Saturday, 31 October 2009

More idiots

There are good days on the road, and then there are bad days. On Friday, I copped it from idiots of all types. Here is another one, overtaking by going into the bike lane.

video

As my favourite swear blogger would say, this bloke should have a wheel spoke jammed up his Jap eye.

Questions they won't ask

In the great tradition started by Margo's Maid, here are my humble efforts for Q&A next week:

To David Marr.

It must have taken real guts to publish something nasty about Bob Askin after he was dead.

Will you have the same courage to open a newspaper in front of Tony Abbott when he is making a point, knowing that he is likely to tear it out of your hands and set fire to it?

(My real thoughts are that Abbott should roll the newspaper up, jam it up Marr's bum and set it on fire if he tries that stunt again).

----------

To Bill Shorten.

An ETS is likely to cost a family like mine $1,000 to $2,000 per year. I dare you to walk around the audience with a credit card machine and ask members to pay that amount to Kevin Rudd, knowing that they will have to pay that much and more for the rest of their life.

Let me know how many takers you get. Just make sure they are using their own credit cards, not government cards.

Idiots, part whatever

What sort of fool passes on the left - not once, but twice?

video

Friday, 30 October 2009

"They didn't do anything wrong."

"They didn't do anything wrong." Makes me sick.

  1. Teenager takes car without parents permission
  2. Teenager steals mum's credit card
  3. Teenager and friends bunk off from school
  4. 16 year old driver was given car for birthday in May. If the dates are right, she is too young to be on P plates. As a learner driver, she should not have been driving without an adult in the car.
I could probably go on.

But to say these kids did nothing wrong? Crap! How about taking responsibility for your actions. You fucked up, and your friend died. You are responsible. Actions have consequences. That sucks, but that's the truth. Face up to it.

Green power and pot holed bike tracks

Bloody greenies. If you ever take a drive around Leichhardt, you'll see that every second power pole has a sign on it saying that the council uses Green Power.

Given that Green Power is more expensive than the regular coal fired stuff, subscribing to it must put a hole in the council budget. Council rates are capped by the state government, so if the council spends our money on stupid things, it has less money to spend on sensible things.

We're lucky here in wogville - we only have one feral, insane Green on the council, so they can be safely ignored. Our council tends to spend our money on fixing tangible, useful things that are falling apart (drains, roads, paths, playgrounds etc) whilst Leichhardt blows hard earned cash on feel good schemes that add nothing of value.

Case in point. When going around the Bay Run, you'll see three classes of paving. Canada Bay has one Green councillor - pavement quality is very good. Ashfield has a few more (I think) - pavement quality is dodgy. Leichhardt has a Green Overlord - pavement quality is on par with African goat tracks. The paths in Leichhardt would make Bob Mugabe proud.

Here's an idea. If you build better bike paths, more people will cycle. That will slow the growth in the number of cars on the road (I never believe that bike usage will grow to the point where car usage goes into reverse). But if you blow all our money on stupid schemes, no bike paths will be built, and cycling will not grow sufficiently to be of any real benefit.

But you can't explain those sorts of concepts to a Green. Their brains are just not wired to accept logical inputs.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

We need to cut down trees to save the planet

Interesting factoid:

Mature trees sequester very little CO2. They're not growing anymore, so they have no need to suck in huge amounts of CO2 to turn into bark and leaves and twigs and things.

The best land based plants for sucking up CO2 are grass, followed by young trees.

So if we want to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we should chop down and bury all the old growth forests, and replace them with grass land.

Preferably grass land covered in cattle (my preference). Tasty cattle.....

So you could say that the continued clearing of the Amazon rain forest for cattle grazing is in fact a good thing as far as CO2 reduction is concerned.

Tell that to a greenie, and watch their head explode.

Shoe on other foot - buses in bike lane

The local media has had a field day this week with the story of the agro cyclist who punched a bus driver in the face. My workmates have been cracking jokes non-stop at my expense. I might have to tell them to shut up, or I will punch them in the face.

I've never seen the point in punching drivers in the face. In my opinion, the best way to deal with idiotic WRX drivers is to shoot them. Punching is for wimps.

The punch up was caused by the cyclist riding illegally in a bus transit way, which I will agree is wrong, wrong, wrong. However, from the video I have seen, the bus driver decided that he would punish the cyclist by hooning past him and then pulling in quickly, giving the cyclist a scare by nearly crushing him between a 15 tonne bus and a concrete wall.

That, in my opinion, is the behaviour of a c*&t, and the driver should be taken off the road. If he's going to lose his rag over something like that, and come close to killing someone as a result, then he should be put to work counting paper clips. He should thank his lucky stars that he is currently not sitting in a gaol cell, denied bail for killing a cyclist with his bus.

We cyclists, being the perfect and un-aggravatable beings that we are, never go ape shit when a bus parks in a bike lane and blocks it for all and sundry. Or four buses, one after the other.

video

By the time I go past the cyclist in yellow, I am doing about 50km/h - which is my usual speed down this stretch. The buses, in all their bike lane blocking glory, also block the sight lines from the side streets. Some drivers have a bad habit of just pulling out, even if they can't see what is coming down the hill.

To me, this is just a fact of life. The road is only so wide, and buses are pretty fat. Unless the road is widened at the points where the buses have to park, they are always going to obstruct the bike lane. But you don't see any cyclists going past here in the morning and getting agro at the bus drivers because the buses are stopped in our lane, stuffing us around.

City vs Country, part IV

I will blog more on this topic at a later date, when I feel up to it, but here is a start.

A relative of ours was killed in a country car crash recently (which is why we were spending time in a country town). The way we found out about it deserves some telling.

The first cop on the scene got on the radio and broadcast a description of the car and rego back to the local police station.

The father of my brother in law was listening to his scanner, and heard the call go out. He instantly knew who that car belonged to. He quickly got on the phone to the police to confirm it was true. They confirmed the bad news, and sent two officers around to the place where my brother in law works to tell him in person. It was then up to him to break the news to the family. Because the Police knew everyone involved, they were able to immediately go to the best person in the family to break the news to everyone else. I wouldn't call that service with a smile, but they certainly did our family an enormous service by handling things that way.

The day after the funeral, we went to the fete at one of the local schools. Monkey had a few rides on the pony ride. The bloke running the pony ride was a real character - I took to him instantly.

