Wednesday, 30 September 2009

So much for coldening

Too damned cold and windy to be bothered getting out of bed on Sunday.

31 degrees when I rode into town this morning (I left late, owing to an appointment with a tradesman). Hardly a breath of air. I expected to be sweating like a rather hot pig on arrival at work, but that was not to be. It was 31 and dry - most unexpected in Sydney. Normally, it's 31 degrees and the humidity is around 137%.

One thing about riding through winter is that I have maintained a tan all year round. Well, not a full body tan - more a cocky's tan. Brown forearms. Brown legs, but white feet. White everywhere else. Completely different to the kind of tan that you get lying on a beach in your budgie smugglers. All around me are pasty white people, who have spent the winter surrounded by numerous layers of warm things, but I think that is about to change.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Follow the eyes

I took a photo of this bloke to demonstrate the type of helmet that you could attach a camera to.


Then when I looked at the photo at home, I noticed where his head was pointing. Busted!

It's nasty and cruel to lock up kids - right?

Consider two stories about violent juveniles in the Telegraph today:


MORE than 30 drunken teens armed with glass bottles, rocks and wooden planks spiked with nails have bashed a family of seven in an unprovoked attack.

And it was all because Cairns Brothers rugby league player Neals Biehler, 23, told a teenage stranger he did not have a cigarette to give him.


A TEENAGER has been arrested over a stabbing attack on two men outside a pub in southern Sydney.

An 18-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were attacked by a group of six males outside a Hurstville hotel on the night of September 17. Both were rushed to St George Hospital suffering serious stab wounds.

The pair are still in hospital, with police saying they are in a stable condition.
Gee, it would be so unfair, wouldn't it, to lock these little bastards up.

Just because they have no compunction about bashing a stranger over the head with a lump of wood, or sticking a knife int their guts, it doesn't mean we should deprive them of their freedom for a while.

Like crap.

I don't care what the soft heads say about rehabilitation and jail being no deterrent - I simply don't want people like this roaming around our streets. I don't give a flying fuck if they go into prison illiterate, violent, angry and mentally ill, and come out illiterate, violent, angry and mentally ill - just so long as the time between entry and exit is about 10 years. That's 10 years of people not getting clobbered because these shits are locked away.

So what about their age? If they're old enough to be roaming the streets at 3am thumping people, they are old enough to serve their time.

Tight turns

The rather speedy 1750 have posted a set of rules that I can largely live with. I think you need to ride 100 miles a week for a while before you'll get most of them.

Under prohibited activities, they list:

Unclipping on tight ramp corners – learn how to ride before attempting the 1750
I have to agree with that one. I hate getting stuck behind gumbies on the Victoria Rd overpass that can't maneuver their bike around a couple of bends. However, this back route through Pyrmont to the ANZAC Bridge is a bit more of a challenge. At present, the foliage isn't that bad - at times, the path is buried under mouldering leaves and you have to hold one arm up to push the vegetation aside as you descend.


video

I have never made it around these bends without unclipping. I tried once, and ended up lying on my side in a bush.

Red light jumpers

Since we cyclists are regularly accused of jumping red lights, I thought I would present this short clip showing cars doing just that. And cyclists not.

video

Gumbies in all directions

Gumby number 1. How clever is it to stand in a marked bike lane pulling a cardigan on, and then stepping out without looking in the direction of oncoming traffic? Almost scratch Gumby Number 1.

video

Then we have Gumby Number 2, standing in a marked bike lane doing stretches and so forth, and then crossing the path without bothering to look either way. This one was much closer than the video makes out - I missed running over her toes by a poofteenth of an inch.

video


Monday, 28 September 2009

In the fast lane

I spent the weekend dicking around with the new action camera (woo-hoo, don't you love the exciting name they give these things?) and I managed to get some results. Here's me going onto the Anzac Bridge, and overtaking the normal sluggish commuter traffic.

video

A few points about the camera.

The batteries that it comes with last about 2 hours, and then you need to spend $80 on a rechargeable set. Do not even think about using cheap batteries - I did, and they lasted 27 minutes. This camera really needs a proper, purpose built battery like you get in a mobile phone or a decent digital camera, but I guess they shaved $50 or more off the price by going with AA instead.

Bastards.

The second is that this thing does not tolerate harsh light conditions. If it's too bright, or too dark, it's fucked. Riding in the shade on a sunny day produces the best results. Hmm.

The third is that trying to mount it on a bike helmet is an utter waste of time. In order to strap it to a helmet, you need an almost flat, solid surface. Bike helmets are mainly air ventilation holes surrounded by angular bits of plastic and foam. It would probably mount properly on my ski helmet (which is solid plastic with a few small ventilation holes) or a motor cycle helmet - but a bike helmet; forget it. If you try that, it will bounce all over the place. The effect is like watching footage shot by someone with a bad case of St Vitus Dance.

The other thing is that a bike helmet has no side support around the ears and jaw and down the back of the head, so it yaws and pitches quite easily; whilst a motorbike or ski helmet has that snug fit all around the head, so it offers a stable shooting platform.

In short, mount the flipping thing on the handlebars.

The camera does not come with an SD card, so I had to poach one out of an old camera lurking in a drawer. After finding that a 2GB card was not big enough, I swapped it out for a 4GB card - which is the limit on this camera. Don't know why it won't do more than 4GB, but that is good for maybe two hours or more. I was going to shoot the entire Spring Cycle from end to end, and 4GB would have been touch and go.

The buttons are really, really hard to use - especially the power button. I hate them. Everything is covered in thick rubber to make it waterproof, but it has almost made it user-proof.

For my needs, I really need something with more of a fisheye lens. The field of view on this thing is too narrow.

Anyway, watch the video and see what you think.

Oh, and as for editing the video........

I tried Windows Movie Maker, which I have used dozens of times to edit movies of the kids. No dice. Every movie I produced ended up being 90% green screen and 10% compacted movie. Something is not quite right.

