

Pity he didn't piss on the smokers that congregate there and drop their butts all over the asphalt.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Screw the hybrids - I want to park my bike

Saw this in a car park recently - if I had it my way, I'd ban the Pious from car parks altogether - the bastards should be forced to walk to work, the shops, the footy etc.

What gripes me though is that if AMPCapital want to really have a low carbon footprint, they could make a good start by installing some proper bike lockers and showers in the buildings that they own. A bike like mine has a much lower footprint than this stupid yuppie toy.

Offices by night

Ever wondered if people across the way can see you when you pick your nose at your desk?

Mr Bubbles

This post has nothing to do with Michael Jackson.

Instead, it refers to a bloke who was producing giant bubbles for kids at Darling Harbour today.

It took me several goes to get a photo of a bubble as they had a lifespan shorter than a discarded chip (the aggressive seagulls down that way have to be seen to be believed).


I am a big fan of Boris Johnson, and I read this with much delight.

I was once rabidly pro-helmet, but I now think that if you don't mind splitting your skull open on the pavement, then I shouldn't try and stop you.

I prefer to sit in the "collision avoidance" camp, rather than the "be protected after a collision" camp. That means wearing bright, reflective clothing; having a well maintained bike with good brakes and tyres; keeping a lookout (and not stuffing earphones in your listening devices) and having a really powerful light front and rear for night time riding.

I have seen plenty of idiots riding badly maintained bikes in dark clothing with no lights in the pitch dark - but still wearing a helmet. A helmet should be the last safety device that one should acquire.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Elvis can be yours

I have been driving past this shop for years - they flog second hand furniture and all sorts of knick-knacks. They've always had a statue of an Indian out the front (as in an American one), and he has now been joined by Elvis.

Defining binge drinking

How to define a binge?

I don't agree with defining it by a certain number of drinks that you have at such-and-such a time. It's not about the quantity - it's about how you approach the drinking session. There are those nights when you go to a quiet restaurant with friends and share a few bottles of wine and have a very pleasant time and are still able to drive home....

....and there are those nights where you start by lining up tequilas on the bar and shooting your way from one end to the other. Some of those nights end badly. Some I have no recollection of. But there are times when one feels an urge to splurge - and that is how I define a binge. When you really cut loose and hit it hard. That is a binge. Drinking many cans of VB at the pub and then moshing to the Rollins Band - that's a binge.

Having a couple of sherries when you get home from work is not a binge.

A binge to me is an event where ones gets completely and thoroughly hammered, and it is something that doesn't happen very often. I don't think it is possible to binge drink every night - by definition, that should be impossible. That is just regular, heavy drinking. A binge is drinking heavily, but on the odd occasion. Alcoholics don't binge in my book - they just get hammered every night. Bingeing is where a normal person drinks like an alco for one night.


Sydney is not getting a lot of rain at the moment, but it's certainly getting a lot of wind. Certain parts of the CBD are regular wind tunnels, as this vortex of blowing leaves on Liverpool St shows. The leaves were being blown around up to head height, which made it quite unpleasant to walk through here. The minimum one would get is an eyefull of grit. The worst would be a big leaf straight into the kisser at speed.

Riding home on Friday night was a chore, as it felt like I was heading into a 40 knot headwind. I found a fit bastard and tucked in behind him for the grind across the bridge. I heard others describe it as a "wall of wind".

The funny thing is that I started chatting to the fit bloke, and it turned out that his company is pitching for work at the place that I am currently at. The hilarious thing is that I don't think the people I am working with are even aware of the project, even though it is likely to affect them. Ah, the beauties of working in a large bureaucracy.

My legs are suffering now though after the effort of punching into the wind. It's Sunday, and they still ache.

New title photo

My new title photo shows my recently blown out rear wheel (in duplicate). The hub was removed and assembled with my new wheel.

For the technical types, I decided to shrink it to only 316 pixels in height so that it did not take up too much room vertically on the page. However, since the photo would not centre, it looked stupid in a 600 pixel wide frame, so I copied the picture and put two side by side so that it fills the title frame up properly. It's not quite exact, but it looks better than my first attempt at posting this photo as the title.

I hope that makes sense.


Foodwatch, if it ever gets off the ground, will cover supermarkets.

But what about the "convenience supermarkets" that Coles and Woolies have been building at petrol stations? Prices tend to be a lot higher there - are they going to be monitored?

Doubt it.


"Iguanagate" - of, fuck off. Think of something original. Why does every political scandal have to end in -gate?