I found out after that he was the first cop on the scene.

City vs Country, part III

A relation is trying to offload a property in a country town. They'll be happy if they are offered $5,000 for the place. It's a brick house on a large block.

Median house prices in Sydney have cracked through $600,000. The house and block in the country town would be larger than many million dollar properties in Sydney.

Only downside - the country house is in a street with two bad families. If they leave, property values will increase substantially. No one wants to live anywhere near them. It's a situation where saying, "Would it kill anyone to see house prices go up" could have interesting connotations. The only way to remove the problem families might be to stash them in barrels, South Australian style.

Apparently the real estate agents in this town have many similar properties on the books, but never advertise them. The sale of the house would barely cover the advertising cost. If you want a cheap place, you have to go into each agent and ask what is on their books.

Twats, fumes and a princess

When I got home, I downloaded my photos, looked at this one and thought, "Why on earth did I take this photo?"

Then I remembered - the bloke in blue on the right is a twat. I am sure he is the bloke who a few weeks ago, jumped the lights that I was patiently waiting at, and although he had about a 1km head start, I still caught him before we reached the city.


I took the above photo on the Pyrmont Bridge. There were a lot of bikes waiting to cross at the lights when I got there. I took my position at the back of the queue, but this guy tried to barge in up the front. When the lights went green, he barged in when going up the "pram ramps", and once on the bridge, instead of getting into single file with all the other bikes, he blurted off into the crowd of pedestrians to ram his way through. All for the sake of reaching the far end of the bridge a few seconds before the rest of us.

I reckon this twat drives a WRX when he is not on a bicycle.

Then we have fumes. I blogged yesterday about how clean modern car engines are. What I forgot about is that some motorbikes are still spewing out relatively large amounts of crap. I stopped behind the motorbike on the right and had to move sideways after a few seconds - I was choking on the shit spewing out of his exhaust at idle.

Then we have the princess. Unfortunately, I was too shocked when I saw her to take a photo. She was dressed in what I can only describe as a Laura Ashley lacey dress, and was astride a very prim and proper contraption that would not have looked out of place at an English picnic in 1934. Most days, all I see are sweaty, grime streaked go-fast lycra clad people (like the bloke above left). It's really unusual to see someone dressed like they have just stepped out of Brideshead Revisited.

Good on her. I need my lycra for the kind of journey I do each day, but if you can get away without it, all power to you.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hipster by the Bay

Look, if you're going to take the dog for a walk, why not just take the dog for a walk. Pushing a bike and taking the dog for a walk is sheer lunacy.

Note the hipster bike though. White walled tyres. Fat saddle. Some kind of trendy hippy footwear. Funky light blue colour on the bike.

My disdain for bike pushing hipsters with dogs is that they take up 86% of the available path, and don't give a flying fig for those who want to get past. Some people need to have some sense beaten into them with a dead possum.

The air is not that bad

Every now and then, I see a cyclist wearing a mask. For the life of me, I can't figure out why. Air pollution is such a non-issue these days. Thanks to better quality fuels and very clever automotive engineers working continually on ways to produce cleaner burning engines, we are no longer breathing in the shit that we sucked down just 15 years ago. As far as I am concerned, technology and economic growth has largely solved what used to be a terrible environmental problem.

Well, it's solved it here at least. China is another matter.

I pat economic growth on the back because increasing wealth has allowed consumers to (a) get rid of their crappy old oil spewing cars and (b) afford cars that are more technologically advanced. Where do we first see most technical innovations in the auto trade? In expensive marques like Mercedes. As more Mercedes are bought, the unit cost of churning out the next air bag or ABS system or engine management chip falls until they can be fitted into the cheapest Kia.

Next time a no-growth Greenie tells you to consume less to save the planet, do us all a favour and punch them in the balls.

Arse about

J has accused me of being too interested in men's bottoms. Here is some balance.


Traffic can be murder

I don't see a lot of cars on my commute, as most of it is done on bike tracks or quiet side roads. Cars are generally not a problem for me. My biggest problem is pedestrians.

video

The Pyrmont Bridge is a scene of chaos every day as hordes of pedestrians and bikes flow into the city in the morning and home again in the evening. In between the peaks, the bridge is flooded with tourists ambling between the city and Darling Harbour.

I have no problems with going slowly and sedately across the bridge - unlike some fools who see it as a slalom course and thunder furiously across the bridge at 100mp/h, scattering grannies and prams and tourists in all directions. If a pedestrian sticks an umbrella through the spokes of one of these loons, I will not weep for them.

But what totally shits me is the utterly incoherent walking methods that some pedestrians use. If you are going to walk across a bridge from end to end, try picking a line and following it. It's ok to meander from side to side if you are drunk; but if it is 0730 and you are sober and on your way to the office, then WALK IN A FUCKING STRAIGHT LINE.

And try not to adopt a staggered formation where a gaggle of six unconnected individuals walk in such a way to fill all the road space from side to side, rather than collecting themselves into some sort of file.

But the worst are those who walk on the right. This is Australia. We drive on the left. There is a great big dividing line down the centre of the bridge formed by the Monorail. When things are busy (as they always are), people should keep to the left. If they did that, all the contention on the bridge between cyclists and pedestrians would evaporate overnight.

Funnily enough, at the city end of the bridge, everyone is squeezed onto a narrow walkway about six feet wide. Once all the meandering pedestrians hit that, they immediately start walking on the left and they get into a single file and they walk in a straight line.

It just goes to show that the more space that you give to some pedestrians, the sillier will be their walks.

Two sets of idiots

No one can claim the high moral ground when it comes to using the road.

video

The second idiot comes on stage right at the end.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

City vs Country part II

I have a good working knowledge of a lot of NSW country towns; knowledge collected during innumerable visits for work. Some visits lasted a day, others up to a week. Most involved staying in a hotel and eating at local cafes, pubs or restaurants. Most of my time was spent at the place where I had a job to do, or in bed catching a bit of shuteye.

The jobs had a terrible tendency to require me for 18 hours or more per day, so although I have collectively spent weeks in some of them, I know a few towns hardly at all. I know how to get to all those old work sites without having to consult a map book or GPS, and I know how to get to my favourite hotel and watering hole from those sites - but the rest of the town is a mystery. My only interaction with the locals has been via those I have met at work, which might have given me a lopsidedly good or bad view of the residents.

