Tuesday, 31 August 2010

death by mobile phone

I hate people who think that they can talk on their phone and drive at the same time. I am even more hating when it comes to people who think they can park and talk, or pull out of a parking space and talk.

Here I am, approaching a taxi that has pulled over to disgorge a fare. In front of the taxi is a small black car, and behind the wheel of that car is a woman who is yapping on her phone. Her phone is pressed up against her right ear, blocking all vision to that side - which happens to be the side where the traffic is coming from, like me. As I go around the taxi, she decides to do the old one-handed steering shuffle thing and pulls out - without ever turning her head or using her mirrors before doing so.

video

I just happen to be in the bit of road space where she is aiming to go. I see it coming and manage to swerve.

I pulled over in front of her, blocking her departure. I then proceeded to swear at her very loudly for about 10 seconds, letting her know what I thought of her driving and phone using habits. As I set off again, she put the phone down rather sheepishly. I think people two blocks away were made fully aware of my displeasure.

death by ambo

Had an interesting situation this week where I was almost taken out by a bloke in a 4WD - and the driver just happened to be wearing an Ambulance uniform! That would have been slightly ironic. One problem with this video camera is that it makes things seem further away than they really are - I was standing on the brakes to avoid T-boning this guy.

video

Then we have an idiot pedestrian. I see quite a few of these every day. There he is, shuffling slowly across the road, eyes down, not looking either way, listening to the music booming from his iPod and paying no attention to what's coming his way. Good thing us cyclists are alert - otherwise we'd be mowing these fools down in all directions.

video

Tuesday photos

With the warming of the weather, cyclists seem to be emerging from their winter slumbers. A month ago, I had this road to myself most mornings. Now, it's a bloody traffic jam every day. The guy in the blue Suvelo jersey on the right was quite quick - and all the blokes in front were hubbards. I jumped on the wheel of Suvelo guy and we spent a minute doing little overtaking bursts around the hubbards in between cars roaring past. I hate it how hubbards feel the need to get to the front, jump the red - and then dawdle into town like bonged-out hippies.


More cyclists, this time in the opened-closed-opened-closed-opened bike lane through Pyrmont. I play a guessing game every morning as I go through Pyrmont - will the lane be opened today, or closed for some unfathomable reason? Most of it was closed today - and the only work occurring in the lane was a bloke sweeping up a bit of dirt.



I'm sure they'll open it once and for all one day - and then a week later, they'll rip the whole thing up to lay a gas pipeline or something.

And might I just compare and contrast the robust men and women in the above photos with this........ ugh.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Monday photos

Not all of these are strictly Monday photos - but as I am posting them on Monday, Monday is what I choose to call them.

Dogs. Dogs on leashes being walked by a couple on bikes - not a bad idea if the dog needs to cover a lot of distance to stay fit. My problem was that I saw four dogs, and assumed that all four were on leashes. When I got up close, two suddenly bolted under my front wheel and I discovered that they were not under anyone's control at all. I had the camera in one hand and was trying to brake and steer out of their way with the other - not easy. I do not want to hit a dog - I will end up lying on the pavement, and the dog's owner will undoubtedly go mental in an impossibly irrational way - even though the problem is their failure to control their mutt.


I was feeling pretty flat and tired this morning, so lots of cyclists went past me. I thought it was a pretty slow ride in - until I looked at my watch and discovered that it had been 34 minutes door to door. A few years ago, it was taking me the better part of 45 minutes. I might have been feeling jaded in the legs, but I was still moving at a reasonable clip.


Pink propaganda everywhere. The Lord Mayor is doing her best to convince us that cycle paths are a wonderful Utopian solution to all our problems. Question - why are they pink and not green?



It's been a long time since I took any photos after dark. This bloke just happened to turn his head as the flash went off, so I think I blinded him.


Friday, 27 August 2010

Who borrowed my coat hanger?

A while back, the locker room at work was cleaned out. On a given day, we had to get all our stuff out of the room, and anything left behind was carted away. The room had become full of clothes and shoes and towels, and as it turned out, most appeared to belong to people that had left the company and forgot to collect their belongings before departure.

Or maybe they all died. Who knows.