And this is from the SMH, a paper that is normally rabidly anti-American. If that's the case, why do they slavishly copy ideas like this from Watergate? Can't we use our own home-grown terms for scandals?


One wastoid kills another

Casula. Had to go there for work once. Never going back. All that the name of the suburb is missing is an "m", and you could re-arrange some of the letters to spell "slum".

So I was not surprised when I read this story. Call me heartless, but I laughed, and not just once. I read it out to a colleague in the office and we both had a laugh (my second).

For starters, check out the picture of the victim. Baseball cap, tracksuit top and stupid hand signals. Probably some bling there somewhere. I look at this photo and think "gang member", followed by other unkind thoughts ranging from "petty criminal" to "drug dealer".

ie, I do not see a fine, upstanding member of the community.

Then come the classics.

He's 15.

His girlfriend is 15.

They have a 5 month old daughter.

The daughter is called Breeze.

I get the feeling that this trio would be sucking on the welfare tit for the rest of their days. Normally in a story like this there are tributes from teachers at the school (none, meaning he has probably been wagging school for yonks), tributes from work mates (none, so he might have never held a job) and tributes from groups like the Scouts or a sailing club or a football club (none). The absence of such things says a lot.

I do not have a link to an intermediate story that I ran yesterday, but it said that the dead guy ran out into the middle of the Hume Highway, which is 3 lanes in each direction at that point (and very busy) naked and wrapped in a blanket. He then lay down in the middle of the road. A car slowed down for him, and he punched at it.

Think of the mental state that you'd have to be in to get naked, walk into the middle of a busy road, lie down and then punch at cars going past. You'd have to be wasted, either on booze or drugs. And remember that this guy is 15 years old - too young to drink. If that's the case, why did DOCS let them keep the kid? Not the best family to grow up with.

He was then cleaned up by another car, which took off. The Police spent about half a day looking for the driver before he handed himself in.

It now turns the driver took off because he has a string of convictions as long as your arm.

There was more meat in the article published yesterday, but this is a taste:

The court heard Khodr, who is separated and has two young children, has a history of criminal and driving offences including dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, assault and robbery.

He was jailed for four years in 1999 for maliciously wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after driving his car at a person.

His licence was most recently disqualified in March 2006 for three years for dangerous driving.

One wastoid dead, another going to jail for a while. What's there to not like about that?


Here are some links:

The Australian:

He then laid down in the middle of three southbound lanes on the Hume Highway, the facts read.

He got up to punch a car that had slowed past him, witnesses report.

Khodr, who was driving his ex-girlfriend's car at the time, has been disqualified from driving since being convicted of driving vehicle reckless/furiously in March 2006.

He also has a number of other driving convictions, breaches of bail and assault charges and operates under 21 different aliases.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Andrew Pike told the court Khodr should not be released because he was on breach of bail when the accident happened.

"We're not trying to sensationalise this matter, it's a tragedy, but it could be summed up in one comment: he should never have been driving," Sergeant Pike told the court.

"If he was following court orders and not driving, the young man would still be alive."

(I dispute that last statement - someone else would have hit and killed him. We should be thankful that a fuckhead killed him rather than say a respectable businessman with 3 kids.)

I'm nominating the kid for a Darwin Award.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Bike breakfast

Yesterday was ride to work day, as in breakfasts were organised around the city for those intrepid souls that braved the wintery weather. I stopped in at the bike breakfast in Pyrmont, since I got right through this spot every day, and collected a free danish and banana.

I've never been a big fan of these egg shaped bike things. Maybe having a ride in one will change my perception of them.

Then again, maybe not.

Bridges in fog

A ghostly image of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

Where's the flag?

Is this sensible?

I opened the mail tonight to find that my friendly bank was offering me a $44,000 unsecured loan - just call this number now, and the money is yours!

I don't really get the bank's thinking behind this marketing campaign. The way my brain works, I think of things that I want, or want to do, then go and earn the money to do them.

If I won a million dollars in Lotto tomorrow night, I honestly have little idea what I would do with it, apart from going skiing once it starts snowing. What on earth would I do with $44k of fresh debt?

My needs drive me to earn or borrow money. Borrowed money does not generate new needs that require additional expenditure.

And we wonder why average household indebtedness is now 150% of annual income.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Kids are more open to new stuff. Rubbish.

If I hear one more media mouth piece tell me that youngsters are more open to new experiences than us old farts, I'm going to throw something heavy around the room.