So instead, I used Picasa to edit the movie. It took a while to get used to the different settings in Picasa, but in the end, it did a reasonable job. I just wish you could use it to cut out stuff that you don't want to keep. I would have reduced this video by 20 seconds if the editing tools were better. I'm sure there is some freeware stuff out there that will do this - I just haven't bothered looking yet. Or, I could of course buy a Mac. Heh. Spent $200 on a camera and then spend $3,000 on a Mac so that you can do good stuff with the footage from that camera (if I buy a Mac, it's going to be a good Mac).

Don't think so.

But back to the video. Here's my notes. I got stuck behind a gumby, who was puffing and panting and making this slope look really tough. It doesn't really show on the video, but when you see someone with a lot of arm flex (when looking from behind), it means they are working damnably hard. This guy was suffering. I was cruising at about 50%, barely putting any pressure on the pedals (or so it seemed to me). After 5 years in the saddle, I have to say, I have a mammoth amount of raw power in the legs. If I weighed 20kg less, I would have a very impressive power to weight ratio. As it is, all that power is nullified by me carrying the equivalent of two cartons of beer with me.

So I stayed with this bloke until the way past was clear, and then I was off. Because I had taken it easy on the first half of the bridge approach, I was well rested and full of juice.

Most of those that I was overtaking are new to commuting of course, and they haven't built up their legs yet. Give them time, and they'll move at a cracking pace as well. But this morning, they ate my dust.

Not bad for an old guy.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Sunday sloth

So much for being up at sparrow fart and doing an 80km ride. Instead, I slept in and slothed around the house, cleaning the bike and sorting out my riding gear. Since the weather looks like it is going to turn nasty for a while, I had to return to the shed to pull my winter gear out of storage. It sat in storage for precisely one week.

I think the thing that put me off riding today was a lack of mental preparation. My head is now all set to summer riding mode. As far as my riding brain is concerned, winter is over, and the foul weather is gone. It's now all about heat and sweat. Riding today would require the equivalent of a complete mental reboot. That was all too hard, so I sat down in a sheltered spot in the backyard and degreased the running gear.

That took three goes. You can get all sorts of very fancy and expensive lubricants for bike chains these days, and I have one variety for winter and another for summer. The winter variety is really sticky - it's designed to not wash off on wet days. Whilst that is a great attribute, it also collects grit and grime like old mental ladies collect newspapers, bric-a-brac and china dolls. And buckets. They always seem to have lots of buckets.

So I sit down with my degreasing brush, which is a very fancy $20 brush with three types of brush head for scrubbing different bits of the cogs and links, and within 30 seconds, my takeaway container full of orange degreaser has turned to black sludge. I scrub until all the degreaser has been dripped on the lawn, rinse the bike and wait for it to dry.

Half an hour later, I repeat the exercise. This time, it takes a minute for the takeaway container to be full of black sludge. Rinse and go inside to read a book.

Third time lucky - no sludge, but the degreaser ends up looking like the Exxon Valdeez had been in the vicinity. Rinse, and admire the gunmetal grey chain and groupset. Hmm, until today, I thought they were black.

Half an hour later, apply summer lube, and pack the bike away. Make mental note to degrease more often.

Big plans come to nought

I made plans to do the Spring Cycle this morning, including not riding on Friday and not drinking any beer last night. I was going to set the alarm for 0530 in order to be departing the start line in North Sydney by 0700.

The weather kiboshed all that. The cold front that dumped all that dust is still with us, and it's blowing a gale out there from time to time. I don't mind the odd bit of wind when riding to work - after all, if I don't get to the office, I don't get paid - but I am not so inclined to beat myself up on what is supposed to be a relaxing Sunday ride. It's ok for those that only ride occasionally on weekends - they can go out there and do a tough ride and feel good about it, but I'm doing 10 rides a week every week, and I'm only going to add an 11th if I know I will feel uplifted at the end of it.

Apart from the howling wind, it's bloody cold. The minimum dropped last night to 8 - it's been up around the 14 to 15 mark for the last few weeks. That would require visiting the storage containers in the garage and retrieving my winter gear, which I just put away.

I can feel a trip to the hardware store coming on, and a morning spent sorting out some rampant tomato bushes.

Keeping track of the rent, part 6

I've been slack and haven't kept up with the high end rental properties on offer around this way for a month. Most seem to have moved, apart from a place at 6 Shackel Ave, which is still on offer at $880 per week (down from an initial asking price of $950). It first came on the market (as far as I can tell) on 26 May. That means it is now in its 18th week of emptiness.

Hmm. 18 weeks times $880. $15,840. That's the GDP of small African countries.

Now for the other properties.

9a Wrights Road DRUMMOYNE - still on the market at $780 after 9 weeks.

32 Barton Ave Haberfield - now on the market for $900, down from $1,000 a month ago. Seems to have been on the market since mid June.

18 Fitzroy St Croydon - went on the market 2 months ago at $900, but has finally moved after 2 months by dropping the rent to $800.

20 Burnell Street DRUMMOYNE - went on the market a month ago at $750. Still on the market, but now listed at $650.

68 Abbotsford Pde Abbotsford - went on the market a month ago at $900, appears to have leased for $850.

What does this tell us?

High end properties are moving, albeit slowly, and they need to be discounted before anyone shows interest. Given that a year or two ago, tenants were fighting over properties and offering higher rents, this is a big turnaround in behaviour. If you are looking for an expensive rental property, the best thing you can do is offer a lot less than the asking price.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Putting the feet up

It's been a light week so far in terms of mileage. I took a day off during the dust storm, and took today off because I am doing the Spring Cycle on Sunday. Although I am doing the 50km route, by the time you add up getting there and then getting home from the finish line, the total will be more like 80km. And then I have to get up and ride to work the next day. And the day after that. So I am taking it easy, and resting the legs. Besides, it was nice to have a few beers after work, and feel like a normal person.

There was surprisingly little dust left in the air the day after the storm. I was expecting to be blowing red snot out of my snoz whilst in the shower at work, but nothing eventuated. Big hoo-ha, over faster than you can say "a-choo". The storm was accompanied though by a big drop in temperature - it was 31 when I rode home the day before, and no more than 22 on the day the dust hit. I suspect that was mainly due to the cold front that carried the dust with it, but I suppose the dust would have also cut down on all that solar radiation that normally hits us.

