Sunday, 30 August 2009

Weekend prep

Another week of riding starts tomorrow morning at around 0700. Rather than farting around half asleep in the dark, I have spent part of this afternoon getting my stuff squared away. Two weeks worth of shirts have been ironed. All cycling kit is cleaned and dried and stashed where it needs to be. The bike has been given a quick once over. I've even moved one of our outdoor tables into a position where it will be of assistance in the morning when I am getting the bike ready - all these little things count.

I've also put a reminder in the diary to pack a fresh towel tomorrow. The one at work has been there for a few weeks - it's getting pretty manky, and I keep forgetting to replace it with a clean one. I've made the mistake before of bringing the manky one home to wash, and then forgetting to take it to work the following day. You then have the option of using someone else's towel, or drying yourself with your bike jersey. I won't say which option I have selected. These days, I leave the towel there until I take in a fresh replacement. Better a stinky towel than none at all.

The only thing I can't prep is my legs. Junior and me had a hit of tennis yesterday. Although he is three decades younger than me, I am quicker off the mark when chasing down the ball. He is lanky and young and fit, but lacks the fire in the belly to attack each shot, no matter how seemingly hopeless and far away that ball is. I chased down quite a few shots, and my legs are suffering dearly from those short bursts of accelaration. I am used to doing 90 minutes of relatively constant speed rotation each day. Sprints are something that I have not done in years.

The consequence is that my quads are utterly rooted. I can't even squat down to get a beer out of the bottom of the fridge.

Absolutely amazing cycle tricks

Don't try these at home kids:



I take it that it was filmed over several months in order to give a few broken bones time to heal between takes!

And to think that I am too chicken to ride down the ramp coming off the Harbour Bridge....

Prejudices confirmed

No surprises here - clumsy or inattentative driving by motorists was responsible for 90% of bike-car crashes.

One of those leaving a comment said, "I always ride a little bit scared", meaning they pay attention when they are on the road, expecting the worst and always anticipating bad or stupid behaviour.

It's not only cyclists that end up seeing a lot of stupid motorist behaviour - I drove a truck part time for 4 years, and the amount of idiocy that I saw from my elevated cab convinced me that even the most brain dead window lickers are granted a licence these days. I lost count of the fools that, when approaching a red light, would speed up, over take me, then duck in front of my truck at the last moment. I would slam on the brakes and cringe, waiting for the sound of a car being compressed into half its normal length.

I always drove a truck a little bit scared - scared that I would smash a nuff-nuff and their car to bits one day, and that smash would be largely out of my control. Every time I climbed out of the cab, my back would be wet with sweat - partly from the physical effort of driving a truck with no air conditioning, no power steering, a crash gearbox and little insulation between driver and engine, but mainly from the stress of piloting it through a sea of fucking fucked fuckheads.

The other interesting statement made in that linked article is that "bikes were on the road before cars".

Saturday, 29 August 2009

More rooting

Rooting? Sorry, I meant routing. This is another in my occasional series on how to ride into the city from out our way. I take up my ride where Barnstaple Rd meets the Bay Run.

The red route marks the path that most cyclists take. You follow the Bay Run around to the rowing sheds, and just past that, you take the ramp up onto the old road bridge. The bridge takes you over a canal, and right in front of you is Lilyfield Rd - and a nasty hill.

If my legs are still a bit cold when I reach that hill, I take a detour (marked in blue) which provides a gentler climb up the same hill - you still have to climb the same distance, but it is a choice between a near vertical ascent and a slightly less vertical ascent. There are mornings when I don't see much difference between the two, but the blue route goes around the water, and I like watching the rowers doing their training as I go past.

Apart from that, you just get onto Lilyfield Rd, hop into the bike lane and follow it all the way to Victoria Rd, and the ANZAC Bridge. No funny turns or anything like that to worry about. Simple.

More later.

Why cash is more useful than credit cards

The Clucker sent me this photo today - it shows how you can get home after a nasty puncture by using a $5 note as a sleeve within the tyre. I've read about this in my bike maintenance manual, but never seen it in action.

The manual I have was written by a yank, so he was writing about paper currency. I imagine out plastic notes are even better for this sort of thing, being much tougher.

I always carry a bit of cash with me when going for a ride - partly in case I need some food or drink, partly in case I need to catch a taxi home (!) and partly for this sort of thing. I've never had a split this bad, but then I'm not riding around on expensive, fancy, lightweight racing tyres.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Friday

Friday already? What happened to Thursday?

There was no riding on Thursday - I had a boozy after work engagement in town, so I took the bus one way and a taxi the other. Catching the bus every now and then is good for my motivation. Although the bus was clean, the people didn't smell, no fat shiela's sat down beside me and wedged me into the side of the bus with a meaty arm and the driver actually drove with care and consideration - it was still a completely bogus journey (I've been watching too much Bill and Ted).

Sitting on a bus really is such a collosal waste of time. Frequent riders of buses must make model prisoners - they are well atuned with the idea of sitting around quietly all day staring into space and doing nothing.

So on Friday, I rode. Going into town was not easy - the legs had no fire in them at all. My guess is that they really do need two days to recover. Normally, by Friday, my legs would be dead and I'd be in a certain amount of pain. The pain masks the deadness - it hurts too much to push them, so I don't bother.

However, with a one day rest, the legs were dead, but I felt no pain. One day off was enough to eliminate the pain, but not rejuvenate the muscles. Hence I crawled into town like a lightly salted slug. Everytime I gave the legs a nudge, they faded. They didn't complain, they simply went limp. Maybe deflated is a better expression.


Interesting way to get your work clobber to the office - this woman has a blouse hanging off her back pack. I'd be worried about catching that in my chain, or in the back spokes. It takes all sorts.


The ride home. I left later than usual, which meant battling idiot drivers on Sussex St. The only saving grace was the large number of bikes about - I used to feel very alone in peak hour traffic, but now, we are everywhere. Although it looks like there are three bikes in front of me, there are actually six, and there were more beside and behind me. The packs are growing bigger every year. Safety in numbers is looking like a workable concept.


Before I left town though, I rode down to the water to have a look at the bridge and North Sydney at twilight. That blob of light in the bottom left is Luna Park.


