Thursday 23 November 2006

Breaking a few eggs

If there is one thing that I am happy with, it is the omelettes made at Circle, a Godly little cafe in Balmain. I thought Balmain would be socialist aethiests from one end of the peninsular to the other, but tucked away in the middle is a cafe that is also a church on Sundays. Can't remember which mob - presbyterians or whatever. It's not overtly churchy at all - there is just a plaque near the door that says it is run by the Unity church or whoever they are, which of course means that they aren't open on Sundays.

That annoys me. Their food is so good, I want to eat it 7 days a week. The council should never have allowed them to run it as a church on Sundays - I am sure the hymn singing must annoy the neighbours. Surely someone can shut them down so that the cafe can open on Sundays?

I thought the least they could do would be to open up for a feed after all the praying and so on is over - surely the congregation must be hungry after a morning of kneeling and standing and clapping and whatever?

The other thing that annoys me is that I have been trying without success to replicate their omelettes at home. My favourite at the moment is ham, tomato and goats curd, which is mushy goats cheese. Without fail, my omelette always breaks into at least 2 pieces when I go to fold it over, and it never tastes quite right. I have tried adding fresh herbs - too overpowering. I have tried three eggs - one too many, doesn't cook through. I have tried deseeding the tomato in order to reduce the water content. I got rid of the spinach, which seemed to help (too much water). I tried thinly sliced wog ham - still no difference. I have also tried two types of goats cheese - a soft one and a hard one.

I finally got close yesterday - 2 big eggs, mushrooms, deseeded tomatoes and gruyere cheese. The gruyere seemed to do the trick, as it bound the whole lot together once it had melted. For the first time, I got an omelette out in one piece.

But I think I need a bigger frying pan - the egg mixture is just too thick in the small pan that I am currently using. If the egg stuff spreads out thinly, it cooks faster, so the bottom does not burn.

I also have to find out where they buy their bread - it is marvelous stuff. I have tried all the bakeries in the area, but none seem to have the particular type of sourdough looking stuff that Circle uses. I am of course not game to ask where they get it.

Anyway, to celebrate the great home cooked omelette from yesterday, we just had to dine there this morning. Didn't want to tempt fate by trying to make two good omelettes in a row.

Wednesday 22 November 2006

Who is stupid enough to put solar panels up?

With all the guff about solar being thrown around at the moment, I was intrigued to notice an ad in our local rag that offered solar panels for your house, with it only costing about $9,000 to put up enough panels to light your average home.

I thought that was pretty good, but then I remembered reading an article the other day that mentioned that some guys had costed solar power and the total cost to make their home self sufficient in electricity was something like $90,000, with a payback period of 64 years.


It might only cost $9,000 to provide enough power for lighting, but how much power do our lights actually draw in comparison to all the other energy sapping devices like the fridge, freezer, washing machine, dryer, TV, PC etc? Maybe 10%? I don't know. It might be less, given that almost every globe in our place is now a fancy energy saving fluoro globe.

So I wonder how many people they suck in using that $9,000 advertisement who then freak when they find out that all that allows them to do is run half a dozen lights, and not the fridge and freezer and washer etc.

I know they can't be done for false advertising as they said "Light your home", not "power your home", but it's nice to see that the scammers are getting into the environmental game.

Crunchy munchies

I discovered tonight that fly traps can serve more than one purpose. Assuming that they actually attract flies, they can be useful for attracting stick insects that feed on flies.

I put this trap up on the weekend, and after a spot of hot weather today (39 in the backyard, 34 in the office), the trap gunk finally brewed up enough to start attracting flies. The trap had about two flies in it this morning, and about 100 by the time the sun went down.

At about 5pm, I noticed that a stick insect had taken up residence near the entrance, and was snaring the odd fly that approached the trap. Here he/she is having a munch on a freshly caught fly. Marvelous. If the trap doesn't get them, sticky will. I wandered out for a look every 15 minutes or so and sticky was still grabbing flies and chomping away. Last I saw, sticky had nabbed a really big fat sucker that had the added bonus of carrying maggots. Munch, munch, munch and out pop a few maggots. Great, just before dinner too.