The stuff that was scooped up was parked in a room for a few weeks to allow people to collect their things if they wanted them. On the day before it all went to charity, I made a visit and collected all the best quality coat hangers. I scored about a dozen of them.

The next day, all my things were hanging on top notch coat hangers.

Today, several months later, all my good coat hangers have gone walkabout. Those that were too slack and idle to go and get them have decided to pinch mine instead.

I wonder if I can rig a coat hanger up to one of those dye bombs that banks put in cash bags?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Where can I find an "arse-o-meter"?

That's not the official term for it, and it has nothing to do with legalising gay marriage or anything like that. It's a device for measuring the distance between your sit bones, so that you can buy a bike saddle that fits your arse.

Everything you ever wanted to know about why cyclists use stupidly small and hard-looking saddles can be found here - and a proper description of the arse-o-meter.

Yes, there has been a dearth of photos this week. Battery went flat on me one morning, and I've seen nothing of interest since.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Close run thing

Had a very close call coming home on Friday afternoon. Here's some pictures that I prepared earlier to try and show what happened.

The green stripe is me on me bike. The purple car coming up behind me is being driven by an impatient woman. The orange car coming towards us is a white ute with three teenagers across the bench seat, all chatting and yahooing as they head home from work.

The impatient cow decides to speed up just as we get to the corner so that she can overtake me. There is a set of lights about 100 metres to our right. They are red. She is speeding so she can get to a red light a few seconds earlier. By turning across my bow, she blocks the ute driver from seeing me. I have to brake to avoid plowing into her rear quarter panel.
Once she gets out of my way, I start to accelarate again. However, the ute driver has decided to turn right - and he hasn't seen me behind the stupid cow.
This is the "oh shit" moment where I am yelling "Stop" at the top of my lungs.
I invoke the Blues Brothers invocation of "Our lady of blessed acceleration don't fail me now." I really hit the gas. I hit the gas so hard, I pull a bunch of muscles in my back and legs from the effort.
It's about now that the ute driver sees me, and shits himself. His window was down, and I could hear him and his two passengers going "Fuck!", and various other words. I am absolutely flooring it, expecting his front bumper to collect my back wheel at any nanosecond. I am braced for impact.
But he doesn't hit me. I keep on going, heart rate "slightly" elevated. The ute keeps on going too - but slowly. The stupid cow is blissfully ignorant of the prang she almost caused.

This is why I have no qualms about "taking the lane" when I think the situation warrants it. There are some motorists who overtake in the stupidest circumstances, and if I need to block them in order to save my skin, I'll do it. Fuck 'em. They can curse and scream all they like - I really don't care.

Monday photo

Yes, photo. Just the one today. The bloke with the Stop sign was walking behind the machine.


I thought the rules said that the bloke with the red flag had to walk in front?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Stuff I saw today - mostly wierd

affordablebreasts.com.au - as if mine aren't big enough already.


I rarely see the same cyclist twice. However, I photographed this bloke at around the same spot on Wednesday - but about half an hour earlier. I recognise him by the lack of helmet. What are the chances of that?


The Greens had their banners up on the bike bridge today - I managed to get past both mungers without running them down today. Their strategy was the same - piss off cyclists whilst trying to get an environmental message across to motorists zooming past below. I walked up the road a bit - I couldn't read their sign on the northern side. I doubt a driver going by at 60 would have time to glance up and read it either. What a waste of space.


I got a comment on my last post where I suggested the mungers had driven. It was suggested that maybe they walked. Yes, that's possible, but highly improbable. Those signs are quite heavy and unwieldy, and they had three of them today. Plus the mungers were in their 50s, and didn't look fit and sprightly (they were the un-Abbott). To top it off, I recognise most of the cars at the top end of Lilyfield Rd as they are the same cars every day - I've almost been doored by half the owners. There was a strange van under the bridge this morning parked in the "no stopping" zone. My money is that the mungers came in that van.


Three pissed idiots crossing George St at 5pm. The arrow is pointing to the first Darwin Award nominee as he abuses a taxi driver that narrowly avoided running him over.


The male idiot was followed by two other pissed idiots. Unfortunately, they all made it across safely when the light went green.


Three very ugly specimens of humanity. The freaky thing is that they looked about 16 years old. What a bunch of slappers.


