Saturday 24 February 2007


Bike cleaning comes in two parts. One involves washing down the frame with mild soapy water - essentially rubbing the dirt off - and the other involves degreasing the chain and cogs. I initially tried using a citrus based degreaser to get the gunk off the chain, but gave up in disgust after a litre of it only managed to remove a small portion of the goo that had built up in the chain and cogs.

Riding in the rain flicks all sorts of crap up off the road into the chain and cogs, where it is ingested and worn into a fine paste that bonds with the chain lubricant to form a paste that is remarkably similar to very sticky axle grease. Since I don't degrease that often, by the time I get around to it, the chain is no longer a series of links with gaps in them, but a single solid ribbon of goo. The cogs have gone from their original shiny silver colour to a matte black. The wonderfully silent mode of transport has also turned into something akin to a squeaky horse drawn cart making its way across the prairie.

Such laziness requires an industrial strength degreaser to put things right. It's similar to when you don't clean the oven for a year - you need to conduct chemical warfare on the oven and then evacuate the premises for a week.

I gave up buying environmentally friendly citrus muck-remover from the bike shop and instead bought a bottle of degreaser from a hardware store - the kind of stuff that is guaranteed to clean up that mower that has been sitting in the back shed under a few sacks for 20 years. I gave it a go last weekend, and discovered that I should have done it on someone else's lawn. I only used a few cup fulls, but I now have a patch of lawn that looks like a crop circle - a very dead crop circle. I am going to dump the weedkiller and use this degreaser in future. It looks like it can kill just about anything in the garden.

Luckily, I did the degreasing near where I park the bins, so I have covered it up by simply moving the bins around a bit. The green waste bin now covers a site of industrial contamination similar to a Dow Chemical factory. I call that section of the garden "Bhopal".

Light bulbs - a great measure of global warming

The oberbulbenfuhrer issued a policy this week that will see our old fashioned "Edison" type light globes disappearing from the supermarket shelves over the next few years. The crowd over at Tim Blair have been giving Turnbull a bit of a walloping over this issue.

I would love to see a graph showing the market share of incandescent light bulbs vs the new flourescent bulbs over say the last 10 years. I know that the new bulbs have been around at least that long, as Dad was buying them when they cost about $25. They are now so cheap that they are being given away by various groups in shopping centres. We visit a number of shopping centres, and we have loaded up with 5 packs of free bulbs at three of them - more than enough for all the light fittings in our shoe box. Each pack also came with a water saving showerhead. I haven't worked out what to do with the three spare showerheads (none of them will fit on our 1930's era plumbing without paying a plumber a few hundred dollars to go to town on the pipes).

The way I see it, if people really believe that global warming is a problem, then they'll change their behaviour to make that problem go away. One change would be to drive fewer miles, or buy a radically more fuel efficient vehicle (like a scooter). Another would be to swap out most, if not all, of their light bulbs with the new fluoro ones. I dare say most wouldn't bother with the light bulb in the linen closet that only gets switched on for a minute a week, but certainly swapping out those in well used rooms, like the lounge room, makes sense - if you can bear the light that they produce.

Hence my desire to see a graph of market share. Forget about the long tube fluoro lights - I want to see a head to head comparison between the types of bulbs that screw into either a bayonet or Edison type socket.

15 years ago, incandescent would have had 99% of the market. What have they got now? 90%? 80%? 50%? 20%? Have we passed a tipping point, like we did with videos/DVD's a few years ago, and incandescent sales are plummeting like a duck full of number 10 shot? Or are people still shelling out for what they know?

I had a look in my supermarket this week and noticed that as far as shelf space goes, the different bulbs are holding at about 50/50, but that doesn't necessarily tell you anything about sales or market share. By value, fluro's might have a higher share as they cost more, but I am interested in sales volumes - how many units of each have sold each quarter?

If incandescent bulbs now only make up 20% of sales by volume, then getting rid of them entirely is no big deal. The government has made a pretty simple policy change that really just speeds up the inevitable.

However, if they make up 80% or more of sales by volume, then it means that the general public couldn't give a bugger, and deep down they really don't believe or don't care much about global warming.

So to me, light bulb market share is an interesting indicator of human behaviour in response to global warming. Unfortunately, banning incandescent light bulbs gets rid of a potentially useful set of statistics that could be used to track perceptions and behaviour.


Dick is a knob

One thing that has puzzled me this past year is how Davd Hicks/Mohammed Dawood has managed to fund his legal campaign. I doubt his Dad has deep pockets, and somehow I don't think even the shonkiest of lawyers would take a cheque from the Al-Queda Criminal Defence Fund. Plus I doubt the sharks that are representing him here in Aus would be doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. It can't be that cheap, flying to Cuba every now and then. Plus, I wonder if they charge for every TV interview they do, and every protest rally that they turn up to.

Unless they think that a book deal is in the offing if he gets out, meaning he might have a bit of cash to pay them with.

Then it transpires that Dick Smith is chucking in $60,000. I've never been a big fan of Dick, but now I think he is a complete knob. I suppose he isn't the first person to chuck in some loot - it's just that he is a shameless self-promoter, and couldn't resist getting a headline.

Interesting to note that he came out shortly after and said that his company had recieved a lot of mail from people saying that they weren't happy, and wouldn't be buying his food anymore. I added to that tally today. I doubt these meatballs would give two hoots if Dawood had actually been locked up in Cuba by the Cubans for terrorist activities. They're only making a fuss because they Yanks have nabbed them. The gutless wonders are simply hiding their anti-Americanism behind Dawood.

I like the Yanks, but I don't love them. I'm not an American, and I don't want to be one. In some ways, they repel me, but on balance, I like them. I certainly like the US more than just about every other country on the planet. If I had to choose between say Libya and the US, I'd side with the Yanks. Trouble with some people is that they are so reflexly anti-American that they'd side with North Korea to cock a snook at them.

I blame TV. If the yanks had any sense, they'd nuke Hollywood and wind the clock back to the 1950's. Make movies like North by Northwest and nothing else. Use actors that look like Jimmy Stewart. It would be hard to hate them then.

Then we could hate other countries that produce rubbish movies, like the French.

Friday 23 February 2007

I'm near a hospital - who needs a helmet?

Cycling seems to be a popular way for staff to get to work at RPA. Unfortunately, most of the cyclists I saw on the streets around the hospital had their helmets dangling from their handlebars, rather than being affixed to their heads.

If you don't want to wear a helmet, just don't bother taking it with you. Leave it in the shed. I don't see the point of carrying one around. It's not like you'll see a crash coming and have time to put it on (which requires both hands) as you try and brake and steer around the problem.

Idiots. Totally clueless. They probably think that drivers drive better around hospitals, so they are safer and can dispense with the helmet. In actual fact, most of the driving that I saw around RPA was quite deadly. You've got people like me who have no idea where they are going, so they are wandering around like lost clowns looking for a parking spot or a building that they need to visit. You've got doctors in BMW's who are clearly doing way too much amphetamines. You've got lot's of batty old ducks driving around in mid 1970's Volvos, since a lot of the people in the hospital are old, and lots of their elderly friends visit them heaps. Mix all that up with the odd fast moving ambulance and you have a recipe for disaster.