The most frustrating thing was trying to take close-up images of sticky with the fancy digital camera. I couldn't get the blasted thing to focus on sticky - it kept on focusing on the lid of the fly trap or on the tomato plants behind, but not on sticky. How I wished for a manual focusy thing like a good old fashioned SLR camera. I was frustrated enough to pull out the instruction book in order to find out how to do manual focusing, but haven't had the chance to read that chapter yet. Knowing modern gadgets, it won't have any "manual" options anymore. The computer knows best.

Like hell.

So I was unable to post any nice close up photos of sticky chewing on a fly. You'll just have to trust me when I say that sticky is chewing on a fly in these two photos.

Assuming sticky is half smart, I might be able to get some more snaps tomorrow in manual mode - if I can find the manual mode.

Somehow I don't think the flies are going away.

Monday 20 November 2006

Whatever happened to Sunday night movies?

Sunday nights used to be all about flopping on the couch at 8.30pm to watch a 2 hour feature presentation - usually some blockbuster that the network had been saving up for months. You could count on a few good movies being shown on Sunday night, and the biggest problem was deciding which one to watch.

Now, you're lucky to get one movie and that's it. One movie is not ok, given that if it's complete garbage, one is left with little to watch. OK, maybe the networks are telling me that it is time to subscrive to Foxtel, or I need to spend more time and money renting DVD's. I just figured out that I have not been a member of a DVD rental store for nearly 10 years. I just couldn't be stuffed anymore going through the whole rigmarol of dragging myself to the store, prowling down the aisles looking for something and then shelling out a fistful of cash for something that might be beyond lame.

Where would we be without computer games?

Path upgrades - where did my onramp go to?

Our local council has been splurging more money on widening the foot/bike path around The Bay, which is a nice way to spend my rates. I won't be objecting to that, since it helps to keep me away from cars, and anything that keeps me away from cars is nice.

It would be good if it also kept me away from dogs not on leashes, prams not in their lane and family groups of 10 or more that take up the entire path from edge to edge, and are oblivious to anyone else that wants to use the path. Family groups also seem to walk at the speed of crawling babies, even if there are no crawling babies in the group, so even people that are walking find them to be a complete pain in the arse.

But enough of that. For the last few months, one lane of the roadway has been blocked off for a few hundred yards whilst the path is widened a few metres. There's been big chainlink fences and road barriers and all sorts of stuff erected to keep cars and people off the new path and separated from each other. Whilst that was going on, a bit of tar was laid as a ramp from the road to the existing path so that cyclists like me could get over the curb without putting an enormous ding in our front wheel.

Not long ago, the concrete trucks turned up and a hundred metres or so of new path was laid. For some reason they didn't finish the job, so there are a hundred metres or more of beautiful new path, and a few hundred metres of blue metal which is impossible to ride over with a road bike. Mountain bikes are ok, but I am not.

This means I have to stay on the road to skirt the pathworks, which I don't mind, except that someone has taken away the little tar-ramp at the end, so instead of just skirting a hundred or so metres of pathworks, I have to stay on the road for about a kilometre before another ramp appears and I can zip back onto the bike path. And of course there is no longer a bike lane, so you are stuck on the road with all the other numbnuts. The speed limit around the Bay is 50, but that doesn't stop young fools in a bright yellow WRX with an exhaust the size of a bin lid from trying to do 100. And although there are double white lines all the way around, and I ride very aggressively well out from the kerb, it doesn't stop them from trying to overtake on blind corners. One had a near head-on just as he overtook me last week - dickhead. The thing I worry about is that I will pile into the crash from behind, or the dickhead will swerve hard left to avoid the oncoming car and squish me into the cars parked on my left.

So good on you Council - another good effort marred by a brain dead engineer who failed to think about who is using the path. The trouble with most of them seems to be that they are all trained in road works - ie, how to deal with cars, and they have no idea about how to deal with non-vehicular flows; dogs, prams, pedestrians, bikes. They're just so one eyed.