Almost there - spotted another bloke with no helmet, this time on a BMX (that's him in the distance).


When I got close, I discovered he was about 50 years old. For a moment, I thought I'd caught up with Mark Latham. Men of that age should not ride BMXs - it is very unflattering.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

Prang

I saw the aftermath of a prang today. By the time I got there, the police were taking statements and the cyclist had been carted off in an ambulance. It looked like the cyclist had been taken out from behind by one of the scariest creatures on the road - a man in a white van. They always drive too fast, and think they own the road. I stay the hell out of their way if I can. They're almost as bad as men in utes.

Only Greens would block a bicycle bridge for an election stunt

Nobody quite shits me like Greens. There I was, riding to work and minding my own business, when I pedaled onto the narrow bike bridge over Victoria Road - and there were two fucking mungbeans standing in the middle of the bridge, blocking my passage. Talk about a morning for stupid hats and moronic places to stand whilst taking photos of each other. Yeah, that was really sticking it to the man.


The flatulent pair were up there because they had unfurled a banner.... a banner on climate change. And who were they directing their message to? Was it the cyclists riding into town, travelling on their non-polluting steeds? Was it the pedestrians, walking into work and exhaling nothing but a few grammes of CO2 from their lungs?

No, they were talking to the motorists driving down below. The motorists who really couldn't be bothered getting out of their cars, and who probably don't give a small, pustulent crap about climate change. If they did, they'd be sitting on a bus, or cycling in with me.

The clanger is this...... I looked around the base of the bridge, and there weren't two bikes chained up there. The only way the Greens could have transported their banner (on climate change) to this location, where they interfered with non-polluting forms of transport - was to drive.

The irony just kills me.

This is why I just cannot stand them. I'd really love to spend the weekend shooting harpoons into whales just off Sydney - no, preferably in the harbour itself, so that many could see my actions - just to annoy them.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday photos

Yes, it's been a while. It's been too cold to wear the fingerless gloves, and when I have the winter gloves on, I can't get the camera out quickly to grab the action shots that I find interesting. I tried wearing the fingerless gloves on some cold days last week, and the result is that all the skin on my fingertips is cracking off - right down to the first knuckle. My poor old fingers just don't like being semi-frozen any more.

The blogsphere has been alive lately with the sound and fury of a mighty battle over compulsory bike helmets. My favourite discussion was held at Catallaxy - mainly because they're not serious cyclists and don't get bogged down in the usual pro- and anti- jihads that the helmet argument usually creates.

I didn't really get involved. I wear a helmet all the time - during my last prang, my helmet impacted with the tarmac with a sickening crunch. That could have been my scone. If wearing them becomes voluntary, I'll still wear one. However, I am also thinking about getting a cargo bike for short trips to the shops. As any trip on the cargo bike would be a slow meander down quiet side streets, a helmet would be a stupid idea, and I wouldn't wear one. As adults, we should be able to assess the risks associated with our activities and make up our own minds about how to proceed.

So this week, we have a collection of photos showing cyclists with and without helmets. As I often read rants in the Daily Telegraph from motorists that claim that "all" cyclists are breaking the law by now wearing them, I also counted the number that I saw each day with and without helmets.

Here's one without.


The guy in orange moving to the right isn't wearing one.


All the people in the next two photos, and the 30-odd other cyclists that I counted today, were wearing helmets - and wearing them properly (ie, not tilted back, chin strap done up properly). That's pretty typical. On any given day, 10-15% will either have no helmet with them, or will have it dangling from their handlebars or sitting on their head with the straps undone.


And that's just how it was today.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Mystery? What mystery?

The SMH has really overdone itself this morning with stupidity.


TWO young men are dead after a high-powered car crashed into a power pole in Sydney yesterday.

Crash investigators are trying to piece together the final moments of the white Subaru WRX sedan, which crashed off Burns Bay Road, Linley Point, at 2am, leaving the driver and front passenger dead.

No other vehicles were involved and driving conditions were said to have been good.

Emile Brugman, 21, from Killara, thought to have been the driver of the high-performance car, was killed. He was still on his P-plates.

The injured man is understood to be his stepbrother, Chris Limberiou, aged about 20, also from Killara. He was in a stable condition in Royal North Shore Hospital last night.