Anyone that has ever tried to buy new shoes for a 2 year old will tell you that kids much prefer the tried and tested stuff - that is, the shoes that they have on their feet today, even if they are now much too small and falling to bits. Same goes with trying to get a kid to have a hair cut, or to try on a new jumper or a new pair of jeans (and I am including a 12 year old in the conversation now).

You can also try swapping out the favourite movies, like Nemo and Toy Story with something new. After a 5 minute tantrum, Nemo will be back in the DVD player.

I accidentally bought the wrong type of teat for a milk bottle the other day, and Junior utterly refused to drink from it. We had to go shopping for the right type of teat today.

I was the same when I was young. I wore things to destruction. I like eating the same food, over and over again. I think I ate cheese and vegemite sandwiches for lunch for 3 years non-stop. I liked going to the same places on holiday. I actually liked the structure and order that my semi-military style boarding school provided. I didn't mind having to wear the same uniform to school each day - the hardest part was changing into "civvies" to wear to dinner, or to wear when going into town on the weekend.

To cap it off, whilst we were at the shopping centre, I watched an elevator door open and about 20 kids piled out. They all looked to be in the 12-14 age bracket. Every single one of the girls was a Veronica's clone - the haircuts, the eye makeup, the clothes. Veronica's to a T.

Kids are only into new things if those new things are comfortably fashionable - ie, if every other kid is doing it. The odd kid might want to try new things all the time, but they are a tiny percentage of wierdos.

The media - spouting crap once again.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Thoughts on Kevin Rudd

We've had revelations recently about how hard the public service is working, and what a control freak Rudd is and all that. I'll add my two cents worth.

My view is in regard to character.

You can change your hairstyle. You can have surgery to change your eye shape and nose shape and you can have colagen pumped into your lips, or liposurgery to reduce your hips. Your body shape can be altered in subtle ways. But once your character is set, I don't believe you can change it.

The old saying, "Once bitten, twice shy" is for me a good thing to use in regard to character. If you have bad dealings with a dodgy character, going back a second time is sheer stupidity as the leopard is unlikely to change his spots.

I worked with a bloke who was constantly busy, totally disorganised, had excuses for everything, got nothing done and lied about everything. I worked with him for over five years (in fact I tried everything possible to avoid working with him - let's say we both worked from the same floor in our building, although we were both managers reporting to the same boss) and in that five years, we tried again and again and again to get him to mend his ways..... and surprise, surprise - he never did.

I ran into him about a year after I left that company. He was still busy, busy, busy - taking frantic calls on his Blackberry on the bus, acting like the trivial task he was undertaking was an event of earth shattering importance. If he was asked to empty his rubbish bin by our boss, he would treat that as the most urgent and important bin emptying task ever - "Lot's of confidential and secret information in this bin you know. Gotta go - it's all very hush hush."

In short, he was a complete bullshit artist, a wanker and a slimy little lying bastard. He was quite personable to have a beer with after work, but on work time, he was a c*&t. Oh, I forgot to add that he was power hungry to a sociopathic degree. In order to boost his self importance, he also tried to take over all the work that the other five of us were doing. I didn't mind that - the more he took off me, the more chance I had of not working that weekend.

Of course he never actually got the work done - he just tried to take control of it, and after missing say half a dozen deadlines with nothing to show for his takeover, the work would come back to me, but it was now super-urgent, and I'd have to work every weekend for a few months, plus 12-14 hours a day to get that project back under control. Thanks to that little turd, I worked on something like 45 out of 52 weekends in one year, and averaged over 60 hours a week for the entire year. Working 42 days straight was not uncommon - and by that I mean working 12 hours a day or more for 42 days straight without a break.

And at the end of it all, the little prick would try to claim some responsibility for my effort. He didn't have a hope in hell of selling that idea within our office - everyone knew he was a lowlife, and who was really doing the work - but when he left our office and went to talk to other divisions within the company, he'd claim all the credit. Unless there was a problem - then he'd quickly shift the blame and disclaim all responsibility.

Here's an instructive little story.

One year, he was told to replace some equipment that was end of life. The first step was to audit that equipment, so he could develop a budget and project for its replacement.

He delegated the audit to one of my staff - without telling me. My staffer did the audit in about an hour, and emailed him a spreadsheet with the results.

Dickhead managed to lose that email (or he deliberately lost it in order to avoid having to do any work), so he then tasked another of my staff to do the audit, again without telling me.

