Saturday 30 September 2006

Why is the west always to blame?

I have not been to many miserable, downtrodden countries, and I have little urge to visit them anyway. However, I think it is interesting to think about different countries like Syria and Zimbabwe and Iran and China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.

As far as the first three are concerned, they are poverty stricken wrecks because of the Great Satan. Some how, us evil bastards in the West have conspired to keep them down and to mire them in misery, injustice and filth.

Consider the last 4 however. China has been the train wreck of the 20th century - partitioned by the western powers, invaded by the Japs, civil war, communism, the Great Leap Forward and all that - and now the place is booming like no tomorrow. Given how ravaged the place was from about 1900 to 1975, it's amazing they even have electricity.

Then there is Korea, which was essentially blown and bombed to hell and back from 1950 to 1953 - and that was after it had been walked all over by the Japs for a few decades. Yet in just 50 years, South Korea has gone from a bombed out rice paddy to a country to be reckoned with.

Then there is Vietnam - apparantly the Yanks dropped more bombs on Vietnam than on Germany. The place was bombed pretty much into the stone age, yet it seems to be bouncing back pretty vigourously now.

And then there is Japan - a place that was firebombed into ashes and then nuked - twice. Look at the place now.

It seems that if you want to kick start economic growth and progress, the best bet is to pick a fight with the West, get the tar kicked out of you and then get on with it. If Iraq manages to follow these other bombed into the stone age examples, come about 2025, it will have overtaken the UAE as the boomtown of the Middle East.

Which is why we should nuke Iran now - they'll thank us for it in 25 years time.

Filthy littering bastards

If there is one job I hate, it's mowing the verge. Mainly because I think that there is more lawn out there on the verge than in my backyard. And I am not about to go and sit on the verge in my comfy yard chair and read the paper. I will just suffer in my pokey little yard.

I have found though that the verge needs to be mowed more regularly than the yard for the simple reason that the longer the grass, the more litter it attracts. Call it the broken windows theory of lawn management.

If I let the grass grow enough to conceal a cigarette packet, people will ditch cigarette packets in the grass. If it gets long enough to conceal a beer bottle, it fills up with bottles. I am sure that if I let it get tall enough, people will start dumping cars on my verge.

Therefore, I have to keep the bloody stuff as trimmed as a pool table. I can see why the wogs just rip the grass out and concrete over everything. It's a lot easier than picking up after all the grots in the neighbourhood and then mowing the lawn.

I wonder if I will be able to mine the verge?

Not as in mine it for gold, but plant mines.

No wonder P-platers die like flies

It was bucketing down with rain a few weeks ago. I was driving back from who knows where on a very busy 2 lane road. Up ahead in the left hand lane, I could see a car trundling along quite slowly with its hazard lights on. Cars were changing lanes to get around it. As it was travelling quite close behind another car, I initially thought that it had broken down and was getting a tow.

Not quite.

When I got closer, I saw that it was one P-plater following another. The guy in front had obviously been zoom-zooming around a bit too fast for the conditions (and his skills) and had zoom-zoomed off the road sideways and had whacked a curb with enough force to bend the back wheel in about 30 degrees. Instead of sitting tight and waiting for a tow truck, Mr Numbnuts was trying to drive home with his mate following along behind with the blinkers flashing.

I've driven a car with a deflating back tyre and I know how wobbling the damn things can get when the tyres are not as they should be. But imagine trying to drive with a wheel bent halfway to the horizontal in the pissing rain. The poor little car was crabbing sideways and the driver was obviously having a hell of a time keeping it in one lane. I was glad I got past without him zipping into my lane for a bit of metal crunching.

You can pass a test and be issued with a license, but you can't be issued with common sense.

I had a bad case of the sweaty palms yesterday not far from home. I was sitting at a set of lights, waiting for the light to go green so I could hang right. Up in front of me there was a car pulled over in the left hand lane - again, a two lane road. It's a busy road, with traffic barrelling along at 80km/h, which is way over the speed limit, but that's what people do. This silly woman had stopped to let her kid out so that the kid could have a chuck.

Since people are idiots, they'd come roaring up the road and only see her at the last minute, and then they'd try and merge into the lane next door. I was sure she was going to get rear-ended as I sat there unable to do a damned thing. The worst moment was when two speeding semi-trailers went past side by side and one had to slam on the brakes in order to avoid her and get in behind the other truck. I was sure I was about to see a story that would make the evening news.

