Saturday 31 March 2007

Just can't give it away

I finally relented last night and put my VCR out on the kerb for the 6 monthly bulk rubbish collection. That means we have gone from a two VCR family to one, and the one remaining one gets used about as often as our bulk rubbish gets collected. I bought the blasted thing about 10 years ago for $200. At the time, it was a good unit - one of the first models with 4 heads or some such dribble. The bloke I bought it from got a well paying job with Cisco, so he wanted to flog it a few days after he bought it and buy a better model with his new found cash, so I got it cheap and still in the box.

I think I stopped plugging it into the TV about 5 years ago when I bought my first DVD player, and have been lugging it from house to house ever since. We tried giving it away to three people last year, and all three of them turned us down. No one has videos anymore. We did up until this move, but they ended up in the skip before the removalists arrived. Compared to digital TV, they look like crap, they're bulky and they have this bad habit of going "neek, neek, neek" and wrapping their innards around the moving parts of your VCR.

The person that used them the most in our house was monkey. Shortly after learning to crawl, he figured out how to open the video cupboard, into which he then crawled and ejected all the videos therein. He had much fun bashing the cardboard cases into shapeless messes, and banging the videos on every bit of furniture in the room. He even learnt to stack them after a while, which was difficult as the cases were so bent out of shape by his earlier ministrations.

Now all we have to do is figure out how to get rid of the spare DVD player. When purchased, it was a very fine LG unit, but it has since been superceded by a 5 stack home theatre system. Loading a single DVD is so 1999. Again, we tried to offload it on three different people last year, and all turned it down.

This is terrible. People have too much crap these days. I figure that instead of shipping goats to Africa for starving peasants, we should ship our spare home theatre equipment. Given the lack of electricity, they could make much better use of most of it. Like stacking it as bricks in a new house, or using the case as a BBQ.

Or beating the neighbour over the head with a VCR and stealing his charity goat.

To AdSense, or not to AdSense

Now that Google owns this blogging outfit, it is encouraging bloggers like me to sign up for AdSense. The deal is that I can make money by putting up ads relevant to this blog.

Cripes, what type of ads would they put up as relevant to this blog? Handguns and rocket launchers perhaps? I feel like signing up just to see what their logic engine puts up.

Just turn left you idiot

Pet hate of the week - people that turn out slightly before making their turn. You know the manouvere - the car in front indicates to go left, then it swerves right before turning left. That's ok if you are in the car behind, but a complete pain in the ring if you are on a bike next to the car. It's a good way to end up flat on the pavement.

Yes, trucks and buses with big turning circles need to make that manouvere, but I have seen it on tiny little Japanese cars that look like they should have three wheels rather than four and a bubble roof. Things that have a turning circle smaller than our pram.

Someone needs to invent a nice, lightweight rocket launcher.

Sell Target shares

Did a spot of family shopping at Target today, purely because J prefers it over Kmart. I can see why. Kmart is overrun by grockles called Tracee and Brian in ugg boots and tracksuits and mullets, whereas Target is populated by people called Luigi and Guido with slightly more upmarket gold chains and fancy thongs.

Until today, I have always viewed Target as a place purely to buy clothes for the kids. Because they are cheap, and the complete lack of service means that you aren't being bombarded by 2 pushy sales assistants whilst you struggle to get the little sods to try something on that they don't want to wear. There are clothes that Mum wants them to wear, and then there are the clothes that they want to wear, and the two sets are completely non-intersecting.

Today though, I changed my mind. Now I am a guy that likes his clothes. I am not a wog-type clothes horse thought. I like English style business shirts made out of pure Egyptian cotton. My ties are all silk, some being hand painted. My suits are pure wool. If I could afford hand made shoes, I'd have them. I own no clothes that have any synthetic material in them, apart from the elastic in my socks. Apart from my Speedoes.