I wouldn't want any of them to operate on me as clearly they don't have a clue.

The circus has a vacancy for a bearded lady

We were sitting on a couch in the Broadway shopping centre, quietly minding our own business. Well, okay, I was sitting on a couch and the monkey was trying to extract a lump of chewing gum from the carpet with his fingers. Next time I looked, he was about to bite it out of the carpet.

Just as I separated the monkey from the floor covering, I heard a voice behind me say, "Isn't he cute - you are such a cheeky monkey". I get that all the time in shopping centres, so I am used to it now.

What I am not used to is hearing it from the mouth of a bearded lady. I turned around to find this woman, who was clearly not a full quid, aged maybe 25-30, standing there with more of a beard and moustache than I have. It was a full blown beard, with moustaches curled up ala Bismark.

I managed not to shriek and run out of the place yelling, "The apes have landed and are taking over the planet". Instead, I stayed calm, and encouraged the monkey to do dumb things that would require my full attention, like trying to do a swan dive off the arm of the couch into a nearby rubbish bin - anything so that I did not need to converse with the crazed one.

I don't know why I should be worried - after all, I have been spending my days with someone that can't talk, craps their pants on a regular basis, dribbles, eats with their fingers, sticks pens and keys in their ears, has no idea about personal hygeine and has mad screaming fits on a regular basis. If the monkey was not 16 months old, he'd be pumped full of thorazine and locked in a rubber room.

Anyway, monkey got the hint and did stupid stuff for me, and eventually the bearded one got bored and left to join the circus. Well, actually she walked into Kmart, and struck up a conversation with a shelf of cut price DVD's.

Shopping centres are great when you can just breeze through them, picking up what you want and then splitting at high speed. If you get it right, you don't have to make eye contact with anyone else. I can even do a full trolley shopping trip without so much as glancing at another human - I just use my peripheral vision to stop my trolley from running them over and spend all my time examining the produce on the shelves. It's great - who wants to talk to another human?

It all goes pear shaped when you actually have to stop and sit down in a public place, because public places are frequented by the mad, and there is no escape. These places are also frequented by the elderly, but I quite like talking to them as they are totally captivated by the monkey, and generally half deaf. I can chat with the elderly all day, apart from the ones that try to steal bananas from monkeys. Or the ones that are not deaf, but totally batty.

I think I have a solution though. Monkey loves to push his pram around. I always have to leave the handbrake on to stop him from shooting through behind his pram. He can reach up and grab the handle bars, and he then has enough leverage to push it at a fast walking pace. It must freak people out when they approach from the front because all they see is this pram coming at them with no one driving it (and me running up behind trying to stop it before it plows into someone). He can only push it a few metres if the brakes are on, but now, when I see a nutter, I just release the brake and off we go - off to the other end of the shopping centre where the nutbags are a bit thinner on the ground. He has no sense of course - he tried to run down a cop the other day. That would be good - first driving offence at age 16 months.

All cunning plans though have fatal flaws, and this one involves women. Monkey just loves to show off in front of chicks. I had him pushing the pram like fury the other day - we were making a rapid getaway from a complete drooler. Then he spots this cute girl, possibly all of 14, sitting on a sofa waiting for mum. Monkey goes past her, then hits the brakes and reverses up to give her his winning smile. Once he had her attention, he went forward 10 feet or so (phew, I thought, we were out of there) when he suddenly backs up again and goes back to chuckle at the girl. Then she smiled at him, and I was screwed. He spent the next 5 minutes going back and forth in front of her, showing off what a powerful and attractive monkey he was.

Chicks lap this kind of thing up. I was suddenly more worried about getting into a public custody battle with a clucky 14 year old girl than about having to deal with the gibbering drooler behind us. Te saving grace is that monkeys have shorter attention spans than goldfish - something else eventually caught his eye, and we were off to run over the patrons of a coffee shop.

Note to self - do not buy the monkey a toy, ride on tank for his birthday.

Voting season is here again

The view on my trip home is now despoiled by numerous candidate posters that have sprung up overnight like weeds from lawns. One house nearby is almost invisible behind a barrage of signs promoting our current member, Angela D'Amore. Her married name is actually Tripodi, but I guess she doesn't want to use it since her brother in law is Joe Tripodi (a Labor hack) who appears to have pulled enough strings to parachute his sister in law into a safe seat. There was no Labor pre-selection; head office just dumped her on the local party officials and told them to make sure she got elected.

This makes her less than popular amongst some of the local Labor party members, particularly those that have been putting in the hard yards for years, grinding away at local government etc etc and waiting for someone to die so that they could have a crack. She's young enough to serve for another 20 years or so, so you can imagine how jacked off those 40-something alternatives are. No chance now, unless she falls under a bus of they move further west to a new electorate and start again.

I might have to sign up for a bit of how-to-vote card handing out this year, just so that I can have a chat with the Labor troops at the polling booths. That's if any of them bother to turn out to hand out the cards for her.

Rapacious parking lot bastards

The most expensive thing about a stay in hospital these days is not thr drugs or the bandages or the bed or the surgeon or the anaesthetic or the drips and tubes and things - it is the car parking fees.

During the day, the only sane place I have found to park at RPA is a gravel pit next to the maternity section. J mentions that she first went into RPA about 11 years ago, and the gravel pit was a dust bowl with a scattering of gravel over the top. It is still a dust bowl, but with a slightly thicker coating of gravel. I am glad I have the Disco, as it would be quite easy to get bogged, even in the dry season. I have never seen a sports car in there, as there is no way they would be able to cross the corrugations just beyond the entrance.

The sneaky bastards have laid tar from the entrance to just past the boom gate at the entry, so you think you are entering a smoothe, well surfaced car park. It is only after you have taken the ticket and gone beyond the boomgate and the gate has closed, thus denying a rapid exit in reverse, that you find that you are in fact parking in part of a tank driving school course. No kidding - the ruts look like a squadron of Abrahms and Leopards have been spending a few hours doing a waltz around the gravel. Speed limit signs are a waste of time, as no vehicle with low range gears can go that fast in low first.

The beauty of the car park is that no matter what you are visiting the hospital for, they will always sting you for more than an hour of parking. It's $5 an hour, but I bet very few people get out of the place in under 59 minutes.

For starters, it takes about 5 minutes to crawl from the gate to a parking spot in low gear, negotiating wadis and gravel dunes as you go. Then of course the car park is positioned about a suburb away from the rest of the hospital, so it takes about 15 minutes to walk to wherever you need to go. By the time you've done your business, made it back to the car park and then ground out of the place across a cratered moonscape, you've been there for 61 minutes, and the attendant is adamant that you owe him $10.

I'm sure that even if you got to the gate with 10 minutes to spare, he'd run away for 11 minutes just to take you over the magic hourly limit. After all, they need all the money they can get to..... pay for car park improvements?

Ha ha ha.

If I sent the little monkey down there with his beach bucket and plastic shovel, he could probably do more maintenance to the road surface in an afternoon than they have done in 10 years.

I wonder if they'll get upset if I turn up next time driving a road grader?