I recently spent a bit over a week in a town of about 5000. Instead of spending that time in a hotel, we had our own place to stay, which meant daily visits to the supermarket for vitals.

You can learn a lot about a place by trawling through its supermarket.

For starters, each supermarket has a different mix of goods on sale, depending on the demographic of the local shoppers. Out here in Wogtown, a supermarket would die without a good selection of what might be termed "fancy" cheeses (that's Brie to the rest of you) and a slew of artisan breads. We also have a choice of 20 varieties of tinned tomatoes, and a mind boggling selection of dried pasta. But out in the country, most supermarkets seem to struggle to stock more than a slab of cheddar and the usual Coon (yes, one of the biggest selling cheeses here is called Coon, since it was first made by a Mr Coon).

But enough of cheese. It's the people that fascinate me.

In wogville, we have a large number of CUWs - Cashed Up Wogs. A typical example would be a middle aged woman, dressed in a leopard skin catsuit, covered in gold jewellry and driving a Mercedes no more than one year old. She's married to a bloke who is one generation removed from collecting goat shit on an dusty hillside in Sicily. They have all the class of an Ugg boot, an education that ceased at age 11 (even though they remained at skool for another 6 years) and the world view of a provincial peasant from a Transylvanian backwater. However, they have more money than the Reserve Bank. It might be better to call them CUPs - Cashed Up Peasants.

All that aside, most of them are pleasant to shop alongside - well, apart from those Italian women who are 5 feet tall, 4 feet wide and haven't showered for a few days, or changed their G-string.

In the city, supermarkets are socially stratified. Apart from meeting the odd strung out junkie from the housing commission slum down the hill, the shoppers I see each night are solidly middle class. They are Just Like Us. There are no bogans. However, if you go out west a bit, the supermarkets are wall to wall bogans, and there are precious few People Like Us. They have their supermarkets, and we have ours.

Out in the country, no such divide exists. There aren't enough supermarkets in a town of 5000 for the bogans to have one and the CUPs another. Which makes shopping in the country a much more interesting experience, particularly as I always have my ears and eyes open - even when I'm searching an unfamiliar biscuit aisle for a packet of Choc Mint biscuits.

My abiding impression from shopping in this particular country town is that most of the women are amazingly fat, whilst quite a few of the young men and almost anorexic. I saw cowboys in filthy jeans and big hats and blue singlets that could stick both legs into one leg of my shorts - and still have room for their mate to climb in along side. I saw young women - 18 at most - who were deeper than they were wider. That is, if you strapped a big pillow to the chest of a normal woman, and another to her back, you'd get a good idea of how monstrously overweight some of these kids were. I passed one shopping with her mum - the conversation went like this:

"Shit mum, two fucking packets of cream biscuits aren't enough. I fucking eat at least eight fucking packets of these per day. Like."

And she looked that way as well. And she looked just like she sounded. Total slapper. Unfortunately, she was one of many. Don't get me started on the 16 year old Aboriginal girls pushing prams in packs and arguing about where to buy some smokes.

In the country, the underbelly is right smack there in front of you. Up here in the Big Smoke, you can live your entire life without confronting the underbelly. The underbelly is Out There somewhere - out west around Parramatta. How I wish we could banish the likes of David Marr to somewhere like Orange for a few years. The intelligensia have no fucking idea what goes on outside their gilded towers.

Destroying the bike lane in order to save it

Way, way back in the dark recesses of history, I attended a public forum where the city council presented their plans on improving the main cycle route through Pyrmont. It was interesting to attend, and to listen to the various weird-beards on one side proclaiming that all cars should be banned, and the NIMBY residents on the other who didn't want noisy, fume-belching bicycles roaring past their windows at 0800.

I have to laugh now because back then, the biggest objector was a shop owner in Union St who hated the idea of losing lots of trade due to the loss of a few parking spots in the street. If I have my facts right for once, it is his shop that now faces demolition from the Metro. He should have shut up and put up with the cyclists - the lesser of two Green evils.

The Objector ran a cafe, and thought that the loss of a few car spots would stop people from driving to his cafe for a coffee and a bit of cake. That cafe now regularly sports a posse of parked bikes out the front, and the tables always seem to be full of lounging, lycra-clad coffee consumers.

On to other things..... the Daily Telegraph was infested today with rabid motorists ranting about us Devils on Wheels. Seriously, if we were living in the Middle Ages, we'd be accused of witchcraft, sorcery and having carnal relations with the Horned One. Motorists would be queuing up to claim, "He turned me into a newt!" One of the things we are commonly accused of is running red lights, so here is a photo of a small bunch of us stopped at such a light. Sure, one red light does not make a summer, but most of us do have an idea of the road rules, and obey them most of the time.

The telling thing in the above photo, which is very hard to make out, is that just past the intersection, the road has been ripped up on the left hand side. I believe that is the new bike lane in the making. Frankly, I have no idea why they need to put a bike lane through this spot - it's a safe stretch of road for bikes. Where it gets hairy is about 100 metres further on, and I guess that the Cycling Black Spot from Hell will be taken care of in the 2045/46 budget year. Typical of a council to start with the easy, non-essential bits, and ignore until later the bits where people risk death and dismemberment on a daily basis due to some shockingly bad engineering designs.

Anyway, the council is spending a small fortune ripping up a perfectly good bit of bike lane to build.... another bit of bike lane where one is not really needed in the first place. The mind boggles........

If I'm going to get a flat, it might as well be here

Got a bad case of the wobbles coming off the ANZAC bridge this morning - never a good thing to have when doing a fast descent with 180 degree turns. I thought the front tyre was going flat - as I went into each turn, it felt like the front tyre was about to roll off the rim sideways. I've had that happen once after an "explosive decompression" of a tube - ie, a total blowout where all the air left the tube in a second or two. One moment, you are riding on stiff rubber that has plenty of grip - the next, you are riding on two thin metal rims, and have lost all steering and most of your braking power. If you are competent and lucky, you will avoid visiting the local medical clinic to have bits of road scrubbed out of your skin.


I was looking at my front tyre as I went around the bends, and it seemed to have plenty of air in it, so I couldn't figure out what was going on. My next thought was that I had warped a wheel, and it was bending as I cornered.