There is just one problem with all that - it's expensive, and the stains never come out. And the little monkey has managed to dig holes through several of my Oxford shirts with his razor sharp fingernails, and stained the rest with God-knows what. By this morning, I no longer owned a single shirt that wasn't holed or stained.

So I fronted up at the polo shirt stand and dug in. It was a revelation - shirts for $13! I normally pay about $70 for a good Country Road or Oxford polo, but I don't think I will be doing that for a few years. As much as I love their cut and cloth and durability, they don't stand up to the monkey test.

The Target shirts are of course complete rubbish. They sit badly on my shoulders. The neck and collar are all wrong. The fabric is thin crap. I'm not sure about the stitching, but I am sure a sleeve will fall off within a month. However, given that I can buy 5 for the price of a normal one, I will put up with 5 and hope that one is still wearable at Christmas.

That was the good news.

The shocking part was finding shirts that fitted. I tried on an "L" and an "XL", and found that both were a good fit, but I like to roll around a bit in my clothes, so I went for the XL. But I was stumped - there were 7 types of XL. There was a plain XL, then an XL1, and XL2, an XL3 etc all the way up to XL6. I didn't get this, since they also had XXL shirts. I am used to simple sizing - S, M, L and XL. The shops that I normally go to don't go for an XXL, so I was wondering what the fuck all these different XL sizes were for.

Then I looked at the actual cm measurements for each, and discovered that whilst an XL for me is slightly baggy, an XL1 would be 5cm larger, and XL2 5cm larger again etc until you get to the XXL, which is a mumu. I almost fell over with the shock of realising that as far as that shop is concerned, I am a small person.

I went home and had a pizza lunch in celebration.

The other bad news (for shareholders) was the location of the changing rooms. I have a very good book called "Why we buy", by Paco Underhill. It is a marvelously well written book that explains everything you never wanted to know about how shops suck you in. Everyone should read it. It has nothing to do with marketing and advertising. It is all about where to position signs in a store, what to put inside the front door and how far in the door it should be, how wide aisles should be, what lights to install, where to locate the toilets etc etc. All the boring, mundane things that make your shopping trip hell or marvelous.

Anyway, some fucking idiot decided to skimp on the change rooms and to put both the mens and womens change rooms together. That doesn't bother me, but I am sure it would put the willies up a lot of men and women who would be very, very uncomfortable about getting changed near the opposite sex. And to cap it off, to get to the change rooms, you have to walk through the bra section. Again, that does not bother me, but it would freak some men out. I'm sure it would also freak some women out to be browsing for bras, and then to have all these men walk past giving them an oggle.

I am sure that single feature is the biggest money loser that the store has. I looked around to see whether people had just dumped clothes instead of walking down through the bras to try them on. What blew me away is that all these professional managers did not have the brains to see that as a problem. A wonderful fact that Paco tells us is that if a man takes clothes into a change room, 80% of the time, he will buy them. I took some shorts, shirts and pants in, and the only ones that I did not buy were those that did not fit. Women on the other hand only buy something like 15% of what they try on.

Therefore, if you want to sell men clothes, all you have to do is convince them to walk into a change room and put them on. However, if they are too freaked to walk into the change room area, that's just money walking out the door.

No wonder all these department stores are in trouble.

So sorry to see you go

I didn't see much point in hanging onto a manual for a car that went to the tip about 10 years ago, but it was still wrenching to let it go.

Well, actually it was quite easy. I picked up the book and all the pages fell out, leaving me just holding onto the cover.

Roger did surprise me the other night by informing me that he knows where my Rover 3500S is hiding. I bought one years ago, and he arranged for a mate of his to store it until such time as we could do some work on it. Then bloody Roger got married and that was the end of that project. I mentally wrote the car off as a goner.

Now it has resurfaced. Hmm, what to do?