There's a train going over the bridge in this next photo, although you can hardly see it. I think each carriage weighs 40 tons - that means a 320 double deck behemoth is rumbling over the bridge, but the train is completely lost in its massiveness.

The ride home was a cracker. I hit the ANZAC bridge at 1750hrs, and figured that the 1750 would soon be right up my clacker. That spurred me on to new heights of madness. Although the sun was in my eyes and I could hardly see a thing in front of me, I really cranked it going up the bridge, overtaking everything in sight. By the time I hit Lilyfield Rd, the legs were really warmed up, and the morning cobwebs and lethargy was long forgotten. I was starving hungry - stomach rumbling and so on - but there was no lack of energy. I can't remember taking the Lilyfield Rd hills at such speed for a long time.

Normally, I'll build up speed on the first downhill, cruise on the flat at around 40, then slow down dramatically on the first hill. Not through any desire to ride slowly and safely mind you - more like age and mass taking its toll.

Tonight was different - it was 50 on the flat, then 30 or more on the hill. I just kept going and going and going, and the legs and lungs just kept giving. There's something rewarding and blissful about taking a hill at pace.

I have no idea what happened to the 1750. Maybe it was beer o'clock at work. Maybe I was just too fast for them (for once). Or maybe we need to synchronise watches.

Wednesday redux


I planned on photographing various chunks of the route in, but the camera went flat and that was that.

How do I get to the city? The key is the Bay Run. I think of it as a hub, from which various key spokes run. Depending on how I am feeling in the morning, I will either take the long way (which involves riding under the Gladesville Bridge and then joining the Bay Run at the Birkenhead shopping centre), or I'll get onto Barnstaple Rd and take it down to the Bay. These are just two of many spokes.

Barnstaple Road has a bike lane down both sides, it's nice and wide, the hill is not that steep and the surface is pretty good. On the downside, the occasional idiot uses it as a drag strip, and rat runners have a bad habit of roaring out of side streets on the left and failing to give way at Stop signs and the like. When the sun is low in the morning, you're riding right into it, and that can make it hard to see the rat runners emerging from the left. Sleeping drivers also wander groggily out to their cars and open their doors right in front of you. There are a reasonable number of them that are such patheticly bad drivers, they are unable to park a small Hyundai buzz box within the designated parking lane. I can understand a truck having its bum poking out, but a Hyundai?


Many cyclists like to jump off Barnstaple and rat run down Arthur St, because it is a shorterroute to the Bay. I take the red route, whilst many go the blue (or a version of it). I don't see the point in the short cut - I normally take way out of the way detours in order to lengthen my ride.



The ramp that gets you onto the Bay Run at the bottom of Barnstaple is a rather odd bit of engineering. By "odd", I mean it's the sort of thing I would engineer after a weekend of bingeing on vodka and acid. A long weekend binge. Or even in the midst of such a binge. The lines that you have to take on a bike are nothing short of ridiculous. If cars were forced to make such idiotic detours, hordes of pitchfork and flaming torch wielding ratepayers would have burned down the council chambers by now. Only cyclists get treated to such engineering novelties as this.


But once you get onto the Run itself, it's a well made, nicely engineered bit of work. I guess the pimple-faced dyslexic aprentices got to design the bike ramps, whilst the grown ups laid the paths.


I should mention that the Run is good whilst it meanders through the Canada Bay area. As soon as it hits Ashfield Council, it goes down hill, and it is a complete goat track in the Leichhardt Council area. Greenie Leichhardt councillors seem to have an aversion to putting down smoothe, well laid concrete. It can't be for lack of wogs. Wogs just love laying concrete. Wogs don't spray weeds to get rid of them - they just lay concrete over the top of them. Maybe it's that our council lets the wogs get on with their business of covering every square inch of the earth with concrete without fuss, whilst Leichhardt wants to sit down and discuss secret women's business before every concrete laying planning session.

I am therefor surprised that the Leichhardt mayor, who is a completely mad greenie, has not been deposited in the middle of the Bay in a set of custom made concrete boots.


Shortly after the above photo, the camera died, but I managed to coax some more shots out of it on the ANZAC bridge before it expired. Here we have a quick snap of the memorial at the western end of the bridge, with wreaths at the bottom. Go visit 1735099 and read his recent posts for a possible explanation for those wreaths.


And here we have my normal happy snaps of cyclists on the bridge, grunting into work. This guy is further to the right than you might normally expect, but what he is doing is keeping his head in the shadows. At this point, the sun is rising on the left. See the shadows on the ground cast by the rails to the left? The trick is to get your head in a spot where it is in the shadow cast by the pipe at the top of the rails. Otherwise, you are riding through a constant blip-blip-blip-blip of light/shadow/light/shadow/light/shadow, and that's enough to bring out the epileptic in all of us.



And that was Wednesday.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Thursday

Blogging has been slow of late as my primary computer is doing a disk check of some sort. It only takes about 12 hours to boot.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Tuesday

I woke up this morning to the sound of tree limbs thrashing around in a minor gale. Uh oh. I had a peek out the window - no clouds, just lots of wind. I can handle riding in rain. Or wind. But the two together is a mite unpleasant. It wasn't a cold wind either - the leg warmers have gone back into the cupboard, and may not be seen again until next winter if this weather keeps up (oops, this "climate change". My bad.)

It was a case of tucking the head down and just grunting it out on those long, open straights where the wind was smack in my face. I won't complain about it - getting stronger and fitter requires me to work progressively harder. A morning battle with a stiff breeze is simply a better workout for my ageing bones. The flip side is that because my route loops around, there were stretches when the wind was at my back, and 40km/h on the flat was a doddle.

Photos: a small pack heading for the Pyrmont Bridge. I almost collected a pedestrian on this zebra crossing - she was masked by a cyclist on my left, and I only saw her at the last minute when he swerved wildly to go around her. She was a dainty little thing, and I doubt I would have felt a bump if I had run over her. My bad, again.


A foursome of very fit, very loud blokes. Could this be the 1750 at the start of the day? It was taken just after 0750, so that would be a nice coincidence.


Boy, could these guys talk. Cyclists have a tendency to shout at each other all the time, regardless of their speed and location. Sure, you have to yell when tonking along at 40km/h+, but we were idling over the bridge at this point because of all the pedestrians. I'm sure everyone on the bridge could hear what the blokes in front of me were discussing.