An unnamed occupant of the car was also killed.

A Facebook entry for Mr Brugman posted on August 5 at 12.34am reads: ''Just legged it from the cops RBT [random breath test], got g-cam [a friend] to pick me up and now at East Ocean Restaurant on Sussex Street.''

A friend posted a reply on Facebook at 1.53pm that simply said ''Hahahahhahahaha''.

It is believed the three men had been to the Hunters Hill Hotel during the evening. Yesterday a female bartender said: ''They are local boys.''
They think this is a mystery? Is Hercule Poirot required to figure out why two blokes coming back from the pub in a high powered car on a twisty road with an inexperienced driver ended up smashing into a power pole?

Idiots.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

I will insert the knife here....

Geez, if you do a google search on photos of these two, you can see lots of evidence of it coming....

A Welcome to Country ceremony I'd like to see

From the comments at Piers Akerman back in March:

I’ve seen a few contemporary urban indigenous ‘ceremonies’ and they remind me of the portrayal of primitive peoples in B Grade 1950’s Tarzan movies. In my opinion it is most unlikely that many genuine ceremonies have survived in highly populated and westernised areas of Australia. As an example of what a genuine ‘welcome’ might entail, it is interesting to note the practice of the Walpiri and surrounding ‘tribes’ in central Australia as described in M. J. Meggitt’s anthropological study “Desert People”. On arrival in another ‘country’ the visitors would take the hands of their seated hosts and rub this hand with the underside of their sub-incised penis. It is important not to view the richly divergant pre-European heritage of the aboriginal peoples as some sort of noble savage idyll where the natives take part in a smouldering gum leaf version of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. In my view it is grossly disrespectful to the original inhabitants to fabricate ceremonies, or participate in them.
Hmmm. Sounds like what male strippers do at hen's nights.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Bastard got away

Went for a nice long ride on Sunday - needed to blow the cobwebs out. All went well, until I was on the home stretch - just a few kms from home. Due to the way the streets are laid out in one spot, you really don't have much choice about where to ride. One particular bugbear for me is Crane St - it's a mid-range road that carries a lot of traffic that's avoiding Parramatta Road, and the traffic moves quickly and aggressively. When looking at the map below, when going from left to right, you've got a fast downhill that leads into a sharp left hander. The problem is that the bend is reasonably tight, and cars always cut the corner. It is not a good place to be on a bike unless you are willing to be assertive and take the lane.


My video camera had stopped recording for some reason, so this shot is brought to you by the wonders of Google Maps. This is the downhill stretch, with the bend coming up. There's a big slab of concrete road dividers here as well, stopping cars racing down the hill from losing it and going head first into cars coming the other way. The presence of that concrete wall should give you some idea of how many idiot drivers going too fast have come to grief on this bend in the past.


The way I stay alive here is simple - from the lights at the top of the hill to the corner is about 200 metres. The speed limit is 50. The hill is steep enough for me to get away from the lights and quickly accelerate to 50kmh - my mass helps me build up the speed. Once I hit 50, I move into the centre of the lane and take my spot in the queue of traffic heading for the corner - I will never go into that corner with a car on my right - that is death waiting to happen. The car will try to overtake, they'll be going too fast, and they'll cut the corner to make it round - when that happens, bike gets pushed sideways into the kerb, and you go down and impact the tarmac at 50kmh with cars right behind you. I'm not doing that.

Some knobheads don't like me doing that - they want to go down this hill at 60kmh or 70kmh, and take the corner like Fangio. I don't care - I take my spot and most of the time, all I get is a bit of angry tailgating. However, Sunday was a different matter.

One bloke went right over the double white lines and overtook me at speed - then slammed on the brakes to make the corner. I thought he was a goose, but I was safe. But he was followed by a real prick who overtook me with about 3 inches to spare. I was close enough to reach out and rip his wing mirror off without stretching. He wanted to scare me, and to a certain extent, he did.

But more than that, he really pissed me off. I've been on the road too long to be really scared by this sort of thing. It doesn't freak me out and make me cry. It just makes me want to kill.