Thankfully, it only took a moment longer to figure out that the back tyre was down to about 20 psi (from the usual 100psi) and it was time to pull over and get out the tyre levers and such.

Just next to the Channel 10 studios is a nice little office garden area with a cafe on the corner. I plonked myself down on a wooden bench and proceeded to change out the tube. Behind me was a boxercise class in progress. In front of me, businessmen had early morning coffees and farted around with their Blackberries. I sat there, comfortable for once, steaming and sweating and hoping it wouldn't rain (I had too many layers on for the weather, and looked like I had just exited a sauna).

Did I grab a coffee from the cafe? Duh. I should have, just to try it out. But I was too intent on fixing the flat and buggering off. I really should learn to stop and sniff the coffee in the morning.

A new and terrifying form of WMD

Kirkfood. Weapons of Mass Digestion.

Cool slogan.

Not abiding by the spirit of the law

We have a simple rule about changing the toilet roll in our household - if you use the last sheet, you change the roll. No one leaves an empty roll on the holder for the next person.

So imagine what confronted me in the bathroom this morning after Junior had paid a visit.


Yes, in order to avoid the tedious chore of replacing a roll of toilet paper, he ensured that he left one sheet on the roll, thus avoiding the "empty roll" law.

That is not exactly abiding by the spirit of the law. I might present him with one sheet of paper tonight and invite him to wipe his bottom with it. That might get the point across. Unless he is a fan of Cheryl Crow.

It's not as if changing a roll is an onerous and time consuming task. We have a stick kind of thing on one side of the bogger, and it holds six full rolls. On the other side of the throne, we have the holder. Whilst sitting there, it is a no brainer to swap them out.

Teenagers. Always looking for new and inventive ways to be lazier than they were last week.

It's wet - who cares?

It's been a wet few days here in Sydney. I delayed leaving until around 8.30am yesterday in order to miss the worst of the rain - it tapered off from bucketing down to simply raining by that time. You might be thinking, "Why not catch the bus on such a day?" - and a few people in the office asked me just that when I walked in looking like a bedraggled soaked dishrag.

The answer is simple - plenty of people who caught the bus got wet yesterday as well as the wind turned their umbrellas inside out, or passing cars hit a puddle and soaked them from head to toe. Getting wet on a bike is no big deal - so long as you are wearing the proper kit. Lycra on a day like today is vital in order to prevent chafing and crotch rot - two things that guys can do without.

Here's one of the benefits of automation - the park just in front of me here had received so much rain, it had turned into a swamp. However, on the right, you can see that the sprinklers are running.


The councils around here are not too hot on designing drainage systems that work. Leichhardt, which is stuffed full of Greens, is the worst of the lot by a long way. I reckon they believe that thanks to global warming, it is never going to rain again, so why bother designing drains to take the rain away?

Flooded bike/pedestrian paths like the one above are rife around Leichhardt, and the drainage is so bad, puddles like this hang around for days. Many are so deep, my bottom shoe ends up being partly submerged as I go through them. Ick.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Annoying NIMBYs part 1178943

NIMBYs shit me. They shit me to tears (for non-Australian readers, when I say "tears" I am referring to the things that leak from your eyelids when the dog dies in the movie; not the rips in your jeans).

I picked up a mouldering copy of my local rag to find that the restauranteurs down the road in Haberfield are up in arms at the thought of McDonalds opening a venue to offer their fine fare to the local populace.

I would like to eat out in Haberfield more often than we do - it contains a collection of some of the better Italian eateries in Sydney, and its reputation for good eating is well deserved. Last place we ate at was Il Locale, where a simple meal for the family set us back over $200. I loved the buffalo mozzarella salad (now sadly removed from the menu) and the sardines dusted in polenta and herbs. Unfortunately, having kids that are not well disposed to sitting still for more than 10 minutes is a bit of a hindrance, so I doubt I will be eating there again until either I get a pay rise (to fund the baby sitter) or the youngsters grow up a bit and calm down slightly.

But not everyone can afford to waltz up and down the main street of Haberfield dropping $200 on a family meal once or twice a week. The thing is, those of us that enjoy a fine meal every now and again are the same people that also resort to the odd kebab, hamburger or bucket of chicken with extra grease. The market for eating out is not perfectly differentiated into two classes of people - those that exclusively frequent fine dining establishments, and those that suck down two cheeseburgers per day. Most of us who appreciate a pig's trotter stuffed with black pudding and truffles and washed down with a fine Merlot are also to be found every now and then sitting in McDonalds surrounded by a residue of salt, fries and that manky feeling you get from mainlining too much salt, sugar and grease in one hit.

If McDonalds can find someone who will sell or rent them an appropriate bit of land in Haberfield, I see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to hang out their shingle. The market will decide whether they stay or go. If the locals turn up their noses, McDonalds will pack their bags and move somewhere more profitable. If the locals actually show a taste for pickles and plastic cheese served with a dollop of ketchup, then that is nothing more than individuals exercising their own free will.

I can't stand the idea of food fascists telling us what we can and can't eat. Some of them need to be boiled in a large vat of pig's blood to pour encourager les autres to shut the fuck up.

That said, we also have a KFC/McDonalds/Kebab complex not far down the road from central Wogville. It is a magnet for what the English would term "chav scum", sucking them in from miles around. (If I ever develop a suitcase nuke in the back shed, I know where I am going to set it off at 1am on a Saturday.)

I think the best answer is to allow McDonalds to carry out their lawful business, but to kill any chav bogans that arrive for a feed after 10pm.

Green ban

I have never understood why the idea of a bunch of stalinist union thugs standing in the way of urban development is called a "green ban". Here's one in Union Square in Pyrmont.

The local shop keepers are aghast at the idea of their premises being flattened in order to build a metro train station, so they have allied themselves with the CFMEU in order to stop any work going ahead.

Here's why I think the term "green ban" is so inappropriate here.

The metro is a form of public transport. Public transport is supposed to be one of those Good Things that will save us from global warming, nits, obesity, plagues of frogs and Peak Oil. Who would dare to stand in the way of such a beneficial public good? One that is supposed to reduce car dependence, congestion, oil consumption and waistlines (walking to the train is better for you than driving from your front door)? Are not all these things part of the Green ideology?

Why then is the prevention of a Green project termed a Green Ban? Shouldn't it be called a Capitalist Conspiracy to Hold the World in Thrall to Big Oil, the Big Car Companies and the Gnomes of Zurich?