My guy quickly did the work, emailed through the results, and they were again "lost".

I found out about this when he tasked a third member of my staff to do an audit - they were getting pretty sick of it by then. So I confronted him about it, and he ceased bugging my staff - although at that point, I handed over a printout of the audit, so he wouldn't have an excuse to bug them again.

He then tasked one of his staff with doing the audit. That bloke did it, and handed over the results.

Then he tasked another one of his staff with doing the same audit again.

By the time this blew up in a management meeting (our boss wanted to know why the equipment had not been replaced), it turned out that seven separate audits had been done - he had even told a staffer from yet another area to do an audit - and he had been emailed or personally given the results on all 7 occasions.

Now I should mention that his desk was one big pile of paper. If you took a big SULO bin full of paper and dumped it on a desk from about six feet up, that's what it would look like. His mailbox was also a disaster - he subscribed to about 50 mailing lists, so important work related stuff was buried in amongst 1000 emails a day about nothing much at all. He was an unmanageable mess.

Now our boss was a nice bloke, and this idiot brown nosed like you wouldn't believe, so he'd never get sacked, but our boss blew up and demanded that the equipment be replaced. So idiot went to the site in question, started the audit and then tried to hand it over to one of my staff - who had already done the audit for him in the first place!

Now some of my staff didn't take shit from anyone. This one happened to be an ex-Commando Regiment guy, and he told him where he could fuck off to. Idiot then had the temerity to complain to me about his behaviour, and I told him where he could fuck off to as well, and suggested that he never set foot in that building again if he knew what was good for him, and that this was the last time he was going behind my back etc etc. I have come close to having a punch up in the office on a few occasions in my career, and 90% of them were with this fuckwit. The fact that he was on 9 different types of heart-related medicine was the only thing that held me back - I had no desire for my one punch to be the cause of a fatal heart attack.

S0 - he was manically disorganised, a coniving son of a bitch, a liar, a back stabber, completely incapable of doing the work that he was tasked with, took credit for work others were doing and made it look like he was always busy (he was never, ever on time for a single meeting in all the years I worked with him, he constantly took phone calls in meetings, and when we got Blackberries, he spent all our meeting time fiddling with his).

Sound familiar?

Out of the 80 or so people I worked with, I had them all mentally classified in one way or another, and I could have ranked them from top to bottom in terms of productivity.

We had a few head down, bum up types that would work under wet cement at the end of the world without complaint.

We had those that worked hard, but only after a requisite 30 second whinge at the start.

We had those that refused to lift a finger to help until they had read the sports section of the Daily Telegraph, and even then, had to be stood over until they finished the task - which they did very quickly, because they were very skilled.

We had those that spent so much time telling you how busy they were, they had no time to do the work you'd set them.

We had some lovely people who were competent, did their thing and went home as soon as their time was up.

We had some that wanted to complain to the union everytime anything changed, like when we moved a stack of A4 paper from one side of the stores cupboard to the other.

We had a few explosive types who blew up at the slightest provocation, then got down to the work at hand and charged through it.

We had a couple of whingers who were very bright, but could not be induced to work at all by either threats or inducements. They just like to whinge.

And then we had dickhead.

He was the only liar.

He was the most disorganised by a country mile.

He thought he knew it all.

He was the most hated and despised, particularly by his own staff.

He not only did very little productive work - he actually managed to retard the work the rest of us were doing. He was worse than a boat anchor - he was a reverse gear.

He had perfected the art of making a show of doing a lot whilst actually doing nothing.

Worst of all, he had deluded himself into thinking that he was the lynchpin of our office - that if he left, it would all fall apart. When I met him, he had not taken any leave for five years, and it was another three years before he was ordered out of the office for a few weeks - even then, he was constantly on his Blackberry.

He is a big chunk of the reason why I decided to leave a job that I actually liked quite a lot.

When I look at Kevin Rudd, I see this guy all over again.

Kevin isn't going to change his behaviour - it comes down to character. Dickhead had a deeply flawed character that made him the dickhead that he was, and it didn't matter how many management training courses he was sent on - he remained a useless, lying shithead.

It didn't take me long to figure that out. It usually didn't take others that long to figure it out either. I sat in a number of meetings with him when we were discussing things with other departments or companies, and these guys from outside would look at each other when he was talking and they'd have the look of, "What the fuck is this guy on about?" They were too polite to say anything in the meeting, but afterwards I'd get these phonecalls on the quiet and I'd simply tell them that yes, their instincts were correct - he was a knobthrottler of the first order.