Of course it would be tragic and heart rending and all that, but it was all caused by one persons stupidity. There are good places to stop and let your kid throw up and there are not so good places. If you are in a not so good place, the kid simply has to hurl in the back seat. No point in getting a few people killed just to save the upholstery.

I got home without hearing a loud crash, so I presume she lived to be stupid another day.

People are morons.

Tuesday 19 September 2006

Foodie heaven

It has taken my body about 3 weeks to recover from this feast, which is one reason why I have been off the blogging for a while.

A couple of lovely friends invited us along to a 10 course degustation meal at Watermark, which is one of Sydney's fancier restaurants. I have not been there for years, as last time I went, I thought the wank factor was just totally over the top, which put me right off.

However, some years have passed, management might have changed etc so it was definitely time to have another go.

I only got one photo of the night as the camera battery died on me after I snapped this photo. Well, I lie a bit - I did get one other photo, but it was later in the night and I'd had about 20 glasses of wine and it is so blurry, I can't tell you what is in the photo.

My memory of the night is a bit hazy, but I remember a few salient points. There is a Hunter Valley winery called Piggs Peak. The winemaker used to live with the somelier from Watermark. Somehow they made a bet that a selection of Piggs Peak wines would beat a selection of fine wines from around the world - albeit those on the winelist at Watermark I presume. The night was billed as "Piggs Peak vs The World".

Piggs Peak also have some sort of club or members list, and it sounds like they put on a great members party each year. Our two friends are members, so we scored an invitation. I think it was limited to 80 seats, so we did ok.

The restaurant was setup in tables of 10, so we introduced ourselves to the other 6 people at the table and sat their looking at the array of 6 wine glasses in front of each setting and a complicated grid of letters. The deal was that each course would be accompanied by two wines - a Piggs wine and a "world" wine. Each would have a letter (course 1 had letters A and B). We had to choose our favourite wine and throw the winning letter in a bucket. The letters were all toted up and the winner announced at the end of the night.

The food was quite outstanding. The service was excellent - so excellent, I didn't even notice it. Then again, after 6 courses and 12 glasses of plonk, the kitchen could have caught fire and I wouldn't have noticed. They served up 3 courses together with a suite of 6 wines, and I quickly worked out that in most batches of 6, I really only like 1 glass of wine. Thankfully, most of the other table guests were the same, so we swapped the ones we didn't like with our neighbours and got a decent glass full of the good stuff (they only put about 1/3 of a glass in each one). I might have ended up with 3 glasses of my favourite tipple instead of 1/3 by horse trading around the table.

When the scores were announced and we were shown the wine list, I went through my left over letters and worked out that my favourite wines were all French. I had voted against the Piggs on almost every round. At least that is how it looked to me after 20 glasses of wine. I might have been confused. I might have been voting for sparkling water or olive oil for all I know.

The other nice thing is that we had a table full of alergic to this and alergic to that, so I ended up with about a 23 course meal. If a total stranger doesn't want their scallop, I am not going to knock them back. This is why I have to cycle.

I know I brought home a copy of the wine list, but I am blowed it I can find it on my desk. I wanted to mention some of the frog wines. I also want to see if I can buy some of them in Sydney without breaking the bank. The problem with having a good local wine industry is that we so rarely get to try something from across the puddle. I was amazed that I preferred frog from one end to the other, but hey, that's life when you are blind tasting.

Still, I want to visit Piggs Peak to give them another go. One thing I do remember is that they make HUGE wines - I seem to recall one red being something over the top like 17% alcohol. I thought it was like drinking turps, which is probably why I went for the more mellow and sedate frog drop. All that I know is that if we visit Piggs, we had better be staying the night close by.

Oh yes - Watermark gets a huge rave. I think the only down point about the night is that our driver didn't like us singing in the car on the way home. And I don't blame him for that.

Fete fat

It's been a while since the school fete, but this first photo shows the line up at the most popular stall. I had to take 3 photos and stitch them together to get most of the queue. I'm sorry if the photo looks like crap - just get a load of the queue.

Guess which product they were queueing for?

Monday 18 September 2006

Evil old ladies

As I was taking the rubbish out today, I had a sudden flashback to a few years ago when I was living in a small apartment complex with individual rubbish bins. Some apartment complexes have a small number of large communal bins, but this place had one bin per apartment, and there was no manager or handyman who was paid to take them out each week.

