Sunday 30 July 2006

More annoying council stupidity

I will the first to admit that I am not Bob the Builder. I'll never star in a home renovation show. Give me a shovel and ask me to level a bit of ground and I'll give you a pockmarked, lumpy, sloping mess.

That being said, I must now tell you that I did not build the pedestrian path around the northern section of the Bay. The track around the Bay is controlled by 3 or 4 councils, and each council has done their bit differently. That's federalism in action for you - a vibrant stew pot of ideas.

Except that some of those ideas are crackingly bloody stupid. One council decided to construct the walking path out of gravel. That's not a bad idea, as one would think that it would drain better than tarmac and be kinder to knee joints - especially creaky old knee joints like mine.

However, if you want to completely screw a task, just give it to local government. The gravel path doesn't drain at all, especially since the constructors built it like a canal. You have two lovely straight cement edges with a concave depression in the middle. The gravel is also very fine, so it has compacted down like concrete. After a bit of rain, all the water runs off into the "canal", and it stays there for days. I think it rained last on Friday. This photo was taken on Sunday afternoon.

Clearly, the council has really been aiming to solve the water crisis by providing local storage for rainwater runoff. Why bother with installing a tank in the backyard when there are thousands of gallons of water sitting in a canal running right around the Bay?

This of course explains why a lot of pedestrians end up on the cyclepath. Someone is going to have to go around with a tip truck full of gravel and a shovel and raise the path and make it convex so that water runs off, not into it.

Bet it won't happen in my lifetime.

Crap in a creek

McDonalds usually gets a pasting when it comes to litter, the environment and all that guff. So here is a completely unscientific and unrepresentative sample of photos to show you that McDonalds are really very green indeed.

Exhibit 1 - a chip packet lying in the mud just next to the Bay walking path. Given that it is cardboard, and not very waxy cardboard at that, I reckon it will have disolved and broken down in a month or so. Recycle. Bio-degraded.

I think the old term used to be "rotted". Funny how "rotting" has gone out of fashion and "bio-degraded" has come in. As a word, "rotting "stinks. Bio-degradable sounds so much cleaner and fresher.

What was it that Orwell said about words and their use?

When I was 12 or 13, I spent a few weeks on a sheep station mustering sheep. It was pretty dry, and quite a few died either on route to the shearing shed or in the holding yards. Us boys had the fun job of picking up the carcases and burning them - after we had picked off the dead wool. I remember the colour of the bloated bodies - green and purple - and how much they stunk if you happened to puncture the gut wall. We were doing the old one-two-three with one sheep and as we got to "three" and were about to hurl it onto the flames, the rear legs popped off and all the guts came out and it was a hell of a mess.

Somehow, "bio-degradable sheep" is not how I remember it.

Enough stinky sheep stories. Exhibit 2 was taken about 10 feet away, and you'll have to trust me on this, but there are 12 bits of litter in this photo, which shows a stretch of mud about 8 feet wide. It was like this for several hundred feet. In that whole area, the only McDonalds litter I saw was the chip packet, and it will rot. All the rest of this crap is plastic, and it will still be there when I climb down into the mud next CleanUp Australia Day.

I bet if I sent these photos to the SMH, they'd just use the one with the big golden arches on it and ignore the other 99% of crap.

Hundreds, if not thousands of people walk past this spot each day, and I wonder how many bother to look over the edge at all the litter lying in the mud just below them. Some people really are grotty bastards.

Green vandalism

Here is a classic series of photos for you.

The first is from a park near me - it reads "A Greenspace Project", and has some blurb on it about how it is a joint venture between a couple of quangos to beautify the local area. All in all, it has worked. The park has been tidied up a bit and it's nice to walk around.

Thanks Greenspace Project.

Not far away, we have the tailings of some local dickwad who has decided to leave his calling card plastered around the place. My remedy is simple - cut their thumbs off. It's pretty hard to hold a can of spray paint without an opposable thumb.

I don't think that is too draconian - if the muzzi's want to have sharia law, then I want to have a few medieval laws brought in as well. Ok, if we can't cut their thumbs off, can we at least put them in the stocks for a day and throw crap at them?

Then there is this bit of vandalism about 20 feet away from the Greenspace sign - "Vote Green". It's been how many years since the last election and this piece of vandalism is still quite readable. I doubt whoever did this used biodegradable paint. Knowing the hypocrisy of the Greens, it is probably lead based and laced with DDT.

Maybe we should just hang them up by their thumbs instead?

Annoying local government stuff

This photo is a bit small to really get my point, but the bonehead that erected it got it the wrong way around. The cyclepath is on the right and the pedestrian path is on the left.


I guess we aren't paying our local council wallah's enough. Or should I make that gallah's instead? It's pretty hard to screw it up when 10 metres away, the type of pathway is painted on the ground in 3 foot high pictures.

The second photo shows the reverse angle - they got it totally wrong both ways.

To cap it off, you then have signs positioned like this one - halfway behind a tree.

It's no wonder most pedestrians amble around the local cycleways without a care in the world.

My observation is that when people are walking, they switch off looking at signs. Try driving somewhere without looking at the signs - which lane to be in, how fast to drive, street names, Stop signs, traffic lights etc. It amazes me that as soon as people strap on the trainers, they put on sign-blinkers as well.

Saturday 29 July 2006

V for Very Good

I caught V for Vendetta on a flight the other day - well, I caught most of it. I missed the first 10 minutes or so because I was under the impression that we were still taking off and it was unlikely that the inflight entertainment would not have started so soon.

Silly me. Obviously I am still thinking back to the days when screens dropped from the cabin roof and everyone was stuck with watching the same show. And the screesns couldn't drop down until level flight had been attained in case someone whacked their head on one. Or something like that.

Clearly I am not flying often enough these days to be up with all the latest stuff. I managed to fluff the check-in procedure as well. There are these kiosk things at the airport these days - little red things like Daleks - that you have to punch your flight and name into. Too bad if you can't use a keyboard. Anyway, I totally screwed the process by hitting the wrong button and saying that I was carrying all sorts of dangerous goods like munitions, knives, guns, gas, flares etc. The bloody system boots you out at that point and you can't go back and start again. You have to front up to the "help desk" for a strip search and cavity probe. Having dyslexic fumble fingers is not a good idea.

