Tuesday, 30 June 2009
I am not feeding him chocolate cake again for dessert - especially flourless chocolate cake that contains an entire block of cooking chocolate! Especially when such a cake lasts less than 24 hours in this household. I was expecting to partake of a small slice each day until the end of the week, but some disappeared at breakfast (not me), some disappeared at lunch (not me), some went into Junior's lunchbox and some was had for afternoon tea (not me)... and that was almost it. I got a thin sliver tonight, topped with double cream and surrounded by blackberries. Damned delicious, but the lack of seconds was a major drag.
Now I have to get Monkey into bed. When he whinged last night, I lay down with him for a few minutes in order to calm him down.... and apparently woke up at 11pm and carted myself off to our bed. I have no recollection of leaving his bed and finding my way into ours. I was still feeling the after effects of a good Sunday ride. What I forgot to mention about Sunday is that I tried to maintain at least 30km/h on everything except the steeper hills.
Now that is pretty easy to maintain when in a group, but much harder when on your own and when you are the wrong side of.... however old I am. It's a reasonable clip for someone born in the 1960's, and who is fond of chocolate cake with proper double cream.
It was not a tongue hanging out of the side of your mouth sort of speed - but it was sufficient to be hard work. Not excruciatingly hard, not ball-breakingly hard - just hard. It was a good work out, no more, no less. Especially since it lasted over 2 hours with only one small break. I have not worn a heart rate monitor for a few years, but I know I was pushing 70-80% most of the time - if not more.
My legs are giving off just a gentle ache at present. They are not twanging and collapsing like they do after a meteorically stupid ride, where I push up hills until I nearly vomit, and am blinded by sweat pouring into my eyes. They have the dull discomfort of a ride that involved an elegant sufficiency of exercise.
What that means is that I can climb into the bath tub to have a shower knowing that I will be able to get out again without danger of falling out of the tub as I attempt to exit. When you find yourself lying naked on the bathroom floor because your legs have given out on you, you know you've done a good ride.
Case in point. Put Monkey to bed shortly after writing that. Woke up with him at 0012 hours. Finished this off this morning.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Notice my soft, pink hands. I used to have callouses. Lots of callouses. Where did they all go?
The other thing that made me go straight home, without collecting $200, was that my stupid little pump was only capable of putting 40psi into my tyre after I changed the tube. I have a big pump at home - one that you put both feet on and then pump like crazy - and it quickly and easily gets my tyres up to 100psi or more. But I can't take that on the road with me, so I have a little porta-pump that is supposed to do the same job..... but doesn't. When it got to 40psi, it kept blasting off the end of the valve as the pressure was too much for it. You'd need muscles like The Humongous to get it any further. (This is quite a good take on Humongous and his henchmen by the way, and this explains how they rolled the tanker at the end of Mad Max II).
I had a bit of a laugh whilst changing the tube on the side of the road. As soon as I heard that fatal 'pfft-pfft-pfft' of air exiting the tyre on each rotation, I slowed down and pulled over. I happened to pull over right outside the front of a house where the occupant was standing in his doorway having a fag, with his dog.
After I stripped off the back wheel and sat down to start the tube change, he wandered over to see how things were going. He looked like a complete welfare-bludging dero. Trailer trash, except without the trailer. He had a nice looking fibro home in an expensive suburb instead.
The thing that got me is that he was wearing a tracksuit and trainers. I've noticed the same thing at our supermarket all the time - all the heroin addicts and meth-freaks from down the road stagger in wearing tracksuits and trainers. The immensely overweight waddle around in tracksuits and trainers. The worse their heroin problem, the more expensive is their designer sports wear. On the other hand, those of us that actually exercise and take reasonable care of ourselves are never seen outdoors in tracksuits.
Why is it that those least likely to do any form of exercise, apart from elbow bending, are the most likely to be seen in sports clothes? In winter, I sleep in a pair of tracksuit pants. The only time you will ever, ever see me in them outside is if our house catches fire and we have to evacuate in a hurry. When I put that idea to J tonight, she said, "Hmm, even then, I would probably stop and get changed".
Riding mid-morning meant that as I was heading out, I was passing all the serious cyclists heading home. The packs of lean, mean, hungry looking, lycra-clad coffee-slurpers was being replaced by families. Many families. Families with many meandering kids on bicycles. I was constantly standing on the brakes to avoid running over some tow-headed five year old that suddenly decided it would be a good time to ride on the opposite side of the path.
I was approaching one such family head on when the little kid at the front of the pack looked up at me and went wide-eyed and he spread his arms as far as they would go and smiled - I am rather broad across the shoulders, and I think he was making the point that from his point of view several feet below me, I looked like this hulking monster.
At least I hope he was referring to the width of my shoulders, and not my Hinze-like beer belly.
And I mean a Russ Hinze belly, not a Kirsty Hinze belly.
Right now, the realm outside the house is cold, murly and grey. I'm going to leave that word spelled as "murly", instead of correcting it to "murky". Murly has a ring to it, denoting surly, murky skies that threaten rain at just the wrong moment. It was that way yesterday as well, which is why I remained curled up on the couch by the heater. I cursed myself last night for my slackness, and pulled out all my riding gear and left it where it would be easy to change into it. I told myself I would get up half an hour before dawn and ride.
The sun has now been up for nearly 3 hours, and I am just out of bed and sitting here trying to type through bleary eyes. I might get out the door at 0930.
I did go for some good rides on Thursday and Friday. The Thursday ride was a cracker - I always feel at my peak after I've done a few rides, then had a day or two off. Thursday was like that - my legs were running at 10,000 watts of power, and it felt like a supercharger kicked it every time I needed to attack a hill or blast along the flat.
This was a delightful change, because there are many days when I go to do a hill, and my legs look up at me and say, "Oh, fuck off, we are not going up that thing", and it is a battle of wills to see whether we will indeed make it to the top before I do a Michael Jackson impersonation (as in, drop dead of a heart attack, rather than attempting to rear mount a 10 year old).
A day like that makes for a great night's sleep. Or, in my case, getting home, having a shower, feeding and promptly passing out on the couch not long after at around 7pm. J shook me awake at midnight, and I stumbled off to bed. A good, hard ride will do that to you (and again, I am not referring to Michael Jackson here).