I took this photo when I was doing the Spring Cycle a few weeks ago. That big pointy thing in the middle is the ANZAC bridge, which I normally ride over every day on the way to and from work. It is a fairly tall bridge, so I struggled in the early days to get over it without much huffing and puffing. It is one of those climbs that separates the fit from the goats.

The Spring Cycle route didn't go over the ANZAC Bridge - instead, it went over an old "turntable" bridge almost directly below it - and of course you can't see it in this photo as the photo is too small.

I actually wasn't trying to take a photo of the bridge - I was trying to photograph people on bicycles and the great yard of freshly imported cars on the other side of the bay. You can just see a blob of white on the far right of the photo - they are part of a shipload that has just been unloaded.

I often think how quaint it is that I ride over a bridge that is three lanes of traffic in each direction (often bumper to bumper) and pass over the loading dock where a huge number of cars come in each week. There is a different car carrier tied up at this dock almost every day. I think, "Me on bicycle, surrounded by lots of cars". It's an odd kind of feeling - like being a carnivor at a vegetarian convention.

I tried to take a photo of the car dock with bikes going by, but I wasted a lot of battery power trying to photograph bikes that zipped through my frame before it would snap the shot. Blasted digital camera and it's delays. So what you get are cyclists heading for the bridge, with cars almost out of shot.

La Grande Bouffe

There is a cafe/restaurant in Rozelle that I have driven past many times called "La Grande Bouffe". It looks very French, with people sitting at nice tables out the front and waiters with little black aprons running around with coffees on trays etc. I have never had a feed there because it always seems so hard to find a parking spot.

However, I was heading towards breakfast in Balmain recently when I got stuck in traffic nearby and I thought, "Bugger it, might as well park now and eat there instead of sitting in traffic for another half an hour", so I did.

The place was way less than half full. It was also bucketing down with rain, so no one was game to sit outside. I made the mistake of sitting near the coffee machine - the barista had this bad habit of absolutely pounding his coffee thingy on something every time he needed to empty it, and although the place was fairly empty, he was still making lots of coffee. I was trying to have a quiet read of the paper and he kept smashing this thing down every few minutes. It meant that I only read the first section of the paper, and not all the other bits that you get on a Saturday.

My spot however did allow me to observe all the staff, and I was amazed to find that half of them were French. At least they babbled to each other in French. Those staff knew what they were doing - the locals were a bit of a shower. I never through I'd say it, but perhaps we need to import more French waiters.

For breakfast, I had a salmon hollandaise, and it was the smallest feed that I have had in a while. I know that the French like to have say half a croissant and a cup of short black for breakfast and not much else, but I need to be fed. I would have ordered seconds, except that a coffee and two small eggs with a bit of sauce set me back close to $20. I could not afford to eat an extra slice of toast, let alone another breakfast.

Apart from that, the coffee was not the greatest either - it tasted a bit overcooked. It was alright, but not great. I want to go back there for dinner, as it looks like a good little Frog bistro, but I am in no hurry to have breakfast there again. Even if the traffic is complete crap.

And what does "La Grande Boueffe" stand for? I know it doesn't mean "The big cow", and although boueffe is close to oeffe, I don't think it means "the big egg". Is it "big hair", as in big boofy hairdo?

Stupid frogs.

The Last Samurai

Or should I title it, "The Last Tom Cruise movie I want to see".

I saw a post yesterday we R Lee Emery (the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket) who recounted a conversation with Stanley Kubrick just before he died. Kubrick said that "Eyes wide shut" was a piece of shit, thanks to the interference of Tom and Nichole. Well how about that?

Anyway, I watched the Samurai movie and have a simple description for it - "Dances with wolves set with Japs rather than Indians". And without the wolf. Well, maybe the wolf has been replaced by two young Japanese kids.

I watched it because I just love watching good Japanese actors in western movies. One of my favourites are the guys in "Black Rain" - they are just superb. The cast of Samurai are marvelous - stony faced, serious, 'full on' people.

One thing niggled me though - in one scene, the soldiers are muzzle loading their muskets. They attach the bayonet, then use the rammer etc, and then they fire, there is a lot of gunpowder smoke etc.