Just asking, is all.

Country vs City

This is nothing to do with a rugby game where people stick their fingers up each others bottoms.

We recently took the kids to a fete at a country school. The fete was smaller than what we are used to - then again, our suburb has 12 times more people in it than the town combined. However, the fete was a knockout for several reasons.

For starters, the local fire brigade was there, and they turned on a pump and hose and used it to squirt the kids. A Firey held the hose, and allowed a young kid (maybe 7) to direct the water at his mates. This went on all day, until the grassy patch in question was a swamp. The kids loved it. I was too gobsmacked to take any photos. I haven't seen something done like that since I was a kid.

In Sydney, the Fireys would all have been sacked for wasting water. They then would have been dragged before an Occupational Health and Safety tribunal and charged with endangering the lives of children. They then would have been done for kiddy-fiddling (young girls in wet dresses and all that). The Fun Police on the school fete committee would never have allowed the Fire Brigade to turn up anyway - you can't have fit, macho, employed men as role models.

We then put the youngsters on a pony ride. One of the ponys bucked and tossed a niece onto the ground. The bloke running the pony ride picked her up, dusted her off and stuck her on the other pony and gave her a few free laps. That was the best thing to do. She got free rides all afternoon whenever she wanted them.

In Sydney, the ride would have been closed, the OH&S police would have descended and the fete would have been sued for everything and more.

On top of that, I found out later than the pony ride was being run by one of the local coppers. In the country, they get involved in charity work. In the city, he probably would have been working a second job to pay the mortgage.

The rides also lasted forever. The bloke running the merry-go-round would load the kids, start the machine and go and have lunch. The kids were almost motion sick by the time he returned to let them off.

In Sydney, rides last no longer than 30 seconds, and the operators spend more time ushering wailing kids off the rides than actually running them.

Got no plans to move to the country though. Nice place to visit and all that, but I don't really want to live there.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Know your target market

Marketing 101.


"9 buckets please".

It lives

Yes, I'm still here. Just had a week in a spot where Internet connectivity consisted of dial up and there was no desire to blog anyway. I have many, many things to blog about, so watch this space. There is quite a backlog.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Around The Bay in 60 seconds

Well, ok, it's only partway round the Bay, and it takes a bit over 60 seconds. But the meme is accurate.

video

I need to figure out how to attach some music to these things.

There's potholes

...and then there are huge potholes.

Monday, 12 October 2009

It suits you

Now I have seen it all - a bloke in a suit on a "full blown" bike - chrome mudguards, kick stand and so on. Perfect for a lazy trip into town from say Pyrmont - a distance of a few kilometres.


I tried to get a photo from side on with my proper camera, but the pedestrians were too thick and unpredictable. In other words, situation normal.

This type of bike certainly works if you are doing short distances on the flat at an easy pace. I don't do that. I gave it full power coming onto the Anzac Bridge this morning, seeing how long I could maintain a speed of 35km/h. Well, it wasn't long, but I held it at 33 all the way to the bit where you have to slow down and jink around a corner, losing all momentum. That's a pretty good pace considering the length and steepness of that rise.

I was pretty well blown by the time I got past the jinky bit, and a bloke whom I had shot past earlier ambled past me on the next rise. If you are about to say that slow and steady wins the race, I recovered my lungs and blew him off the road on the next hill. So - ha!

Fixie fascination

A very cool hipster on a fixie, or fixed gear bike. Personally, I think these things are about as functional as a Penny Farthing. But that's just my opinion. Going by how many of these things I am seeing out and about, my opinion counts for diddly-squat.


There is something attractive about the stripped down nature of this type of bike. No gears, brakes, lights, computer, water bottle, pannier, mudguards or anything that is extraneous to simply riding a bike. Me - I like all those things. I'm careful not to go gadget-happy, but this guy isn't even carrying a puncture kit. There's riding bare bones, and then there's just silly.

The last time I had calves that skinny, I was 9 years old.

Fascinating

If you like your economic history, this article (or podcast) at Counterpoint is great. A snippet:

Michael Duffy: But what happened next? The situation you've described...Britain obviously jumped ahead of everyone else for quite a while, but it didn't maintain that lead forever. What happened in those other countries?

Robert Allen: It's very interesting that Britain...you have these key technologies, breakthroughs that take place in the 18th century, and steam engines, cotton factories, cotton mills, iron making, and as I say they all have the characteristic that they're adaptations to Britain's unique price situation, with the high wages and the cheap energy prices. They wouldn't pay to use anyplace else. But once they get into operation, a whole other process kicks in, and so people begin studying these machines as they're in use, engineers do, owners of businesses study them, they find ways to improve them, and really anything that cuts costs at that point is a good thing.

So they end up saving all the inputs, they reduce their use of expensive inputs, like coal in steam engines, just as much as they reduced the use of cheap ones. So they end up creating technologies that are useful even outside of Britain. So in the case of steam engines, for instance, the first steam engines used, as it happens, 44 pounds of coal per horse-power hour of power they produced. By the middle of the 19th century this has been cut from 44 to three pounds of coal.

Michael Duffy: That's a huge difference.

Robert Allen: A huge difference. When you're using 44 pounds of coal per horse-power hour, the price of coal matters a lot for the economics of your business and so you only do it in Britain, but when you cut it so much, cut it down to three, it's almost irrelevant, the price doesn't matter any more. And at that point you've got a technology that can be used anywhere in the world. So what the key thing that happens in the 19th century that causes the Industrial Revolution to spread is that the genius of British engineering improves the technologies so much they create appropriate technology for the whole world and in the process undermine competitive advantage. Too many good engineers undoing the sources of your process and your lead.

--------------

Amazing. And government was not involved in that process in the slightest. No targets were set for reducing coal consumption or CO2 output. Fuel economy regimes and legislation was not required. It was simply private enterprise and the market getting on with bettering the human condition.

I have a dream.....

Had a dream last night that I would get a flat tyre today.

Went outside to get the bike, and lo and behold, it had a flat tyre.

If you need to change a flat, better to do it at home where you can sit in a comfy chair in the backyard, rather than on the wet ground on the side of the road, and do it with rubber gloves (in order to keep all the grime off your hands). It also meant that I got to use my big pump, which puts 100psi into the tyre with a few quick pumps, rather than my stupid little portable pump which struggles to get 40psi into the tube before your pecs explode with the effort.