A good ride deserves a tasty dessert. I have been going all-out this week on making tasty desserts for the family. We did the mini chocolate puddings, and then I moved on to bread and butter pudding. I tried two recipes - one which used individual ramekins, and the other a single baking dish - and both were scoffed with delight. J even ended up eating the leftovers for breakfast!
I think I prefer the ramekin approach, except most of our ramekins are too small - too petite - for a proper pudding. We will be ramekin shopping after lunch. The recipe said it would do 4 ramekins, but it ended up doing 5, and it could have done 6 more easily (ie, with less spillage of custard on the bench top as I filled the ramekins).
I have rediscovered an old truism that my mother told me, and which you will not find in any modern cook book. A good bread and butter pudding requires bread that is NOT fresh. In the old days, it was a great way of using up stale bread that would otherwise be thrown out (and as my parents grew up during the Depression, I can assure you that the only thing they throw out is empty egg shells, and even then they go into the garden as fertilizer).
I might have to buy a loaf of bread and leave it aside for a few days specifically for this pudding, which sounds extravagant and stupid, but none of the shops around here sell 'day old bread'.
I used to be able to buy it when I lived in other suburbs - those that fed the ducks and pigeons snapped it up cheaply - but here, it is just not the done thing.
As a modern twist, I replaced the currants with half a 500gm packet of frozen mixed berries. They were excellent - the tartness of the berries offsetting the sweetness of the custard. One was done with castor sugar, and the other with soft brown sugar. Soft brown sugar is best. One custard was 50/50 cream and milk, and the other 100% milk - I detected no appreciable difference in outcomes.
I also relearned the lesson that you pour in the custard and let them sit for 5 minutes before going in the oven - they need a short period to soak before cooking. And remember to sprinkle a bit of sugar on top - I forgot both times.
Best served with double cream, and I mean proper double cream, not that crap which contains vegetable gum as a thickener.
Now, I must go for a 60km ride - that way, I can eat whatever I damned well like for dinner.
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Fixing the email problem took a while, but the fix was simple - I turned off the firewall on our router. It had decided to block the ports for gmail. I now need to figure out how to enable those ports and turn the firewall back on.
Fixing the other problems were also router related. The router has an intrusion detection setting, but it can only be accessed if the firewall is enabled. I re-enabled the firewall and turned off intrusion detection. Suddenly, there was blogger and faceplant!
I think I'll be doing a firmware update on the router later today, and then spending a few hours fiddling with the firewall settings. Damn and blast.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Before I start on chocolate puddings, let me digress for a moment onto oysters and adaptation.
In the ebb and flow of the debate about carpetbag steak, a comment was made about how we'd have fewer oysters in future because increasing CO2 concentrations will make the water they grow in more acidic, and that will give oysters reproductive problems.
My response was:
My guess is that natural selection will kick in and those oysters that prefer lower pH levels will thrive, whilst those that don’t will die out. This is due to existing natural genetic variation in the current oyster population.
We’ll still have oysters - they’ll just be slightly different to the ones we have today.
If all else fails, just do some genetic modification. That should fix it.
And that's how I think we should respond to all this global warming rubbish. Some plants have a problem surviving in a changing environment? Genetically modify them. What's wrong with a franken-oyster for instance? I doubt it will come to that because I suspect there is plenty of variation in the population, and those that adapt best will come to the fore. I think that's called natural selection. It makes you wonder how all those plants and animals adapted in the past to climate change - the ice ages and all that. Well, I guess the mammoths didn't adapt too well to the end of the last ice age. But do greenies weep for woolly mammoths that died out long before man discovered fire, let alone the electric kettle?
It's like Ashfield Council putting up signs showing where the water level might be at in 40 years time. I had a close look today, and given that they are talking about the record high tide levels that we might get in 4 decades time, I think we have two options:
- As there is already a seawall around that entire part of the harbour to prevent erosion, just top it with a few courses of bricks. A mini-dyke, so to speak. They're projecting that a record high tide in 2050 might submerge a few small sections of the Bay pathway under an inch or two of water. We're talking high tide here, not a permanent inundation. A slightly higher sea wall should keep that out.
- Do nothing, and just put up with the path being underwater once in a while. That happens at the moment during heavy rains anyway. It happens on the Cooks River cycleway. BFD.
I got pulled up by Pogs this morning for describing a chocolate pudding that has flour in it as being flourless. Oops, my bad. Here is the recipe from the Marie Claire Seasonal Kitchen:
- 200gm good quality chocolate
- 100gm unsalted butter (oops, I used salted last night)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- 1 tablespoon corn flour (I did not put this in)
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 6 ramekins
Beat the egg whites to form soft peaks.
Beat the egg yolds and sugar until soft and pale. (I hate how they tell you to do this first. I always beat the whites first, then use the same beaters to do the yolks. That way, I avoid a bit of washing up. You can't of course use dirty beaters to beat whites as they won't whip properly).
Stir the melted choc/butter mixture into the yolks/sugar mixture. Then add the flour, cornflour and cocoa and mix until smooth.
Fold in the beaten egg whites, 1/3 at a time. Do not smash the air out of them! Be gentle.
Grease the 6 ramekins and divide the goo amongst them.
Now, you have two choices here - whether to cook straight away, or freeze and cook later. The book says to chill the empty ramekins first, and to then tip the mixture in and freeze that too until ready to cook.
I didn't bother with the chilling of the ramekins, and I put 3 straight into a 200 degree C oven for 13 minutes. They came out perfectly.
The next day, I took the 3 that I had put in the freezer into the oven, and cooked them for 15 minutes. Mine was still a bit gooey in the middle, but J said she loves it that way. Note that I cooked the frozen ones for 2 minutes longer than the non-frozen ones. The book says 15 minutes, and I just took a wild-arsed guess that 13 would do the trick if they were thawed.
Oh, by the way, you are supposed to let them sit for 10 minutes after cooking. All that happened during that time is that they all collapsed inwards. Looked a bit like Malcolm Turnbull did yesterday. Still damned tasty though. Although deflated, they came through with the goods. They did the trick. I'd prefer a tasty, deflated chocolate Turnbull to a puffed up turd sandwich from Rudd any day.
Serve with double cream.
OK, that was the chocolate pudding recipe with flour. Now for my very similar regular recipe, which is bereft of flour, which also explains why I described the above as "flourless".
- 125g dark chocolate. Break into small pieces and melt with 1 tsp. of water in a bain marie.