Then in another scene, it shows that their guns actually have bolts, so are they a single shot, bolt action rifle, or a muzzle loading musket? I never figured it out. The director seemed to be in love with smoke, so whenever anything fired, it shot out a lot of smoke. Yes, I know that gunpowder produces hideous amounts of smoke, but would bolt action rifles also produce great puffs of smoke, or had they moved on to a less smokey propellant by then?

One thing that irked me is that it showed the Samurai doing a mounted charge against infantry, and the Samurai chopping the infantry to bits. Had these guys never heard of "Waterloo" and "form square"? The French tried lots of cavalry charges against infrantry during the Napoleonic wars around 70 years before this movie was set, and the British generally shot them to bits with muzzle loading Brown Bess muskets. Why in 1877 should infantry in formation be overrun by cavalry?

Unless they were hopelessly trained, which is what they were.

I watched it and deleted it. It is not a movie worth saving.

Sunday 19 November 2006

Should I pick up other peoples fags?

No, I am not talking about stealing queers.

I was waiting at a set of lights a while back next to a very flash, very shiny, very new and very expensive looking BMW. I was not really looking at it, but I am dead sure that the driver flicked a cigarette out onto the road. As in right next to me. There I am, looking at the lights, and the next thing you know, there is a burning butt next to my foot. The drivers window on the BMW is down, and it is the only place it could have come from.

My first thought was that I should just pick it up and flick it into her lap. Except I could see her taking her foot off the brake and ramming the car in front, and me getting blamed. Then I thought about flicking it into the backseat, where the worst it could do is burn a hole in the leather upholstery. I guess I also could have stubbed it out on the windscreen, and then tossed it into the car.

However, all those thoughts were tempered by the nagging feeling that if I did any of that, the driver would hunt me down and try to run me over. OK, I am reasonably fast through city traffic, but I doubt I can outrun a 7 series BMW driver by an enraged lunatic.

The other thing that made me hesitate was that I didn't actually see her toss the butt out. I am pretty sure, but I have a bit of reasonable doubt that it might not have been.

So these days, when I see a window down and smoke wafting out, I watch for the flicked butt. I just think it will be fun to really piss one of these wallys off.


I'm slowly cranking my weekly mileage up, but am still way short of where I want to be. I would love to be doing 200 kilometres per week - that's 40 k's per week day, then the weekends off. So far, the closest I have come in the last few months is about 130, and I only did that by doing a 75k ride on the weekend. This week I am up around 110, which is from 4 days riding. If I can keep that up, I might at least hit the ton - the hundred mile mark. Now that summer is here, and the days are longer, I can ride further without having to worry about turning the headlight on. That does mean more time in the sun though, and I already have the typical cyclists "white and chocolate" tan - my chest is lily white, and my arms and legs are going a walnut colour.

The only way I will probably ever get my miles up is to move further away from the CBD, and that just doesn't bear thinking about. I am already way to close to the GAFA for comfort (the Great Australian Fuck-All, also known as outer suburbia).

Tuesday 7 November 2006

Markets - the food that John West rejects

Most Saturday mornings, you can find me out at the Flemington Markets. The Flemington Markets are a big wholesale fruit and vegie market that does "retail" trade on Saturday - ie, you don't have to buy your grapefruit by the container. It used to be that you could only buy stuff by the crate or box, but now they are selling by the kilo - just like your local greengrocer, except a bucketload cheaper.

There is one thing that you don't get at the markets, and that is the really bright, shiny, unblemished, one-size-fits-all stuff that you get in say Coles or Woolies. You get the food that John West rejects (or in this case, the big supermarkets). It comes in odd sizes and shapes. There are blemishes. Food has lumps. To me, that's perfect - I couldn't care less if my food is not perfect. I don't go in for fresh food porn.

I wonder how it came to this - our supermarkets only accepting stuff that is A+ grade. Are we that fussy? God, how far we have come from our rural origins.....

Strength and fitness

Funnily enough, I reckon an enforced two month lay off from the bike has done a few good things for my strength and fitness. Whilst I don't approve of the way my lay off was caused, I have been pleasantly surprised in the last week or so at how my fitness is coming along.