It's our money

Thanks to Andrew Bolt, I got to watch an ABC interview online last night between Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten.

They were debating climate change, and I almost fell off my chair when the interviewer, Virginia Trioli, came out with a statement that showed how confused she was about where the government gets its money.

The gist of it was that someone has to pay for all this climate change malarkey, and it's going to cost a bomb - that much she made clear. She then asked Tony Abbott about whether the government should pay for it instead of taxpayers.

Ummm, duh...... did you leave your brain at home this morning, Virginia? How can they allow such an incredibly brainless person to be in front of the cameras asking questions.

Here is your answer Virginia - we taxpayers fund the government. The government gets its money from us! It does not have a magic fruit machine that produces money out of thin air. Every cent it gets has to be extracted from the pocket of you, me and everyone else.

I have long had a view that the ABC was biased, but until today, I didn't believe that it was both stupid and biased. Maybe we've had it wrong all along. Maybe the ABC is not biased - instead, the people that work there are thick as two short planks, and can't grasp concepts that are slightly more complex than simple slogans.

Maybe that is why the Left loves simple slogans. "No blood for oil" and all that. Simple concepts for simple minds.

Trioli should be taken off the air. She is not bright enough to interview politicians. I wouldn't even put her on Playschool.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Bike like new

I've picked up the bike after a week in the shop for an overhaul. It only set me back about $800, and for that, it almost looks brand new. The rear cassette is a revelation - it's actually sparkling silver in colour, rather than the drab black that I am used to. Maybe the old one started off as shiny, and only started looking horrid because of a lack of cleaning.

I have to take it for a test ride this afternoon - after a full strip down and rebuild, some things might be a bit loose or misadjusted. I can't wait to see what it is like with no creaks and groans - the only creaks and groans are likely to come from me.

The blokes at the shop even touched up the paint for me, which was a bit scratched in places from me leaning the bike on brick walls and then watching it fall over.

Another good thing is that they replaced the rear tyre, which was becoming see-through. I am hopeless at judging when my tyres are too badly worn.

Do real estate agents fib?

I read this clanger in this Silly this morning:

Michael McNamara, the general manager of Australian Property Monitors, said SQM Research's method of calculating vacancies was "silly" because some listings were falsely advertised by agents to promote their brand.

Imagine that!

All we need now is the ACCC or Fair Trading to find those agents and hang them up by their thumbs.

No bike, no car

Today is pick up the bike day, which requires a car with a bike rack. The bike shop is too far away to walk to, and I wouldn't even bother to try and get there by public transport. If I left at 8am this morning, I'd still be swapping buses around afternoon teatime and no closer to my destination. The car is the only way to go.

Trouble is, the car has a bat flattery. Or a flat battery. In the old days, I could always tell when the battery was getting a bit dead. The starter motor would start to crank slower and slower, and you could tell that the battery was short of current. One would have weeks, or even months of advance notice that the battery was on its last legs.

No such warning today. Last night, the engine cranked over normally. This morning - not a cracker. Even the indicator lights on the gear lever failed to light up. It went from hero to zero in less than 12 hours.

So I sit here blogging, waiting for the NRMA to arrive to fit a new battery, so that I can pick up my bike and go for a ride. I haven't ridden for over a week, and I am finding that I have nothing to write about - I think that's mainly because I do a lot of thinking about stuff whilst on the bike. No bike, no brains.

Let the healing begin

I almost vomited up my breakfast yesterday whilst reading the Fin Review - there was a story about the US elections in there somewhere and the stupid journalist couldn't help but use a phrase similar to "the healing process is about to begin", used in reference to the Democrats.

What a load of unadulterated tripe. What is wrong with editors these days? Where are their red pens? Why are big, fat red lines not drawn through dribble such as this?

As usual, I am aghast, but not surprised.

Why couldn't he just say, "The warring parties are going to sit down and try and thrash out their differences, and attempt to negotiate a truce that will last through to the real elections in November; after which, war will once again break out between two sides with irreconcileable differences".

Healing. If I cut myself, my body heals. If I have an ideological difference with someone, the rift never heals. It festers. Obama might be able to paper over the divisions in the Democratic party, but the old rifts beneath will be turning gangrenous rather than going away.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Eye of newt and urine of goat

I have been to many countries, and have always drunk the tap water.  That includes places where the travel warnings say, "Under no circumstances drink the tap water".  I do not have a tender and delicate stomach - it can handle most bugs with ease.