The evening ride home - a small pack waiting for the green.


We have green - and we're off! The mad scramble for position begins. At this point, we are about to head down a small hill, and we face a sharp right hander at the bottom where we have to go through a cut in the concrete island. Only one bike at a time can go through the cut, so everyone jockeys for a good position in order to get through quickly. The results can sometimes be pretty interesting....... almost like Rollerball.


Grunting homeward into the wind and sun.


A lone bike, up there in the sky.


A "fixy" having a short break on the same bridge. He might have been blowing his nose on the cars below for all I know.


A rather relaxed form of cyclist.

On a lighter note, Junior is currently watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure for the first time - possibly one of the best movies of all time. I feel no need to watch it, having seen it 30 times or so last century. I think he has been slightly taken aback to find that a reasonable chunk of his current teen culture has its genesis in an old movie that featurs an actor who only wears suits these days.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Indulgent knobhead parents

If you're going to let your idiot son drive your Mercedes ML320, you should ensure he has the skills to park the farking thing properly. I watched this arrogant knob drive in and park like he owned the place. Complete tool.

As for "ARTS" as a number plate.

How to read Heaven + Earth

As much as I am enjoying reading Heaven + Earth, it is a bit much for my tired old brain at times. It's taken me a month to grind through the first 200 pages, which is odd, given that I can normally devour a book thicker than that in a single night.

I found a solution on the weekend.

Big bag of corn chips. Big bowl of hot salsa dip.

Put feet up with book, eat chips and fiery dip.

Wipe occasional blobs of salsa off the book.

That simple method allowed me to knock off another 100 pages in one hit until I was struck by Monkey Interuptus.

It's good (the book, not the salsa). Really good. But it makes me glad that I am not a rockologist.

Monday

Monday. How did it become "chunder day"? I went to bed feeling fine. I woke up feeling fine. I had my usual small cup of coffee and a bit of toast (with 3 fruits marmalade) and rode off feeling fine. Five minutes later, I started retching for no reason. I didn't spew anything up, and I wasn't even riding hard - I was just coasting. My stomach simply objected to something or other. I think there are mornings when it just dislikes coffee with a dash of milk.

It happened later whilst waiting at a set of lights - I was standing there serenely, and next moment, I was doubled over the bike gagging and retching again. Nothing came up, but the chunder reflex was working overtime.

I made it into work ok, and about an hour later, started feeling like lightly toasted crap. The sweats, a headache, brain disengaged and mind adrift. I had a bad case of the sweats all day, and it had nothing to do with the unseasonably warm morning weather. I was considering jumping in a taxi and going home to bed.

The cure? Riding home in the wind and rain. I took it easy, partly because of the slick roads, but mostly because I left work feeling pretty dreadful. Half an hour later, after a good dose of fresh, cold air in the lungs and a bit of rain in the face, I was feeling 100%.

Now, to the twats of the day.



The first was a fellow cyclist who overtook me on a blind corner where there are signs asking cyclists to dismount due to the risk of collision. I never dismount, but I always get into low gear and idle around the corner like a granny. This prick overtook me, almost had a head on with a cyclist coming the other way, and then he did his damnest to stop me overtaking for the next few hundred yards (he pulled all sorts of Formula One blocking tactics to stay in front). We're not racing for a prize - if you are slower than the guy behind you, let him through.

What a knob. Not that I was altogether quick this morning due to the gut trouble, but you get the drift.

The second was the traffic controller on Hickson Rd. A car ad of some sort was being filmed, and half the road was blocked off. The traffic dude on my side was standing in the middle of the bike lane, so I had to swerve into the road to go around him. He told me to stay in the bike lane, because it was safer! Tool. If I had stayed in my lane, he would now be flat on his back with a tyre track across his face.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A wee problem in the freezer

We had a bottle of champagne burst in the freezer over the weekend. It happened to be sitting right over an ice cube tray, so the frozen champagne fell into the largely empty tray (Junior has a bad habit of using every cube but one, then putting the tray back in the freezer without refilling it - or he uses every last ice cube and then leaves the empty tray on the bench, expect the kitchen fairies to refill it).

When I removed the tray and broken glass tonight, it looked like we had a tray of frozen wee. I don't remember Obama coming to stay......

Sunday

No riding today. No riding yesterday either. It is the weekend, and the Lord said something about rest. I can't burn the candle at both ends anymore. Hell, I can't even burn it at one end. I have had a sum total of 4 beers this weekend, and I felt like falling over each time I got past the second one. When I was working in London many years ago, I'd regularly have four pints at lunch, then go back to work, then go home and go for a run around Hyde Park, summer or winter. The soot in the air from the diesel fueled taxis was thick enough to give you a bad dose of black snot after each five mile run, but I could do a bunch of pints and then do a stack of miles.

Then I started opting for fewer miles and more pints and more curries, hence the small problem around my waistline that I am currently working on.

Today is prep day. All riding clothing is washed and dried. I have five business shirts to iron before bed time (although our office is relaxed and many people dress in jeans and T-shirts and the like, I still prefer the feel of a 100% cotton business shirt with a proper collar). The battery for my headlight is charged, the tyres have been pumped up and checked and the slack in the brake cables taken in.

Keys, wallet, phone, camera and other paraphernalia required for a day in the office has been collected and deposited in one central location, where it can be easily scooped up and packed away in the morning. Before I go to bed, I will take all the clothes for tomorrow out of the wardrobe and leave them in the office - that way, I can get changed and pack my stuff without bashing around the bedroom in the dark and waking J and the kids.

The bedside clock has been re-calibrated to Sydney time (Monkey got hold of it and set it to Monkey time, which would have had me climbing out of bed at 3:42am).

The foam pads in my helmet have been washed to remove the super-salty build up from weeks of head sweat. If I sweat too profusely, the sweat mingles with the salt in the foam pads and then a solution of ultra-brine runs down my forehead and into my eyes. That is something to be avoided.

All I have to do in the morning is reset the trip meter on the bike computer. It's reading 150km at the moment - the results of last week's rotations into town and back. I have to check the weather forecast for the week as well. I was asked during the week by a very fit looking bloke what I did if it rained. "Get wet", was my response. He smiled, and clapped me on the back. His wife looked aghast. It's nice to feel like part of the brotherhood at times.