I read in the paper that some owners of luxury cars are "distraught" that their cars got dirty. Oh boo-fucking-hoo. Either that was the biggest media beatup of the year, or some people need to harden the fuck up. As the Devil would say, "They should be beaten to death with their own cocks".

I have splashed out and bought a proper "action camera" for mounting on the bike. The day after I ordered it, Kae emailed to say that Aldi are selling them for less than I paid. Aaaaargh! Anyway, no use crying over spent money, and besides, one of the major camera chains is selling it for $80 more than I paid, so I feel partly as if I got a good deal. The Internet really is a bastard of a thing - no matter how good a deal you find, five minutes after you buy something, you'll find it cheaper somewhere else.

The box has arrived, so I will spend the morning tinkering with it. Review to follow. We'll see if it is better than the gaffer-tape method.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Is this the 1750?

I'm afraid this is the last of the video for a while. The battery went flat on the video camera, which necessitated un-gaffer taping it from the handlebars. I cannot be bothered to go through the process of gaffer taping it back on.

video

On my way into town this morning, I heard a Foghorn Leghorn voice behind me, and got the feeling that a group that I see every now and then was on my tail. Was it the famous 1750? I let them (and every other cyclist) through, and hung around at the back of the pack shooting a bit of surreptitious video.

Juvenile detention and how to stick your head up your arse

I really, really love it when a government agency releases a grab bag of statistics and some "thoughtful commentary" to go with them. Here is the latest lot:


JUVENILE offenders who are sent to jail are just as likely to re-offend as similar law breakers who receive community orders, fines or other non-custodial sentences, a study shows.

The findings, released by the Australian Institute of Criminology, cast doubt on the deterrent effect of jail for young people and question the cost-effectiveness of detention.

'The idea that you can deter juvenile offenders by locking them up is wrong,'' said the lead author of the study, Don Weatherburn, who is director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
The story goes on and on, but it is written by Adele Horin, who is a notoriously wet socialist hag.

If you've been reading this blog for long, you'll know that I like to go to the source material instead of relying on the SMH to regurgitate and spin it. And that's what I did.

The first place I went was to the NSW bureau of Crime Stats and Research, where the author of the above report actually works. I found an interesting report on juvenile burglary which stated:

Even if the risk of apprehension for a burglary is as low as five per cent, the average offender will be caught after 20 burglaries. Some burglars commit this many burglaries in less than two months (Stevenson & Forsythe 1998).
Some burglars commit as many as 20 burglaries in less than 2 months. Remember that.

Stick with me:

As with previous studies, we assume that the rate at which a burglar or motor vehicle thief appears in court convicted of a burglary or motor vehicle theft is determined by the frequency with which they commit these offences. To be more precise, we assume that the more frequently people commit burglary and motor vehicle theft, the more frequently they are arrested and convicted of these offences. This assumption is supported by empirical evidence of a close relationship between self-reported offending and the frequency of arrest and conviction (Hindeland, Hirschi & Weiss 1979; Maxfield, Weiler & Widom 200, Farrall 2005).
Got the gist of that? The more crime a criminal commits, the more frequently they are arrested and convicted.

It gets better:

there are two groups of offenders involved in these offences; one of which offends and is convicted at a high rate, the other of which offends and is convicted at a much lower rate. High rate burglars are convicted at a rate that is more than 6.6 times higher than low rate offenders, while high rate motor vehicle thieves are convicted at a rate that is more than 8.5 times higher than low rate motor vehicle thieves. Thus, although high rate burglars make up just 6.4 per cent of the burglar population, they account for about 39 per cent of all convictions for burglary. Similarly, although high rate motor vehicle thieves make up just 4.6 per cent of the motor vehicle thief population, they account for 34 per cent of all convictions for motor vehicle theft. In short, the vast majority of high rate offenders were convicted at least once and many were convicted several times. The vast majority
of low rate offenders, on the other hand, were not convicted at all during the observation period.
The guts of that is that there are two types of crims - the persistent buggers and the minimalist offenders. High rate offenders were convicted at least once and many were convicted several times.

Early evidence provided strong support for the assumption that there are two distinct populations of offenders with different offending rates. Farrington, Blumstein and Moitra (1986) analysed the correlates of recidivism amongst offenders in the Cambridge Study of Delinquent Development and found evidence that there are two distinct groups, which they labelled, respectively, desisters’ and ‘persisters. Patterson,Debaryshe and Ramsey (1990) found evidence for what they call ‘early’ and ‘late’ starters and hypothesised that the genesis of offending in the former group lies in coercive parenting whilst for the latter group it lies in delinquent peer influence. Moffitt (1993) research also suggests a distinction between what she calls ‘adolescent-limited’ and ‘life course persistent’ offenders. She contends that the delinquency observed in ‘life course persistent’ offenders is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, whereas the delinquency observed in ‘adolescent-limited’ offenders is due to the onset of puberty and exposure to antisocial peers.

The way I read that is that some people are born losers. They start committing crime young, and they go on to commit it for life. Others fool around when the hormones kick in, and they grow out of it and become respectable citizens. Not all crims are the same.

Their disproportionately large contribution to the total volume of offending means that small reductions in rates of re-offending can be expected to have a significant effect on crime.
What that means to me is that we need to separate young crims into two groups. Those that are busted doing something stupid, but who are really just addled teenagers, should be let off with a warning - but they should still be stamped on hard enough to jolt them into behaving better. Those that are losers should simply be put away for as long as possible, simply to prevent them from doing what they do - which is commit crime. Alternatively, put an explosive collar with a GPS on them and let them go. If a burglary is reported, the police simply detonate any collars within say 1km of that address.