My tastebuds are another matter.  For the first time in as long as I can remember, I have agreed to the purchase of several 2 litre bottles of water.  We are not in Liberia or Burma or Somalia.  We are in Perth, and the water tastes like goats piss filtered through a leper's old sock.  

I understand they are building a desalination plant here.  I suggest they shouldn't worry - the tap water is so nasty, they could feed sea water to the locals and they wouldn't notice the difference.

No more free trade agreements for us

Got boozed with an old friend last night.  They have been in Canberra for a while, and have seen first hand the depredations of the Rudd faffocracy.

About the only thing I remember, apart from being kicked in the nuts at one point, is that most if not all of the DFAT staff involved in negotiating free trade agreements have been sacked by Rudd and his minions.  Rudd understands that if there are no public servants available to carry out a function, then that function will not be carried out.

He can then of course say that he is not against free trade etc etc, but they are nothing but weasel words.  I don't think he has overtly changed our trade policy in a way that the media would pick up, but he has changed it entirely by removing the people that used to implement that policy.

He might think he's being smart, but eventually people will work out that he is just underhanded and sneaky, and too gutless to actually confront the issues that need confronting.  If you don't want to do something, just come out and say it.  We don't need a gutless wonder for PM.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Cheese review

I don't know how many speciality cheese shops Perth has, but I know only of one - a gourmet spot in Subiaco.  We bought a selection of five cheeses there this week, and here is how they rated:

  • Champignon Cambozola - totally excellent blue.  Must have cheese, even at $78 a kilo.
  • Rouzaire fromage de meaux - also excellent, and just as costly at $80 a kilo.
  • Cambray manchego - acceptable
  • Mauri fontina doc - acceptable
  • Tarago river cheese co - Jensen's red - J commented that it smelled like earwax (don't ask me how she knows that) and it went in the bin.  
The skills shortage that we hear so much about is clearly biting in Perth.  We have visited this cheese shop every time we have been to Perth over the last 5 years, and the cheese has always been good.  The service has also been good - up until this visit.

Previously, we were always served by a woman who I think is the owner.  Her knowledge of things cheese-like and whiffy is encyclopaedic.  Even though it is well over a year since we were last there buying stinky cheese, she remembered us.

However, on this visit, most of the cheese was served up by a new staff member, and she didn't know her hard cheeses from her soft.  Trying to point out the Rouzaire Fromage De Meaux to her was a nightmare, and I thought she was going to lose a finger whilst trying to slice the hard cheese that we bought.  She would have been better off down the road selling shoes.

How hard is it to learn something about the products that you are selling?  Although the shop has a good range of cheeses, in the end, they are only selling a maximum of say 30 cheese products.  If you worked there for more than a week, you should be able to pick up the names of at least half of them by then, and all of them after a fortnight - unless you have a memory made out of swiss cheese.

Handing out samples of cheese is also a bit of an art form, and I can definitely state that it is something that I am completely incompetent at.  I am good at eating cheese, not slicing off little bits of it and handing it over on the end of a big, big knife to a customer.  But if I spent a week slicing cheese, I'm sure I'd be reasonably adept at slicing bits off and handing them over even if I had to do it with a katana.  

Are businesses really at the point where they are employing people who are incapable of picking up even the simplest of skills, or the barest slivers of knowledge about the products that they are retailing?

Life on a wheat bin

I partly paid my way through uni by working on wheat bins over the Christmas break.  That meant heading east as soon as I had finished my last exam, as harvest time inconveniently coincided with exam time and then holidays.  I usually started in late November, and if I was lucky, finished up a week or so after the new year.  Six to seven weeks of work on a wheat bin was enough to put enough money in my pocket to last me at least halfway through the year - I think I cleared $600 - 700 per fortnight, and that went a long way as a student.  

(Sorry, I can't edit HTML for crap these days, and can't figure out how to kill the underlining without rooting the whole page).

All of the places that I worked in were one-bin towns.  That is, the town consisted of the wheat bin and almost nothing else.  One of them was a metropolis by wheat bin standards - it had a pub/petrol station about 1km down the road.  

The accommodation and working conditions at the bins was pretty basic.  Air conditioning - ha!  Even though the mercury hit 40 on a regular basis, the only concession to the heat was to put an extra roof over the top of the weigh-bridge shack that I worked from.  We loved in dongas, slept on beds with chicken wire frames and thin mattresses... and don't get me started on the water.  However, compared to life as a grunt in the Reserves, it was luxury - sheer luxury.  TV was a distant memory - none of the dongas had a TV, which would have been useless as there was no reception.  VCR's would not have been much good as the nearest video hire store was about 100km away.