The 3500S is the manual version of the Rover V8. It's fairly rare, and for a good reason. The four speed is a brute to use and the clutch requires the legs of a weight lifter. Still, it makes a beautiful sound, and goes rapidly enough for an early 1970's beastie. And I still love the look of the P6 Rovers. People knew how to style things back then. Sure, it goes through the air like a finned brick, and the wind noise renders all conversation useless at speeds over 120, and it drinks leaded petrol like a cow, but what the hell. A man who doesn't have grease under his fingernails is gay.

Farenheit 451

I was tempted to have a good book-burning in order to get rid of some crap from my shelves, but I contented myself with simply putting a box of them out on the verge for some fool to pick up. They sat on the verge for less than 15 minutes. I pity the fool.

The first to go was my one and only Chomsky book. I would not inflict Chomsky on anyone (except maybe David Hicks - he's roll over pretty quickly on his Taliban mates after a chapter or two). It was marvelous for putting me to sleep, but it had a bad habit of giving me nightmares. It was a good choice of book to burn, as no one should have to wade through his impenetrable crap.

Next to go was "Weapons of Choice" by JB. JB made a good start with "He died with a felafel in his hand", but it has been all downhill from there. I almost put two more Birmingham books out with this one. I managed to read half this book, and then gave up on it. I was then amazed to see that a sequel has come out.

The last of this batch was "Rock and roll babes from outer space", by Linda Jaivin. Her first book was fairly original, but the second was a bag of tripe.
The second batch of three included two by James Jones that are sometimes considered "classics", but I found them to be deadweight bores. They might have been shocking in 1950, but they are as dull as dishwater today.

The next was an old Hugh Mackay book. I found it interesting and fresh and new in the mid 1990's, but Hugh is now so last century. He wrote a few interesting and insightful things 20 years ago, and has been living off it ever since. I think he ran out of interesting things to say in about 1998. I wish he would shut up and retire.

Next went a book on sex that I think I got for a birthday years ago - a terrible read. After that was a Stephen Coonts book. I loved "Flight of the Intruder" and "Intruders", but after about 5 books, he lost the plot. "Cuba" went. I hung onto the others as I like to read "Intruders" at least once a year. The guy can write - I just wish he would find some decent plots again.

Then there was "The Phoenix", which was partly about the Hindenburg disaster. I don't know what the rest of it was about as I only read about 50 pages. Boring.

Then came some technical and managemetn books. I can't believe that I have lugged a book on Cisco scalable networks around with me for the past 5 years, especially since all the technology that it talks about is not sitting on a rubbish tip somewhere near you. Technical books like this should be printed on flash paper that spontaneously combusts after 3 years tops.
"The Fifth Discipline" was the biggest pile of bilge that I have tried to plow through in a while. I gave up after a couple of chapters. That must make me a completely crap manager. Naughty me. I have given up the pretence of reading expensive, weighty management texts. If an author can't boil a topic for management down into 50 pages or less, then they don't know what they are writing about.

Then there was "management redeemed", which was ghastly. A bunch of managers preening in print. This one should have been soundly doused in lighter fluid.

After that, there were two of the worst technology books I have ever read, or partly read. Sorry if you gave one to me as a present, but they are garbage. "Google" was like reading a book about the Pope by a God-mad Jesuit. After about five infuriating chapters, I gave up. I wanted a techo's book. Instead, I got a "praise Serg" book. Ugh.

e-boys was even worse. A story about Silicon Valley venture capitalists. After reading it, I decided that I never want to invent something or come up with an idea for a start-up company. It made me sick. "Fuckheads get rich" would be a better title.

The one in the middle is "Leadership", which I think was partly written by Fred Hilmer. I have no idea why he was put in charge of a newspaper company, as he can't write for nuts. Ikea construction manuals are easier and more interesting to read than his dribble.

In total, they made a nice little pile. I figured we'd put them out on the street and if they hadn't gone by Monday night, we'd have a bonfire.

Like I said, they lasted about 15 minutes before they disappeared. I should have written this review first, printed it out and stuck it on top and then seen if anyone took off with them.