Another day, more knickers in a knot

The SMH really shits me some days. Today is one of those days. This headline for one got up my goat:


Lisa Carty NSW Political Editor
August 23, 2009

TWENTY of the state's best prosecutors were learning how to shoot machine guns at a conference costing NSW taxpayers $110,000, yet just two weeks later the courts were left unattended because of a lack of money and staff.

Lisa Carty, you are a twat of the first order.

15 seconds on Google took me to the brochure for this conference.

I am going to copy a big chunk of the conference brochure across:

The AACP Annual Conference is the main event of the year for the Association. It is designed to promote the professional and educational development of members and observers, as well as providing a convivial environment for prosecutors from the different jurisdictions to meet, discuss their work, and socialise.

I'm not sure how much fun it is when prosecutors have a few beers, but let's pretend they are human like the rest of us, and have a tendency to do the dance of the flaming arseholes after having a few too many shots of tequila.

Jurisdictional Round-Up

First up is the round-up. Let us all share our experiences of the last year.

Online Sexual Predators

Witness a live demonstration of the investigation of online sexual predators. Learn about the latest investigation techniques in this growth area.

I think I would have worded that a bit better. It reads like they are sharing their experiences of being sexual predators. However, nothing wrong with showing prosecutors how rock spiders are busted.

Fire Scenes

Watch a fire develop from a few metres away. Shipping containers sheeted with plasterboard and fitted out with carpet and furniture replicating a room in a house will be set on fire allowing you to watch the development of the fire; the rate at which it develops and the burn patterns produced.
Nothing like a good bit of fire, something to bring out the inner arsonist in all of us. I presume prosecutors have to prosecute arsonists from time to time, so they might as well learn a bit about fire and how it behaves. Especially if it is used to cover up a murder.
Weapons

Visit the training facility at the Amberley Air Base and participate in the Weapons Training Simulation System (WTSS) where you will learn how to handle and fire a variety of weapons ranging from pistol to light machine gun.
Until I read this bit, I had no idea where they were getting their hands on machine guns, given that civilian firing ranges generally don't have them on offer. However, they went to Amberley, which is different. I am not exactly sure what the WTSS involves, but it sounds like an indoor range where the weapons are re-calibered to .22. I'm not really sure why prosecutors need to know how to use a Minimi, but it sounds like fun.

Autopsies

Visit Queensland Health and Scientific Services and learn how autopsies are performed and how decisions are taken about what examinations are done and what tests are performed. See the CT scanner in use and its capacity to improve the presentation of this evidence to a jury.
Can't see anything wrong with showing prosecutors how to slice and dice either.

So whilst the blatting at Amberley might be a bit questionable, what the hell is wrong with the rest of the conference? It went for 2 days, and the weapons bit took up 4 hours of one day.

The primary aim of most of these shindigs is for people from different places to meet and greet and swap stories and experiences. From what I can see from this program, it was designed to generate enough interest to maximise the number of people attending, and to generate a bit of adrenalin which might get people to open up.

Oh, and by the way, the SMH really stuffed up by putting the following title into the HTML of this story - "prosecutors tax rort". Nowhere in the story does it mention a tax rort. I hope Cowdery sues for libel.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Something very odd

If there's one thing Australians are good at, it's digging stuff up. We are world class at scooping up lots of dirt, sifting it a bit and carting it off to someplace where it will do some good.

Although telepresence has made some inroads into mining, there's still lots of people required to either trudge around the shrubbery bashing rocks together in order to find the next El Dorado, or to drive big yellow things back and forth all day like autistic kids on tricycles.

Many of our mines are located in less than pleasant locales. Dusty, hot shit holes would perhaps be more apt. In order for these mines to have a work force, the big yellow machine drivers need a place to sleep, a place to eat, a place to crap, a place to shower and so on. The answer to all that these days is outsourced accommodation providers. Check out the website of this mob.

But it's not only mines that need to provide a place to crash in an inhospitable landscape. Shearer's quarters used to be a feature of many a remote property, although they seem to have been tarted up these days for use by tourists and management retreats. Try doing a search on Google Images and you'll see what I mean. Shearer's have never been the quietest mob, and the quarters were often pretty basic and rough. The last lot I stayed in were on a station in the middle of nowhere. The beds were iron frames with chicken wire stretched over them, and a blanket on top for a mattress. The floors were bare concrete, the walls and roof were corrugated iron, and the doors had a gap about six inches high at the bottom - presumably to allow the local wildlife to run out in a hurry if surprised. That was years ago, things have changed.

That's not my point though.

A mining company can have a town erected on a site in the middle of nowhere in next to no time. We rarely hear of trouble in these places, although they are full of rough men and beer. But on the whole, the are prosperous, if a little short of the comforts of home.

Why then can the government fail to build a fucking thing in similar conditions and locations when it comes to putting up a bit of tin for a blackfella? And why does it cost hundreds of millions to build bugger all?

Actually, I know the answer to the last bit. The government will have taken on a swag of contractors to manage these projects. Let me say I would be surprised if the managers are charging any less than $250 per hour, plus travel time, meal and accommodation expenses and so on. They get paid when they are on the job, regardless of whether concrete is being poured and nails being hammered. You put enough of them on the payroll, and have them bill 50 or 60 hours a week, you soon get an idea of where the buckets of money are going.

You think $250 an hour is expensive? Pfft. Welcome to reality. The hourly rates in my industry are higher, and if I was sent out to Backofboondocksville, my company would be charging all sorts of extras for hardship and so on. Never mind the fact that I am happy to sleep in a swag under the stars and eat baked beans from a can if need be - the government would be billed for a 4 star hotel (or equivalent) and at least $80 per day in meal expenses.

And since travel time is billable for a job like this, I'd base myself in a nice place some hours away from the dump that I was working in, so I'd have done 4 or 5 hours work by the time I arrived at the project site, and would charge 4 or 5 more on the way home.

It's pretty easy to lose 50-70% of your budget on management overhead on these government boondoogles out in crapville.

Fiddling with things

Time for a bit of housekeeping on the blog roll. I've split my favourite blogs into three categories, and I might break them down further still.