So I chased him. He couldn't get away, and I was able to hang on his tail at 50kmh for the next few kilometres until we hit the next hill and he got away. I was hoping that we'd hit a traffic jam and he'd be forced to stop. At that point, I was going to pull him out of his car by his hair and punch him until my fist could take no more. Then I'd start using the other fist. I imagine he was feeling a bit sheepish, given that he would have mentally justified overtaking me like an arsehole because I was a "slow" cyclist - and there I was pacing beside him on the flat!

I was a tad annoyed, to say the least. He wanted to wind me up, and he did. It's been a while since I saw red like that, so he got the desired effect. I think it's lucky for both of us that the traffic was flowing in a most un-Sydneylike manner and he escaped. Otherwise, I'd be writing this from jail. On toilet paper. Using his blood for ink.

Thing is, he turned into the Abbotsford peninsular - so if he lives in that area, I am sure to come across him again.

QIK 002 - I'll be looking out for you. I won't be angry next time I see you, so all we'll exchange is words. I might try to educate you in the error of your ways. I don't take the lane because I am some sort of anti-car, mungbean munching eco-loon; I do it because unthinking wankers like you have tried to kill me on that corner in the past, and my position on the road is a direct reaction to that. You reap what you sow. Because you can't drive properly, I have to adjust my behaviour.

Epilogue - my legs are shot after that. I really cooked myself chasing him. If nothing else, it was an excellent workout - I really pushed through a few boundaries on that chase. Rage can be a great motivator.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Friday photos


My shadow in the early morning makes me look thin. Nothing else does.


I won't complain about riding when it's 6 degrees - these rowers were out on the water about an hour earlier than me, and that water isn't very warm either.


I don't get these single over the shoulder strap "courier" bags. Are they comfortable on a longish ride?


White leggings - must get myself a pair.


Then I'll look like I'm part of the cast of Flashdance.

Something you rarely see - a courier waiting at a red light. And he waited until the light went green. Guy must be on drugs.


More construction mayhem in Pyrmont as an unnecessary bit of bike path is built. I'm sure they've ripped up the path and relaid it two or three times in the last few months.


Even without a functioning bike lane, there were still 8 bikes in front of me. The bit below really does need a separated bike lane - this intersection is an absolute horror. It's the only piece of road though that needs to be ripped up and redone with a bike lane. The other 300 metres of new lane behind me are a waste of space - they've ripped up a really quiet street that rarely sees a car to install a bike lane. If there are no cars around, you don't need a bike lane. Bike usually outnumber cars in the section behind me about 10 to 1.

All the Council has done is annoy a lot of residents and businesses, and they haven't built something that will really benefit cyclists. When it finally opens, I'll be interested to see how many bikes take the path and how many stick to the road.

Squash the cyclist

Given the fuss that has been made this week over ripping up streets to build separated bike lanes, I thought I'd show why in some locations, cars need to be separated from bikes by a concrete island - and not just a bit of green paint.

video

The idiot in the 4WD went round the roundabout too fast and went right into the bike lane. If there had been a cyclist there, they would have been toast. We cyclists don't want separate bike lanes because we are road hogs - we need them because a certain percentage of motorists are absolute numbskulls and are out to kill us. Not deliberately, just through sheer stupidity, arrogance, aggression and inattention. Still, it doesn't matter what is going through the motorists thick skull when their front bumper goes through your ribcage - the outcome is the same.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

In reply to RebeccaH

Bike lanes are taking a bit of a pasting in Sydney at the moment. It seems everyone is piling on.

To answer Rebecca's query, I'm not sure if this comment that I left at Tim Blair helps:

First off, there are many different “classes” of cyclists. We are not a homogoenous group. Whilst I am happy to ride on busy roads at speed and mix it up with cars, I wouldn’t be keen on my kids doing the same. Would you like your kids to ride to primary school on a dedicated bike path, or do you think they’d survive OK out on a busy road? Many non-cyclists forget that a lot of cyclists are kids - they’re too young to drive. If we don’t want our kids to grow up as tubby little couch spuds, they need to be able to ride their bikes around safely. Even if it’s just down to the footy oval to kick a ball around.

When it comes to adult cyclists, you’ve got different groups as well. You’ve got your speedy fitness fanatic types in lycra with shaved legs - you’ll never seen them on a bike path. It’s not very “pro” - and it’s too slow. Bike paths are beneath them.