The wind in my hair

Eeeeek! What's going on? I look in the mirror and there are two big sprouty hairs growing sideways out of my ear! The things are so long, they have extended out past the edge of my ear. From whence did they sprout? Did they just pop out overnight after incubating beneath the skin for a few years, or have they been surrepticously growing a little bit at a time, hoping that I won't notice like a frog in a pot on the stove?

I don't care what the little buggers were thinking - they have been plucked and flushed. Ear pubes I can do without. Curly ear pubes would be even worse. From now on, my morning routine includes a search and destroy mission on the ear holes.

Funny thing is, given how much they stuck out, why didn't I feel the breeze on them when I was cycling? They were that long, I must have looked like a fruit bat. I wonder if I will be able to detect radar if I grow a few more?

Bugger the patients, I've got paperwork to complete

If there is one thing the media will not stop printing, it's stories about how hospitals need more money. Budgets are stretched to breaking point. Patients are left stuck on trolleys in corridors because of a lack of beds. Blah blah blah.

Bollocks to the lot of them.

The strongest impression I got this week from RPA is that the staff spend all day doing nothing but paperwork. I walked into a ward of 30 beds, of which maybe 24 were occupied, and at the nursing station there were six nurses filling in paperwork. That spared maybe one or two to actually walk around the ward and do things like feed, change, clean and generally help out the patients. It was the same story every time I went past. On one visit, I spotted 10 nurses and doctors doing their paperwork. They were quite dilligent about it, and seemed to be doing it as quickly as possible, but they were dealing with mountains of it, and there aren't enough hours in the day (or a shift) to get it all done and deal with the patients that are bleeding to death in bed 9.

I guess litigation has brought us to this sorry state of affairs, plus the fact that stupid medical dramas teach people that doctors can save everybody, even those suffering from hideous injuries or wierd diseases. No, that's bollocks - that's just TV. TV stations also broadcast shows about aliens, Atlantis and movies about a kid with spider powers.

It makes you wonder whether they'd be better of deciding to just pay all the litigation rather than fighting it, and abolishing all the paperwork. Everyone wants to save money by not paying for litigation, but no one counts the cost of doing all the form filling that might mitigate some, but not all of the costs of a lawsuit. If they have to employ 10 nurses per shift rather than 3 because of all the paperwork, what is that costing per year? Especially when that floor had 4 wards like that one, and I think there are wards on 3 or 4 floors.

The best thing the Greenies could do for the health system would be to strictly ration the amount of paper that a hospital can have each year. Give RPA say a million sheets of A4. When it runs out, tough - no more forms to fill in. If they run out of A4 in May, I guess they can spend the next 7 months being productive until the semi-trailers arrive with the 2008 shipment of red tape. If you limit how much paper everyone gets, people might start to prioritise and only fill out the stuff that absolutely needs to be filled out, then binning all the not so important stuff.

Why am I not a CEO?

Is it that hard to get an iced coffee?

Gloria Jeans had a special promotion the other week on a drink called "voltage", which was some sort of iced coffee derivative. I paid my $3.95 or whatever it was and gave it a go.

It was sticky, icky horrible muck, and it went straight into the bin. It was by far the worst "iced coffee" that I have ever had. It had very little coffee but a huge amount of sugar. It was more like a Coke slurpee than anything else.

So I gave them a second chance this week by asking nicely for a "very plain, unsweetened iced coffee". The woman looked at me kindly, and explained that they did one that was just a shot of coffee, milk and ice - and definitely no whipped cream on top. I forked over my money and had a go, and was pleasantly surprised. It was quite good. Thumbs up to that franchise of Gloria Jeans.

Either that, or the franchise owner is sick to death of all these iced coffee addicts coming back to the counter going, "My God, what is in this? It tastes like crap. I want my money back".

From one franchise to another - from Gloria Jeans to McCafe, I tried to get history to repeat itself. I bought a "normal" iced coffee from McCafe, and it was easily the second worst one I have ever had after that initial Gloria Jeans muck. One slurp and it went into the bin. I know there is no point in complaining. Just bin it and never try it again.

On my next visit, I changed tack and asked for a "very plain, unsweetened iced coffee" at that same McCafe. No dice this time - the manager just looked at me like I had dropped in from Uganda and tried to explain in simple words of few syllables that all their iced coffee was made from syrup, and even though they had a big flash coffee/espresso making machine, and bags of ice, and gallons of milk, it was impossible to make a shot of coffee, to add milk and top it up with ice cubes. Somehow, that would violate many inviolatable McDonalds rules, and the Universe would come to and end before the day was out.

For crying out loud, I can make a bloody iced coffee in my kitchen using nothing more sophisticated than instant coffee, hot water, milk and iced cubes in a big plastic glass (that has enough room for vigorous shaking). I don't know what the bloody world has come to when people feel that drinks can only be made from syrup, rather than producing the "real thing" from original ingredients.

Next time I am going to ask for a latte in a plastic cup, then ask for a handful of ice cubes. That'll fuck'em.

I'm sick - can I bum a fag?

Here is a fascinating little observation about RPA. I went through a ward of 30 beds this week and noticed that every bed contained what used to be called a "white person", now known as someone of European descent. Most of them were in their 70's or 80's, and they were there because they had some kind of old age ailment.

This was contrasted with the scene outside Emergency (or more properly, outside the general entrance next to Emergency). The general entrance is where all the smokers congregate, and the amazing thing is that 30-50% of the smokers were Aboriginal. I went in and out of that entrance half a dozen times at various times of the day and night, and it was always the same. Five or ten blackfellas smoking Winnie Blues or hand rolled smokes. I know that they were smoking Winfield Blues as ground was littered with empty fag packets - no one could be bothered wandering over to one of the bins to get rid of their empty pack.

The other thing is that all the blackfellas were youngish - certainly younger than me, and most seemed to have various bandages and casts on their legs and arms. They didn't seem to be suffering from cancer and stuff - they seemed to be suffering from falling over drunk, getting punched whilst drunk or whacked with a fence picket by another drunk. None of them looked like they'd be reaching the age where they'd be lying with the white folk in the beds upstairs.

I had to spend a bit of time in the Emergency "sub-acute" ward, which is a parking area for about a dozen beds in the Emergency section of the hospital. I guess it's where you end up if you are sick, but aren't suffering from say a gunshot wound or stab wound or have just been in a major car crash and have 50 broken bones.

One of the beds was occupied by a bloke that had suffered a nasty blow to the head. He was seeing double, had blacked out and crapped his pants and had obviously been concussed nastily. Even though the curtains around his bed were drawn, I could work that out from overhearing what the doctors and nurses were asking him and his partner. He seemed quite nice.

His woman was something else. All I could see was a pair of white trainers beneath the curtain, and very skinny calves. I didn't spot the calves for a while, but I could hear her talking to her man behind the curtain. She was calling him a dickhead and an idiot and a fuckwit and generally being not very nice, and at one stage even slapped his face. I guess that was her idea of tough love. She was trying very, very hard to be a very tough individual - too tough to be gentle with him and tell him that everything would be ok.

I also overheard part of her story to a doctor, which was thus - they had gone outside (a pub by the sound of it) for a smoke and he "fell over". Right.