Anyway, I waded into the movie at about the 14 minute mark. I noticed that it was playing when it was 10 minutes in, and it then took me 4 minutes to extract headphones, find jack, work out how to bring up the screen on an arm, find the movie setting, select the channel and all that. I didn't realise that you had to undo a little catch in order to raise the arm holding the video screen - I just about ripped the bloody thing out of the seat trying to get it raised. By the time I finished with it, the catch was a bit bent and mangled. Stupid bloody airline. They have signs for just about everything and anything, but none telling you that you need to flick a catch to get your screen out.

I must write to the Head Honcho and complain. If you see little stickers stuck up in front of you next time you fly QANTAS saying something about releasing a catch to raise the video screen, you'll know my campaign or harassment and spleen venting has been a success.

Where was I? Oh yes, something about a movie. I have to hand it to the Poms - they know how to do a really good, dark, mysterious thriller about the black arms of government and all that. For some reason, the yanks can never pull it off. The poms have churned out some ripping yarns in the past involving horrible Prime Ministers and the like - Edge of Darkness has always been a big favourite of mine, and the whole Urqhart series was most excellent. There is something about Englishmen in pinstripe suits that can be made just so deliciously evil.

There were a few things that spoilt it though. The whole Matrix style knife throwing etc was just so unnecessary. The Wachowski Brothers need to be move on. The story is terrific - we don't need any more bullet dodging and that sort of thing in a movie like this.

Another annoying thing is the evil PM was made out to be a convservative. Given that the Tories have been out of power in the UK for oh, about 10 years, I find it odd that they would choose to make the government a conservative government. Why is it that the lefties can't be evil?

That aside, the middle bit was a very convincing movie about the nature of nasty, evil repressive governments. Funny how people are more likely to believe a movie about a British government behaving badly than say Saddam Hussein. If this movie had been set in Iraq in 1995, the critics would have scoffed and said, "His regime is not that bad".

One thing I noticed in the in-flight magazine was that all the movies had a critics rating and a peoples rating. All the good action flicks had the critics giving lower rating than the plebs, whilst the arty, wanky movies had the plebs well outscored by the critics.

Funny how the plebs are usually right.


I heard this on the radio today, and then found the quote in a newspaper - "any resolution should provide a framework for the cessation of hostilities on a urgent basis and mandating a multinational force."

What on earth does that mean? The ABC of course was playing it as the main story, probably because they think it means something. To me, it provides at least half a dozen words for a good game of 'wank word bingo'.

I mean, who the hell comes up with this kind of dribble, and who pays any attention to it? I guess it is just the kind of thing that the readers of The Age and the The Guardian want to hear - something meaningless that sounds very deep and meaningful. Of course it involves the UN.

Butchering the English language like this should be a hanging offense.

Self riteous media dribble

Oh, the bleating from the media and the usual UN-types is so loud, it is almost defeaning. Lebanon is a humanitarian disaster and those nasty Jews should pack up their war planes and go home. Civilians are dying!

Sorry pal, but civilians are always dying in wars. Yes, wars are generally thought to be fought between the army of one country and another, and most ill-informed observers would normally think that most of the casualties would come from the soldiers on each side. They think that the spectators should somehow be afforded magic protection against shot and shell.

War is not a spectator sport. Unlike say going to a game of rugby, where you can sit on the sidelines and watch the biffo and not get hurt yourself, military action does not normally take place on a nice, neat field marked by white lines and patrolled by touch judges and the odd referee. A lot of people would be amazed when told that in a lot of wars (if not all of them), the majority of victims are civilians.

Civilians die for lots of reasons. You get stubborn idiots who refuse to leave their house when an artillery battery digs in next door (probably because they have never heard of counter-battery fire). They starve because food distribution systems break down in the battle area. They get shot by mistake. They don't know how to dig in. They don't recognise the sound of incoming. They sometimes get murdered or raped by looters. They tread on mines because they don't recognise the symbols for mine fields. They get blown up trying to remove that pesky unexploded bomb from the back lawn. And as we've seen in Iraq, they get pissed and hoon around in the middle of the night weaving in and out of convoys and wondering why they get brassed up.

In short, civilians on the battlefield are idiots. They have no idea what they are doing or what is going on. Unfortunately for them, the battlefield generally comes to them rather than the other way around, so they don't have a lot of choice in the matter. However, it is a nasty and sad fact that ever since we started braining each other with rocks and stabbing each other with sabre teeth, civvies have got the rough end of the pineapple. Lebanon is no different to any of the battlefields of the last 5,000 years that you might care to wander over if you have a spare moment.

The poor dumb bastards are going to cop it, so get over it.

Frankly, I have no sympathy for the Lebanese. If the Drummoyne Liberation Militia ever decides to setup a Katyusha rocket in my neighbourhood and starts to lob missiles at Leichardt, I'll have two choices:

  1. Get my neighbours together as our own militia and shoot the bastards, or
  2. Split. That is, pack up the valuables into the bongo van and leave town. Then hope there is something to come back to after the annoyed folk in Leichardt have run a few tanks up the street and shot any fool that stuck his head up.
Sitting around whilst thousands of angry men with beards imported and setup thousands of rockets pointing south is not the wisest cause of action. If you're stupid enough to let them do it and then fail to split, then I have zero sympathy when a two thousand pounder comes crashing in through the roof.

Some people are happy to buy 10,000 rockets and have them sitting in a warehouse doing nothing. They feel content just knowing that they own them and can wheel them out and use them if someone gives them the shits.

Then there are other people who don't buy weapons to just let them sit in warehouses - they buy them to use them. Hezbollah are the second type. Anyone with half a brain could see that they were just itching to run around the place lighting fuses.

And before we piss and moan and complain about the Israelis zotting a few civies that happened to be standing near a rocket launcher, we might like to think about what Hezbollah would do to any farmers that dared to complain about a Katyusha under the olive trees. A short burst of AK-47 fire to the head or torso would be their answer.