Then you have the less speedy commuters like me - possibly in lycra, possibly not, and generally with hairy legs. I’ll use a bike path if it’s there, but am happy to go on road if need be. I’m big enough and hairy enough to take care of myself with the odd aggro driver. I dislike shared paths intensely - I get up to 50km/h on some sections, and it’s a pain having to mix it up with pedestrians, pram pushers and dog walkers who stray off their path and right into my path - when they are travelling at 5km/h. Imagine being on an autobahn at 220km/h and having Trabants doing 80km/h suddenly pull in front of you (this has happened to me). It’s not good to mix traffic which has such large speed differentials. When I’m going to work, I am like any other commuter - I want the trip to be over and done with as quickly as possible. I have the same mentality as a car driver. I want a route that is fast and safe. If I can’t go flat out in a bike lane because it’s not safe at top speed, then I get out of that lane. Show me a motorist commuter who voluntarily drives more slowly to work than they need to and I’ll show you the albino unicorn that I keep in the back shed.

Then you have the plodders - people either out for a weekend cruise, or just popping down to the shops or a cafe (many bike trips are only 1-2km in length - they are local jaunts around where you live). They tonk along slowly, and they might be in family groups. Bike lanes are ideally suited to this group. As this group tends to come out on weekends, that is the busiest time for bike lanes. I’ve been on the Epping Road bike path on a weekend and been amused that the bike path was chockers and the road didn’t have a single vehicle on it.

On a weekday morning, the hard-core fitness fanatics will be up at 5am and home by 7am - which is why you rarely see them. The commuters will all be doing their thing and the weekend warriors will be driving to work in their cars.

Rebecca, not sure if that helps. What are your annoying cyclists wearing?

I know boredom can be a factor if you are doing the same route each day. Here's something I have noticed from commuting - when I drive, I religiously stick to the one route (unless I am diverted by a crash etc). But on the bike, I often mix the route up and try different streets.

Because I'm riding slower than you can drive in a car, I am happy to take quiet back streets - going up a suburban street is generally not much slower than taking a main road, whereas in a car, it can be a lot slower (unless you are one of those idiot rat runners that flog it down back streets and run kids over). The lower bike speed gives you more options.

It could be that the bike trail, however lovely, is just too slow. The trouble with the hippies and greentards that commission these things is that they think trails should wind this way and that so that you "experience nature in full".

When I want to get from A to B, I want to go in as straight a line as possible. I don't want to meander through lush fields and silent forests - I just want to go. Call it the freeway effect if you like - I want a bike path that is no different conceptually to a 4 lane freeway (except that it is narrower). I've ridden on a lot of bike paths where I have been constantly frustrated at having to ride at 30-50% under my normal "fast cruise" pace. It's like driving a car in only first or second gear. You get annoyed with it after a while, and go looking for a route where you can put the hammer down.

Cyclists are busy people too - we have places to go and hamsters to kill.

Alas, poor camera

Blogging has been light of late partly because my inspiration comes partly from what I see and photograph each day. The photos provide a reminder that I need to rant manically about something when I get home. Without the photos, I am nothing. My memory is a porous as cheese cloth.

My problem is that I have taken no photos this week. It's been so cold in the mornings, I haven't been willing to take a glove off to use the camera. Then when it did warm up slightly today, the camera had a hissy fit. "Lens error". Oh dear. That's when the camera fires up, but the lens doesn't pop out.

It's not surprising. What is surprising is that the camera has lasted this long. It goes out in all weather, gets wet regularly and the kids abuse it foully.

Although the lens wouldn't extend when I was on the road, it did agree to make an appearance when I got home.

The problem was a smear of vegemite under the lens covers. I think I know where that came from - only two people in this house stick their fingers in the Vegemite jar, and I am not one of them.

This will completely horrify my American readers who have sampled vegemite - we now buy it in 450gm jars (that's about 1 pound). We go through one of those jars every 2-3 months. Can you comprehend the idea of ingesting half a pound of vegemite per month?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A brief message

Yes, I'm still here.

I'm in some sort of election created writing funk. There is so much being written about the election (and I'm having so much fun reading lots of it) that there is no time left for writing stuff myself.

Normal service will probably resume in a few weeks time. Unless I get utterly bored with things, ignore the news and go back to blathering.