Sheepdogs and Nightingales - the sheepdogs refer to those rough men (and women) who are prepared to do violence to keep the rest of us safe. The Nightingales are those that mop up afterwards, or who face the more miserable aspects of human nature on a daily basis on our behalf (which is how Frank Chalk slipped into that category).

The Uncivilised Folk are the political blogs that I follow. I am sure they are all lovely people, but they are working in a very uncivilised business.

The Civilised Folk are those who are left over, although I am thinking of splitting some of them into further categories for Septics and Whinging Poms.

Friday part II

What good is a ride without a few photos? I did manage to snap one photo on Friday - I was too shattered to get any more. Taking photos whilst in motion is a bit of an art - I cruise up behind my intended victim, then match their pace as I remove my camera from my back pocket, turning it on with one hand and checking that I have it oriented properly (ie, not pointing at me). I might hover out to one side to get a partial rear/side-on shot, but that depends on the oncoming traffic and the position of the sun. At this time of the morning, the sun is coming from the left here, and if I fade to the right and try to get a side-on shot, it will be washed out by the rising sun.

Getting a snap can only be done when I have plenty of reserves of energy - I can't do it puffed. It helps to be breathing lightly, rather than having your diaphragm heaving down around your navel somewhere. The more puffed you are, the more stress it puts on your arms - if you watch a race, you can see when the cyclists are really going for it by the way the muscles in their arms bunch and flex. You are pushing on the pedals so hard, the pressure from your legs will throw you clean off the bike if you aren't anchored by your arms. I reckon I have stronger forearms now than when I was doing a lot of weight work in the gym a decade ago.

So I usually only photograph the slow coaches, because I am barely putting any weight on the pedals when tailgating these folk.

I have tried to take photos of the speedy guys - like the 1750 - but it ain't easy when they are pelting along at 50km/h (as they tend to do). If anything, it's a good way to end up with a nasty dose of road rash.

I must say thanks to Aus-Autarch who pointed me at Busted Carbon. Fascinating site. I told Chook about it, and his comment was that his bike is the same model as the first photo on the blog! Not something to give one a lot of confidence in expensive carbon technology. The only carbon I have on my bike is the forks, and after seeing the photos of snapped forks (and reading about the resulting broken collar bones and arms), I am not so sure I want any carbon on the bike at all!

Anyway, I took a photo of the bloke above because I was intrigued by the green reflectors that he had at the top of each calf. I hope they weren't taped on!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Friday

Is it Friday already? What happened to Thursday? I know what happened on Thursday night - J asked me to watch the kids, and I promptly fell asleep on the couch. The last thing I remember is starting up Wall-E, and when I woke up, they were on to the next movie and well over an hour past their bed time.

Riding this week has been much tougher than last week. By tonight, my leg muscles were a mess. They weren't helped by a badly bungled hill start last night - I had to stop on a very, very steep hill for road works, and when I kicked off, my cleat failed to clip into the pedal properly. That foot slipped wildly off the pedal, I almost started going backwards, and I came within a bee's dick of falling over. The whole shambles resulted in me lightly tearing the quads in both legs. I didn't feel it at the time, but it certainly kicked in about 15 minutes later when I opened the taps in Lilyfield. It was bloody agony there for a minute.

This hasn't been helped by the pace of work picking up. I've had to dial back my departure to 7am, which is no bad thing, but I am not getting home until after sundown. I still try to pack in a full day of doing stuff, which means I am not getting as much rack time as necessary. That explains the impromptu snoozes after dinner.

Regardless of the sore legs, I rode again today. I thought about catching the bus for a few seconds, and then rejected that idea out of hand. So long as I can stand up, I will ride. The first wee hill was nasty - the legs just didn't want to go anywhere near it, but I managed to coax them to the top. I thought that by the time I got into town, they would have warmed up, and it would not hurt so much.

Silly me. They ached all the way from our backyard to the basement carpark at work. They even ached when I went out for lunch. They certainly ached on the way home. How nice to have the weekend to recover.

Speaking of which, time to go face down.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Monkeying around with a camera

It's fascinating what Monkey takes photos of.

Morning, noon and night

Morning. This bloke in front of me must have been freezing. It was 8 degrees when I left home, and not much warmer than that when I reached this set of lights. I think his secret is that he was a slug - a long downhill starts as we cross this intersection, and I generally zip down it at 50km/h. He slothed along at about 30, and I was stuck behind him due to the traffic. At 50, his nipples would have frozen solid in the wind chill.


OK, so I lied about the noon. Here is the almost night bit - ANZAC Bridge at dusk. The clouds looked a lot more orangey to me - the camera just doesn't pick some things up as well as the Mk I eyeball.


In this shot however, it almost looks like daylight! The bloke up front looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.


A sure sign of low light - the action starts to blur.


Schools kill creativity

Interesting talk. It's worth putting your feet up for 20 minutes and having a look.



The main thought that struck me is that if he is correct, the state school system is the worst possible way of delivering a creative education. That's because it will always be driven from the top down in a rather mindlessly bureaucratic fashion. If we want schools to "blossom", we need a much wider range of much smaller schools. A school of 100-200 kids is much more likely (in my mind) to be able to succesfully cater to the creative needs of a particular group of children than a monolithic entity of a thousand or more, with teachers and headmasters beholden to managers miles away in shiny offices.

Visualisation methods

This Periodic Table of Visualisation Methods is really interesting. If you hover your cursor over a box, a pop up appears explaining that method.

The best use of this would be to increase ones vocab of wank words for wank word bingo.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

31:9

31 to 9 - that was the result of my rigorously scientific investigation into the ratio of male to female cyclists on Monday morning. Call it 22.5% if you like. That surprised me, as I thought the ratio was more like 10:1.

On the flipside, with regard to pedestrians going over the ANZAC Bridge, my unscientific count puts the ratio at 10 women for every man. I have a theory about this, and it relates to sweaty hair. Men do not generally need to blow dry their hair after a shower. At least not manly men. Most women need to, as well as apply makeup etc. I have never worked with a bloke that wore makeup to work. They might wear makeup after hours, but not in the office. I think women simply prefer to go through that rigmarole in the privacy of their home, as opposed to a common shower area at the office.

If you ride, you have to wear a helmet, and if you ride any distance, your hair will be a sweaty mess. A shampoo after a ride is a must for me. If you choose to walk, you won't get as sweaty, so the whole shower/shampoo/blow dry/makeup thing is not an issue.