To cap it off, I even managed to put a patch over the puncture, so at least I have a spare tube that will retain air.

But how wierd is it to dream about something before it happens? Maybe I spotted the flat yesterday as I was rummaging around near the bike, and the subconcious picked it up, but the concious mind did not?

One for the X-files.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A gentleman and a scholar

Who else would dress like this? Tweed jacket, albeit without leather elbow patches, and proper trousers with elastic things to keep his cuffs out of the chain. And proper leather shoes (brogues perhaps), rather than the "stupid" clicky-clacky things I wear. Not a square inch of lycra to be seen.


It gladdens the heart to see fellows like this making an appearance. It means cycling to work is getting all boring and mainstream. This bloke is lucky enough to live close enough to work that his daily journey is unlikely to leave him lathered in sweat. I will stick to the lycra, as I have 15km to ride each way (or 25km if I take the roundabout route) and that includes a few mean hills.

However, if you are just a stone's throw from where you want to end up, hopping on a bike can be better than walking - even if you are wearing a suit. It certainly beats looking for a parking spot in Sydney (and getting gouged for the privilege of parking). At this rate, we'll start to look like Copenhagen in about, oh, 300 years.

Qantas and carbon offsets

Posted this comment at Andrew Bolt today:

According to the Chicago Climate Exchange, carbon offsets are currently selling for 10c per tonne. I used the carbon offset calculator at the Qantas website and it calculated that my upcoming holiday will generate 1.452 tonnes of CO2. Qantas want to charge me $13.80 for this. However, that would cost me US$0.14 if I bought offsets from the CCX. A further question might be why Qantas is charging 100 times the going rate for carbon offsets.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Yes, it was windy yesterday

It's been a stormy week here in Sydney. Thursday was really blowy. All sorts of rubbish had blown onto the path over the Anzac Bridge (stuff blowing off the back of utes and so on) and a bit of it was flying around as I went past. Here's a foam lid trying to decapitate me.

We have lift off.


It's jinks to the left...


And then comes back to the right to take me unawares from the side.


Speaking of blowhards, here is a wogged up Seat Ibiza. If you look under the P plate, the label says "WOGSPEC".


Fully sick try hard.

Catching without trying

Damn this Picasa software. I want to do a time lapse that does not take too long to flick through. If I use one option, the fastest it will let me turn each slide is 1 second. If I use another option, the slowest it will allow me is 1/6th of a second. One is too slow, the other too fast. I reckon about 1/2 second would be just right.

Anyhoo, I caught a red light runner this week after giving him a one minute head start. Actually, I did not give him that start - the traffic lights did. I've timed it from where he jumps the lights to where I overtake, and after waiting a minute at the lights, I caught him 4 minutes after pushing off.

video

The silly thing is that because he had such a huge headstart, and had disappeared from view over a hill by the time I got going, I thought I had no chance of catching him, so I wasn't even trying! I was just rolling along at slower than normal pace, as I had no one alongside me to race.

It just goes to show that the things that will get you to your destination faster are fitness, power, stamina and patience. Real men don't need to jump the lights.

"I can't hear you"

I pass a lot of pedestrians every day on my too and from work. I go past at least a few dozen whilst going around The Bay, and hundreds once I get into the more densely populated paths of the CBD.

Most of them are considerate and aware of their surroundings and they'll move to the left to give me room to pass if they see me coming, or hear my bell as I come up behind them.

And then there are the occasional festering dickfaces who act as if they own the path. Fuck, there are days when I get to the end of my trip and I start thinking how to attach a holster to the frame of the bike.

The following short video shows me and another cyclist having a small run in with a fucking earplug wearing Ninja with shit for brains. Note how she is dressed in black from head to foot (because black is more flattering on your fat arse). These types like to dress like an invisible Ninja and then walk along unlit paths at night on the wrong side of the path, and then get upset when joggers fail to see them and slam into them.

The gist of the story is that she was holding a position on the path which prevented anyone from getting by. Both me and the bloke in front were ringing our bells and yelling at her, but she refused to budge.

video

As the bloke in front slipped past, she gave him a superior, shit-eating grin and tried to excuse her moronic behaviour by pointing at her iPod headphones and saying, "I can't hear you".

My retort was, "Well, take your fucking headphones out".

Seriously, some people are that stupid. If you can't hear what is going on around you because loud music is blocking out incoming sound, remove the music. Or get used to the idea of always, always hugging the left hand side of the path.

But don't try and use the excuse of, "I own an iPod; therefore I am entitled to act like a fucking twat".

Classic global warming debunking

From Talking About the Weather, via Anthony Watt:

The last mistake in the UN report that I will delve into today features a photo of the Hawaiian Islands with a menacing caption about sea levels – trouble in paradise! Here is the text from the caption: “In Hawaii, as the ocean continues to rise, flooding occurs in low-lying regions during rains because storm sewers back up with saltwater and coastal erosion accelerates on beaches. Source: L. Carey.”

There are a few problems here. One: “L. Carey” does not exist, at least not according to the author of the caption. That would be Chip Fletcher, director of the Coastal Geography Group at the University of Hawaii. Reached for comment, Fletcher said that he was flattered that the United Nations report had found his statement in an internal department newsletter to be useful. Two: Fletcher also acknowledged that all of the flooding described by his statement takes place in areas of landfill that are subsiding.

Did Fletcher think that it might be a good thing for the United Nations to note the landfill subsidence when using a single image, and a single statement, to convey the reality of “climate change” in the islands? “Listen, the world is a big place,” Fletcher said. “I have other things to worry about than that.” Were there other locations in the islands that saw such flooding? “Parts of Waikiki have,” Fletcher said. Aren’t those parts of Waikiki also landfill, though? “Actually, they are.”

Imagine that - landfill actually subsiding over time!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

How expensive can water be?

How much do you pay for the water that comes out of your tap?

I have no idea what we pay. I just pay the bill every quarter, and it rarely comes to more than $200. It's amazingly cheap, considering how long Junior spends in the shower each day, and how often Monkey goes to the toilet. For a shall chap, he wees an awful lot.

Our water is so cheap, we are completely un-bothered about wasting it. I have no qualms about having three showers a day if I feel like it. We put several loads through the washing machine per day.