Some time later, the curtains were pulled back to reveal a young bloke, maybe 20, wiry and with a totally blue shoulder and upper arm from a tattoo, and his woman. Sad to say, but they looked about 25% aboriginal, even though I am probably darker at the moment than either of them. The calves are always a dead give away. I presume he "fell over" because he was either quite pissed, or he "fell over" after he got into a fight and the other bloke clobbered him. It was easy to imagine him getting into a fight because of something his girlfriend said or did - she looked the nasty type that would start a fight and then get someone else to fight it for her, and then get mad if her guy didn't win.

It's amazing how tough it is to get into medicine. It attracts the brightest of the lot, and I was certainly impressed by the doctors that I met. I wonder how many of them would apply to do medicine if they got to spend a night in an emergency ward at age 17, dealing with drunks that required stomach pumping, drug overdoses, blackfellas that have beaten each other half to death and the other detritus that washes off the streets.

Institutional food

I have eaten food in several institutions (not including a loony bin or prison), and I have never seen such awful chow as that served up in hospitals. It's understandable - hospital budgets depend on people being sick, so serving up horrible food is a great way to keep people in longer with stomach disorders and the like.

Or it's a way to free up beds by making people desperate to go home as soon as possible. If it was me, I'd tell them to wheel me straight from surgery out to the car park, and they could just lay me out in the back of the Disco for the drive home. Bugger hanging around to get all the tubes and stitches taken out - that's why we have pliers at home.

One place at RPA that gets lots of custom is the McCafe just next door. It's not a full blown McDonalds, so there is no scent of frying chips as you walk out of the Emergency dept, but it does sandwiches and proper coffee and food that is reasonably healthy and half tasty. Whenever I have been passed it, it has been chockers full of nurses, doctors, patients and anyone else who has been able to walk, hobble, crutch or wheel themselves out in order to get fed.

The other thing is that they sold out of food by around 1pm. It's not often that you walk into a McDonalds and find no food, but this place was stripped bare by early afternoon every day.

Toast is a good indicator of whether a place can cook and serve food properly or not. When I was at school, they had a succession of big, industrial toasters that toasted about a loaf of bread at a time. You'd get your food on a tray, then walk past the toaster and grab a few hot slices as they popped out of the machine. Given that it was serving 200 hungry boys, it couldn't produce toast fast enough. The biggest problem was the "dark toast" crowd arguing with the "lightly toasted" group about what setting the toaster should be set on.

RPA can't make toast to save its life. Which is bloody ridiculous. I presume that all the food is prepared in kitchens in the basement, or worse, prepared in one of those airline catering businesses out at the airport and then trucked over for distribution. Wherever they make the toast, it is a cold, soggy inedible lump by the time it reaches the patient. What is so ridiculous is that each ward has a small kitchen with a fridge, microwave and toaster, so it is not beyond the impossible to actually heat the toast within 20 walking seconds of the furthest bed in the ward.

I guess the hospital doesn't want the OH&S risk of some old duck burning her mouth on fresh toast. Better to serve a congealed lump of bread that was toasted 6 suburbs away sometime before midnight.

If they did that in prisons, there'd be a riot. You really have to wonder about an institution that can't make toast - do you really want the same clowns organising your brain surgery?

We're in a hospital and we're all going to die

I was going past the Emergency entrance at RPA the other day and stuck out the front were three large Fire appliances and a gaggle of police cars. They were all trying to get into the parking area out the front of Emergency - the spot where the ambulances pull up to throw people out. The parking area is not that big, and it is a shallow U, and the entrance is not terribly wide. I guess it is typical of the type of parking/entrance area that was built back in the days or horse and buggy.

The Fire appliances couldn't get in because there was a vehicle parked in the "no standing" zone near the entrance. It was, of all things, a hospital security van. I guess the security guards get to park wherever they like whilst they duck off for a fag (outside Emergency is also one of the favourite places for staff and patients to have a smoke). I counted at least a dozen firemen and half a dozen policemen milling around trying to sort things out. What concerned me a touch was that there was also a "hazardous material/decontamination" unit being towed around by one of the Fire appliances. It didn't bode well. I put my foot down and stopped rubber necking and got well clear of that mess.

Why they didn't just attach a cable to the security and and tow it out backwards with a Fire appliance is beyond me. They could have just left it parked in the middle of the road and let the stupid security guard explain where the scratches and dents came from.

I guess security guards need thick skulls in case they get punched in the course of their duties.

Sunday 18 February 2007

How did the Japs ever get to Pearl Harbour?

If there is one thing we are really missing around here, it is a really good Japanese restaurant. I'm not talking about a hole in the wall with a counter selling pre-made sushi, or a sushi-train type setup - I am talking about a place where you sit at the counter and a chef with big knives does silly things in front of you and throws food at the customers. Where the sake is warm and the Sapporo is cold and the bill is probably hideous.

We have two take away hole-in-the-walls within a 5 minute drive, but there is no restaurant within about a half hour drive. The nearest would be Crows Nest or Cremorne. I now know that, because I had take away from the Five Dock Jap, and had a look at an industry magazine whilst I was there which listed every Jap restaurant in Sydney, and the pickings in the west are pretty slim. Put it this way - I think out here in Drummoyne, we are the frontier of Japanese food. Beyond this line, the only asian takeaway is Chinese. I think we are on the limits of civilisation - what used to be known as the Marches, beyond which lived Picts and so forth.

The local Jap place had three guys behind the counter doing various things - arguing, sharpening knives and fiddling with their hair nets. I placed my order, then went for a wander up and down the street so as to kill the 10 minute wait. It was a pretty simple order - a chicken bento box, some agedashi tofu, vegetable tempura and a vegetarian roll.

I get home, and find that we have a sushi bento box instead of chicken, some tofu (as ordered), vegetable tempura and seafood tempura (not requested) and a vegetarian roll (which they got right). Not that I am complaining too much, as they charged me for what I ordered, but they gave me about 50% more food value-wise. How the Japs got organised enough to get to PNG is beyond me. Well, I guess they did forget to bring food and organise logistics so that heaps of them starved to death on the Kokoda Track, so it's no surprise that they can't get a simple bento box order right.

Friday 16 February 2007

Chook Mk II

I had another go at the roast chook last week. I bought a number 17 at the markets - corn fed and all that, and tried the same recipe as last time, except without the pumpkin. I figure that there is no point in trying to cram 9 different vegetables into the oven for roasting. I'll just stick with a chook, one or two vegies and something green to go on the side.

I did parsnip again, except this time, I steamed it for 10 minutes, then chucked it in under the chook, and I made sure I basted it well and truly with oil from the chook.

I also turned the chook every 20 minutes or so, making sure that the top, bottom and sides were brown and crispy (and well basted). Overall, it probably had 15 minutes longer in the oven than the last one.

The chook was quite magnificent. The parsnips were also quite magnificent - so magnificent, that I ate most of them as I was carving the chook in the kitchen. They were quite brown - not crisp and chip like, but brown and well roasted, with their sugars well caramelised.

I impressed myself once again.

How often should one clean a bike?

It's been raining a bit of late, so the bike has collected a fair covering of crap. I was putting it away the other night and I was amazed at just how filthy it had become - dirt and grease seemed to have been flicked over every part. I was too knackered to be bothered cleaning it, but just how clean should a bike be?