- 125g butter 70g castor sugar. Cream the butter in a warmed mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix in.
- 30g cocoa powder 90g ground almonds. Sift the cocoa and mix with the ground almonds.
- 6 egg yolks. Add the cocoa mixture and the egg yolks in alternate spoonfuls to the creamed butter. Add the melted chocolate. (I never do this. I just tip the whole lot in and mix).
- 6 egg whites. Whisk. Slacken the chocolate mixture with 1/3 of the egg whites, then fold in the rest.
- Pour mixture into a 3 pint steamer and steam for 70 minutes.
See? No flour. The recipes are very similar, and I prefer the results of the second. The downside is that making it creates more mess, and it takes 55 minutes longer to cook. You also need a large steamer, and an even bigger pot to cook it in. I have a big stock pot, and even that is not big enough for the steamer. I usually have to wrap lots of tinfoil around the top in place of a lid to keep the steam in.
Goes really well with blueberries and double cream. I usually eat it until I want to throw up - it's that good.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Monkey decided to spend his time digging through the soggy woodchips to see what he could find underneath. I don't mind - boys will be boys. When I was a year older, and at kindergarten, I organised a squad to dig a pit in order to trap one of our teachers. We were busted laying the camouflage covering over the top.
So I sat back and watched Monkey hacking his way through the woodchips, and after a while, I decided to go and have a closer look at what he was up to.
When I got to him, the smell hit me. At first, I thought he had failed to warn me and had done the world's largest crap in his pants. Then I kicked over the mound of woodchips he was playing with.
Hmm. Barker's eggs. (If you don't get that, think of an animal that barks, and the things that it lays). Big, yellow barker's eggs, just below a layer of woodchips that had been suspiciously mounded up by human hand.
The way I see it, some bastard took his (or her) dog into a gated playground, let the dog crap in the play area, and then instead of picking up the crap, kicked woodchips over the top of it and sodded off.
Great. Just what I needed. A Monkey covered in dog crap, and me with no wipes or anything to get it off.
If we had a water tower in the vicinity, I'd be opening fire on non-dog crap collecting owners by now. I don't blame the dog for crapping where it did - how is a dog supposed to know not to crap in a playground?
At least I hope it was dog crap. Then again, I wouldn't put it past some of the dero junkies from the housing commission estate down the road to do something like that.
I was unable to play the chick game of changing clothes every 30 seconds today because I couldn't find my undershirt. I packed my jacket into a backpack and went outside to put my shoes on..... and there was my undershirt, sitting on a chair, just where I had left it when I removed it on the last hot, sunny day. The bike thermometer was showing 26 degrees, although it only felt like maybe 22 at most. Who cares. I had the short gloves on, no jacket, and it felt great. Not a breath of wind either.
Just look at that - ok, it's not the Eiffel Tower as far as a view goes, but we've got blue skies, crystal clear water and fluffy clouds in late June.
On more mundane matters, the guys who are working on widening this path into a proper cycle/pedestrian path have advanced a bit since I was last down this way. It's now 100 metres down, 58,999.9 km to go.
I think this is a pretty ugly boat. I was hoping for a photo showing a better reflection. This is not about boat envy or yacht-fondling; it's simply about trying to frame a neat photo. Fail.
A while later, I was toodling around a bend when I got a face full of dope smoke. I stopped and had a look around, and found that the source was this mung bean strolling along the mud flat. I watched him for a minute, and all he did was stagger around in confused circles. If you're going to get stoned somewhere, surely there are better looking places than a stinking mudflat?
Then again, if you are a stoner, goodness knows what you are thinking.
Mr Kelly, whose firm has been involved in the design of collaborative learning centres at the University of Melbourne's engineering faculty and at the Sir Gustav Nossal select entry school in Melbourne's southeast, said the idea of the stimulus package was sound.
He said the template classrooms were based on the traditional top-down teaching system, with the teacher lecturing to a seated class, whereas more innovative designs featured circular tables or more flexible spatial arrangements that allowed children to interact and learn by participation. Mr Kelly acknowledged that such designs required more space per pupil, but said research proved they gave children a better education.
"Collaborative learning centres"? Where do they think up these names? It's bad enough when our school starts talking about being a "learning community". What a crock.
I'm sure there are some subjects where a collaborative approach works well. Drawing on my very distant school experience, I remember it working well in subjects like chemistry and biology where we carried out shared experiments either in pairs or groups of 4. However, collaboration only takes you so far in high school. I also remember having to collaborative assessments, such as researching and writing a history paper, and what ended up happening is that 5 people sat around and traded gossip whilst one did the work!
I'm also sure that collaboration would work very well where students have strong self-discipline that drives them to actually tackle the task at hand, rather than loafing around having a gas-bag. In undisciplined environments, where you have a reasonable proportion of trouble makers, bone heads and blatherers, I'm sure it is a recipe for utter, shambolic disaster.
I always preferred silence in the classroom, as it allowed me to concentrate on what the teacher was saying, or to concentrate on the work that we had been set to perform. Chit-chat is distracting, even if carried on in a low voice. Even the passing of notes is distracting. How are you supposed to take in information if there is a high level of background noise and distraction? If a school is near a road, the teachers complain about the noise from passing cars, saying it makes teaching difficult. Well, if car noise is a problem, why is child noise not?
We hear about more and more kids being diagnosed with ADD and all its variants. If that is the case, why would we want to introduce an environment that is even more distracting than a quiet, well structured one? Surely the best way to deal with kids that are bouncing off the walls is to put them in a calm, structured and non-distractive environment, rather than one that will set them off like an epileptic exposed to disco lights?
Given that many portray some sort of perfect society (Aeon Flux for instance), where is all the green power? Where do the robots in I, Robot get their power from? Not many seemed to have propellers sticking out of the top of their heads.
And the Death Stars were not clad in solar panels - they were covered in laser cannons instead. Ever tried destroying a planet with a wind powered death ray? Or firing a solar powered phaser at Klingons?
I know it's only fantasy, but good science fiction has some element of possibility about it. I remember when Blade Runner was released, and people gasped at the scene where Harrison Ford used a photo scanner to zoom in on bits of a photo using voice recognition. That movie came out in 1982, when digital photography was fantasy to the people watching that movie.
Just a thought.