I didn't even get to read a lot of books - the light attracted billions of bugs, so I usually cooked dinner and hit the sack.  Most of my time out there was spent on my own - the bins that I worked on had a staff of 4-5.  There was me on the weigh-bridge, another person at the sampling shed and then 2-3 blokes down at the bin itself, where the unloading was done.  The samplers all tended to be local farm girls doing seasonal work, so they went home at night.  
The guys on the bin were permanent, although they roamed from bin to bin as the season required.  They tended to live somewhere in the district, so they went home at night as well.  At most, one might hang around and have a stubby with me after knock off time.  

I kept my sanity by catching goannas and feeding them flies (of which there was definitely no shortage).  

How would one survive today?  There was no phone - the nearest phone was a pay phone at the pub miles away.  I had to stock up on frozen and tinned food once a week when I went back to Perth for a short break.  No TV, no internet - no nothing.  

Not surprisingly, the fulltimers were either complete drunks or bible bashers.  I got invited out by both.  The bible bashers were a lot nicer, but at that age, I preferred to spend my time at the pub if I could.  One bloke that I worked with had such a strong need for a regular drink that he bought himself an ex-pursuit XD Falcon (I can't find a photo of one, so the XE will have to do) so that he could get to the pub at lunchtime in the shortest possible time.  

I used to hear his car fire up about 5 seconds after noon, and he would be gone in a cloud of dust, heading for the pub.  It was especially loud since he drove it into a drain the night I arrived, and ripped part of the exhaust off in the process.  He preferred to spend his money on beer instead of fixing the car.  Blokes like him put their cheques on the bar at the end of the week, which paid off the tab from the week before, and they then started drinking on credit from that point.  We drank using the tried and tested country system - we either had a tab, or we started the night by putting say a twenty on the bar.  As soon as your glass was empty, the barmaid would refill it, take your money and then return the change to your spot.  She kept on doing that until you ran out of money, or you put your glass down on its side, indicating that you'd had enough.

Putting it down upside down indicated you were looking for a fight.  That happened every now and then.  At that point, you'd swear you were on the set of Sunday Too Far Away.

Working on the bins cured me of smoking.  I got incredibly trashed at the pub one night, went outside to have a Winfield Blue, and passed out from head spins on the lawn out the back.  I woke up at dawn to find that my hair was full of axle grease - the drunks that I had been drinking with decided to teach me a lesson for piking.

If you've ever smelled ancient axle grease, and tried to get it out of your hair, you might understand why it scarred my psyche sufficiently to make me give up the fags for good.  Just like that.

Licencing laws were a bit lax out there as well.  We tended to get a bit rowdy some nights - one night, we started stealing the pub, one part at a time.  The publican got mad and called the police.  They arrived an hour or two later, which was some time after closing time, and they simply told us to return all the stuff that we had "stolen" (in reality, all we had done was move it into the car park), then the doors were closed and we carried on drinking - with the police sticking around to have a few beers as well.  A mate who was a cop out that way told me once that most of the bullet holes in traffic signs out in the country are the result of cops doing a bit of late night target practice with their weapons.  After drinking with those blokes a few times, I can well believe it.  

Practical jokes were always popular, and many of them included snakes of one sort or another.  A truck pulled up one day at my weigh bridge, the driver got out and he tossed a snake into my lap as I sat there doing paperwork.  I just about hit the roof as I jumped up, then I noticed that it was rather dead - he had run it over with his truck, and the head was hanging half off.  I picked it up by the tail and spun it around, and as I did so, the head popped off and all the guts flew out and hit the laughing truck driver and his mates in the face and chest.  Blood continued to fly out of the headless snake, decorating the inside of my shack with a dotted line that could have been labelled "cut here" to chop the weigh bridge into two sections.

Of course the district manager had to walk in the door at that moment, which I thought meant the end of my short career on the bins.  Thankfully, people who could add up and subtract were in short supply, so I got to keep my job.  The truck driver had no hard feelings, as I simply gave as good as I got.  That seemed to be the important thing.

Binge drinking

What would a 21st birthday party be without the obligatory yard glass?

1980's fashion - if this doesn't sear your eyeballs, nothing will.  The only thing worse than the shirts are the haircuts.