A view to a kill

I have to ride over this bridge, better known as the Victoria Road death trap, twice a day. Yes, it is better than having to cross Victoria Road, which is 4 lanes in each direction of dickheads who are either in a hurry to get to work or to get home. But it is not much better.

This photo shows the ramp on one side. Note how the designer has thoughtfully included some stairs for pedestrians so that they can get to the bus stop a bit faster than going down the ramp.

Just one problem - if you lose your brakes coming down the ramp (and it is quite steep, sharply curved and narrow), then the only place to go is straight down a steep flight of stairs and straight onto Victoria Road. It is the stupidest bit of design work I have ever seen. RTA engineers put loads of effort into building run-off zones for trucks when they lose their brakes, and they do their best to build roads with low gradients and gently sweeping bends, but when it comes to bikes, only the crap will do.

Trouble is, the only way to beat this into the thick skull of an RTA engineer is to superglue him to a bike with no brakes, wheel him to the top of this footbridge and let him go.

Well, it wouldn't teach him a lesson, but there would be one less idiot putting out CO2.

Our cops are rubbish

This is the scene next to our local cop shop - it's a tip. I can't get over the fact that people are cheeky enough to walk past the front door of Mr Plod and then throw rubbish down the side of the police station. Shows you how much respect the locals have for the short arm of the law, and how much the cops care about presenting a good image to the public.

This reinforces my perception that there is never anyone there, or the useless bludgers are sitting inside all shift scoffing tea and biscuits. The Five Dock shops are just around the corner, and any cop walking to the shops to buy a cream bun or a coffee has to walk past this mess, but either they aren't paying attention, or they don't give a bugger.

And it's not like this mess is a long way from their roost. It is about 20 feet from their front door.
Good to see that all our taxes are being poured into expanding the Force with a bunch of couldn't-give-a-rats-arse types.

It also shows how often the local area commander visits. If I was the boss and I walked in and saw that mess, there would be blood on the floor and probationary constables out the front with a plastic bag picking up rubbish quick smart. The Sgt in charge would have a size 9 boot mark on his arse too.

I bet the excuse though is, "But we've got all this paperwork to get through and anyway, it's somebody else's problems".

Ah yes, nothing like an SEP to make it all go away.

Wednesday 28 March 2007

No dogs

We got an interesting letter the other day from the Principal of a local school. She was writing to point out that it is illegal to walk dogs through the school grounds. Not that I care, not owning a dog.

The letter made reference to various acts of Parliament that forbade dogs being on the premises, but it missed one vital thing - what to do if we happen to see dogs on the grounds out of school hours.

I must remember to write back and ask about that. Are we allowed to shoot them? Will the Education Department give us an ammunition allowance? What is the recommended cartridge for shooting dogs? I would have thought a .22 would be too small (except for poodles) and a .308 might have the disadvantage of carrying on through the dog, across the playground and through a couple of houses. Does that mean that dum-dums have to be used instead?

Can we resort to bow-hunting if the school grounds are not large enough for the safe use of rifles? How about pistols? I don't want to carry a rifle around when I take the kids over to play, but I wouldn't object to carrying a Glock.

There is a large rubbish skip on the grounds - can I throw the dog carcases into it? Does the school want me to remove the dog tags so that they can be posted back to the owners? Do I get a reward for each dog shot? Do I have to cut off the ears in order to claim my bounty?

What about cats?

I can see they haven't thought this thing through thoroughly enough.

Slippery when wet

We had a spot of rain last week, which meant I got wet coming home for the first time in a long time. It was nice to ride in the rain, given that the air temp was in the high 20's or low 30's, so the rain went a long way to taking the edge off the thermometer.

It's been so long since I've been in the wet that I'd forgotten the impact it has on the brakes. With a car, it takes longer to pull up in the wet, but at least you have a lot more rubber making contact with the road, and the brake pads tend to grip on the brake disks as soon as you pump the brake pedal.

Not so with the treadly. I was ambling along and needed to slow down, so I gave the brake levers the usual amount of squeeze.