Would more women cycle if compulsory helmet laws were revoked?

Legs

I don't mind when I get dragged off by fit young blokes, but I have to draw the line at having dirt flicked in my face by fit old blokes. This bloke had a solid head of grey hair, looked about 20 years older than me, yet he proved impossible to catch. Damned old buzzards.


Check out his upper leg though - see that bulge on the side? That's a sure sign of a cyclist. I was amazed when I started growing that muscle when I first took up the bike a few years back. Imagine getting the largest rump steak you can find, then strapping it to the side of your thigh - that's how it looks. Not a bad set of pins for a bloke who was probably born in the 1940s.


Sand?

This ship has been parked at White Bay for a few days, discharging what looks suspiciously like white sand. Or 10,000 tonnes of cocaine.

As I've ridden back and forth across the bridge, I've watched front end loaders scooping up the sand and dumping it into semi trailers for a trip to goodness-knows-where. Are we that short of sand in Sydney that we have to import it?

This reminds me of an interesting factoid from Heaven + Earth. The snow in Antarctica is whiter than the snow in Greenland. That got me thinking - what colour is the snow in Greenland? I thought snow as white, wherever it falls, but apparently the stuff in Antarctica is so white, it reflects more heat, which is why the place is so bloody cold.

An unusual way to get doored

Being "doored" refers to an event where a stupid driver has failed to look in their wing mirror before opening their door, and has flung it open without warning into the path of a passing cyclist. It happens to me quite regularly - so regularly, I no longer get the urge to ride full pelt into the driver as they emerge from their car. I know to listen out for the tell tale "clicks" of doors being unlocked, or the slight wobble that a car develops as a driver shifts their weight in preparation for opening a door. I refuse to wear any form of headphones, knowing that losing the ability to hear a door opening could be the difference between a bit of swerving and swearing and a trip in a shiny white truck with flashing lights.

When I coming home on Monday, my phone started ringing. I was tossing up stopping and answering it, keeping on riding and answering it and not answering it at all when a door was flung open in front of me. Thank goodness I decided to leave it alone!

I took this photo from the top of the bike zig-zag that leads up to the bike path over the ANZAC Bridge. Note the taxi bongo van in the middle of the photo.


Most cyclists come and go via the red arrow (there's another street under that tree), and the biggest hazard here is taxis stopping illegally right on the yellow line that is there to prevent them from stopping in front of the bike path. If I had come that way, this taxi would not be a problem.


However, I came the back route today, which involves riding on the footpath for about 50 metres down to the bike zig zag. The taxi pulled up in the driveway in front of me, and just as I was about to go around behind it, I heard the tell-tale "click". It took me about 1/100th of a second to work out that the click was not one of the side doors - the driver had released the tailgate without bothering to look. I went as wide as I could, just as it started to rise right in front of me. If I had been a fraction slower, it could have caught me right in the guts, which would have been less than pleasant.

Every day on a bike in this town is an exciting day. Not always for the right reasons though.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Monday

Where do the thoughts of a cyclist begin on Monday? With the weather of course.

I am going nuts. It took me at least a dozen attempts to type that first sentence. My coordination is shot tonight.

The warm spell that we had over the weekend continued into Monday, giving me a morning of non-icy digits and warm arms. Within a few minutes of leaving home, I was cursing the idea of wearing a shirt under my jersey. However, I tempered that with the thought that if I had not worn that undershirt, I would be cursing the cold. Riding is a constant battle between being too hot and too cold. In the colder months, I prefer to be too hot than too cold.

It’s easy enough to stop if the heat really builds up and to remove a layer. I hate doing that – we must push on, push on!, but occasionally common sense breaks through and I will stop. Occasionally. At that point, I normally have so much steam rising through the vents in my helmet that I look like the cooling tower of a power station.

My philosophy therefore is to make the most of it, and to not regret decisions that have been made or to try and second guess them. Make a decision, then get on with it and accept what may. We don’t live in a Utopia, and we never will. Just deal with it.

My untrusty bike computer finally completed an entire trip without tripping out, so I now know that the shortest route into work by my new chosen path is 14.4km. I faffed around on the way home, took a few detours and finished the day at around 35km. All this is important, as it allows me to easily calculate weekly mileage totals and targets. Go to and from work each day the easy way, and I’ll do 144km. Take a detour each day, and I can hit 170km. Do that detour on the way to work as well as coming home and I can hit 200km.

The trick will be to build up in stages. The detour pretty much doubles the number of hills that I have to do, and when you are just used to zooming around on the flatlands, extra hills can be a killer. I’ve resolved to do one detour this week (today) and see how I feel on Friday. If I feel up to it, I’ll do another then. Next week, I’ll aim to stick to two detours, and then do three the week after. Etc etc. I have already hauled the belt in one notch with just a few short weeks of riding to work. If I can get the weekly totals heading north of the magic ton (100 miles), that belt will simply get shorter and shorter.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Keeping track of the rent, part 5

Week five of me tracking the high end of the rental market in Drummoyne, post code 2046.

This my original sample, taken 5 weeks ago. Here's progress:

  • 434 Great North Road ABBOTSFORD $700 - Finally seems to have moved after a month. This place was sold as a deceased estate back on the 1st of April, and was advertised as a place to renovate. I hope the new owners scrubbed it up before putting it on the market!
  • 85 Renwick Street DRUMMOYNE $750 - appears to have gone after a month.
  • 9a Wrights Road DRUMMOYNE $780 - still available after 5 weeks
  • 30 Preston Avenue FIVE DOCK $800 - price dropped to $780 - that appears to have done the trick, it is no longer listed
  • 20 Thornley Street DRUMMOYNE $900 - still available after 5 weeks
  • 6 Shackel Avenue CONCORD $950 - still available, and according to Google cache, it has been around since 26 May. That's now 10 weeks on the market, meaning the owner has lost $9,500 in rent. You have to wonder how long they'll hold out at this price. 16 Aug update - they finally drop the asking rent from $950 to $880. Let's see if anyone bites at the new price! Not only that, it is now listed with two agents - a sure sign of desperation, or exasperation at the first agent and the silly price they put on the place.
  • 32 Polding Street DRUMMOYNE $1,000- appears to have moved
  • 32 Barton Avenue HABERFIELD $1,000 - still available, but interesting to note that back on 18 June, it was listed at $670 per week. Something odd going on here.