There is something else to note as to why youngsters are locked away. From this report at the AIC:

Crime types:

Violent - 43.3%
Property 34.4%

43.3% of juveniles were convicted for a crime of violence. Now if a teenager attacks another kid with a brick and takes a chunk out of his skull, I'd say the best thing to do is lock the little bastard up. Juveniles are not just in prison because they shoplifted a bag of lollies - many are in there because they are already nasty, drunken, drug-fucked, violent little psychopathic scumbags. Excuse me for suggesting that we keep them off our streets and out of our houses and cars and businesses.

In short, this story in the SMH is a crock of shit. Here's what we now know:

  • 43% of juveniles are convicted of crimes of violence
  • a prolific burglar may rob 20 houses in less than two months
  • the more crimes a crim commits, the more times they are arrested and convicted
  • high rate offenders commit 6 times more crime than low rate offenders, and they are likely to have been convicted multiple times
  • some juvenile crims are persistent losers who will go on to live a life of crime
Now, if the world was perfect, our juvenile prisons would be full of the highly prolific criminals, and first time offenders would only be locked up for something like stabbing someone else.

If that is the case, then consider perhaps two burglars who each robs 20 houses in two months, and is then caught and sent to prison. Before prison, they might rob 60 houses in 6 months - one every 3 days. After prison, one of them goes straight, and the other goes back to robbing - a 50% success (or failure) rate - which is what the study showed. Now, if they were in prison for 6 months, that means 120 houses not burgled. In the six months after they are released, it means a further 60 houses not burgled.

What would be the result if neither was locked up?

We know that 50% go straight, and 50% go back to crime. What it means is that in the entire 12 month period (6 months where they could have been in prison plus 6 months afterwards), 120 houses will be robbed. One robber will go straight, and the other will carry on robbing houses every 3 days. The difference between Plan A and Plan B is that when they are both in prison, no houses are robbed, which effectively halves the crime rate.

One would also hope that we are locking up the worst crims - those committing a crime every 3 days or so. If after a stint in prison, 50% go from committing a crime every 3 days to committing none, then I think that is a big success. What the author of this report does not allow for is that those that are not locked up may be committing occasional petty crimes, whilst those that are locked up are committing regular "felony" type crimes.

I could go on and on, but that's enough for one night.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

How are all those speed cameras working out?

Not too well me thinks - road deaths are way up on last year - 23%.

The director of the NSW Centre for Road Safety, Soames Job, said an extra 64 people had been killed to date on the state's roads compared with the same period last year.

Dr Job said yesterday speeding had increased as a factor in crashes this year. ''The pattern of crashes suggests that in response to the economic downturn, drivers are working harder, starting earlier and driving faster between appointments to try to maintain their income.
The fascinating thing about this statement is that it is made without any reference to evidence - apart from the number of people killed. This sounds like a wild-arsed theory to me; that the economic downturn is leading to more road deaths.

I'm not sure where he gets the idea of people working harder from, given that a lot of companies have cut back on the hours of their employees in order to cut costs. If anything, drivers should be starting later and working fewer hours than last year.

As for driving faster between appointments - don't make me laugh. The average road speed in Sydney has been falling for years, and I imagine it will be slower again this year than last when the numbers are added up. Road congestion is as bad as it ever was. It's pretty hard to drive faster when you're stick in gridlock that stretches over the horizon. Only yesterday, the newspapers were reporting that frustrated drivers in the north west of Sydney are driving on dividing strips in order to get around endless traffic jams.

There are plenty of possible reasons for why road deaths have gone up, but the reflex action of the road safety industry is to blame speed. I'm surprised it was not accompanied by a call for higher fines, more demerits, lower speed limits and more speed cameras.

Idiots.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Fashion victim

Snapped today - a raffish older gent in a bright yellow soft suit of some sort. Seriously, it was much brighter yellow in the flesh than the camera makes out.

What were you thinking?

Splitting Telstra - 2010's stupidest idea

Anyone remember what Telstra was like back when it was either Telecom or the Post Master General's Department? I do, and if I recall correctly, its service was absolute shit. People loathed Telecom with a passion - and that loathing was so fierce, when Optus came along, it went from nothing to a company with billions in revenue in no time at all. People were desperate to get away from Telstra.

I am not a big fan of Telstra. I use some of their products, and I have had many, many dealings with them through work. Most of those dealings have been frustrating, expensive and unpleasant. However, I have also dealt with every other carrier in Australia, and my experiences with them have been about the same. A pox on all their houses. Telstra regularly gets caned for its behaviour and performance, but that does not mean that it is several orders of magnitude worse than TPG, Soul, Optus, Vodafone, AAPT, Virgin, Pipe, PowerTel and so on. These companies can be total shockers - but they are insulated or protected by being so much smaller, and therefore less visible, than the 800 pound gorilla known as Telstra.

The saving grace of all these companies is that they are private companies. They are at least driven by market forces and beholden to shareholders. That means that they occasionally have some good features, and at odd times, they impress even the most hardened sceptics.

But from what I can see, the aim of the federal government is to create a Telecom Mk II. A government owned clusterfuck beholden to a boneheaded minister in Canberra. A government authority immune to market forces and unrestrained by shareholders; yet nourished by taxpayer largesse. Telstra has spent years shedding the bureaucratic sloth that decades of public sector employment conditions and union feather-bedding created. And now, we're going to do it all over again.

Hate Telstra all you like, but please don't tell me that you think Conroy's fantasy is a good idea. My bet is that he wants to be the Mussolini of the digital age - making the bytes run on time, or whatever. Conroy should remember that Mussolini ended up being strung up by his heels from a lamp post.

This could be fun.....

Sydney severe weather warning: 100km/h winds on the way

Interestingly enough, although this story is posted in the Environmental section of the SMH, no blame is cast on global warming for the storm. Someone needs to tell Georgina Robinson, who penned the article, that she needs to work a catastrophic global warming/climate change angle into every story like this one.

Isn't piracy costing movie companies millions?

THE global cinema industry has recorded its biggest summer box office despite, or perhaps because of, the global financial crisis.

The $US5.8 billion ($6.7bn) take improved on the record 2007 summer figures by 7 per cent -- a figure that is surprisingly strong given recessionary malaise in other media.
The headline for the article blames the global financial crisis.