War is a nasty little business. Get over it. Hezbollah are a nasty bunch of people. Accept it. If an F-16 is circling overhead and you are standing near one, practice the old trick of "run away, run away!"

And then shut the fuck up.

Grubby bastards

After much procrastinating, I finally mowed (most) of our back verge this morning. I am obviously the bad householder in our street once again - every other verge is neat and trim and well maintained, and ours looks like the residents are Hells Angels. The only things holding me back have been a power constraint (an extension cord that is a bit short for my electric mower) and a removal constraint (the green bins are only emptied every fortnight).

The extension cord was still a bit short this morning, so 30% of the verge remains an urban jungle. However, the rest is starting to look like normal suburbia. My biggest problem with mowing has been getting rid of the clippings. The wheelie bins might be big, but a small garden like ours still generates a lot of clippings - particularly when the last tenants obviously did no gardening for the entire 3 years of their residence. Every 2nd weekend has been spent cleaning up their leftovers, and I simply rake and mow and chop until the bin is full, then I have to wait for the bin to be emptied before starting again. That means I might get halfway through a garden bed and then have to stop, leaving the place looking like a half turned over tip.

I was puzzled as to why the lawn was not growing, until I worked out that the last lazy bastard probably never mowed it until he left. I am guessing he either got in a cheap contractor, or borrowed a mower and did a DYI. Unfortunately, when you don't mow for 6 months, the grass gets tall and thin and gangly, and you end up with an enormous amount of clippings. Instead of using a catcher and hauling them away, he just dumped it on the lawn. Hence our lawn was really just a two inch thick carpet of mulch. When it got wet and started to rot, it was pretty nasty. I have been raking that up and ditching it so as to give the lawn a chance to grow again, but now I am left with umpteen square metres of mud with a few grass stalks poking up.

I can see why all the wogs around here just concrete the yards and be done with it.

Anyway, as I was mowing the verge, I found that people passing by had used it as a tip, so I also half filled the recycling bin with empty beer bottles, chocolate bar wrappers, minty wrappers and the like. Even the odd pizza box. My verge ain't that big. People can be such grubs. I can't figure out why it should be an offence to leave a shotgun loaded with salt by the office window and to shoot litterers in the buttocks as they walk by. Hell, the council should pay me to blast a few offenders every now and then.

How boys clean the bathroom

I discovered a great method for cleaning the bathroom this morning. I popped into Bunnings to buy an el-cheapo Karcher unit for cleaning all the gunk off the bike, and then a thought flashed past - why not use it for rinsing off all the horrible cleaning bleaches and stuff?

Luckily, our house is small enough for the garden hose to make it from the tap at the back door to the bathroom. I don't know how people with a McMansion would fare. I guess they wouldn't care as they could afford to pay a maid to do the dirty work.

Unfortunately for me, as the bathroom has not had a proper clean in 3 months, the little$99 Karcher didn't make much of a dent in all the grime and mould and foot goo in the shower and bath tub. It was back to elbow grease and Jif and a scourer. It did however do a great job of rinsing off all the scum after I had spent 10 minutes on my knees scraping encrusted toe jam off the tiles. It was also great for blasting all the cobwebs from the upper corners of the bathroom.

After all that, I also had a go at cleaning the bike. It wasn't much use in the end - I forgot to buy de-greaser, which is what really needs to go on first. No amount of blasting with detergent and water will remove that caked on chain lube and road grit. The bike looks a lot cleaner, but the chain and cluster are still full of a paste made up of dirt and grease and I can hear the cogs wearing away with each revolution of the pedals. Back to Bunnings in the morning for a can of degreaser!

Sunday 16 July 2006

Since when do poofs drive V8 utes?

I view soccer as a game for poofs. You don't have to be gay to play, but it probably helps. Every weekend, I look out my window and watch a couple of teams of fags run back and forth kicking a ball this way and that and then leaping on each other sticking tongues in each others ears. And they're not even drunk. Soccer should be played in skirts.

These packs of poofs come with fleets of fag-mobiles - hotted up WRX's, boganated Commodores, Jap 4-pot screamers with spoilers the size of surfboards on the rear deck. Today however brought something new - a normal looking Holden Ute in a normal looking colour, but with a traditional big block under the bonnet. At the end of a game, one of the mincing queens hopped into it and did a fair sized burnout when leaving. He also managed to peel rubber when changing up into second and then third, and did the same when he turned onto the City West Link. It was such a nice change from the "eeee-wooosh" of the turbo wastegates from the gookaboxes that the other rimjobs drive.

Then I started wondering - when did poofs start driving V8 utes? What is the world coming to?

Five Dock really is crap

Poor old Five Dock - it really is a crap suburb. We went for a walk today, wandering through the back streets of the suburb before doing a spot of shopping on the main drag and then taking a different route home. It's just crap from one end to the other. It's hard to describe why - you just have to wander around for yourself to see what I mean. Then again, why bother? It's more fun, interesting and entertaining and stimulating to wander around a good suburb like Paddington or Balmain or Newtown or Leichart (I think I screwed up the spelling of the last place).

So what makes it crap?

Well, to start with, the festy houses. Yes, all surburbs have festy houses, and some suburbs are 95% festy, but Five Dock seems to have some really awful cases of uncle fester in brickwork. I think half the problem is that the locals are in love with the cement mixer. Any flat surface is a chance to lay some concrete, rather than an opportunity to plant a lawn or cultivate a garden. Ok, I hate pushing a bloody mower around on weekends, but a lawn looks a million times better than a green painted slab of concrete, or even worse, a stretch or pebble-crete. Half an acre of pebble-crete with some cement lions in the middle of it is not the height of chic I tell you. If CSIRO was able to develop myxo to kill rabbits, they must be able to develop some sort of virulent strain of concrete cancer that will force the neighbours to jackhammer up all their concrete slabs within a decade. That would be a good start. The lack of plant life around here makes Etheopia look like a jungle.