I guess a mountain bike that is parked in the shed can be left encrusted in an inch thick covering of mud without anyone batting an eyelid, but a road bike is a different proposition. A road bike is an Italian sports car compared to a mountain bike, and sports cars are generally kept clean and gleaming (and I do have a red bike after all).

At one point, I figured that once a week was enough - give it a soap and rinse on the lawn each weekend and that would be it. But I've been lazy lately and it must have at least 4 weeks worth of crud on it now. I don't really see the point in scraping off the mud after riding home in the rain to collect another sheen of mud the following day.

I am sure that some will beg to differ.

Promises, promises

I caught a bit of the "great debate" between Iemma and Debnam on the ABC tonight. I saw maybe two minutes here and two minutes there in between chasing the monkey around the house on a destruction limiting mission.

Iemma does not impress me. I always think he is trying to hard when he speaks to the media. Visions of a cork up his bum disturb my sleep. He puffs out his chest like a pigeon and turns sideways a bit and talks like a .... I don't know what. I don't like it.

Debnam has this wonderful policy of wanting to cut 20,000 public servants. I think he is mad - he should be trying to cut about double that number. I have yet to walk into a government office without getting the feeling that the place would run a lot better if every second person was given a pink slip. People seem to be tripping over each other as they wander around on meaningless missions. Even better, whole buildings or departments could simply be shut and their functions abolished. That's the trouble with the Libs these days - they don't think big enough.

Another week, almost another 100 miles

I went backwards this week - 141km instead of 142. I thought I might have been able to crack 150, but took the short way home today and lost about 10km. Ah well, there is always next week. Gotta have goals to aim for.

I'd like to hit the ton soon - 100 miles, or 160km. It doesn't seem that much of a stretch, except that coming home last Friday, my legs just died about 2 km from home. I was feeling a bit sore, and then they just flopped on me. I thought I'd either have to climb off and have a breather, or get a lift home. It was not a good feeling. I guess I had pushed the poor old pins about as far as they wanted to go that week.

So this week, I was a bit more cautious and didn't want to push the mileage too hard. All I really wanted to do was make 140 again, with 150 being the icing on the cake.

I did start to drag a few times, but there was always an idiot around when I needed one. I've discovered that dickheads really get me fired up - they're great for incentivising the blood stream. I was feeling a bit haggard the other night as I approached home and a tool went past in his car, and that was it - the race was on. Of course I had no hope in hell of catching him and smashing his tail lights with my bike pump, but the sudden burst of energy was just what I needed.

It helped again today, when I had an ambulance of all things on my tail. Well, not an ambulance - a "patient transport vehicle". The guy was getting up my date a bit as I came around the Bay, so I gave it what-for as soon as I got off the road and onto the bike path. The weather was good, the tailwind was slight, and he was stuck with a 50km/h speed limit. He didn't overtake me. I got the feeling the driver decided to stay beside me just to see if I could drag him off all the way around that bit of the Bay. Well, I won. Ha ha.

Saturday 10 February 2007

Pizza variations

I tried something a bit different this week - a morocan lamb style pizza. We had some left over lamb chops and a jar of zaatar, so I chopped up the chops, rubbed the bits in lots of olive oil and zaatar and then made a lamb and goats cheese and spanish onion pizza.

Apart from putting on too much of the goaty stuff, it was very good. It would have been even better if I could figure out how to make a minty yoghurt sauce to dribble over the top before serving. One thing at a time I guess. I also should have added some pine nuts. I guess you always think of these things afterwards.

I did another one with a topping of sun dried tomatoes, which turned out to be a bit of a blunder. The tomatoes of course have been soaking in oil for months, and what happens to something that is covered in oil and then put into a hot oven? It fries like pork crackling. Except in this case, we ended up with a pizza covered in little black smears of tomato flavoured charcoal. Next time, I'll either chop them up and add them to the tomato base for extra flavour, or I'll add them a few minutes before the end.

The other thing that I tried doing was chopping up rosemary and adding it to the pizza base. I've added it to the tomato sauce before, but I've found it too overpowering. This time, it went into the bread. It seemed to be a bit more subtle. Either that, or I didn't use enough. Ah well, there is always next week. We still have about 8 kilos of flour in the flour bag, so it's not like I don't have a shortage of bases to work with.

Drivers are idiots

There's an old story that most crashes happen within something like 400m from home. Well I was about that distance from home this week, and I saw the aftermath of someone elses crash.

There is a street on the home stretch that is long, straight and wide, and some drivers have a tendency to zoom along it well over the speed limit. It's a great place to do it, apart from the fact that it is a quiet suburban street and there are plenty of cross streets and lots of cars pulling out of driveways etc.

I always keep well out into the middle of that road as cars coming from the left and right have a bad habit of not giving way. They've all got to stop at stop signs, but when they see a bike coming, they just say "screw it" and pull out. If I hit them, they won't get hurt, so they don't care. It's a road where both hands have to be kept on the brake levers and you need to be ready to take evasive action at any moment.

What I came across this week was a classic two car prang, where one car had been going down the hill and a car had pulled out from the left and been collected around the front wheel. Both cars were a right mess, but both drivers were out of their cars talking to tow truck drivers when I got there. Both cars were still in the middle of the road, and they had hit each other with enough force to bend the front wheels inwards at funny angles.

The car that had been going down the hill was one of those mini-Lexus models. The type that seem to be favoured by Lebanese drug dealers. I imagine that he was going way too fast, and the chick who pulled out simply didn't see him as he belted around a shallow bend.

What is it about Lexus and drug dealers?

Do you think their marketing department was sitting around back in the early 1990's trying to figure out the target market, and they thought, "Let's target rappers and drug dealers - they have plenty of money and no taste". I think not. Poor bastards. They struggle for years to produce a car that will knock Mercedes off their perch, and it is taken over by people who think that 10 chunky gold chains around the neck are just not enough for a trip to the shops. I bet the most requested after accesory is an awesome stereo.

Wankers. May they all die in fiery pile ups.

The stupidity of other cyclists never ceases to amaze me

I saw a courier come very close to be cleaned up this week. I was sitting at some lights at an intersection of two one way streets. The courier came up the street from my left, but obviously wanted to go the wrong way up the street I had just come down, so he had to turn right - from the left hand lane - across three lanes of fast moving traffic.

Bozo thought he had a gap - there was a bus coming up the far left hand lane, and it wasn't moving so fast as it was going uphill, so he decided to bolt across the road in front of it. Just one problem - there was a taxi coming up alongside the bus at a much greater rate of knots.

I saw the taxi, then saw idiot make his move, and I was just stuck there able to do stuff all apart from hope they wouldn't collide. If I shouted "stop", the guy would have been hit by the bus. If he kept going, there was a good chance the taxi would get him. He was screwed either way.

Thankfully, he was faster off the line than I am, and he just managed to get in front of the taxi. by about the thickness of his back tyre. What a fucking moron. The guy didn't even bat an eyelid - he just kept on going up the road like nothing had happened, and like he hadn't pulled the stupidest stunt since Cain was a boy.

Couriers like him gather every Friday at a mall in town and have a few king browns and swap war stories. I am sure his mates will tell him what a cool dude he is. I just wanted to whack him around the head a few times with my pump handle. Dicks like that make drivers think we are all whackos, so we get no respect on the road.