However, I believe the real reason can be found further down the article:

Zoradi believes if Disney is careful with four key factors, it can make just about any movie and be consistent with its brand.

The first is having a positive message. The second is an "unspoken pact with moms and dads around the world" not to have bad language in its movies. The third is that any romance stops short of having parents sitting next to their 12-year-old and feeling uncomfortable about sexual innuendo. The fourth is that action/adventure stops short of "bone-crushing, bone-splitting violence".

"If we do those four things, you can really define a Disney movie broadly," he says.
In short, it you make good movies that don't put large segments of the viewing population off, you'll rake in the cash.

If you ask me, the slump at the box office in recent years had more to do with the utterly execrable content that was being produced than anything else. Studio moguls conveniently blamed piracy when the real reason was their failure to produce a large number of watchable movies.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Harvard

I found out recently that a bloke I know is currently spending some time at Harvard getting a degree or diploma in something or other.

Now this bloke was never the sharpest chisel in the toolbox. He's obviously worked hard over the last decade or two, and has climbed the corporate ladder quite successfully. Which is odd, as he was never that hard working when I first met him. But he always had plans... and dreams. Big dreams.

Anyway, I thought you had to be ultra-bright to get a place at Harvard. I guess I was wrong, or standards have slipped. I'm not trying to put him down, but I just never though that he was in that league.

Another illusion shattered. I wonder if I have any left?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Avoiding the left turn wipeout

The last in my short series of gaffer-tape enabled videos from the handlebars of my bike.

If I had the money, I'd spend it on one of these point of view cameras, and mount it on my helmet. Since the one that I want costs $600, I think I will just sit that purchase out. However, as this video shows, they might have their uses.

In this short video, I deftly avoid being taken out by a car turning left in front of me. There's several reasons for that - I was awake and noticed early on that the driver was indicating a turn; the driver gave plenty of notice that they wanted to turn, and the driver noticed me and slowed almost to a stop in case I went shooting down the inside. In short, two sensible and polite people saved the day.

video

Where it all goes pear shaped is when you have drivers that go flying past you, then turn rapidly across your bows with minimal if any indicating. The worst are impatient drivers who can't bear to wait for 4 or 5 seconds, and think that their WRX/other wanky sports car is fast enough to get in front and turn the corner before the slow old cyclist gets to that same corner. What many don't appreciate is that a good cyclist can be doing 40km/h or more on a stretch like this - a stretch where the speed limit is only 50. A legal speed advantage of less than 10km/h isn't enough to get a car far enough in front to turn safely - that is, without getting a bike embedded in the rear panel.

This is one of the more common bike/car prang types. Many would say that the solution is patience, but I always tend to think that this would be the answer - if I could work out how to ride with both hands off the bars and fire a few rounds through the back window without falling over.



I'm sure bus drivers experience similarly stupid behaviour in bus lanes, where cars come flying up on their right, then duck across in front of the bus in order to take a left turn. There must be a few buses currently in the repair shop getting a crushed WRX removed from under their front suspension.

A monkey in the kitchen

Although I cop a fair amount of grief for doing so, I allow Monkey to make his own sandwiches and crackers. He can be a bit hit and miss though - some days, the butter is spread beautifully across the toast from corner to corner. On other days, the toast is a soggy slab of mush floating in a sea of molten butter. And don't start me on spreading the peanut butter - his idea of doing it is "one scoop for me, one scoop for the bread". He sticks the knife into the jar, licks the peanut butter off the end, then sticks it in again and puts some on the bread as he chews the bit in his mouth.

Repeat.

Here we have his effort from this morning. I don't know what went wrong here. Reminds me a bit of a Star Destroyer from this angle.

And so they learn. Two steps forward, one step back.

Uniforms

For crying out loud, I put up one post about Mullumbumboy and half the loons in the universe descend.

Ok, two or three loons. But that is a lot for me. I am not used to loons. This is a quiet backwater in the greater blogsphere, with not a lot of action. A few loons show up and it's like the Hell's Angels visiting a small country town for a bit of R&R (rape and wreckage).

I should explain that Junior goes to a public school (aka government school or state school), not a private school; yet his school has a strict uniform policy. At least what passes for "strict" in the state system. I think they reckon their policy is working if 50% of the kids turn up each day wearing one item of regulation uniform. Standards have clearly slipped since I was put on detention for not pulling my socks up and told to clean the play ground because I had not polished by black leather shoes that morning.

The uniform that they get these days is what I would have called a sports outfit back in my day. Polo shirt, sloppy pants that are halfway to tracksuit pants, and black sneakers. Gone is the tie, blazer, long socks and polished leather shoes. And I mean polished. Even in junior school, we sat down each morning and gave our shoes a spit-polish shine.

Anyway, Junior's Principal is always pushing the uniform policy, and we back the Principal to the hilt. Junior used to do his best to flout the rules by losing or wrecking bits of uniform that he didn't like. However, he found that it was much worse to have me drive him to school, and then visit the uniform shop with him to purchase a replacement item. The cringe-worthy impact of walking through the school grounds in full view of every other kid with a parent, particularly one in a suit, is not something to sneeze at.

Especially when you point at girls and say loudly, "Is that Emily, the one you like?", or say hello to his friends, but call them by their full name (eg, "Hello William, you left a pink sock at our place on the weekend", instead of "Hi Bill"). When you do that, you just know he is going to cop grief for the rest of the week.

And then there is the small talk that you loudly make in the shop with other parents; should Junior join the interpretive dance troupe, the problems of getting a teenager with an erection out of bed in the morning and so on. Is there anything teenagers hate more than being discussed in front of other adults?

He found that the prospect of having me on the school grounds was more horrifying than wearing his uniform properly, so I guess we have had a small victory.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Red light jumping gumbies

I hate people that fail to stop at red lights, whether they are on two wheels or four. The bloody lights are there for a reason, and clowns who get busted skipping them get what they deserve.

There's a certain class of cyclist that does it all the time. I don't know whether they think the road rules don't apply to them, or that it will get them to their destination a minute or two sooner.