The next thing is the totally crap cafes. A suburb should either have no cafes or it should have really good ones. If it has no cafes, you simply drive or walk or cycle or skateboard or whatever to a suburb that has good ones - eg, Kings Cross. If it has good cafes, you are in luck. You can just walk around the corner and share in the delights of a lovely place to feed and drink and read the paper. However, if you have crap cafes, you waste part of your life grazing up and down the cafe strip looking for the one place that must be good. I have this rule of eating that says that if their is a cluster of eating places in one area, one of them must be good. It just has to be. You can't have a dozen nosebags in one small area and find that all of them are crap.

Unfortunately, my rule comes to grief in Five Dock. It probably comes to grief in Penrith too. I know that it comes to grief in Campbelltown, because I have tried every cafe out there and they are all rubbish. It used to be true of Goulburn, but then one good place opened up and I was saved.

Anyway, ever since moving down to this end of the suburb, I have been wandering up to Five Dock and sampling the cafes all along the strip and so far, my conclusion is that the owners should all be fed some myxo-infected rabbits. I pity the poor council and a heap of money has been sunk into beautifying the cafe strip to try and create a Lleichardt type ambience with wide footpaths and coffee in the open air and all that kind of thing, and all they have created is a congested road through the middle of the suburb with god-awful coffee and food down both sides. I've eaten better in Wagga. If a bunch of country hicks can serve up excellent coffee and great tucker, then surely the goons up the street can do better....

Hang on - the good place in Wagga was owned by a couple of poofs. Better not mention the name or location in case the locals take exception to a couple of poofs in their midst and decide to run them out of town on a rail. Maybe that is what is lacking in Five Dock - fags. It is certainly the most un-hip suburb on the planet. Not that I am a hop kind of guy - I just like hanging out in places frequented by hipsters. Hipsters are cool with bum bandits, and the queens usually know how to cook up a storm and whip up a latte. They certainly know how to decorate a shop. Hell, if you want to be depressed and feel totally like not opening up your wallet, stroll past the shops of Five Dock. It's been a while since I was in Melbourne, but the shops down there have a look and feel that just make you want to spend all your money. Think Chapel St. With Five Dock, think Sierra Leonne. In the 1970's, we had Green Bans with people lying down in front of bulldozers in order to stop redevelopment. Now, we need to have Ugly Bans, where we steal D9's and rampage through shopping districts at 2am flattening ugly shopping strips. Five Dock has to go.

Either that, or it is time to drop in a cluster of fags. Where is the pink Hercules with the elite unit of poofs in lurid jumpsuits waiting to leap out of the back and parachute down to rejuvenate the eating experience of this area? Trouble is, it would be like that scene in Priscilla Queen of the Desert where the trannies find themselves doing a show in some complete hicksville in the middle of nowhere. I don't think they'd go down very well over here. Maybe I need to go outside and hang a "Pride" banner on the fence in the hope of attracting a few as they zip past on the way to the snow. All I'll need then is a big net and a tranquiliser gun. Not sure what I'll do after that, but it probably involves getting a lease on a shop and fitting an explosive proximity collar around their necks and telling them if they stray more than 100 feet from the coffee machine that it goes off.

Anyway, I'm in a shit mood because I had a coffee in a place called "3 punte caffe" today and it was really unnecessarily poor. The coffee making guy must have bought his coffee machine from the same place as I got my toasted sandwich maker. It was so luke warm, if I had dropped half an ice cube into it, I would have had iced coffee. I also had a vanilla slice, and I got something that looked like a vanilla slice but was in fact nothing like a vanilla slice. It was some sort of cakey shit between the most incredibly tough sheets of pastry that I have ever tried to eat. I was given a fork to eat it with, which I thought was totally unnecessary, as most vanilla slices are a bit soggy. Wrong. I needed a fork and a steak knife to eat the bloody thing. Fuck, what a waste of $4.50. Like I said, we'd be better off having nothing in the area but a bunch or boarded up shops with unconcious winos sleeping it off in the doorways in puddles of piss than these lousy, fucked up excuses for coffee shops.

Obviously someone likes their coffee and cakes because they had some kind of "Finalist" prize up on the wall for some local business cake category, and they are still in business, but they are getting no more business from me.


Spiralling fuel costs can bite my bum

The SMH reported this weekend that:

Rural people spend, on average $160 a week on filling up and running their vehicles. By contrast, people living in major cities spend around $134 a week on their cars.

Transport is the third biggest single expense of urban Australians, with food and non-alcoholic drinks their second largest expense (housing costs top the list).

Hell, I am lucky to spend that much on diesel a month, let alone a week. Where on God's earth are these people driving to? Broken Hill and back?

Now I understand why I can afford to eat really good breakfasts in fancy cafes almost every day of the week and people look at me like I am a complete wierdo. Instead of stuffing fuel into my car, I am stuffing food into me. The costs work out about the same, but I get a lot more pleasure out of feeding my face than sticking a nozzle into the fuel tank and filling it up.

Heck, when I was driving a lot for work I was clocking up a bit over 25,000km per year, which ate up about 2600 litres of diesel. Even at $1.50 a litre, that works out at only $78 per week. Either the average driving is driving an awful lot of kilometres per day, or they are driving some inordinately fuel inefficient vehicles. I am just stunned at the amount of juice that average drivers are sticking in their cars. Yes, there are those amongst us that drive really, really long distances through the countryside for work each week, but what about the average Joe and Jill who live in the suburbs? Are they really driving that far?

I like my car. It's comfy and well appointed. I don't mind driving long distances in it. Driving Sydney to Brisbane on my own is not too much of a chore. Same goes for driving from Sydney to Hotham, or Sydney to Melbourne. But I don't like it that much to spend half my flipping life sitting in it. Driving 25,000 km at an average speed on 100km/h represented over 10 complete days behind the wheel. Given that there is no way that I averaged 100 km/h on all my trips, it means I probably spent 20 days a year looking through the windscreen. 20 days. That's not 20 8 hour periods - that is 20 x 24 hours. Surely there must be better things to do with my life, like catch up on rack time. Or blog.