This lot came on the market four weeks ago and are still available:

  • 3 Norman St FIVE DOCK - $1,000, still there after a month
  • 18 Fitzroy CROYDON - $900, but dropped to $800 on 9 August. A $100 drop. Things aren't looking pretty when the price drops after one week by that much. Still listed after a month.
  • 51 Macnamara Ave CONCORD - $750, no drop in price. The real estate agent says to "be quick". Ha ha. Four weeks and not a sniff.
  • 31 KINGS ROAD FIVE DOCK - $750 - seems to have been rented

New listings last week:

  • 2 Budd St DRUMMOYNE - started off at $900, still at $900
  • 688 Parramatta Road CROYDON - $770. According to the real estate agent, they managed to move it at $700 per week. Gone. However, the sales arm of this agency does not appear to be talking to the rental arm. The sales arm are trying to flog it based on an annual rental of $40,000 (which equates to $770 per week), but the rental arm have clearly leased it at $700 per week (annual rental of $36,400). Oops.

New arrivals this week:

  • 20 Burnell Street DRUMMOYNE - $750
  • 68 Abbotsford Parade ABBOTSFORD - $900

In short, business still appears to be slooooow.

Abstract


Anything wanky artists can do, a Monkey with a camera can do better.

Pollution is bad - unless done by Greens

Another in my brief series of Howard-hating stickers. This one was spotted in leafy Lane Cove today. How long is it since the last election? By jingo, we seem to be talking about another one already! Yet the muck spread by the Greens never seems to have a use-by date on it.

I wonder if the leftards will ever consider making their stickers out of bio-degradable material?

And what exactly is "Howard's agenda"?

Now I understand why it's all about CO2

I am maybe 1/3 of the way through Heaven + Earth. It's heavy going - it takes 2 goes to read a chapter, because I usually conk out halfway through. Then again, this is not unusual at the moment. Monkey kicked me out of bed at 0615 - on a Sunday! He just doesn't understand the concept of "sleep in".

That said, Heaven + Earth is well worth reading. I've learned more about astrophysics and other heavy stuff in reading a chapter of this book than I have picked up in my entire life to date. Plimer has tried to write an easily accessible book on the science, but I'm afraid the science is too dense to allow him to pull that off. Face it, this stuff is heavy going, no matter which way you look at it. It's like trying to plow through an Economics text book.

(I flew Perth-Sydney once when I was at Uni. I took an Economics text book to read on the plane. I was in the back row. The book put me to sleep before take off, and I was woken up in Sydney by a cleaner wielding a vacuum cleaner. When I got to the baggage carousel, my bag was the only one from my flight going around and round. So I don't blame Plimer for sending me to the Land of Nod on a regular basis.)

Anyway, I can see why the "Blame CO2" crowd have decided to indeed blame CO2. It's easier that way. There is very little knowledge to absorb. You don't have to wade through piles of dense research papers. You don't have to wrap your brain around the idea of the sun circling around the solar system centre of gravity, and the impact of the larger planets on the rotation speed of the sun's core. It did my head in to find out that the sun is pulled away from the solar system's centre of gravity by the big planets - I thought it was so big, it just sat there and rotated on its date (date meaning "backside" - if you can imagine a kid sitting on the slippery floor and spinning around on its bum).

I reckon it will take me a month of careful reading to absorb all this, and even then, I realise that Plimer has simply provided a primer. I'll have skimmed the surface of the science, and taken in only a minute quantity of the available information, theories, models and so on.

Now I am reasonably bright and well edumacated, so if it will take me a month to get a grounding where I think I can start to understand the science (and it may take me a second reading of the book to really get it), where does that leave the bulk of the population? Many seem to have trouble understanding the rules governing roundabouts, so I hold little hope that they will ever come to grips with the impact of cosmic rays on cloud formation, and the subsequent effect that cloud cover has on climate.

I can see why Algore went with CO2. If I had a choice between a simplistic theory that could be packaged and sold in 1-2 hours, and an impossibly complex set of theories that are a more accurate reflection of reality, but would require 30-50 hours of hard study - I'd go with the glib and easily packaged slogan. And get rich and fat.

I have come to a simple conclusion - CO2 believers are lazy sods. They couldn't be bothered to drag themselves away from the latest series of 24 in order to get some serious learning in their skulls. Sceptics can be defined by one simple characteristic - they are hard working enough to actually put in the effort to learn more. The warmenistas are children of the fast food "me" generation - they want it all now. They want their hamburger NOW. They'd rather eat their science from McDonalds than have a degustation banquet at a fine restaurant.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Some people just can't get over winning

Hey knobhead, get over it already. How long has it been since John Howard packed his bags and left the Lodge?


"Not happy John". Or as I like to think of it "no thappy John".

A good implement for a car-B-Q if you ask me.

What a difference a bike makes

Remember this fat bastard and his nasty wife?


He became known as the Minister for Speeding, lost his licence and was reduced to riding a bike to Parliament House.


Now look at him after a year on the bike. Lean, mean as ever, and angling to become Premier.


I wouldn't hold this turd up as a poster-boy for the benefits of cycling, but clearly even thuggish socialists can benefit from a bit of time spent furiously pedalling up and down the hills of Sydney. I reckon he quickly discovered that because he was taking longer to get places, he was spending more time away from his wife, which only encouraged him to ride more and more.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Fryday

Friday. Traditionally the hardest day of the working week for most people. Except Monday that is. Or Thursday, if you had a big night on the turps.

It's always the hardest on my legs. After a week of back and forth, they've had it. The lack of recovery time is especially telling around this time. I had to walk around the house with a stiff-legged gait last night because my thighs were so far gone, I felt that if I bent my knees, my legs would simply collapse underneath me.

I thought things were ok this morning, because there was absolutely no pain in my legs when I left home. Sometimes, the poor old things are so tuckered out, they respond with awful shrieks and groans when I first saddle up, but there was none of that today. They spun up quite happily, and we motored quietly towards the city. I had no intention of pushing them at all - just do the job, take it easy and get to work without any fuss or bother. Prepare for a weekend of rest.