Nothing happened for a few seconds, which is how long it took the wheels to do several revolutions.

So I squeezed harder. The pads started to grip a bit, but it was only enough for them to go "squeak, squeak, squeak", and not enough to actually retard my forward motion.

So I gave them everything I had, which involved pretty much trying to force the levers and the handle bars to fuse together, and I finally started to slow down. I thought I was about to go into the back of a hire car when everything finally worked and I came to a halt.

In the wet, after you squeeze, the first revolution of the wheel simply wipes off he excess water from the wheel rim. The second revolution dries the rim out a bit (assuming it is not bucketing down and replenishing the rim with wetness faster than it can be rubbed off). The third revolution is when the pads start to bite.

Now the average bike wheel is a lot bigger in diameter than your car wheel, so three revolutions takes you a long way. I can't figure out the maths but it has something to do with pi and it seems to boil down to this....."aaaaarrrrggghhhhh!", which is the sound you make when you suddenly find that your bike has all the braking potential of a greased humpback whale being pushed down a playground slide.

One day, there will be a revolution in the braking systems fitted to road bikes.

I hope I live to see it.

Anyone still believe in the "broken windows" theory of crime?

I believe that the "broken windows" theory is pretty sound - if you stamp out the minor inconveniences that so annoy the honest and upright citizen, you help to stamp out crimes that are more serious.

I don't think that belief is shared by my local coppers.

There is a small empty bit of land between the cop shop and the local supermarket - it's maybe big enough to park one car on it (and a small car at that). It's usually full of rubbish, and the cops make no effort to clean it up.

Clearly, that rubbish got there by people littering. You'd need to be reasonably game to chuck rubbish away next to a Police station, but around here you don't have to be concerned as there is never a cop actually outside wandering around who might bust you. In their wisdom, the cops have papered over all the windows so that we, the taxpayer, can't see in (and see all the empty desks) and the cops of course can't see out.

What a lovely state of affairs.

Very silly riding

This video is easily the silliest bit of cycling that I have ever seen. Here was me thinking that it was naughty to start moving off from the line at the lights before they go green.

A few comments.

The road surfaces in New York look to be in much better condition than here in Sydney. Although the quality of the video is grainy, the roads don't seem to be an unending stream of potholes and badly patched potholes. You couldn't ride this quickly down an average Sydney street without the wheels vibrating off your bike.

The lanes look a lot wider, as there is more space between vehicles, even between buses. You could barely fit a rolled up newspaper between two buses side by side here, let alone ride between them. When I ride down the middle of two lanes between cars, there is often not enough room to squeeze in between two Barinas.

The landscape looks nice and flat, so they can get up to a good speed and sustain it. Given that Sydney has a hill every 50 yards, this type of thing would be difficult to do over here. Too much up and down, and not much space between traffic lights. The blocks in NY are a hell of a lot longer than those in Sydney, so there is more room to get up and go between the lights.

I've never seen cyclists go through red lights and across pedestrian crossings here like these idiots do - not even couriers. It's an interesting video, but it has been produced by complete dickheads.
J is the most amazing woman. I could write pages and pages but I'll summarise it to the top ten points.

She doesn't need oodles of expensive shop-bought boutique stuff to make our home look lovely. It's a wonderful place to come home to each night.

The kids are happy and healthy and appear to be turning into reasonably normal and well adjusted human beings.

She manages to run a succesful business from home, which she started from scratch, as well as doing most of the household stuff. Not many people have the gumption and courage to strike out on their own rather than following the herd.

She's come up with an original business idea and is pushing it through to fruitition with very little capital and outside help, yet still manages to organise all the other stuff in our lives.

In this consumer-bingeing era, she doesn't want a lot or ask for much in material terms. It's good to be with someone that thinks its more important to have more friendship and happiness, and not a new BMW to impress the neighbours.