OK, I don't look like Lance Armstrong yet, or Stuart McGrady, but I think I have finally made it to the "next level", that level being one from the bottom. There are some hills that when I got to the top in the old days, I would be puffing and panting and lacking in leg power or lung power to push on for the next stretch. Now, I get to the top and I am not breathing that hard. I'm a bit puffed, but my recovery is rapid. I'm starting to tackle hills in the next gear up. On some slopes, I am a few gears up on where I started.

The Clucker has a month off from drinking every year - I think from now on, I will give up riding for a month and see what happens. Two months is too long - one month should be right. I will try to ski instead.

Monday 6 November 2006

Spring Cycle

I managed to wheel my carcase out the door a few weekends ago and participate in the Spring Cycle. It's a 50k ride from North Sydney to Homebush which usually attracts 8000 - 10000 cyclists. It's a very family friendly kind of ride - fairly flat, through the back streets of the suburbs and none too fast.

Which was a bit annoying. I managed to crank it up to 50km/h on the flat the other day (with a good tailwind) and I am used to a fast cruise of about 35km/h (with no wind on the flat). Riding at sub-20km/h speeds is so slow, I just about tip over.

The ride was supposed to kick off around 9am, so I cycled over to North Sydney from our place, picked up my number and headed off. Of course I registered at the last minute, meaning that the organisers did not have time to post me my number. Me and about 4000 other cyclists, judging by the number I was given. People are just so last-minute these days. A lot didn't even manage to register on line before the event - they just rocked up on the day and paid and got a number.

One reason I wanted to do the ride is because it went over the Harbour Bridge - in the eastern most lanes. It's not often that you get to ride where the cars normally go. I have done it once before on a Critical Mass "take over the streets" type ride, and wanted to do it again.

I hope I never have to do it again, as I almost ripped my tyres apart on the expansion joints. The joints are fine if you have big fat moutain bike tyres, but are hell on skinny little road bike tyres like mine. I almost stopped at each joint, dismounted and then carried the bike across. Thanks RTA, you really are a pack of pricks.

After the bridge, the ride meandered around The Rocks and then Pyrmont and then over the old Glebe Island Bridge - this is a swing bridge that sits just below the ANZAC bridge. I had never ridden over it before, so it was nice to take the low road rather than my normal high road. It all turned pear shaped shortly after - the RTA had blocked off half a lane of Victoria Road for the cyclists to use, and about 1,000 cyclists in my group all tried to get through a set of lights and then squeeze into this half a lane, which was blocked off with those big red and white portable barriers. It was mayhem. I guess no one computer modelled that intersection before the ride. Well, I guess they couldn't as the RTA doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that bicycles exist, so they are probably banned by CEO fiat from all models and computer systems.

From there, we wandered through our suburb and then out towards Homebush. I say "towards" as the organisers made full use of all the newly built bike and walking tracks along the Parramatta River. I have no idea where we went - I was lost after the first river crossing. We seemed to go back and forth across the river a few times and then around and around in some big circles. After a few kilometres, I was wishing for a handlebar mounted GPS. It was like one of those games where someone sticks a bag over your head and then spins you around a few times. When we finally stopped, all I knew is that I was somewhere within the Homebush Olympic Precinct, and I had no idea how to get home. The big circuits meant that we probably cycled 15 kms to advance 2 kms westward.

Anyway, after a short break at the finish, I simply got on the bike and rode around until I found the train station and got my bearings. Hooray - no longer lost - just confused.

By the time I got home, I had racked up 75km in the saddle in about 3.5 hours. I was thankful for all the grannies that slowed me down because if I had gone at my usual pace, I would have burnt out after about 4okm.

Cats piss

Today was a pretty ordinary day for riding to work - blustery and a bit wet in places. Not bucketing down - just enough of a sprinkle to get some spray going straight up my bum.

I got a shock when I went to put my gear back on before coming home - my top smelt just like cats piss. Maybe it has been a long time between rain showers and all sorts of yucky stuff has built up on the roads, which of course sprayed all over me this morning. Or I am eating a wierd diet and my sweat evolves into cats piss after a few hours.

Whatever - it stunk.