It might have been better in the long run if I had yelled at him to stop and let the bus take care of the problem.

Woo hoo, I am cooking

Big week on the bike this week - 142km. I am feeling it now though - after a day off the bike, my legs and arse are aching, and I am knackered. I fell asleep on the couch this afternoon I was so exhausted. I did that over 4 days. I was fine up until the ride home on the last day - I was about 2km from home and my legs just died underneath me. Prior to that, I had been cooking with gas. I don't know what happened, but this week, I was turbo charged. I was just humping up them hills without a second thought. Normally, I am quick on the flat but pathetic on the hills, but this week, the hills presented few problems. It's like I suddenly went up a gear in fitness. A fitness spurt I guess, like a growth spurt.

We'll see how I go this week. My aim is simply to maintain 140km this week, with a view to going to 160km in March, and then seeing if I can get up to 200km by June. I should be able to do 160 without too many problems - it just means doing 40km a day, 4 days a week. I normally have one laundry day (where I get a lift in with clean shirts), so 4 days in the saddle is the usual thing. I was doing 38km on Thursday and Friday, so all I need to do is find a slight detour that gets the daily total to 40, and I am there.

Going the next step to 200 will be tricky. I have the weekends off to recover, although that usually means going to the beach and swimming instead. I could do a ride on one day over the weekend, but that means less time for recovery.

Tricky. I don't feel like taking the daily total out to 50km - not unless we move another suburb out and I have no choice. For the moment, I am going to aim for 160 and see how I feel after that.

Fish food

Spent an hour at the markets this morning blowing money on useless frippery like fruit, vegetables and bread. And a bit of bacon for breakfast, and a corn fed chook. All the stuff that you don't really need to bother with each week if you live on takeaway.

I don't often visit the seafood counters at the markets because they look like mayhem. They really seem like a good way to get an elbow in the guts or a few squashed toes. However, I have been eyeing off the scallops for a while, and last night, I finally got to the scallops section of my Stephanie Alexander cook book. Her cook book bible is about 5 inches thick, and it's organised alphabetically, so scallops are about 3 months reading from the front.

So I bought a kilo of scallops. I thought I was getting scallops in the half shell, but it turned out that I was getting fresh out of the ocean, uncleaned, unopened scallops. Good thing Stephanie explained how to clean the little buggers, as I had never thought of it before. I've cleaned plenty of mussels, and bashed the odd fresh abalone, and I've watched oysters being shucked in front of me, but I have never seen a fresh scallop.

Here's the thing - when you open them up, the scallop is attached to both halves of the shell with a membrane that looks like two jellyfish - a topside jellyfish and an underneath jellyfish. They peel off the shell easily enough, but cleaning the actual membrane from the scallop is tricky work. I spent a lot of time with the tap running and me ripping membranes off under the running water. After that, it was time to cut off the guts and the poo sack, which is a nasty looking black sack (not to be confused with the roe). That took plenty of time as well.

After cleaning, I had a huge bag of junk (shell, guts and membranes) and a small bread plate covered in maybe two dozen scallops. Given that they only cost $6 a kilo, I am not complaining. All I did was sprinkle on a bit of olive oil, squeeze on a touch of lime juice and then bunged them in the fridge whilst I got on with peeling the prawns.

The scallops went on the BBQ for dinner. I used one of those plastic cooking mat things, which was a waste of time. I should have put my heavy cast iron frying pan on the BBQ and done them in that (the only reason for doing them on the BBQ was to avoid stinking the house out). I did them in a pile of butter, added some fresh thyme and finished them off with a bit of white wine and lime juice. I could have done without the lime juice. The best scallops were the ones that I pushed off the plastic mat and browned a bit on the hot BBQ plate. They don't need long to cook, but I prefer them a little bit brown around the edges, rather than totally squishy. Each to their own.

Next time, I am going to look out for cleaned buggers. Sod this removing guts business.

The prawns were also a right bastard. I bought el cheapo green prawns for about $12 a kilo. They seemed like a steal, until I went to shell them. Most of them had paper thin shells. I presume they were farmed up in Vietnam or somewhere like that, and they didn't feed them enough stuff to develop a proper shell. I hate peeling prawns with crap shells. I want something crunchy that cracks off properly. Again, next time I am going to look for trawler caught prawns from somewhere like Darwin.

They cooked up ok on the BBQ, but they were not great.

So much for the fish food. I think I would have prefered a lamb chop.

Monday 5 February 2007

Kismet - best Turkish food in Australia

Is that a big call - best Turkish food in Australia? That's not what it says on their business card - that's what I reckon.

It's 15 years since I was in Turkey, and I have spent most of that time hankering for some good Turkish food. I think the best food that I had in Turkey was at a truckstop out in the countryside. We pulled into this place where you got a tray, wandered down a counter and pointed at bowls of stuff. For about $2, I got a feast. No one could speak much English, so it was a matter of point and then try and figure out how many Lira they were asking for.

After that, I ate in a few restaurants in Istanbul. Again, they were off the beaten track and seemed to be frequented by Turkish businessmen, or gangsters, or both, and I got too drunk to remember whether they were any good or not. I remember stumbling home in the dark asking the obligatory soldier on each corner the way back to my hotel (I had a card from the hotel). After a bit of wandering around, I figured out that four of them were sending us stupid tourists around the same block again and again.

When I got to London, I found that my brother had discovered an excellent Turkish place up the road from his place. I have no idea what it was called, but we called the owner "Jesus", as he looked the part, and we went there quite a bit as the food was simply smashing and cheap. I hope Jesus is still in business somewhere, as he will be making lots of people happy.

Unfortunately, Australia seems to be bereft of Turkish restaurants. We have plenty of Lebanese places, and the odd "Turkish" place that seems to be Lebanese with belly dancing bolted on.

Then we found Kismet in Canberra. Well, we only found it because Verve wouldn't serve us food as the kitched was closed, and Kismet was next door.

Kismet is not a restaurant. It is a takeaway place with two tables out the front. We took the two tables and ordered up a big platter of food - I think we selected one of just about everything that they served. I thought it was great, apart from the octopus, which was served cold. I am over cold octopus. It reminds me of trying to eat a washing up glove. It has to be hot off the BBQ. but apart from the octopus, it was great. I can't tell you what we ate - we just ate lots of stuff.

J had a kebab, and wasn't impressed. To start, it was not a kebab as we know it. It was not tightly wrapped - it was more of a tortilla, which meant that she managed to drop half of it in her lap. I guess you need to have some experience of eating their kebabs to avoid that disaster. She also didn't think it was as tasty or good as our local kebab guy, but as I didn't try it, I have no comment.

Somehow, kebabs in Australia just don't taste the same as they do in Greece and Turkey. I think part of it is that in those places, they actually grill big lumps of lamb on a skewer and then slide it off into your kebab. They also use good yoghurt sauce, which is not watered down and flavourless, and they use big tasty tomatoes - the kind we used to get before industrial market gardening wrecked our tomatoes. There's something a bit primordial about ordering a kebab from a bloke that is working from a chopped off 44 gallon drum BBQ and little else.