But consider how expensive water becomes when it is not delivered by a tap, but instead has to be carried from a distant river like this:


The difference all this makes is enormous. Traditionally, women might have spent four or five hours a day fetching water: now they have that time free to generate income. They go to the valleys less often, bringing them into less contact with mosquitoes, meaning there's less malaria around, and their health improves in all sorts of other ways too.
No, I am not plugging a charity. Instead, I am making a point about economic development and how our lives have been transformed by cheap water and cheap power.

Those women appear to be carrying 20 litre containers. I know how heavy they are - I carried plenty of them uphills to position where we were dug in during training exercises. Believe me, carrying a 20 litre jerrycan in each hand is bloody hard work.

The charity has been kind enough to tell us that the women might spend 4-5 hours per day fetching water. If they live say 1km from the source, collecting 20 litres requires a 2km round trip. I walk unloaded at 6km/h. I think you'd be going a bit more slowly lugging 20 litres of water. Let's say it takes half an hour to do that round trip. Eight similar journeys will provide your family with 160 litres. That is all you have for drinking, cooking, washing the dishes, washing your clothes, washing your body, flushing your toilet (and washing your hands) and maybe a bit left over for watering your garden or your livestock.

That may seem like a lot, but a modern low flow showerhead still gets through 11 litres per minute. As I prefer an old fashioned showerhead that dumps water on me like a Singapore monsoon, I reckon I'd get through that 160 litre allocation on my own in an 8 minute shower.

Because our water comes from a tap, we are free to spend our days doing other things, like working in McDonalds. Even if you are only making $9 an hour, you could earn $252 a week in the time it takes to fetch that water (remember, water has to be fetched 7 days a week - it's not a Monday to Friday occupation).

The opportunity cost of that water is therefore $AUS1.57 per litre. Not too different to the cost of what we pay for bottled water. The price of course goes up the further away from a water source you live. If the family in my example lived 2km from the source, the opportunity cost would be $3 per litre.

So imagine the difference piped tap water can make to people in the third world. Forget the health benefits from better sanitation and all that - just try and get your head around the extra money that they can now earn in the cash economy because that chore is eliminated.

Now consider the next big time consuming chore in the third world - gathering fuel. Ever gone camping and had to look for and chop firewood for the BBQ? Imagine having to do that for every meal, as well as every time you needed hot water to wash clothes, wash dishes, or bathe the kids. Imagine having to do that to collect enough fuel to keep a fire going at night to keep warm. According to this book, women spend from midday to nightfall gathering firewood.

Hmm. In between gathering water and gathering firewood, that's your whole day gone.

So now we see how much of a life changer it is to move from gathering fuel to having it delivered to you, either as gas in a cylinder, or electricity down a wire. Forget the luxuries that can be powered by electricity such as Plasma TVs and air conditioning - consider the basics such as cooking on a gas or electric stove, having a gas or electric hot water system and having refrigeration for your food. Access to cheap power is a Godsend.

Our daily power bill is a couple of bucks. It's nothing. But if you have to spend 5 hours collecting wood, when you could have spent those 5 hours frying fries at McDonalds for $9 an hour, then your daily power bill is suddenly $45.

Could you live with a daily combined water and power bill of $90?

Tap water of course depends on electricity as well, as you need power to drive the pumps that deliver that water to your door.

Our Green maniac brethren of course want to deny the benefits of cheap water and power to all of us, including those in the third world that have neither. In my eyes, that makes them swine.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

We4pon - weapons grade spunkmonkey

I always keep an eye out for number plates that indicate that a baboon is at the wheel. I think I found one of them today.

"My cock is this big". <------->

Seriously, why are we prevented from just setting these things on fire, and sewing the owners in a sack with a cat and tossing them in the harbour?

Can't see Turnbull giving a speech like this

Boris Johnson. Legend.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Those shoes that go clicky-clack

Magdy Szubanski copped the rough end of the pineapple last week when she went on an extended anti-cyclist rant on some TV show that I have never heard of.

Many people claimed to be offended.

I was not one of them.

After all, I routinely rant, in much less decorous terms, at just about everything in life, and I regularly call for the summary execution of WRX drivers. An armed cyclist is... I don't know. Hopefull a good shot.

The day that we can't indulge in a good rant against some segment of the population is a day when our liberty has been crushed just a little bit more.

Part of her rant was directed at those "stupid shoes that go clicky-clack when they walk into cafes".

I wear those shoes, and I will now try to explain why.

Back when I played team sports like hockey (badly, and violently), rugby (even more badly) and AFL (incredibly badly), we wore shoes with lots of sprigs in them. The sprigs were essential for maintaining grip on grounds that were often a slough of mud with a thin coating of woe-begotten grass. I played fullback in our 3rd grade hockey team. That meant that when the opposition was attacking (which was almost all the time, as our forwards were pathetic), my task was to charge at the opposing line and tackle the bloke with the ball. Not rugby tackle, but tackle them with my stick.

Now being fast and fairly muscly at that time, and not always terribly agile, there was many a time when the tackle consisted of my hip and shoulder collecting the opposition forward in the chest at high speed and the forward then gasping for air on the ground as I took off after his mates, who now had the ball. That always involved doing a rapid 180, as I had been running away from our goal, and they were now running towards it.

On a dry ground, I found that I could pull such a tight turn with those sprigs that I could reach out and touch the grass with my left hand (the hockey stick would always be in my right hand, and I always turned to the left). Only a mental patient would play the game without sprigs. Or top caps. In my last game, I had to use a borrowed pair of shoes that had squishy toes. A stick aimed at the ball missed the ball and hit my toes, half ripping my big toenail off. After limping off the ground, I removed the shoe to find a sock covered in blood. One always wears the correct footwear.

But enough of that. I am supposed to be talking about cycling. However, I do remember those sprigs going "clicky-clack" on concrete, and no one ever said, "Why do those idiots wear sprigs?"

The thing going clicky-clack is a cleat, which is a block of metal that is screwed onto the base of the cycling shoe. That cleat is shaped so that it clicks neatly and solidly into the pedal. The idea is that your shoe is essentially welded to the pedal, so you can apply the maximum power in the right place.