Monday, 22 June 2009
No, you can't have the recipe.
I blogged a few weeks back about the pleasures of walking into a house that smells of baking. Well, tonight the house reeked of chocolate. An entire slab of cooking chocolate went into making puddings for 6. Monkey, who has a nose for trouble, appeared in the kitchen not long after I started melting the chocolate and butter on the stove. He hung around and watched me beating the sugar and eggs together, then the sifting in of the cocoa and flour, followed by the addition of the melted chocolate mixture and finished up with the folding in of the beaten egg whites.
Just before I started to fold in the egg whites, I popped the beaters out of the electric whisk thing and plonked them on the benchtop. Monkey went suspiciously silent at that point. When I completed my careful folding of the mixture (being very attentive to not bash all the air out of the egg whites with soft peaks), I turned around to find a grinning, chocolate covered Monkey. He had a beater in each hand and was licking them for all he was worth. There was chocolate from ear to ear.
It was of course less than 15 minutes after we had extracted him from the bath and dressed him in clean clothes. He finished off the beaters, put them in the sink, then looked at his chocolate covered hands and wiped them on his shirt...... I felt like sticking him in the sink along with the rest of the washing.
He made up for it by telling me that it was "very good", and then he marched out to demand a bit of Shrek before bed.
He was right about them being very good. Especially with proper double cream - the stuff that is just cream, not cream and gelatine.
Boy, I feel like I need to go and lie down for a while.
Cycling champion furious as crash motorist flees
A former Australian road cycling champion who fractured her arm in a road accident yesterday morning is furious at the motorist who hit her, after he told her he was going to move his car before driving off.This is why I always carry a camera that I can quickly whip out to take a photo of the miscreant - assuming I am concious and have use of one arm. If someone even vaguely threatens me, I pull the camera out and photograph them and then video them. You get some pretty shocked looks from motorists when that happens, and in most cases, their behaviour instantly improves. Some even look vaguely apologetic.
The driver in yesterday's incident was described as being in his mid 50s, possibly of Middle Eastern appearance, with dark hair and wearing a dark-coloured jumper or vest.Then again, this guy sounds like a complete tool. In that case, I'll take a nice Glock instead of a camera any day.
Interesting though that the SMH decided to tell us about the ethnicity of the driver. In this case, two of the silly's favourite groups collided - cyclists and Men of No Appearance, and the interests of the cyclists won the day. Amazing.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
The ride home was not so crash hot. I was planning on taking a detour and going the long way, but as soon as I "assumed the position" on the bike, I got a headache at the base of my skull. It didn't get any better as I went on, so I took the shortest path home and put my feet up.
My head was splitting when I woke up this morning. I don't know what it was, but something threw my neck out something fierce. That's the lingering effect of whiplash - the neck can be fine for weeks, then I'll turn the wrong way at the wrong time, and the whole thing goes guts-up. I took a handfull of pills and tried to sleep through it. I had colours moving around behind my eyelids, and a constant tone in one ear - not a ringing of bells, but more a single note from a synthesiser with a finger not lifted for hours.
There are two possibilities that I can think of. The first is that using a laptop is not for me. I think I spent all day hunched over a dinky little keyboard, squinting at a small screen. That could have done it.
The second is that I had to lug a backpack in, and I have not worn a heavy pack for a year or so.
I am hoping the first problem will be resolved by a new laptop that is supposed to be on the way, along with external mouse and keyboard and lifty thingy that props it up so that the screen is at eye level.
If that doesn't do the trick, I'll have to buy panniers for the bike. I don't want to, as it's the equivalent of putting a tow bar on a sports car. It can be done, but it's not a good look.
At present, I am hoping that I got enough sleep today to allow me to get up before dawn and ride for a few hours in the morning. What better way to spend Sunday morning is there?
Saturday, 20 June 2009
Blackfive gives a nice take on this hoo-hah from a US perspective. Here's my take, from an Australian perspective.
I actually know a couple of serving and former Senators personally. I've seen them interacting with people in all sorts of circumstances, and I've yet to see one get on their high horse about how they are addressed. Maybe that's just something about the Australian character - we don't get uptight about the whole title thing. Judges on the other hand... don't get me started on them. And idiots with PhD's - they are the worst, always wanting to be addressed as "doctor". But Senators - they're generally a pretty relaxed bunch.
As for the military angle, when not in a strictly formal setting, I always addressed my platoon commander as "boss" or "chief" or occasionally "bwana". You couldn't do that straight away - you had to evolve into an "old sweat" in order to reach that stage of informality. You certainly didn't do it if the RSM was in earshot. It was a private thing, for platoon members only. Other platoons had their own terms of endearment for their commanders. For the young platoon commanders, straight out of OCTU (officer training), they knew they'd made it when their form of address out bush changed to "boss", or something similar. I'm sure many remember when they "lost their virginity" in this respect - because it meant that the men had grown to respect them as a leader and commander. In modern parlance, they had "bonded".
However, it was interesting to note that everyone in the Regiment addressed one dickhead captain as "Sir" or "Captain" under all circumstances.
Now there may be areas of the Australian military where this sort of thing is frowned upon, and things might have changed since I hung up my giggle hat, but that's how I remember it.
Friday, 19 June 2009
It was 8 degrees when I hit the road, which required almost my entire "battle-rattle". I left out the lightweight skullcap that sits under my helmet, keeping the onrushing wind off my thinning hair, and decided not to wear an undershirt. If it had been raining, I would have pulled both on, and although the roads were wet, the sky was clear.
The sun had not been up for long when the cranks started grinding around and around. When I rode up this hill, I went from darkness into dawn in a big way. The shadows disappeared and I found myself riding straight into the rising sun.
Mist, mist, mist as far as the eye can see.
The morning mist coming off the Bay was something to behold.
The island out in the Bay was hard to see for once.
The photo below looks great when viewed full size. Although that is a rowing club on the right, there weren't any rowers out there in the mist.
Confusion. Note the car with its back to me in the middle of the photo - it's driven down the footpath to reach this point. There was an old guy at the wheel, and he looked mightily confused.
This is what he drove down to get to this point. It's pretty well marked at the far end as a bike path, but some drivers will go to any length to knock down cyclists - including driving on bike paths. Next time some jerk tells me to get off the road, I will tell him that I'll get off the roads when drivers stop driving on bike paths. Ha ha ha.