Kismet doesn't have the 44 gallon drum BBQ, as I imagine the health nazis would have a fit if they used on, but they still manage to put on a good feed. If I am ever stuck for a kebab in Canberra, I am going to Manuka to visit Kismet.

pizzazz cafe

Breakfast in Canberra was one hit and one miss. Pizzazz was the hit. Maybe it is pizzazz - another stupid lower case spelling. It's also in Kingston, along with about a thousand other restaurants and cafes, and I never would have gone there if sister had not taken us there.

Apparently the best place to sit is outside, which we couldn't as all the early risers got there before us and nabbed the outdoor tables. The only table we could get was in the passageway that led to the kitchen and toilets, which meant that it was impossible to let the Monkey off the leash. Which is a nightmare, as when the Monkey is full of beans (or bananas), he can go bananas. He needs to be run into the ground on a regular basis in order for adults to enjoy a quiet meal.

That being the case, most of my time was taken up with trying to handle a Monkey with one hand and fork food into my mouth with the other, all the time trying to stop him from tipping over my coffee or throwing my food on the floor. Fun.

I had a spanish omelette, as I wanted to see how they compared to the Bondi Kiosk. pizzazz did it quite differently - more like a fritatta, and they did it very well. I really enjoyed it. I wish we had gone back there the day after rather than going to that dump called artespresso.

The only downer was that they served their butter in those horrible little plastic sachets that you rip the lid off. I really, really hate those things. Partly because if left on a hot plate, the butter melts and you end up with something that looks like olive oil rather than butter. I like my butter to be cold. Not frozen, with condesation running down the sides, but cold enough that you can cut slices off it. Sadly, that was not the case at pizzazz. I poured my butter over my toast, which was a major disappointment.

Karma got his revenge though. Monkey got his hands on one and squeezed it and it burst and suddenly there was molten butter all over the comfy couch that we were sitting on. Oops. We just sat the Monkey in it and hoped that his nappy soaked most of it up before it got into the fabric. Never mix Monkeys and melted butter.

I didn't save the bill, so I can't remember what the others had (apart from pancakes) but I do know that the general result from everyone was that it was fabbo. Apart from Mr Pancake, who only gave them 2 out of 5. I thought that was a bit harsh, but he is entitled to his own opinion. I just don't know what he will eat next time we go back, as we will be going back.

But earlier, so we get an outside table.


artespresso, smelt (or spelt) with a lower case "a" is a place of arseholes (and you can capitalise that "A" if you want to).

It used to be one of my most favouritest haunts to breakfast in Canberra. It's in Kingston, which I like. It has interested art on the walls. The coffee is generally not too bad and the food has been good.

We chowed down there on the most recent visit to our nation's capital, and I think it will be our last visit to that particular establishment.

To start with, our waitress had no sense of humour. I should have guessed as much, as she was dressed totally in black and had that serious Arts student mien about her. Brother-in-law made a hash of his order by asking for "soft eggs", to which the waitress replied "and how do you want them cooked?"

His response was, "soft".

"No, as in boiled, fried, scrambled or poached?"

"Oh", went the brother-in-law, looking a bit embarased.

When she got to me and asked how I wanted my eggs, I replied "Fresh". Everyone else at the table laughed. She just frowned at me and made a little mou that said, "Oh god, one of these tables". Not even a chuckle.

Then she came out with the cuttlery. She started by putting some down within reach of the Monkey, which is always a dumb idea as cuttlery within reach has a tabletop life expectancy of less than 5 seconds. We were sitting on the balcony, and chances are it all would have ended up out on the footpath, and we would have been accused by a humourless management of being thieving gypsies.

So I told her that the last waitress to give the Monkey a fork ended up with it jammed into her thigh, and that it took two Ambo's to remove it. Again, we thought it was funny, but then we might have still been floating from the night before, and she just made that little mou again and pushed our knives and forks around a bit.

She's going to have a shock if she has kids.

Breakfast arrived, and I was not impressed. I ordered the big breakfast, and the only difference between it and bacon and eggs was the addition of one sausage. And not a very big sausage at that. It was one of thos skinny chippolata type sausages, and it was just too wierd with eggs. I favour a big, fat fairly dull pork sausage with breakfast - something that will complement the eggs, not try and murder them. If I want to murder my eggs, I splosh a pile of chilli-type sauce on the edge of my plate and dunk them in that.

The only advantage to having the big breakfast as opposed to eggs with a side order of bacon and a side order of sausage is that the "big" breakfast cost $15 and if you did eggs, it was $8, plus $4.50 for bacon and then another $4.50 for a sausage. Add that up. And then add coffee at $3.50 a pop.

For what we got, it was appalingly expensive. I don't mind forking out $15 for a feed if it is an incredibly good feed - the kind I get at Circle - and there, the $15 bill includes the coffee.

To cap it off, the only way out of the place was to go back inside through the balcony door and then through the restaurant. Sometime after we sat down, a party of about 15 took a table just inside the door that we had to go through. Although we got there well before them, some of them were clearly quite grumpy that the waitress had to walk past them to bring us our food and drinks. When we went to leave, civil war almost broke out. They had an old granny with them, and she went berko - how dare we walk past them etc etc, why didn't we exit off the balcony (uh, because that would involve climbing over the railing and dropping about 5 feet to the footpath, and the staff might have taken that to mean that we were skipping out without paying the bill).

I could see her going nuts, and saw big problems with getting the pram past her, so I had to heave it over the balconey (not with Monkey in it).

In retrospect, given the humourless service, the muddy sausage, the appaling prices and the screeching haridan that we had to pass, maybe we should have taken the over-the-balconey option and just split.

Next time, I want to go to Verve. We tried to lunch there on the weekend, but the kitchen closed just before we got there. I'll make it back one day.

Is site meter crap, or am I incompetent?

I tried to sign up to site meter last night, simply to see if I get more than one hit a day (apart from me). The process is pretty straightforward, and at the end, they email you a username and password.

It's been 24 hours, and the bloody logon name and password still haven't arrived. I'm pretty sure I managed to do it without completely messing it up. Ah well, no stats for me then. I guess I will just have to assume that I am the 398th most popular site in Australia and get on with being super famous and popular.

It's a tough life.

Political manifesto of the insane, or brilliant

Tex over at whackingday has posted the maddest political manifesto that I have read in ages.

Gotta say, he strikes a chord. How nice to read about someone who is not intent on leaching off the public tit for the rest of his existance.

However, I've always wondered whether Tex might be a cardigan wearing public servant by day, and Tex by night.

Road terror part 214

I took the meandering route home tonight, which is designed solely to get my daily mileage up as close to 40km as it can get without going up and down the same road a few times. It takes me along Great North Road, which is OK as roads go, and is does go north, but I am not so sure that it is a great north road. The pacific highway for instance is a bigger road that goes north, but it is anything but great.

I digress. Two nice things about this particular road are that it has a cycle lane and when you get to the lights at the intersection of Lyons Rd (famous for all the Italians that live along it with concrete lyons and pink flamingoes out the front), you get a lane all to yourself. That's because it's two lanes at the lights, and they quickly merge into one lane just past the lights. The two lane thing is a pain in the arse, as all it does is encourage wankers to zoom up the left lane, tear off at the lights and then try and merge into the other lane like spastic sheepherders.