Especially since time behind the wheel is a good time to lay down some lard. Hence the love of the bike. Every minute in the saddle is a minute of adrenaline. Driving a car is not living. Pedalling like crazy gives me the kind of jolt that reminds me why we are alive.

I should have taken some snaps of the bogan cars outside my window this morning. The local hoons seem to favour the WRX for some reason. I have yet to find one that does not have some sort of crap hanging from the rear view mirror. Do they factory fit that dangly shit before it rolls onto the boat from Japan? I don't mind the dark blue ones, but there was one out there today that was the colour of pale piss. No, not the kind of Monaro yellow that you get from too much Berroca - I mean weak, pale piss. What is it with these guys? Don't they even have the sense and taste to choose a good colour for their pox-ridden bogan toy?

Saturday 15 July 2006

Our Place reprised

OK, this blog is all about food. We returned to Our Place in Balmain this morning for a feed. It was a lousy day as far as the weather was concerned, and we were late getting up, and I was worried that we'd have trouble getting a table. As it was pissing down with rain, I knew that the number of available tables would be reduced by about 60%, so anyone that ventured out would be fighting for a limited number of chairs.

I was right. The lady running the place this morning was a complete Nazi. It was so annoying, we spent our first 2 minutes in the place debating whether to go somewhere else. The only thing that kept us in place was our lack of umbrellas and the fact that most of the cafes nearby are complete crap. Eventually the Nazi lady relented because a family at a table took pity on us and packed up early and split and gave us their table. I put it down to the little monkey man making goo-goo eyes at them. He was so cute, he got two parents to cut short their breakfast and hustle their brood out into the pissing rain. I swear he has some sort of mental telepathy powers that enables him to control other people.

Anyway, as the photos show, we stayed and ate. The first one is a stack of pancakes with caramelized banana and maple syrup and ice cream. It went down a treat. Not with me - I didn't even get a chance to stick a fork into it to try it before the gobble-monster over the table had demolished it one handed.

Meal number two was an omellete. She-who-must-be-obeyed loves this particular omellete. It's simple, but it's really well done. It just goes to show that you can two people an egg and ask them to boil it and one will turn out a masterpiece and the other will turn out a shell full of poop. Again, I didn't get the chance to try it as it was scoffed in no time at all.

Meal three was mine - home made hash browns with poached eggs and smoked salmon and rocket and hollandaise on top. Bloody marvelous. The home made hash browns piss all over the idea of using muffins. I'll never eat eggs benedict with muffins again. The hash browns were just so yummy and crunchy. God I hate a soggy hash brown. I really hate the rectangular fucking things that come in a frozen packet and taste like reconstituted earthworms. A hash brown is supposed to be fried in a pan in half an inch of fat or butter. It should be a little bit burnt - dark brown at least. Wimpy little light brown (tan) hash browns are just pathetic. They should be given to lesbians for use as panty liners. They certainly shouldn't be eaten.

This I think was the king of breakfasts - mushrooms with rocket and some sort of chutney with goats cheese. I only got to sample a bit of the goats cheese and chutney, and it was great. The two compliment each other really well. Normally, I look down my nose at a meat free breakfast like this. Eggs Benedict for me are a stretch - I'll accept smoked salmon as a substitute for bacon, but only just. I can't really come to terms with the thought of a breakfast completely free of bacon. And not even an egg in sight!

Yet this breakfast is enough to tempt me to cross over to the dark side - the vegetarian breakfast. I think I'll give it a go next time.

The thought of a vegetarian breakfast makes me think back to our caveman roots. Why do we want bacon for breakfast? Probably because a caveman wanted to start the day by killing something before breakfast. Hence the idea that blood sausage is a bloody marvelous thing to start the day with. Black pudding and porridge - breakfast of champions. When I have bacon for breakfast, it makes me think of sticking a spear into something.

If that's the case, what would happen if I had lamb chops for breakfast? Thoughts of Hannibal Lecter come to mind.

Then there was the traditional breakfast, complete with baked beans. I have done this one before and not been impressed. Note that the baked beans are very commercial. The only thing that beans from a tin are suitable for is to stick them into toasted cheese and baked bean sandwiches.

Speaking of which, has anyone bought a toasted sandwich maker in the last few years? When I was a teenager, I made a lot of toasted sandwiches because I had one at boarding school and a few of us did a roaring trade selling toasted cheese and bean sandwiches to our fellow starving boarders. The sandwich maker that we had back then was a ferocious little number - you had to watch it like a hawk as it fried a sandwich to a crisp in about 20 seconds flat. Which was good, since we normally had a queue of 20 starving boarders queueing up for a feed.

The new thing that we have now must be some sort of green electricity consuming number. Maybe it is only programmed to run on solar power, which would explain why it is so totally fucked at cooking anything after dark. You put your bits of bread in, go and watch the news (all half hour of it) and come back to find that a few bits of molten cheese have only just started to run out of the back of it. It produces soggy sandwiches. If you want a crispy sandwich, you start it when a movie starts and you take them out at the end as a post-movie snack.

If this thing is the future of electrical goods, then we are all fucked. I can kiss goodbye to my long, leisurely hot shower two or three times a day. We'll be stuck with 30 second tepid showers. I don't mind a nuclear power station being built in my backyard, just so long as I can hook up our shower to the hot waste water pipes.

Speaking of nuclear waste, some people love to have their coffee or hot chocolate served in bowls. I do too, but for me it is a thing to do in France, not Balmain. I am a sucker for dipping bits of pastry into a bowl of hot chocolate at breakfast, but only if I am in somewhere like Nice or Avignon. Doing it in Balmain would just totally fuck my memories of doing it in France. I also could not contemplate eating sausages with mustard and a beer at a railway station unless I was somewhere in Germany. Still, if others want to use them, I am not going to object, except that it increases the chance of me sticking my elbow into someone else's coffee.

After all the trouble we had with the Waiter Nazi at the beginning of the meal, it turned out really well. Except for her. No fucking tip for you lady!