The air was almost perfectly still this morning - there were some big puddles across the path here and there (nothing to do with rising sea levels), and the water in them was utterly still. Check out the perfection of the reflection in this puddle.
Another great reflection.
On arriving at work, I discovered that I had left my bike lock at home. That prompted a scramble to reach the closest bike shop at opening time to buy a $49 chain lock. Thankfully, the bike was still there when I returned.
I also found that we have a "power shower" on our floor. That's me being ironic. Some environmental wanker has fitted a shower head that delivers only a trickle of water. It took me twice as long as usual to shower due to the pathetic flow of H2O.
The return trip home showed that I was right to not buy a set of full length knicks - I wear shorts with a set of leggings tucked into them when it gets cold (like this morning). It was 20 degrees when I set out for home, which meant the leggings went into my back pack. As it was, I wished for a set of fingerless gloves instead of the full length ones (that keep my fingers from freezing off at 0700) and before long, I wanted to stop and stuff my jacket into the backpack as well - except that it was full, so I just had to sweat.
I relearned a lesson this morning as well. When I ride, I eat well. I eat proper. I really watch what I chow down on because I don't want to get on the bike feeling bloated and icky. That meant breakfast was an omelette (which turned out to be great) and lunch was a smacking big salad. I avoid anything that's greasy or fried when I ride, so things like Indian and fish & chips and burgers and Chinese are off the menu. Instead, I live on Japanese (lots of sushi and sashimi) and salad (if I can find a good salad bar nearby). I even had to pass on the opportunity to have some free drinks tonight in the office - beer and riding up hills do not go together at all.
The only downside to riding in today is that I was slow. Slooooow. Four cyclists of the kind that I would normally leave for dead went past me. It's going to be a long road back to a reasonable level of fitness and speed.
Thursday, 18 June 2009
The outage didn't last that long, but since then, I have been unable to send or recieve a single item of mail from Outlook. I don't know if the outage was just a coincidence with some other nefarious gremlin that has gone awry in the bowels of my beast, but it is most annoying. Webmail still works, but I like all my email to flow into one place, where I can deal with it. I've checked all the email settings, and nothing is amiss.
Computers, for all their wonderfulness, really are such fragile beasts. The merest grain of sand in the gearbox can bring the whole contraption grinding to a shuddering halt.
The same goes for my memory. I was shown around my new place of work the other day - the company that I work for has several floors in the one building. I was given the grand tour of each floor, then packed up and went home.
The following day, I arrived for work, and for the life of me could not remember which floor I was supposed to be working on. I knew I could exclude 2 floors where I definitely did not have a seat, but that meant getting out of the lift at numerous floors and then wandering around until I saw something familiar. I went through quite a floors until I got the right one.....
It's not like I am not used to moving office. In 18 years of working in and around the CBD, I have worked in at least 15 different buildings - perhaps more. Until now, I have never gotten lost in the office. Brain must be turning to mush.
The upside is that tomorrow, I ride. I have to go and lay out all the kit now, so everything will be ready and findable in the dark. Also gotta charge the battery for the headlight. Chances are, I'm going to get soaked.
Chart 1 shows a breakdown of act!onaid's finances, as derived from their published financial statements. I have interpreted them as best I can.
act!onaid raised the better part of $8 million last year from various sources (as this a pie chart, perhaps I should recast that as "sauces") and spent around $2 million on expenses. At a glance, this looks like a reasonable charity, as the overheads and expenses are "only" 25% of total income.
However, if you strip out the $6 million that the government gave them, the picture changes. Suddenly, they are making a surplus of only $127,000 on $2 million worth of private donations. That gives them an expense ratio of 93.6%. ie, of every dollar donated privately, 93 cents are swallowed up by salaries, rent, computers, cars, fundraising expenses and so on. By that measure, this charity is not very effective.
The red slice of the pie shows the costs of "key management personnel", which as far as I can tell, are just two people - the CEO and CFO. If government funding dried up tomorrow for this charity, but their expenses did not change, then the CEO and CFO between them would be taking out of the charity three times more cash than the charity would be spending on "good works" - $378,000 for them vs $127,000 for the starving plebs. The two top executives are taking 19 cents in the donated dollar between them.
I feel justified in working the numbers this way for the following reasons:
- the expenses of $1 million in fundraising costs would not change if the government gave them no money next year. If anything, it would grow as the charity sought more money from private pockets
- the salaries of the "key management personnel" would be unlikely to fall, leaving them at $378,000 (inc Super)
- the "other expenses" would probably not fall by much, given that they include rent (hard to break a lease), depreciation on assets and money spent on things like accountants, auditors and lawyers (which can't be avoided). They might save a bit by sacking the receptionist, but that would probably only reduce total costs by 5% or so. Not a lot.
In percentage terms, it's 2%.
If 98% of your "spendable" funds come from government, are you still an independent charity, or are you now an arm of government?
If the government decided to take over the activities of this charity, I'm sure the public servant placed in charge of spending a paltry $8 million per year would not be drawing a salary of $177,000 or more.
You really have to wonder why a charity is paying salaries at this level. Surely those that want to work in the charity sector are happy to work for less-than-market pay rates because of the nature of the business?
Oh, and by the way, the interests of this charity appear to have morphed from giving poor Africans a shovel and some seeds to this - the national climate emergency rally.
Here's their top idea:
1. 100% renewable energy by 2020
Australia must shift to 100% renewable energy from wind, solar and other existing technologies within a decade.
Loonies. Unless they mean nuclear power.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
The!r latest wheeze is to ask for money to do someth!ng about rape in Afr!ca. Apparently there are an estimated 500,000 rapes in South Africa every year and half of all South African women will be raped during their lifetime. Only 1 in 25 men charged with rape go to ja!l. That's what act!onaid are telling us.
I have a simple solution. Give African women a handgun each.
Funnily enough, I found this report:
The incidence of murder, attempted murder and rape dropped over the past year, according to the South African Police Service's 2007/08 annual report, tabled at parliament.That's a nasty number of rapes. Give woman handguns - preferably powerful handguns - teach them how to use them and get them started on shooting attepted rapists. I say "attempted" because it's hard to go through with a rape when you've got 11 or 12 9mm slugs in your chest.
The number of murders dropped from 19 202 in the previous year to 18 487, attempted murders from 20 142 to 18 795, and rapes from 39 304 to 36 190.