Being the nice guy that I am, I found myself taking all the bins out around 3 weeks in 4. I only missed a bin night if I was away on a business trip or whatever. It was no big deal - they were small bins and they only had to be carried about 20 feet from the bin area to the verge.

The thing that drove me nuts though was that the enviro-nazi council only allowed very small bins. The bins were would be sufficient for a little old lady living on her own that living on cat food and oranges, but not a couple of people that had dinner parties every single week. Everytime I took the bins out, I'd be weighing them to find those with enough room to jam a bag or two of my rubbish into them. My altruistic bin moving was not entirely without purpose.

Anyway, there lived a little old lady on the top floor that wasn't there half the time, and most weeks her bin would have one small bag of rubbish in it. I never inspected it, so I can't tell you whether it contained Whiskers tins and orange peel, but it was the perfect receptacle for my dinner party overflows.

Only one problem. The old duck was ferociously protective of her bin. She never thanked me for taking it out and bringing it back in - she just left scathing notes on all the apartment doors if anyone dared to put some of their rubbish in her bin. I even tried taking the bins out late at night - like midnight - and sneaking rubbish into her bin whilst I was in a blind spot where she couldn't see me from her windows - and I was always sure she was sitting there at the window on rubbish night trying to detect who was putting stuff in her bin. It didn't matter. She always knew. And the wierd thing is that all the bins looked the same, and they had small numbers on the side, so it was pretty much impossible to tell from the top floor what bin the rubbish was going into.

Unless she was using binoculars.

Some time later, I met one of her daughters - who was about 60. She told me that her Mum went off to visit a friend several times a week, drank a bottle of sherry and drove home (in an old Datsun) completely shickered. I guess that's why oldies drive so slowly - it's not their eyesight - it's the bottle of extra dry sherry.

The problem is, she never got on the turps on bin night.

Old ladies can be evil.

What do VOIP managers do all day?

Dunno. Better ask a Chook.

What do VOIP engineers do all day?

I guess if you are a Chook, you sit at a big desk with a very complicated console in front of you and you deal with flapping customers (the guy in the background with his hands in the air).

Or flapping managers.

Take your pick.

Buck buck buckaw!

What do agronomists do all day?

I believe they dream of driving tractors.

I'm not sure what type of tractor is pictured here, but the farmer is being very safety concious with his crash helmet.

Given the wold look in his eyes, it's probably a racing tractor. Capable of 19 mp/h flat out. That's 19, not 190.

Tractors today have lots of complicated electronics and hydraulics. Agronomists have to know their stuff if they are to figure these things out.

And don't run over the chooks!

Saturday 16 September 2006

Helmeted riders more likely to be hit

By Tamara McLean, National Medical Writer

September 14, 2006 02:05pm

Article from: AAP
CYCLISTS who wear helmets for better protection on the road are ironically more at risk of being knocked down by cars, according to new research.

A study by a British traffic psychologist has found that drivers pass twice as close when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than when overtaking their bare-headed counterparts.

Drivers shaved an average of 8.5cm off their passing distance when passing cyclists wearing helmets, increasing the risk of a collision.

"This study shows that when drivers overtake a cyclist, the margin for error they leave is affected by the cyclist's appearance," said Dr Ian Walker, from the University of Bath.

"By leaving the cyclist less room, drivers reduce the safety margin that cyclists need to deal with obstacles in the road, such as drain covers and potholes, as well as the margin for error in their own judgments."

The scientist used a bicycle fitted with a computer and an ultrasonic distance sensor to record data from over 2500 overtaking motorists in Salisbury and Bristol.

Dr Walker spent half the time wearing a cycle helmet and half without and was knocked down twice, by a bus and a truck, while helmeted.

He said while helmets had been proven to protect kids in low speed falls, it was questionable whether they offered any real protection to somebody struck by a car.

"Either way, this study suggests wearing a helmet might make a collision more likely in the first place," Dr Walker said.

He believed drivers perceive cyclists as an unfamiliar sub-culture of "lycra-clad street-warriors".

Riders wearing helmets were incorrectly viewed as very experienced and less likely to do something unexpected, which explains why drivers leave less space when passing.

To test another theory, Dr Walker donned a long wig to test whether there was any difference in passing distances when drivers thought they were overtaking a female cyclist.

He said drivers gave "her" an average of 14cm more space than for a man not wearing a helmet, probably because women riders were seen as more unpredictable.

The study, accepted for publication in the journal, Accident Analysis & Prevention, also found that buses and trucks passed considerably closer than cars.