Vegetabletarian shoes

Vegetabletarians seem to have a problem with wearing leather shoes and leather jackets and leather belts and so on. Crikey, does that mean that they are stuck with horrible plastic shoes? I have this awful vision of when I was working at a public sector organisation in the UK for a very short period and most of the pubes walked around in cardigans and grey, plastic zip up shoes. They were quite without a doubt the most awful footwear that I had ever seen, until I moved to Wogville and saw all the males walking around in those leather open toed sandal things. There is something just so totally gay about open toed leather sandal things. They might be cool in Genoa, but they are a fag-a-minute situation around here.

But I digress as usual. Let's say you have a vego that is not quite a vego - they might eat chicken for instance. I guess that makes them a henotarian or a vegechicken. In that case, although they might object to leather, would they object to shoes made of chicken skin?

If so, just how the fuck do you tan chicken skins? Would they make lovely soft leather like baby goats? Could there be an enormous market for chook shoes amongst the bean eating lesbian suburbia known as Newtown? They might be lesbians, but they are women - they have to own 97 pairs of shoes. Think of the number of chicken skins it would take to fit out a lesbian couple with fancy shoes, especially if they go in for thigh high boots.

You also have vego types that eat seafood. I guess chicken skin coats are out for them, but whales live in water, so would they object to wearing whale skin coats? I bet the eskimos wear them - or perhaps they are seal skin coats. Whatever. Whales spend more time in water so they are more fish like than seals, so a whale skin coat should be more acceptable to a vego than seals. Especially baby fur seals, which have really not spent much time in the water at all. Then again, they've spent a lot of time on the water (as in ice, which is just frozen water), so they could be counted as seafood.

What would you call chook skin shoes? Cluckers?


It's been some years since I have been to the Oxford Tavern in Petersham to watch the jelly wrestling. There's nothing like getting splashed with a blob of jelly and looking at it closely and finding a pube stuck in it.

Anyway, there is nothing wrong in my mind with watching a few well stacked chicky-babes playing with their wet, jelly covered boobs. Especially if they play with each others boobs.

However, I have a question. Consider being in a spa with some guys, and they have man boobs. What do you do if one of them gets boozed and starts playing with his man boobs? Do you watch? Do you make an excuse and go to the toilet (and not come back)? Do you go to the dunny and toggle?

Boy, that's a tough social situation to deal with.

Friday 14 July 2006

Please, I am up to my knees in cheese

In one small way, moving house was a collosal disaster - we left our two pizza stones behind. It was the old story of confusion - her ladyship was packing the cupboards in the kitchen and saw a cockroach, so I was asked to pack a cupboard.

Notice that I heard the words "a cupboard", not "all the cupboards". That meant that we moved with what she had packed and what had packed, rather than the entire contents of the kitchen.

How did we survive the dreaded landlord inspection? Simple - the landlord was moving in and wanted to demolish and rebuild the kitchen, so there was no inspection. It was simply get the fuck out of my house before the tradesmen arrive, and even then he sent them in before we had packed and left. So things were a bit rushed and the pizza stones went to a new home. Unfortunately, it was not ours. They were well broken in stones. They were black and crusty and completely uncleanable, but they made a mean pizza.

Ah well, so we had to find two new stones. You'd think that would be pretty easy, wouldn't you?

Ha! Fool you!

I started in K-Mart, because we had a sneaky suspicion that's where we bought them. They were nowhere to be found (along with any staff. It seemed to be a staff-free store). Next came Target, since K-Mart and Target kind of blend together and maybe we got confused and thought we had actually bought them in Target etc etc, but that placed proved to be empty of both staff and stones as well.

Another week, another fruitless search. I made a special trek up to the Essential Ingredient, but their stones were $25 each and I was buggered if I was spending $50 on two stones for the purpose of cooking pizza. So we spent another stoneless week.

It was then back to K-Mart, and this time I found a person who actually worked there! She told me to try - wait for it- the BBQ section. Yes, BBQ section. Tell me if I am wrong, but I don't think that many people cook pizza on their BBQ. You might be lucky enough to have a pizza oven in your backyard, but I think a pizza oven looks a bit different to a Beefmaster BBQ. Still, it was so amazing to talk to an actual human that I took her advice and went and had a look.

No luck.

However, I bumped into her on the way out and she suggested that I try a store called "House", which was just downstairs. By that point, I was in total despair. I figured I would never cook another pizza ever again. I was about to be consigned to a life of fucking Pizza Hut. My God, it was if my life had flashed before my eyes. I just didn't want to walk into another store and walk out disappointed. My search was at an end.

As it turned out, I had to walk past House in order to get to the vegie shop downstairs. Halfway in the door, I almost tripped over a waist high stack of pizza stones that were on sale at $10 each. If I had been pushing a shopping trolley at that point, I would have bought the entire stack. As it was, I only got two. Bliss. And they were cheap.

I felt so good at saving $30 on pizza stones that I went downstairs to the vegie shop and spent $150 on smelly cheese, pate, quince paste, lavosh, dried nuts, fancy olive oil and smoked salmon. And I mean smelly cheese. It was a cold day, but by the time I made it back to the car, the cheese had ripened slightly, and I was pushing a trolley that stunk like a pile of old socks. By the time I got home, the car well and truly stunk.

But at least I had pizza stones.

They finally got fired up tonight. To start with, they were white and virginal. They now have some lovely grease smears on them from spilt cheese, and scratches from the pizza cutter. They have a long way to go before they reach the charcoal colour of the old ones. Being new, the pizza stuck, which is something I am not used to. I need to burn the crap out of them a few times.

The result though was worth it. They were the worst pizzas that I have cooked this year, and they beat the utter crap out of Pizza Hut. Bliss.

Are magpies protected?

Blasted black and white vermin from the sky. I wandered outside last week and discovered that not only was the lawn full of holes, but half my herbs had suffered a severe cropping. Well ok, the lawn is really half mud, so it was more a mud patch with holes poked in it, and the herbs were pretty straggly, but it is my lawn and herbs dammit!