Things were fine until I got to Hickson Rd. That long, flat strip of bitumen is just too tempting for me, especially since I was stuck for a while behind a lady on a bike who was as slow as a wet week. As soon as the traffic loosened up, I opened the throttle as far as it would go. I was off like a shot, Friday be damned.

I was chirping along quite happily at 40km/h when the oddest thing happened - my legs just cut out. Sure, they were still going around and around, but all the oomph had gone. There was no lactic acid buildup or steady increase in pain - they were feeling fine, but suddenly they didn't want to play anymore. No amount of urging neurons zooming down the nerves from the brain would coax them into life.

About a decade ago, I did a late night road trip with some friends to Melbourne. We were off to see a horse race (not Melbourne Cup - that is a tacky, tacky event. We were going to Derby Day, which is much more stylish). That meant leaving Sydney after dinner, and driving through the night.

It was around 3am, I was in the front seat, and I think Chook was driving, and we had two snorers in the back. It had been a long week, we were all a little punch drunk and it was about 200km since the last coffee stop. We were on a long, flat stretch of the Hume, and we had not seen a vehicle for ages - not even a truck. We were alone on a black deserted highway.

Suddenly, the engine cut out. It was the eeriest thing. Noise one moment, silence the next. Chook was poking the accelarator with his foot, looking around to see what was going on, checking to see if we still had fuel, but the car refused to respond.

Then, after a few seconds, the motor cut in again. Not long after, it cut out again.

It was around then that I figured out that the Falcon we were in had an engine cutout at 180km/h. We were so tired and woozy, we didn't realise that Chook had inadvertantly taken us up to the top speed of the car. You can get that way at 3am on the Hume.

My legs felt the same way. Full of power and thumping along one minute, coasting without fuel the next.

God, this getting old is a chore.

No speeding tickets for you

Spotted this classic bit of urban warfare against the Safety Nazis today. Behold, the simple tool of the guerilla - an Australia Post carton, of which many appear to be left sitting in the streets around the CBD.


And where did one of them end up?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Thursday

Thursday. Could be renamed "Thighsday", as in "aching thighs day". As soon as I hit the first hill, it feels like I've had lactic acid injected into the meat of both legs with a big bore needle. Bam, instant burn. It feels like half the muscle strands in each thigh have turned into biltong. This is typical for this end of the week. Friday will be worse. Riding 10 times per week, albeit relatively short rides, the body just doesn't get a chance to recover between workouts.

In a perfect world, I'd ride Mon-Wed, catch the bus on Thursday and ride again on Friday. However, don't ask me to catch the bus when I am still capable of movement. I'll take 45 minutes of muscle pain over being stuck in a sardine can with fat wobblers any day.

I decide to fire up a bit on Hickson Road, knowing that I may regret it later. The lights go green, I have a gentle downhill slope under me, so I power up to 40km/h as quickly as possible and hold it. That is as fast as the cars along this stretch can do. I know I can go faster, but it's a long stretch of road, and I want to be able to get right to the end, rather than burning out early. I enjoy myself by pacing the drivers that are searching for a parking spot.

Some get irritated at the thought of a bike going as fast as they are, so they speed up and blat past spots that they could have taken if they were going more slowly. I see the odd curse and thumped steering wheel, and watch for cars suddenly braking and yanking hard left in front of me. I am pumping like mad, yet my fingers are shadowing the brake levers, ready to switch from go to whoa in an instant.

I only hold 40km/h for a short period. I am desperately glancing at the speedo as the tempo starts to wear off - 39.6km/h, 38.8, 36.7 and so on. The leg burn is really kicking in at this point. I am not breathing hard by any means, but the thighs are cooking. I'm happy to do this, knowing that with every little episode like this, I will be fitter and faster next time. I just have to keep on pushing it, getting out of my comfort zone and into the world of pain.

I lie down on the couch with 'Heaven + Earth' after dinner. I read half a chapter before passing out. It is nothing to do with Ian Plimer's writing, and everything to do with a week of riding catching up with me.

Tomorrow is Fryday, as in the day my leg muscles fry after a week of abuse. I dread the thought of ever becoming a soft cock.

Longest suicide note in history

Senate rejects "carbon pollution" legislation. The longest suicide note in Australian history.

Good. The whole thing is a crock.

I hope I am the first person to use that term in this context. Must remember to Google myself tomorrow.

Like clockwork

I've gone past the two old guys here on the left every day for the last few weeks. They must leave at exactly the same time each morning, because if I leave on time, I meet them at the same spot on the Bay. If I am running late, I pass them much further down the road.


I can pretty much set my watch by where I meet them on the way to work.

Genetically modified.... what?

If he said afterwards that he'd had a long lunch with the boys, and had consumed 7 bottles of wine, I could understand it. But by the look of it, he's stone cold sober.

video

John Wood MP. Representing God-knows what.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Why we aren't driving jet cars

From here:

The thirstiest Rover car ever built must be the original JET 1 gas turbine car, without regenerative heat exchangers, which could consume kerosene at the rate of 1 or 2mpg! The final T4 turbine car could achieve between 10 and 20mpg.
Cool photos of Jet 1 here and here. I could see myself driving one of these. I had a look at this car in the British Science Museum about 20 years ago. I love this sort of styling.

What a difference half an hour makes

At this time of year, 0730 is a good time to hit the road. 0800 is just too late - by that time, the traffic has built up quite considerably, and a couple of intersections that I have to cross start to become a bit hairy. This photo shows what happens to the traffic - when I leave at 0800, by the time I get to this spot about 0808, the traffic is banked up 500-600 metres from the traffic lights that lead onto the City West Link (the red arrow). If I get here at 0740-ish, there are only 5 or 6 cars waiting at the lights. It's like the roads a quiet, then BOOM. Cars descend from everywhere.


So do the bikes. I counted 11 bikes in front of me (some are masking others in this photo) and more behind me. We were like a Mongol Horde when the lights went green.

One thing that struck me yesterday is that the sex balance was all our of kilter - for once, I was in the minority. I don't know where all the women came from - maybe they read my post about the lack of chicks on bikes, and thought, "We'll show this guy".

Thanks to the sudden blip in the temperature, everyone in this photo was sweating profusely. Note the steam on my camera lens from being in my back pocket!