I've therefore decided that if I am waiting patiently at the lights and a bike goes past me with utter disregard for the red, I am going to wait for green and then chase them down and catch them. I did it a few times this week, just to prove to myself that skipping the lights won't get gumbies there faster than me. One bloke started with a lead of several hundred metres, and I caught him within a minute or so. The annoying thing is that although I had gaffer-taped a video camera to my handlebars, the bloody thing had slipped forward and all I filmed of the chase was my front tyre racing over the bitumen.

Passing these clowns is doubly rewarding. They think they're too cool for school by blasting through the intersection, but in reality, most are piss weak when it comes to power, stamina and fitness. Taking them out is a must. I wonder what they are thinking when they zip past the old fart waiting at the lights, going "Goodbye grandpa", and then the wrinkly bastard powers past them on the next hill without even getting out of the saddle or puffing heavily.

So I therefore present this video of some puffing, out of the saddle people. Some cyclists really make a meal of it, standing up and chuffing away at the slightest provocation. I was slightly frustrated by this pair, because they went up the spiral quite a bit slower than I normally do, and there was no way I could get around them.


video

That said, when we got to the top, the green guy took off, and I just went bleah and watched him tear off into the sunset.

Feel like working under Bob Brown?

Senator Bob Brown is looking for a Senior Media Adviser. Got no idea why - Bob is such a media darling, he has no trouble getting his mug on TV regardless of whether he has anything useful or sane to say.


In line with qualification inflation, they want someone with a degree in journalism. Can anyone explain to me what the attainment of a degree in journalism (or media) adds to the sum of human happiness and achievement?

When I rule the world, all faux degree courses like this will be abolished, and those teaching them will be first against the wall.

Stupid, disconnected bike lanes

I branched out today and gaffer-taped a video camera to my handlebars in order to bring you one minute of cycling in the city. Generally, my trip to and from work is pretty safe; most of it is done in bike lanes or off road bike paths. However, there is one short stretch where there is a huge disconnect between a north-south bike route and the main bike route going west. I have tried a variety of different ways in order to make navigating this section as safe as possible, and none of them have worked out that well. This clip shows the latest method, which I think sucks.

Here's the problem. I'm riding along a really nice bit of bike lane going south on Sussex St, and suddenly it peters out into nothingness. You go from your own lane to being jammed in with two lanes of cars. No big deal, except it happens where the road suddenly slopes upwards (cutting your speed) and the road surface turns to crap (cutting speed even further). I am a great believer in speed - if I can go as fast as the traffic around me, the drivers will generally respect me and give me space and an easy time. If I move like a slug, drivers get cranky, and bad things can happen. Therefore, I avoid like the plague any busy sections of road where I am unable to pound along at traffic speeds. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding this particular section, which is why I hate it so much.

Anyway, in order to join the main westward trunk, I need to turn right at a spot where a purpose built bike lane joins a bike/pedestrian bridge. I think this particular route carries the largest amount of bike traffic going in and out of the city, so it is not an unknown, insignificant intersection. However, our idiot planners have not seen fit to link the two routes together, so expediency is the order of the day.

Normally at this time of day, the traffic along this section is going nowhere, so I can ride up between the two lanes of stalled cars and then duck right onto the pedestrian bridge. However, there are days when traffic actually flows in Sydney, and today was one of them. As the traffic started to move, I jumped in with a motorbike, and then did my best to crank it up the hill and through the pot holes, keeping up with the cars as best I could. If the lights had gone red as I approached, I could have stayed on the road, then turned right at the end onto the pedestrian bridge. But the gods of traffic were against me, so I had to leap onto the footpath (being careful not to get fouled by the inch high lip of concrete on the driveway), and then mix it with the pedestrians before crossing the road with the bike flow and reaching the pedestrian bridge.

video

I'm not happy with that at all. I know some cyclists take great delight in leaping from road to path and back again whilst showing complete disdain for motorists and pedestrians alike, but I hate that attitude. I'm sure the problem here is the totally fucked attitude of the RTA. Could you ever see a road engineer designing two freeways that cross each other, but don't connect?

Friday, 18 September 2009

Friday fog

Ok, the fog really happened yesterday (Thursday), but I am putting up the pics on Friday. Besides, Friday fog sounds better than Thursday fog.

I have some photos taken earlier than this one, but there is no point in putting them up. They're just a blank wall of grey. Visibility was pretty low.



And then suddenly I was out of the fog, and into the realm of dickhead drivers - like this tool double parked across the bike lane. That must be the world's most crap double park.


A member of the Lidcombe Auburn Cycle Club, instantly recognisable by his jersey. These guys take their racing seriously. I didn't try to overtake - that could have sparked some nasty duelling.


When I saw these two, my immediate thought was that the bloke on the left was wearing the most gay shorts I have ever seen.


Then they took off, and left me for dead. I had new found respect for Mr Gay Shorts. Mr Gay Shorts also had some fun with the traffic cones we came across just down the road - he darted inside the line of them, and started knocking them over with his right hand. Unfortunately, he spotted me taking his photo, so he stopped just as I snapped this pic. Damn. It looked pretty cool to see him doing it. However, it wouldn't have been cool if one of the cones had bounced in front of me. Hmm.


And that was the week. Just over 140km on the bike. Not far enough, but sufficient to have me snoring on the couch again after dinner, and craving a big bottle of Coke.

Picking apart the news

The SMH is notorious for publishing stories about "men of no appearance"; unless they happen to be white:

The man was described as being of white or European appearance and about 170 to 180 centimetres tall. He was wearing black pants and a short-sleeved shirt.

A white dickhead in Wollongong - can't be too hard to find.

The online edition does not feature the artwork that appeared in the paper edition, but I am pretty sure that this story on missile defence used the widely discredited fake photo of Iran's photoshopped missile launch.

It was hard to tell, reading the paper in a cafe, as they had only used part of the image. However, knowing the SMH, I would not put it past them to use an image that everyone outside the MSM believes to be fraudulent. I guess the facts don't matter, as long as the image fits the meme. Or whatever.