A spot of dune driving

A series of three photos from an exercise at Lancelin, probably around 1989?  A few of us went out in Mogs to practice going up and down sand dunes, which can be more difficult than it looks.  You have to choose the right gear for the slope and size of the dune, and consider the "sinkiness" of the sand, then gun it at the dune, roar up the face and then ease off just before the top - just in case the drop off is really severe and you end up tipping the truck end over end as you go over the top.

The dunes at Lancelin are pretty huge, and a lot of vehicles couldn't make it up them.  The Lancelin range is open to civilians a lot of the time (they usually close it when fast movers are dropping bombs around the place), and we spent half the two week exercise towing civilians out of bogs.  The usual rate of pay for towing someone out was a six pack of beer, but a particularly nasty tow might rate half a carton.  We got drunk a lot without spending a cent on alcohol.

One nasty bastard in a Range Rover was towed out, and then welshed on the deal, refusing the pay the beer tariff.  So we drove down a narrow, boggy track in front of him, went through the worst part with him right behind us, then the driver jammed on the brakes and forced him to stop in a really deep bog.  With no momentum, he had no hope of getting out.  We left him in a worse place than what we pulled him out of.  Hope that taught him a lesson.

The Unimog is a marvelous beast, with 8 gears forward and reverse.  I'm sure one of these photos shows a Mog going backwards up a dune, probably in 5th gear.  You simply flicked a switch and the gearbox went from forward mode to reverse mode - there was no "reverse" gear as we normally know it.

We pulled a Landcruiser out of a dune around here - he was in the fanciest model it's possible to buy, loaded with kids and grandparents and the like, and he was bogged halfway up a dune.  He was digging the car out with a plastic shovel normally used by kids to build sand castles, with all the family sitting in the car watching him work.  I would have walked out and left them there.  I bet he took it back to the dealer and asked for his $70,000 back (about what a flash model cost back then - the 'Safari' I think it was).

It's a long, long way down to the bottom of that dune.

I think we had one person break some ribs around this time - they charged at a dune, but misjudged the point of attack, and dug the front end into a dune at 50km/h.  That's like driving into a concrete block at that speed.  They slammed into the steering wheel, and spent the next few days in hospital.  I think the co-driver broke his nose on the console.  People kill themselves doing this sort of thing.

Toys that boys used to play with

This photo was taken around 1982 on a school trip to Albany.  My two school mates are sitting in the seats of a Bofors anti-aircraft gun, which was sitting in a park somewhere.  Unlike today, just about everything short of the firing pin was still fitted and working.  If war broke out, they could have painted it green, towed it away, fitted a firing thing and had it working next day.  We had a blast traversing it around and pretending to shoot at buses and things driving past.

These days, all the projecting bits are cut off, the moving parts are welded up and anything remotely warlike is toned down.  If I went back today, I guess it would be painted pink, or melted down and recast as a statue of lesbian peaceniks at a Greenham Common protest.

Boys just love this sort of stuff.  

Child labour

I've been raiding the archives this week.  Here is a photo from around 1979, with me being put to work on a sheep station north of Geraldton.  At that age, it took 2 of us to close a cocky gate.  The station was about the size of Wales.  Not a good place to get lost.

Note the shorts - very 1970's.  That's a few thousand sheep in the background - it was shearing time, and I spent two weeks mustering on a motor bike in searing heat, or dragging sheep around the yards or the shearing shed (also note the lack of hats and sunscreen of any sort).  This is where I learnt to throw a fleece, clean the daggy bits off, stuff it into a baling press, press wool bales and roll them down the shed using a baling hook (the kind of thing pirates wave around).

I also learnt how to throw a dead, green and rotting sheep onto a fire (very carefully), and how not to ride a motor bike around bore drains (I still have a burn scar on my leg from where the bike went out from underneath me and my leg landed on the hot exhaust).  This was real school of the air territory, and most (if not all) of the stockmen were Aboriginal.  

This is me lighting the hot water boiler for the homestead.  We lived on powdered milk and damper and home killed sheep.  Definitely mutton.  Roos and goats were shot on sight.  I also learnt to drive (at age 12) on a gravel air strip in a Series II Landrover with no roof.  

Again, note the shorts and the lack of safety footwear.  I can't remember how much I was paid for this two week stint, but I think it was probably around $50 after food and board were deducted.  A fortune to a 12 year old who was used to pocketmoney of 50 cents a week.