Anyway, act!onaid is using an unsubstantiated number of "500,000" rapes in South Africa per year as a lever to open our wallets. They will get away with that by saying, "Many rapes go unreported". I believe that to be true - many crimes go unreported. But what they are suggesting is that only 7% of all rapes in South Africa get reported each year. It's possible that they are confusing surveys that ask women about whether they have been sexual assaulted with rape. I won't profess to know the answer. Let me just state that I am sceptical of their numbers.
Here is a great l!ne from one of their begging letters:
We will take sides with the poor. And that can mean standing up against the rich.I decided to have a look at their last annual report.
They paid the trader $232,000 to raise $185,000...... ie, they went backwards by fortyseven grand.
During the year, Austcare engaged the services of a trader for the purposes of face-to-face fundraising. Austcare commenced face-to-face fundraising in 2007, and the net amount of revenue raised has been negative as anticipated due to the upfront nature of the costs involved in face-to-face fundraising. Austcare expects that 2009 will return a positive amount of net revenue from face-to-face fundraising.
I was unable to find out how much they pay Archie Law, the CEO, but I did find this nugget:
Archie Law – Chief Executive Officer (appointed on 1 April 2008)
Greg Taylor – Chief Financial Officer (appointed on 14 January 2008)
In addition to a salary, the Company also provides non-cash benefits to key management personnel, and contributes to a post-employment defined contribution superannuation fund on their behalf.
The key management personnel compensation included in ‘employee expenses’ are as follows:
Short-term employee benefits $354,015
Post-employment benefits $24,078
I take it from reading that section that the CEO and CFO split a paltry $354,015 in salary between them. Assuming a 60/40 split favouring the CEO, Archie is making $212,000 per year. Even on a 50/50 split, he'd be on $177,000. Plus Super. No mention is made of any other "key management personnel", so I have to assume that all those costs are attributable to just two positions.
Sorry, let me repeat that line from his begging letter:
And that can mean standing up against the rich.Excuse me while I vom!t in a bucket. He earns at least $177,000, plus Super, and tells us that we need to stand up against the rich? Is an income of $177,000 qualify you as being poor these days?
This though might blow you away:
Public donations - $2,007,315
Costs to raise those donations - $1,002,507
Admin costs - $873,390.
If it wasn't for the government throwing around $6 million their way, act!onaid would have had just over a hundred grand to spend on charitable causes.
And just remember, 43% of those "admin costs" are taken up by the salary and Super for the CEO and CFO.
I need another bucket.
Nope, I did get it right. I spotted this work crew during the week ripping out one of the horrible little ancient paths around the waterfront and replacing it with a great swathe of concrete - a path so wide and concretey that it would make Bob Moses proud.
Hooray for that. Most of the time, I stick to the road when out this way because the paths are so narrow and crap. I'd prefer to be off the road and away from the idiots in their BMWs, but you can't always get what you want.
It looks to me like this crew is only doing a short section of path - 100 metres if we're lucky. That's 100 metres down, about 5,000km to go.
We bought a bottle of it a month or two ago. Zits are still there. Clearly, something is not working. It has to be used daily, according to the blurb on the side, to do any good. If my recollections of being a teenager are any guide, the stuff has to be used daily until you're about, oh, 20 years old - give or take a decade.
I hefted the bottle when I was in the shower. It was 99.9% full.
J: "Why are you not scrubbing your pimply mug with the anti-zit juice?" (yelling through bathroom door).
Junior: "It doesn't work."
J: "How many times have you used it?"
I guess that explains things. Teenagers and their rather mangled logic processes. And to think that in a few short years, he'll be able to drive a car. And vote.
Explains how Rudd got in I suppose.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
The Hate side of the equation comes from the occasional idiot driver that thinks that it is possible to safely fit a car and bike in a one-laned roundabout at the same time. When on the bike, I have to start planning how to tackle a roundabout when I am still a few hundred yards away. You can't just saunter into one like you do in a car - that's a one-way ticket to becoming a hood ornament on a BMW. It takes planning, and occasionally a bit of nerve and cheek.
About 1 in 100 roundabouts is actually bike friendly, like this one below. The nice RTA has put a bike lane through the roundabout on the left (there is no road entering from the left - it is a "three sided" roundabout). When zooming along in this direction, I can sail through the roundabout without having to give way to traffic coming from the right. At least that is the theory. Even with a roundabout as massive as this one, you'd be amazed how many cars enter from the right and spill into the bike lane on the far left. I could drive an oversized bus around this roundabout without touching the bike lane, but there is a "special" class of driver that can't perform that task in a Mini. Nice try by the RTA, but generally a failure in practice due to the fact that total tools are regularly issued with a license. A license to kill... cyclists.
See- here we have the bike lane snaking around the side of the roundabout. And a nice, wide car lane too. There is no excuse for a car to drift left into "my" lane - unless they are a BMW-driving tool. Of which, unfortunately, there are plenty.
I'm going to bang on a bit here about roundabout design. Sorry about that. I was out riding on a delightfully sunny day and halfway through the ride I thought, "Sod it, I'm going to take photographs of lots of roundabouts". I got masses of photos, most of which I will not bore you with. When I started counting them, I was amazed at the number of roundabouts that this particular jaunt takes me through - I got to 9 and gave up.
Here is a small roundabout with a custom designed "bike crunching" island on the right. Note that there is a sort of bike lane on the left (it's actually a bus lane at this spot), but it dramatically comes to an end at this island. The only way to get through this roundabout is to get into the car lane, and the trick is to pick the time at which to do that. Since I am generally going about 10km/h slower than cars at this point, you don't want to dive in too early, as BMW and Mercedes drivers get very, very frustrated if delayed for more than 0.8 seconds, and they are apt to do something incredibly dumb after that amount of time. However, you don't want to leave you run too late, as the driver behind and to your right might just not let you in. Good way to either smash into the concrete island, or become a hood ornament. It's a judgement thing, and it varies from roundabout to roundabout depending on traffic levels, the grade of the road and the "sharpness of the pinchiness".
Here is the next roundabout, with yet another bike crunching island denoted. See how narrow the lane is through here, between these two lumps of concrete? Buses struggle to get through here without leaving lots of rubber on each island.