Which is why the only place you will find me reading a Fairfax paper in in a cafe, where they are free.

A slightly tougher cycling environment

I have added another blog to my list - one about a 56 year old bloke who is serving in Iraq, and who rides his bike a lot.

I like this idea of drivers losing their job if they hit someone on a bike:

From my perspective, about half the bus drivers are South Asians who come from cultures with no tradition of chivalry. The traffic laws follow Darwin's rules. The bigger vehicle has the right of way. Bikes yield to everything. I dealt with this all over Asia. Here on base the bus drivers know if they hit a guy with ARMY across his chest they are gone and lose their job. But their instinct is to pull out in from of the little vehicle. So when they do it, I just keep pedaling. They back off, cursing me in whatever language they speak. But the more I do it, the less I have to do it. They get the idea that this is not Mumbai or Bangkok and buses do not have absolute right of way over bikes.

These mileage numbers are quite awe inspiring:

Before the other story, a milestones update:

As of today I have ridden almost 4000 miles this year including 2100 miles here in Iraq.

I don't have an exact number here, but I am now over 150,000 miles since I started riding seriously in 1986, the year I quit smoking. Of those miles, 75,000 are since January 1, 2000. If I go back to racing there is a good chance I will increase my total miles to 200,000 miles within the next 7 years.

He's been at it almost 20 years longer than I have, but he's done about 10 times the mileage I have. Must do more miles.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Heat and fog

Reminder to myself - check weather forecast before going to bed.

I was pottering around this morning, reading a few blogs and passing the time when I remembered to check the forecast. Fuck! Max of 30 degrees!

I threw my kit on and shot out the door, the aim being to be on the road whilst it was still "cool", and avoiding cooking on the way into the office. There's nothing worse than getting hot and bothered on the way in, and then stewing in a suit for a few hours because your core temp is way higher than usual.

No sooner was I on the road though than I ran into a wide belt of fog. It was thick enough to reduce visibility to less than 100 metres, and although the sun had been up for 90 minutes, I turned the lights on. Not taking any chances in getting wiped out by a sleepy driver not seeing me in the mist.

The thing about fog is that it's cold. Within seconds, I couldn't see through my glasses because of the fine layer of water drops that had formed. It's ok when it rains - enough water hits the lenses for it to run off, so you can sort of see through them. However, with fog, the water drops on the surface never coalesce into drops that are big enough to slide off under gravity. Instead of it being hot, I was almost starting to shiver. So much for worrying about the temperature hitting 30!

That didn't last long. The fog was restricted mainly to the higher ground around Five Wog ("higher ground" meaning about 50 feet above sea level). Once I hit the Bay, I was soon out of it.

There's an island in the middle of the Bay, and it was half shrouded in fog. One half was completely hidden, the other half was in bright sunlight. My photos turned out badly - I might post some tomorrow if I can be bothered.

It was an interesting sort of ride - haven't ridden in fog for ages, and I didn't expect it when things are warming up so much. We put a great deal of effort into avoiding the weather in our modern lives - climate controlled cars, climate controlled offices, climate controlled homes, shopping malls and so on. Who still drives around with a window open? Only smokers by the look of things. One can spend two hours driving around in a car these days, and have no idea what the weather is like outside. The bike strips all that away - it's a bit like going primitive.

The legs are getting tired as the end of the week approaches, although feeding them bananas seems to help. I had one before leaving the office, and fairly tore home. Nothing like a nice little carbo rush to assist with turning the pedals. That didn't last long though - I had dinner, and flaked out on the couch again. Boom, out like a light.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Some statistics on junkies

I was interested in how much heroin your average junkie puts away per day. I started with a report from NDLERF (whatever that is) that states the mean expenditure per week by junkies on heroin is $1200.

Twelve hundred dollars! That's sixty grand a year! The report mentions one bloke who claimed to spend $12,500 per week, but those collecting the statistics did not find that junkie to be credible. Funny that.

85% of junkies in the sample were unemployed. Even so, their mean income was $1,600 per week, which is well above the average weekly income in Australia. Junkies are not necessarily poor. In fact, that puts them in the top tax bracket. Their problem is not income; it's how they spend their income. When you consider that none of that income would be declared to the Tax Office, you can see that junkies have tremendous spending power - more than most of the people reading this blog. Just imagine having $80,000 a year tax free!

As for how they get their money, half had committed a crime in the last 30 days. By crime, I mean assault, robbery, theft and fraud.

The mean age of starting on heroin was 19.

96% of junkies smoke.

A junkie will spend between $350 and $700 on a transaction, meaning junkies are flush with cash.

About 30% had contact with the police between once a day and once a week. Think about that - how often do you, as a law abiding citizen, have contact with the police? I was breathalysed a few months ago. Apart from that, I have had no contact with the police for about a decade. Some crooks are definitely frequent fliers when it comes to using police time.

About half were in some form of drug treatment program. Half had also been to a doctor in the last 30 days. According to this report from Victoria, junkies are also big consumers of ambulance visits, thanks to overdoses. The graph on the last page appears to show a peak of 450 ambulance visits per month at the peak of an overdose epidemic back in 2000. And that's just Victoria.

How does a junkie get his hands (and 66% of the sample were male) on $80,000 per year, especially when 85% admit to having no paid employment? Welfare will only get you so far, as will prostitution (which accounts for 30% of junkie income). It's estimated 35% of their income comes from property crime.

Given that stolen goods sell at a significant discount, how much does a junkie have to steal to earn $80,000 a year? Apparently the discount rate is 50%, and 35% of that comes to $28,000. Double that, to remove the 50% discount, and we find that your average junkie needs to steal $56,000 from us per year, or over a grand a week.