I was wondering what the heck was going on, since the parsley and coriander had taken a hammering, but the oregano, mint, rosemary, chives and tarragon were good as new. Clearly, something had a taste for salady things.

The answer appeared a few days later - a couple of magpies that were beak deep in the grass, poking around looking for worms and grubs and things. If the lawn is thin, they can punch some good sized holes in the ground - think what a lawn would look like if you bashed 100 cricket stumps into it. I could accept that they were digging up the lawn, but I didn't think that they had a taste for parsley until I saw one sitting in the herb garden daintily plucking away at the fresh shoots.

Can't blame them really - if I was having grubs for breakfast, I'd probably want to season them with a bit of parsley. I am after all the type of guy that loves to smear a bunch of lamb chops in a mixture of rosemary, garlic, pine nuts, honey, mustard and breadcrumbs and bake them in teh oven. Parsley coated grubs are probably doubly delicious.

What they are telling me is that it is time to break out the greenhouse (currently residing in a box in the shed) and assemble it and populate it with parsley. Bugger. There goes Saturday.

Like I said, little black and white bastards.

Hell on Wheels

It being Tour de France time, SBS showed the documentary "Hell on Wheels" this week, which covers the T-mobile team in the 2003 race. It was on at the movies this time last year, and I wanted to go and see it, but missed it. Clucker went and saw it though, and came back with the verdict of "boring".

Now that we have the wonders of a PVR, I taped it and watched it one morning when I was monkey-sitting.

For the first half hour, I couldn't see what the silly clucker was on about. It was anything but boring. Ok, it was in German, and Stonehenge failed to descend from the top of the screen, but it was pretty interesting for a documentary. The shots of the riders zooming through the crops etc were good cinema.

Then, the curse of all editors descended. Instead of chopping the thing down to say a good 60 minutes, they had to stretch it out for 90. The middle third was like watching paint peel off the garage. I was still working out how to operate the PVR at this stage, so I didn't fast forward through it (like I should have). I would have died of boredom in a cinema.

Thankfully, there was a good, juicy crash at the start of the final third and that sparked a return of my interest. The last bit was as good as the first bit.

One thing to note though - we keep on reading about how thin and long-lived the French are, and what wonderful food they eat blah blah blah. Anyone who wants to disabuse that theory need only watch this documentary and focus on the spectators rather than the cyclists. The spectators in one segment waddle around like a bunch of force fed geese. Yes, the French can be as fat as yanks. I was doubly amused by the fact that cyclying fans could be so fat. Irony.

Anyway, if you are going to watch it, fast forward from about minute 30 to 60 and you'll enjoy it thoroughly.

Otherwise, sitting through the middle third truly is hell on wheels. Or, since it is now recorded to hard disk, hell on spindles.

Tuesday 11 July 2006

It snot good

Winter descended beautifully on us last week in the form of a thick fog that blanketed the Bay and muted all noise from the passing traffic. I was hoping to post some photos of the fog, so I packed my camera and set off a bit after dawn for the trip into work. I made it as far as the UTS Rowers and decided to take some photos when I discovered that the camera battery was flat. I could have done a U-turn and gone home for the spare, but I was not in the mood after that. Pity, as when I got to the ANZAC bridge, the middle of the bridge was wreathed in fog and the upper bits were poking out of the top of the fog. It was a smashing view.

And I don't have a photo to prove it. Note to self - always check battery charge before leaving house.

The ride was a bit of a struggle as I've got a mild case of the lurgy at the moment. The nice thing about the Lilyfield Rd hill is that by the time you get to the top, it should have cleaned all the muck from your nose and throat. It is not the Pyrennes, but it is just enough of a slope to scrape the windpipe clear of all goo. I was spitting up green chewing gum by the time I hit the top. Not snot - well, technically it was snot - but it had the consistency of dried chewing gum and it was an electric green colour. Yuk. Still, once I get it out of my lungs in the morning, I'm not troubled for the rest of the day by constantly regurgitated snot. I hear these people at work all day hacking and coughing and never managing to get it out. Cycling - nature's hanky.

Feeding frenzy at the Eating House

Ah, where to begin. Last week was a gourmet treat, with two pig outs at two good places in Balmain.

The first was at the Welcome Hotel. I think I have been there before, but nothing about the place rang any bells. Yes, I remember having a beer or two there, but not a feed.

It's a good spot for a chow-down. I started with a chicken liver mousse, which I think is just pate mixed 50/50 with butter. Delicious. That was followed by a steak that was also pretty good. Unfortunately, the memory is now over a week old, so I can't really remember a lot about the night, except that the young one ordered duck, and it was the slowest cook duck in history. When you're 10 years old and hungry, having to put up with a delayed meal is no fun, especially when you didn't bother with an entree and don't like the fancy home made bread. The duck came out late, late, late, and it wasn't properly cooked. The skin was like rubber and I'm sure some of the meat was raw. Good thing they didn't put it on the bill. It was an atrocity of a duck. Atrocity, atrocity, atrocity!!

For those in the know, it was definely "duck over, duck out".

As far as I am concerned, the place was bloody marvelous. The youngster might beg to differ though.

The amazing thing though is that a few nights later, we were out for another fancy chow down, this time at the Eating House, which is very French. Blow me down, the brave little sod orders duck again as a main. I tried to convince him to go the easy option with fish and chips (which is what I did), but he had to go the duck. Lucky bugger - the duck was superb. Yes, my fish was magnificent, and the shoestring fries were the best chips I have had all year, but the duck looked better. Very annoyed. I am proud of my ability to normally choose what I think are the best dishes on the menu.

I did start with brains though - breaded and fried and served with a nice salad. It's been a while since I have done the Hannibal Lecter and gone with brains, mainly because so few chefs seem to want to cook up squishy rubbery bits of goo. Or, not many patrons want to eat breaded and friend bits of squishy, rubbery goo. They were good. Not great. Not magnificent. Good. I wouldn't order them again.