I had one of them tonight. I was almost at the lights when dickhead decides to race up along side me and cut in without warning or indicating. It was one of those dramatic moves that causes on old car with soggy springs and fading shock absorbers to wallow like a waltzing hippo, which is what the old shitbucket Datsun did.

I though about sliding up beside him and saying something like, "It's not a race, you tool", but then he leant his arm out the window sill and it looked to be covered in bad, faded prison tats.

I simply sat behind him and thought zen thoughts. I counted the number of Ibis pulling rubbish out of the litter bins (countless - like the plagues of Egypt). I tried to estimate the level of decibels of wog boy a few lanes away with his shaved up the side haircut and his 1970's retro-panelvan type mural on the bonnet (somewhat louder than a low flying jumbo). I summed up the number of awful purple or yellow mags within view (ran out of fingers and toes).

Then the lights changed. Wanker didn't have enough grunt to beat the Tarago beside him off the line. Or the old banger behind it. He meekly merged in about the same position as he started.

What a knobtool.

Sunday 4 February 2007

To hell with icecream

Last week, I made my own icecream for the first time. OK, it was actually semifredo, which is more of an iced treat, but it beats the hell out of most of the store bought varieties that I normally get. I have made icecream with other people, and generally with an icecream maker, but this was the first time I did it all on my own and without one of those expensive bloody things that never seems to make icecream properly.

After making it, I browsed through a few cookbooks and found about 10 different recipes on how to make semifredo. I am going to stick with the simple Donna Hay recipe that I started with, since it seems to work.

It's pretty bloody easy - 3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, a cup of sugar and some vanilla. Whisk that lot over a double boiler for 5 minutes until you have a thin custard. Add a pack of frozen fruit (like blackberries) once it has cooled down a bit. Whip up 1.75 cups of cream, fold it in and then bung the whole lot in the freezer.

Oh bugger, I forgot to add some booze. I was going to add some amareto or frangelico - guess I can pour it on afterwards.

I tried doing it again tonight, and am yet to try the results. I heated the berries up a bit this time, and squished them somewhat in order to break them up and release some juice before mixing them into the custard. Last time, I found myself chomping into whole, well frozen berries, and they were pretty solid little suckers.

Yep, I'm all for making it at home from now on.

Your chook is cooked

After being hungover as hell yesterday, I felt like roast chook tonight. Silly bloody time to be wanting a hot, roasted chicken - it was about 30 degrees here today (it is still 26 in the office at 9pm) and humid as all buggery. But it was a chook that I wanted, so it was a chook we had. Sunday night really is the best time for a roast chook - even if I bail out of the office before 4pm and bolt home, there really isn't enough time to make a stuffing, chop the vegies and stick a chook into the over for 90 minutes. I times myself tonight - it took me just over half an hour from pulling the chook out of the fridge to when I popped it into the oven. With practice, I might get that time down, but roasting is not the speediest game in town.

It was a bloody marvelous chook by the way. I did it in my dirty great bit Le Creuset pot, starting it with the lid on to moisten it up a bit. I chopped lots of herbs from the garden and put them under it - a few big sprigs of rosemary, a bit head of sage, a big twig of oregano and some thyme. I also chopped two onions and tossed them on top of the herbs, then made a herb butter of garlic, lemon rind and thyme and put that under the skin. The skin was then rubbed with oil and salt, and the vegies tossed in around it.

After half an hour, the lid came off and the chook was left to brown. Unfortunately, I pulled it out a bit early, so it was not as brown and crispy as I like it, and it was still a touch pink in a few spots, but I was carving by the time I found that out. I also did it with pumpkin and parsnips, and the parsnips were not cooked. They were like eating very uncooked parsnips, which are tough as hardwood.


I blame the chicken - it was huge, a number 17 or 18. I am used to smaller chooks - ones that just feed a family of three and leave no leftovers, which is great because the carcase can go straight into a pot for making stock with no stuffing around.

I am still working on my stuffing though. I tried one tonight of onions, garlic, croutons, dates, pine nuts and herbs (mainly thyme) and I thought it was pretty good. I even bunged in half a lemon with the stuffing. No one else will eat it though. Which is good in a way, as I get it all, but it does make me worry about my skills as a cook.

The biggest problem with cooking a chook this way is that it is next to impossible to turn it over. My enourmous Stephanie Alexander cookbook says to turn and baste your chook every 20 minutes. I could hardly get the bloody thing out at the end of the cooking time, let alone spin it every 20 minutes. Maybe if I trussed it up with baling wire to make it look like a football, I might be able to turn it then.

It's riding time

Finally, a week in which I crack the 100km mark! Three days of riding, each of 37-38km adds up to just under 110km. Whew - thought I'd never cycle that far again in a week. I was hoping to go for one more ride and take it out to 150 for the week, but we got on the turps on Friday night and neither of us was much good on Saturday. I then had to spend today doing all the stuff that I was going to do yesterday, so there went the ride.

I have started noticing holes in my riding kit lately. The first one was in my knicks, and I found it because part of my sack was poking out and rubbing on the saddle. Had to find a needle and fix that one quick smart. Then, as I was hanging my top on the line today, I found a few moth sized holes in the back. Not that I think that moths eat lycra - it is just the first place where it is wearing out. I am used to the idea of tyres and brake pads wearing out, but not my clothes!

I am about to crack through the 7000km mark on this bike, which probably means it is near it's half life. I reckon it will be lucky to last 15,000km, and really lucky to last 20,000 (unless I turn it into a grocery bike). When I bought it, the sales guy at Renegade explained expensive bikes and cheap bikes in terms of how long the components will last. My frame will probably last for years, but before long, I'll be replacing the cranks and the rear cluster and bits of the gears and possibly the brake levers.... essentially every part that moves. Cheapish parts might last 10,000km. Mid-priced might last 15,000. Really good ones might go 20,000, but maniacs that buy expensive bikes probably buy a new one each year, so their bike never gets riden enough to reach it's design limit.

I figure I will go through one major refit of the drivetrain and brakes, and when they wear out, either the bike will be handed down to the kiddies, or it becomes a shopping bike, or it goes to the Salvo's. I have already replaced the front wheel (collision damage) and the rear wheel (got too bent from hitting pot holes), plus both tyres a few times (the latest set are supposed to alst 6000km). Tubes - I've had a few. Brake pads seem to be good for 1000 - 1500km and that is it. I guess if I was a skinny bastard who did all his riding on the flat and rarely had to squeeze the brakes, I'd get a lot more life out of them. But I'm a chunky bloke who rides down a lot of hills, and has to stop quite a few times and inconvenient things like traffic lights on the way to work.

Yes, my brakes do work. I had to pull up sharpish on Friday arvo to avoid taking out a taxi customer - he decided to exit the taxi just as I was about to pass it, and I found out just how quickly I could pull up when I need to. About half a car length. I ended up just touching my handlebar into the open door as I pulled up, which almost caused the passenger to wet himself. The stupid sod was in a hell of a hurry - he said sorry, and then bolted down the road. I presume he paid his fare, as he was in the backseat for quite a while whilst the taxi was stationery. Maybe he was arguing about the fare, or the lack of his money thereof to pay it. Whatever - he exited in enough of a hurry to almost ensure that he was flattened for this trouble.