Yet another roundabout. This one has a nice, wide car lane - but as usual, this tool in a BMW can't even stay in their lane as they exit from the roundabout. Yes, there are no bikes in front of them in the left hand lane (which is a parking bay), but BMW drivers tend to do this sort of thing whether there is no bike in front of them or even when there is one. I reckon they get in their car and suddenly think they are on the Nurburgring. Twats. At least this place has a church on the corner, so I can get speedy last rites if collected by some Germanic pressed metal.
Another stretch of road, with me in the parking bay. Unless there is a game of cricket going on at the oval to the left, there are rarely any cars parked along here, making it a great pseudo bike lane. But see that it ends just up ahead, right before the roundabout, and once again, I have to decide when to pull out and start "dominating" the lane, so I can get into the roundabout without some jerk wanting to overtake me. What I mean by dominating is that instead of riding to the left, I get out into the centre of the lane and hog the road. If I think a driver is tempted to overtake, I'll go even further right to block the bastard out. That doesn't always work, as I had one complete twatter go around the roundabout the wrong way, they were so desperate go overtake. I didn't care - just glad they didn't meet a car coming the other way. Frankly, I was glad they went around the island the other way, because they were well separated from me.
Pinch points - gotta hate these spawn of satan. Again, certain drivers think that if a bike is cruising through one, they can fit their BMW X5 through as well. Not going to happen, me thinks.
See how little room there is between this bongo-van and the kerb? Most BMW drivers think that a bike will safely fit into that gap. This is why I dominate the lane and never, ever let the fuckers overtake, because this is all the room they will leave you.
Monday, 15 June 2009
The sign reads:
SEA LEVEL RISING TIDE MARKERS
The nearby marker in the water shows the highest local tide levels for the years 1920, 2006 and the anticipated 2050 level.*
Ashfield Council has installed these markers to show the effect of climate change on local sea levels.
* Source: IPCC Third Assessment Report - "Climate CHnage 2001: The Scientific Basis".
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
- Hang yourself (I put that one in there)
- Walk, cycle of catch publc transport and leave your car at home
- More depressing crap that I will not bore you with
The photo below shows a marker.
Here is another one by the side of the rowing club.
I wonder why these chose the high tide level in 1920? Could it possibly be that 1920 is the lowest high tide on record, thus making the increase look scarily large?
Sunday, 14 June 2009
When I was out riding yesterday, I spotted this building in Olympic Park. I did a double-take, wondering what on earth an abandoned-looking church was doing in the park.
But I was fooled! This is not a church at all. On closer inspection, the "steeple" displayed all sorts of things that you normally don't find on the side of a church.
"Sub 46" kind of gives it away - substation number 46.
I put the first batch on the wire rack to finish cooling, walked over to the PC to send an email, and by the time I returned, they were all gone! Stone the crows! Fair suck on the sauce! Someone went the raw prawn and demolished the lot.
Since Junior was looking well content, I asked him if they had taught him to bake these things at school (hoping that he might put his hand up and take over this weekend chore). No dice. He's learned how to make nachos and banana bread, but not ANZAC biscuits.
What is it with schools these days? Are ANZAC biscuits off the menu due to some sort of latent anti-war feeling in the old leather elbow patch wearing lefties? They are the simplest things to make, a fairly hard to screw up, and every one likes to eat them. Why not start them on something like that to get them going?
Unless the sugar and butter content means they are verbotten. Blasted health and safety Nazis.
Batch three is cooking right now. I've got one ear cocked, waiting for the timer to go off. Even Monkey has started eating them, and he is the most suspicious eater you'll ever meet.
Last batch done. I can't even find a proper cake cooling rack in any of the local shops - I've had to pull a shelf out of the oven in order to give them something to cool on, and it's not much chop as if the biscuits are soft, they sag between the rails. How hard is it to find a cake rack? Have we stopped importing them from China?
That all flies out the window though when some tool does something dangerous, like the Audi-idiot yesterday who overtook me just as we were entering a roundabout. The horror of that is easy to explain - I do not go "around" roundabouts like a car - I go through them. Because I am not six feet wide like a car, and I don't have 4 wheels, I do not have to turn left and then swing back to the right. I do not perform a wide arc in other words - I can usually just blatt straight through them without turning the handlebars, which means I can blatt through a roundabout much faster than a car can. I end up just skirting the concrete island in the middle, which means I am essentially filling the entire lane in the roundabout. (I'm talking about small roundabouts here that even a small truck would have trouble going around - not those monstrous things the size of a footy oval).
If a car tries to overtake me though, the problem is that we run out of road. Most roundabout lanes are too narrow to carry both a bike and a car side by side in a safe manner. I have been "pushed" into a concrete traffic island on the right before by a car trying to overtake and muscle me out of the lane. It is not fun colliding with a 5 inch tall concrete block at speed. If the car behind is coming up too fast and can't stop in time, there is a huge risk that you'll get collected from behind because idiot thinks he can go around, then realises he can't, and you become a hood ornament.
Personally, if I go through someone's windscreen, and I am still alive and kicking, I am go to beat the driver to a bloody pulp with my remaining strength. They will require surgery to remove their steering wheel from their forehead.
So when I approach a roundabout, I pull out to the right and try and "take over" the entire lane, forcing cars behind me to slow down or stop and let me have the road. I'm not being an arsehole - I'm simply trying to stay alive and stop my skin being smeared all over the road. The occasional driver is in such a hurry and feels so little need to share the road that they cross over to the wrong side of the road and go around me - I had one driver go around the roundabout the wrong way in order to get in front of me! Madness.
The stupidity of this is that in many cases, I soon catch up with the driver, who is stranded at the next set of lights. In most cases, I leave them be as it is not safe to wind through the stalled cars to bang on their window and give them my opinion on their parentage, driving skills and personality traits. The odd unlucky driver has recieved an earfull from me, and I am sometimes tempted to carry a set of side cutters in my back pocket - if the driver is unrepentant, you simply lean down and cut the top off their tyre valves with the side cutters, and then ride away, leaving them wondering how they are going to change two flat tyres.
All that aside, this is why I try to be a Zen cyclist. Don't let it get to you. There is no need to join a pistol club and acquire a small fire arm. Walk past that sports store and ignore the desire to buy a small baseball bat. Put the monkey wrench away - you are not taking that for a ride today. And put the side cutters back in the tool box.