How much does it cost to lock someone up? According to an AGSM report, it's $33,000 per year (although these numbers are old, and need to be increased to account for inflation):

The average annual cost per prisoner for 1986–87 ranged from $43,970 in South Australia, to $24,568 in Tasmania. In NSW the figure was $40,880, and the weighted average for Australia $34,570 (Walker 1988, Table 8).
Also:

Wardlaw’s (1981, p.45) study of the criminal records of 1,314 randomly chosen Australian drug offenders led him to conclude that the tendency for the drug habit to cause the user to embark on a criminal career had been exaggerated. Dobinson and Ward (1985, p.48), in their study of 225 property offenders in NSW gaols, found that, although 72% reported a first instance of property crime before the first use of heroin, only 42.6% reported that they had progressed to “regular” crime before they became regular heroin users.
Now for some thoughts........

If junkies are stealing $56,000 per year from the general public, and more on top of that in welfare benefits, but it only costs $33,000 to lock them up, then why do people complain about the cost of locking up junkies? From what I can see, locking them up has a cost:benefit ratio of 2:1 (if you include welfare payments). The ratio goes up even further if you can find a way to incarcerate them cheaply, such as sending them to Tasmania. The ratio goes up to 2.75:1 at Tasmanian prison costs.

I am not arguing that we should lock them all up. As someone with a libertarian bent, I believe that if you want to stick shit into your arm, go right ahead. However, I also believe in property rights, so that if someone with an arm full of shit breaks into my house, I am perfectly entitled to blow their head off.

I'd prefer to see junkies given a prescription and allowed to buy cheap heroin from chemists. Hell, I'd even give it to them, if it will stop them smashing car windows and stealing GPS units and so forth. However, given that most started on a life of crime before they started on drugs, we have to remember that these are not mainly junkies with a criminal problem; most are criminals with a drug problem. I am not sure that free heroin will stop their thieving ways.

I've been to Holland, and sampled the hash, and I can tell you that hard drugs are just everywhere, and property crime is out of control. Junkies appear to be addicted to thieving more than they are addicted to heroin.

I surmise that if they gave up injecting heroin, they'd continue stealing; they'd just find other ways to spend their loot, such as a nice car, flash clothes, or spending lots of time at the pub or casino. These are not people who are particularly interested in holding down a "boring" job, working for the man - assuming that they are still functioning sufficiently to ever tempt someone to employ them.

Given that most junkies are going to be a drain for the rest of their lives, I'd do the following:

  • Get used to the idea that most will be a dead loss. Few will reform. Most will die much younger than the rest of us. Let's just minimise their impact whilst we are stuck with them.
  • Move them to a location where their wastoid lifestyle will have the least impact on the rest of us. Somewhere up the north coast perhaps, where the living is easy and housing is cheap. Supply them with all the free heroin they want. If they want rehabilitation etc, make it available. But let's not get all wowserish and nanny-ish about it. Just leave them to their injecting and early deaths and leave them alone.
  • Take their kids away for good, and cut their balls off if they breed another.
  • Build a tent city prison. If they are caught stealing, or selling their heroin, they can spend the next 5 years or so in the cheapest prison accommodation that we can provide. Vegemite sandwiches three times a day. Make it somewhere remote, so you don't even have to bother with fences. If they escape, who cares? They'll be back sooner or later.
  • Dye them green. If they are found outside their prison, or away from their idyl on the north coast, they can be shot on sight. Pay a bounty of $50 for every dead "greenie".
  • If they can show that they can support themselves by not resorting to theft or relying on the public tit (eg, Brett Whitely), they can live wherever they like and carry on in whatever fashion, so long as they don't break the law. I have no problems with people with an occasional drug habit, or the means to support a nasty drug habit.
That should fix things.

On ex-Premiers and idiot criminals

From an interview with Brian Burke in The Aus yesterday:

After a swipe at the Barnett government for its tough approach to mandatory sentencing, Mr Burke shared a laugh with Maumill who asked him about his time in jail for a 1994 travel rort conviction.

"Did you meet anyone in there who was being rehabilitated, apart from yourself?" Maumill said.

Mr Burke replied: "It would take too long to tell you about the people I met. But I can tell you this; I met no one in jail who was better for being there."
Questions Burke was not asked:

"After being locked up for rorting your travel allowances, would you do it again, or would you say that the threat of prison provides no disincentive for you to continue your criminal behaviour?"

Idiots like Burke love to say that prison is a waste of time, it fails to rehabilitate etc etc, and we should not lock so many people up.

However, it seems clear that his criminal career was brought to a screaming halt by a term of incarceration, and he shows no signs of wanting to pick up where he left off. In that case, I would say that prison definitely worked, and the fact that no more politicians have been charged with travel allowance rorts shows that all and sundry have learned a good lesson from his example.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Four views

Whilst I can see the point of these fold up bikes for short commutes, I doubt you will ever see me on one of them. Whenever I see one, I am reminded of monkeys riding bicycles at the circus. My big complaint, as usual, is that they just aren't fast enough. I feel the need - the need for speed.


Forget the bike - it's the satchel I am interested in. I was wondering if that striped hi-viz red and yellow stuff was purposely put there to make the rider more visible from the rear. If so, it's a good design principle - funky, yet functional. I hate satchels by the way - they always have a tendency to slip into the wrong position.


Judging by the amount of bum crack this bloke is showing, he must be a brickie.


And then we have our daily speedy person. He was very nice, and didn't pound along at full power, allowing me to keep up and admire his form. Have a look at him (he appeared to be in his early 40s) and then read this article.

Now I am not normally a keen observer of the male buttocks and so on, but I had to admit that this bloke was very "fit" in an English sense. Do the ladies really get offended when a well toned bloke like this pulls up in front of them at the lights? Or do they follow him for a while, watching the action of his glorious glutes?

Twats at The Australian

It's twat time again, but this time at The Aus, rather than in the stables of Fairfax.

Before retiring for the evening last night, I read this evisceration of an article in The Times regarding global warming and the Northeast Passage.

Lo and behold, when I arose from my slumbers and found my way to the breakfast table, I was presented by the same article in The Aus, lifted straight from The Times.

I guess no one at The Aus bothered to do a bit of checking in order to find whether Tony Halpin was talking shit or not. Then again, he was writing nice things about climate change, and no one ever bothers to fact check that stuff.