The trouble with brains is that I had an amazingly marvelous entree of brains at a restaurant about 15 years ago - place is probably long gone - in Kings Cross. They were something else. Or I was smashed, which is how all dinners used to be eaten. They were served with some sort of berry sauce, and they were excellent. I think they were also broken up into little nugget sized bits, which I reckon is nicer than being presented with an entire brain. The Eating House goes the whole brain effect, which is not really the best way to go if you are feeling slightly squeemish.

The Eating House gets top marks. Good service, nice ambience (we sat beneath a huge tri-color) and great bread. Next time we go back, I am murdering the duck.

Sunday 2 July 2006

Food porn

I was in Crows Nest this morning, which meant I had to drop into the newly relocated shop for The Essential Ingredient. Wouldn't you know it - when I used to live in the area, they were located in the inner west. Now that I have moved to the inner west, they have relocated to Crows Nest. Bastards.

I liked the old shop better. It's something to do with atmosphere. The old place was in a slightly shabby warehouse, and it gave you the feeling that you were shopping at the kind of place frequented by chefs and commercial kitchens. It was more wholesale than retail. It always gave me the feeling that I was getting a bargain, because I was shopping where the chefs shopped.

For all I know, chefs might have thought the place an awful rip-off and taken their custom elsewhere. However, it evoked that kind of shopping atmosphere.

The old place was also horribly crowded. You had to squeeze past other patrons and be careful with your elbows in case you knocked over a dozen wine glasses here and there. It was like shopping in a crowded market. The place always had atmosphere as there were lots of people bustling this way and that way trying not to bump into each other. It had a totally different feeling to say shopping in Coles. Sterile is not a word that comes to mind.

The new shop on the other hand has had the designer makeover. The old place looked totally unplanned - it was like something new came in and the owner just waved a hand and said, "Stick it over there somewhere". The new place has been planned down to the last detail. The aisles are wider. The colour scheme is all designer chic. The shelves are beautifully stocked with amazing gourmet delights. I almost bought a Salt Pig as an impulse purchase. It is the home of food porn. Vogue don't need to worry about what to photograph for the next 50 issues - you just walk into this shop and take a snap of a few things. It is that kind of place.

Today, it was also totally dead. The cash register was not humming with the sound of purchases being rung up in rapid succession. The staff wandered around with not much to do. I wonder if the place is going to survive?

I hope so, as they sell wonderful bags of vanilla sugar. We ran out recently, and I have been bereft without it. It's the best thing for making proper homemade custard, as it has lots of chopped up vanilla pod in it. The sugar is almost brown thanks to all the vanilla in it. Some people love it in their coffee. It's a great little luxury.

The thing is though, the shopping experience has gone. It's now just an expensive place to buy stuff. It's funny how the mind works.

Put it this way - when it was at the old location, I shelled out $625 for a food mixer. It felt like good value as I was buying it at a "warehouse".

At the new store, that same mixer is still $625. However, it no longer feels like a bargain as the surroundings are too plush. I wonder if they have misjudged their market. They also sell copper saucepans, which sell for about $300 and something each. If I bought one at the old shop, I'd feel like I was buying an essential item that would last me for the rest of my life. Something I could hand down in the will.

In the new shop, it would feel like an expensive piece of frippery. Something that you buy to decorate the kitchen rather than improve your custard making skills. It's utility vs food porn.

I feel like something has been lost.

Maintain our paths, you bastards

Ah, the joy of pottering around your local bike/pedestrian path on a sunny winters day. Lovely stuff. Until you see how much care and love and attention our local council pays to the pedestrian infrastructure. Not a lot by the looks of things.

Here's a photo of a local path. The bike symbol actually looks a lot clearer in the photo than it does in real life. You can walk right over this thing without even realising it is there.

Line marking spray paint in a can costs about $10 in Bunnings. I know. I checked. Council probably buys it by the pallet and gets it for less.

Hang on, this is local govt we are talking about here. Ha ha. They probably buy it from Jim, who is a mate of so-and-so, and they get it at $20 a can. No wonder they have no funds to send a bloke around with a stencil and a can of yellow stuff. I'd respray it myself, but I don't have a stencil. If you see a photo posted here in future of a really shaking, dodgy looking bike symbol sprayed on the footpath, then you'll know that I have given up and had a go myself. My efforts would probably make a drunken Jackson Pollock effort look neat and tidy.

I spotted an article in the paper last week about a case of "jogger rage" in Melbourne. A jogger ended up in Court because he pushed a pedestrian off a footpath, and the pedestrian went down an embankment and got a bit banged up. The jogger ended up having to pay $10,000 in compo and was lucky not to get banged up. Reading between the lines, the pedestrian was probably ambling along in the middle of the path and just refused to get out of the way. It's been years since I have jogged, but I remember the importance of rythym when you are running. Breaking your stride is just the worst thing that can happen once you get going. I sympathise with the guy. If people had the common sense and good grace to keep to the left, this sort of thing wouldn't happen.

Houseboating anyone?

In the Fin Review today, there is an article "The charms of cruising the old world", which rabbits on about the pleasures of hiring a houseboat in Europe and pottering up and down the canals.

I don't see why Europe should get all the fun when we have our own canals right here in Five Dock.

Ok, maybe they are not as picturesque as say cruising between Amsterdam and Budapest (for starters, this canal is only about a kilometre or two long) and these are more storm water drains than canals. The only thing you are likely to see floating down our local canal is a dead rat, bellyside up. Or, if the filthy locals up stream have been tossers again, an amazing amount of waterborne garbage. This canal has a litter trap at the end of it, and it's a net like something you'd find on the back of a prawn trawler. After a good dump of rain, the net is chockers full of garbage. Chip packets, cigarette packets, coke cans etc. It takes a fair sized truck to haul away all the junk that collects in a day or two.

It says something about the risk averseness of our youth these days that I am yet to see any kids trying to paddle up and down it in some sort of homemade conveyance. Something like a couple of sheet of corrugated iron lashed together with baling twine, with a few picket fence posts as oars. How are kids supposed to gather a decent collection of scars if they aren't willing to fiddle around with bits of sharp, rusty garbage?

Mark Twain must be spinning in his grave. Do you think for a moment that the current generation is going to spit out any Huckleberry Finn's?