Anyway, I met the Audi within a few minutes of leaving home yesterday, and even though I was not warmed up, I chased the bastard. Boy, do I regret that now. Everything hurts. When I was far from home yesterday, I could feel it in my back muscles and leg muscles and even in my shoulders - I gave it a solid spurt before I was ready to spurt, and the body becomes so much less forgiving as it starts to fall apart. I even had back spasms as I was waiting at a red light - that has not happened in years.
So if I go again today, I will think Zen. And work out a way to take out these bastards at long range.
Saturday, 13 June 2009
That strap is now back on the old setting. Yes, the helmet slid slightly when backwards pressure was placed on it, but if it's too bloody uncomfortable, I won't want to wear it.
The other thing they told me is that from the anecdotal evidence they have collected on bike/car crashes, roundabouts are about the worst place to be on a pushbike. You either get hit from behind by an impatient driver that wants to overtake you in a one lane roundabout (almost happened to me today, thanks to a dickhead in an Audi, who I caught at the next lights), or you get hit from side on by someone that fails to see you - or decides to not give way because you are small and vulnerable, so you slam into the side of their car.
Make that van, or ute. The most common vehicle that fails to give way to me is the tradesman's ute (or van). The most common type of vehicle that tries to overtake me in a roundabout is the black BMW - replaced today by the black Audi. Seriously, given all the wankers driving BMW's these days, can someone tell me why we didn't nuke the Germans as well, just for the heck of it?
The Dilberts turned out to be from the Uni of NSW, and they were evaluating bike helmets and percieved risk and speed. I think. They asked me a few questions about my helmet, then measured my weight (eek!) and height before getting out a large set of calipers and measuring my head from various angles. They might have been secret Phrenologists for all I know. They then studied my helmet, evaluating how it was constructed and its size and so on.
Then came the interesting bit. They put a strap through the helmet and asked me to put it on. They then attached a set of handheld scales to the strap and pulled on it from various directions. I think what they were measuring was how much force it took before the helmet started sliding off my head - forwards, backwards and sideways. I was advised to tighten the temple strap a bit - which I did - but otherwise they thought I had it done up nice and tight. When you get flung off a bike (as has happened to me), the last thing you want is the helmet shifting under the G-force and exposing part of your noggin to the road surface/car bonnet/tree etc.
I've seen plenty of people riding around with their straps so loose, it's obvious that the helmet will simply flick clean off their head if they are ever walloped by something. What is the point of wearing a helmet if you aren't going to do it up properly, so that it flings off just when you really, really need it?
People are boneheads. I don't need to prove that to you.
For my troubles, they gave me a $15 voucher. Oh, and they told me that I now weigh over the dreaded ton. Eeek, as I said before. Time to do lots and lots and lots of km.
Before I finished up, they got me to ride up and down a stretch of path where they had some speed measuring devices setup, and asked me to estimate my speed. I thought I was doing 25km/h, but they told me I was doing 27 point something. I think they were collecting data for using in analysis of bike crashes - to get some idea of how cyclists percieve speed.
They are also doing a study of helmets that have been through a crash, to see how the helmet performed on impact. Unfortunately, I threw my crashed helmet out a year ago, so I couldn't help them out.
Their marketing skills sucked, I have to say. They had one badly lettered sign up on the bike path, which I completely failed to see, and the only reason I stopped was because there were other cyclists there before me. When I was there getting my head read, a few more turned up to see what it was all about. The only reason they got any customers is that Olympic Park on a weekend seems to have a large number of altruistic, older cyclists zooming around - the sort of people who will pop in and help out if they see someone who needs it.
Apart from that, I felt like a chick when I went riding today. I spent some time outside observing the weather and thinking, "What shall I wear?" If I had gone at say 8am, the answer would have been simple - every item of cycling clothing that I own. But by 12.30pm, it had warmed up to a lovely 21 degrees, although the sky was full of threatening clouds.
I ended up going with my summer rig, with the addition of an undershirt and nothing more. Within a few kilometres, I was regretting the undershirt, thinking that I was going to start sweating like Henry Rollins at a particularly tough gig. But then the clouds rolled in, and the temp immediately dropped 3 degrees (it's handy having a temperature guage in your bike computer). That was enough for my thighs to get chilled, and I decided to keep the ride short instead of motoring miles out into the western suburbs. I discovered that I have been riding through Harris Park on some of those rides - the scene of Indian-on-Leb bashings recently. I usually go through Harris Park early in the morning, and have noted the large number of Indians playing cricket on the sports grounds. I have never seen a Leb out that way though - I guess they don't get out of bed before noon.
Speaking of which, I was served today by a woggy looking bloke, and he had clearly plucked his eyebrows. What do you think of that?
Top-gear city cyclists are a law unto themselves. They’re a hardcore bunch — the very antithesis of a benevolent Boris or those daffy Mrs Tiggy-Winkle handwoven folk who choose to cycle only when the sun is shining and they’ve bought something pretty to put in their baskets. City types are not bumbling about on their bikes merely for fun. They’re going hell for leather and, like most people on the road, possess a deeply competitive streak. Obviously they have every right to cycle to work, just as we motorists (still) have the right to drive, yet road-sharing on this particular stretch is rife with danger. I know many of we car-owners are guilty of driving with the poop-poop arrogance of a Mr Toad, but two-wheeled tyrants can be every bit as bad. I’ve witnessed some of these louche Lords of the Lycra behaving like schizophrenic eco-warriors. One minute they’re compliant, staying faithful to the Highway Code; the next they’re acting as though they have the personal protection of an armour-plated Hummer. They are inconsistent, which is worryingly confusing.She's quite right. Some people get on a bike and think that sitting in the saddle is an excuse to go mental. Things that they would never dream of doing in a car become quite normal behaviour when on two wheels.
She describes nearly cleaning up a cyclist who came zipping out of a side street, not looking where he was going and yapping on a mobile phone with his head down. Sheer stupidity. I have no sympathy for these fools when they take a tumble - idiots like that have nearly cleaned me up on a few occasions when I have been twirling the pedals. They're a bloody menace to one and all.
Given that I hope to start riding to work again regularly next week, I have to be careful to restrain myself from turning into one of them. It's so easy to go with the flow and behave like an arsehole when others around you are acting that way. Must resist.... must resist. Remain a decent human being...... do not get absorbed by the Bastard Bike Borg......