I read a training manual the other day which said I should be aiming to achieve a cadence of 100 - which means my feet should be rotating the cranks 100 times per minute. My natural comfortable maximum rate is 90 - apparently most people have to train their nerves of all things to fire fast enough to work up to a comfortable rate of 100. I can go faster than 100 - I was clocking a cadence of 116 on a fast section coming home tonight, but that was me watching the cadence meter on the bike and wildly over-reving to see how high I could go.

What has this got to do with anything?

When my cadence hits 90, the legs are pumping so fast, they'd be flying off the pedals if I was not clipped in. Ever had that happen on an old push bike? You get the revs up too high and your feet depart the pedals and the pedal whooshes around and collects you in the back of the ankle. Ouch.

The other thing with cleats is that instead of just pushing with your legs, you also pull on the upstroke. That gives you a much smoother action. I often see blokes on chunky old bikes giving it their all going up hill, and if they don't have cleats, their action sounds like RR-rrr-RR-rrr-RR. You can hear it - they put the power down, then there is a gap with no sound whilst the other foot comes over the top, and then the other leg pushes down and you get an RR. But because of the nature of the mechanics etc etc, there are "long" time lags where you are putting down no power at all.

With cleats, you get almost continuous power, because each legs pushes and pulls, rather than just pushing. That is something that takes a while to get used to.

The other thing is that they position your foot in the best bio-mechanical position. Some cyclists actually wear out their knees or snap their Achilles tendons due to bad seating and footing setup. If you get it wrong, you legs rotate in the wrong plane, and your knees go. If your stroke is too long, you can do your Achilles in. The cleat is positioned so that you push through the ball of your foot in the right plane - if you have old style pedals, the pedal always ends up under your arch, which is the wrong place to push from.

Now cleats are also an utter pain in the arse when you are not in the saddle. Walking in them is an invitation to fall over and break something, like an arm or a cocyx. I walk like I am treading on eggshells - very sloooowly and caaaaarefully.

Yes, I could take my shoes off before walking into a cafe, but in winter, that is an invitation to frost bite. Besides, some fat unfunny comedian would probably chose that moment to tread on my foot, clad only in a sock.

Sunshine, rain, hail

I really need to start looking at the forecasts more closely.

From our place, we have a good view looking north. Not so good looking south. I got up, looked north and saw plenty of blue sky. Decided it was a day for summer riding gear.

Got out the door, round the block and suddenly I could see to the north. Huge, black, menacing storm clouds were rolling towards the city. Decision making time - do a U-turn and collect some wet weather gear, or race the clouds into the city.

There's no choice really - I raced the clouds. What am I - a flippin' grandpa? I am not Kevin Rudd, always ready to flip-flop between decisions before taking the soft option. Once I am moving forward, I keep moving forward.

I just about froze my nads off going down some of the steeper hills - the wind chill was a lot nastier than usual. The result was that my balls ached all day at work - felt like I'd had a mild kick to the nuts. I did beat the rain - a few drops started coming down when I reached the office, and that was it. Victory!

Getting into work did involve being told off by a pedestrian who didn't like the path our line of half a dozen bikes took over the Pyrmont Bridge. She yelled that her particular spot was pedestrian only - I'm not sure who died and made her God. The bridge is about 50 feet wide. All we cyclists need is a lane 3-4 feet wide. Pedestrians can have 46 feet of the bride - 90% of it - if we can have our little slot. But no, the pedestrian walk hither and thither and utterly fail to keep left, so we snake across the bridge like a drunken python, picking gaps where we can find them.

Speaking of picking gaps - try to pick a gap in this lovely thunderstorm.

I was lucky - I bailed early and beat it home. That red spot in the middle is just about over our house. The rain came down so hard at one point, I could not see the house next door. Then we got a light smattering of pea sized hail, which melted within a minute. Riding through that would not have been much fun without a jacket, and my jacket was hanging in the closet due to my bloody-minded attitude at sparrow fart. If I had left the office at 5pm with all the other wage slaves, I would have been utterly rooted. Knowing my luck, I would have been right in the middle of the Anzac Bridge when it started coming down - with no shelter for half a mile in either direction.

Some days, it pays to be lucky rather than good.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Lemon cyclist

I had forgotten all about this photo of a fellow commuter, snapped the other night on the way home. You don't see many bikes like this on the road at commuting time - she is a one of a kind. Basket on handlebars is a nice touch. She's breaking about eleventy-seven rules of the fast commuting fraternity, but I'm not going to get all snobbish and knobbish here.

Her yellow jacket reminded me of the dessert that M brought over on Saturday for our lunch. It was a lemon meringue pie, made with 4 lemons and not much sugar. It was fantastic. I thought my teeth were going to pop out of the back of my head when I had my first bite - talk about tart! But that's the way I like it. We've been going to a local club from time to time when we can't be bothered cooking, and dessert there has been a disaster on every occasion. I've had their version of a lemon tart, and it was sugar mixed with a few bits of lemon rind. If you're eating a lemon tart, the very least it should offer is the taste of lemons! And if you don't like the sharpness of lemons - don't order a lemon tart! Easy! Don't bugger up a lemon tart by adding a packet and a half of sugar.

It looked like a big dessert when it arrived. M took the tray home with her - all that was left was a few crumbs. That's definitely my kind of dessert.

Proof that BMW drivers really are idiots

Proof.

Off topic, but funny.

Sly real estate agent

A real estate window in Five Dock. Look at all those "Sold" signs. Looks like business is brisk.


But hang on, why are several places listed as being sold at the same price? Easy - because they have listed the same property 3 times and another property twice.


First property - once.


Twice.


Three times.


Second property listed once....


......twice.


Suddenly those 14 "sold" properties don't seem so prosperous.

What sneaky bastards these people can be.

How is the economy going for you?

Sign of the times in Five Dock - one of two apartment blocks that are fully or partly completed, but gone bust before they could be sold.


One of two cafes in the main street that have gone belly up in the last month.


Creative input needed

Help. I am suffering from writer's block. Normally, I could script something like this in 5 minutes (after 2 or 3 hours or drinking beer) - but the muse is just not working tonight. If you can think of some snappy lines to use, or some topics to tackle, I'd much appreciate it.

I think the muse is suffering because it took me all day to work through the technical gremlins that got in the way of producing a simple, 3 minute video. The fun I had with codecs - ugh.

My blog thing is too narrow to view this properly - I suggest you follow this link to Youtube and watch it in a wider screen.