"Community" is an over-used word these days, but J does more for the local bods and sods than most of the other goons that live in this area. 95% of the population are content to veg in front of the TV and have their "community" handed to them on a platter, not realising that people make stuff happen. J makes stuff happen. Most people watch what happened, or wonde what just happened.

She is sexy as hell and puts up with me. And I snore. Very loudly at times.

She has very nice friends. If the company you keep is an indicator of the quality of your character, then she has attracted a range of interesting and good people that she can call friends. She does not hang out with losers.

Family life is never boring. We do good stuff.

She loves me.

Monday 26 March 2007

How to cut short a car chase

Although our local coppers have a secure parking area out the back of their cop shop, they always have a few cars out the front. I think it is partly political – it makes the station look occupied, rather than empty (which is what it is most of the time).

One of the patrol cars wasn’t going anywhere the other morning – out the front was an NRMA van and the cop car had the lid up. Don’t see that too often. There was a cop standing out there talking to the NRMA bloke - you see that even less (a cop, in the flesh, outside the station).

Why can't builders build houses?

Never buy a house from a builder. Never rent one from a builder either. I know that sounds strange (how do houses get built, if not by builders), but from what I have seen so far, they couldn’t build their way out of a paper bag.

We are currently renting a place that is owned by a builder. Let me list the “idiosycracies” for you:

The laundry is only half built. There are no bare wires poking out of the walls, but it is only one step down from that. He has put up stud walls, slapped on the outer cladding and then forgotten to complete the interior. Well, I’ll give him credit for doing one internal wall – except that the cladding is only nailed down in about 4 places. Lean on it, and the whole thing buckles.

Then there is the laundry tub. He put the taps for the washing machine under the tub – ie, you have to open the cupboard door under the tub and lie on the floor to screw on the hoses. Why couldn’t he put them up at chest level like every other house in the country? The thing that cracks me up is that he installed one tap in such a way that it bumps into the laundry tub. The only way to turn the tap on or off is to lift the tub a few inches (which is possible as it is not fixed in) and then turn the tap.

When we looked at the place, the backyard was a mess and a promise was made to lay paving stones over part of it. Yes, the stones are now in place, but I don’t think he levelled and tamped the dirt underneath properly first. The stones are about a foot on each side – I am waiting to stand on one and have it flip over completely. It is the dodgiest paving job ever.

The kitchen floor has new lino – it just hasn’t been glued down yet, and I doubt it ever will be. All the windows have locks, except for one that he forgot about. Some rooms are recently painted, but you can’t open the windows as they are now painted shut.

The rest of the house is the same – dodgy, half completed gimcrack. If his own place is like this, I’d hate to be a client.

And is the rent any less? Ha ha ha.

I want to go to the beach and not see a crash

Quite a few trips to the beach end up with me being dumped in the surf. On the odd occasion, it hurts a bit, but most times it just involves getting tossed around like being inside an enormous washing machine on spin cycle.

For some unknown reason, seeing smashed cars on the way to the beach soon after dawn puts me off my swim. I think it triggers some fear of hitting a rock whilst getting thrown around in the surf.

Why is it then that I can’t drive to the beach without having to detour around a couple of idiots that have driven into each other?

On Saturday morning, it was two goons at an intersection on Bondi Road – not more than 150 yards from where I used to live. Someone must have run the red, as one car had been nicely t-boned by the other. Thankfully, only one lane was blocked, traffic was light and I was barely delayed for my swim.

My swim didn’t go for long either – there was an idiotic chop about 6 inches in height coming across the bay, and it drove me nuts. I don’t mind swimming across a large swell – you simply go up and down in slow motion. Chop is terrible – it hits you every few seconds and this one was coming at an angle of about 30 degrees. Front on is ok From one side is ok. From 30 degrees is horrible. I don’t think I swam for more than 5 minutes.

I promised myself to do more on Sunday morning, but alas, my journey was lengthened incredibly by some idiots that had crashed on the City West Link. Now the Link road is practically a freeway at that point and somehow, some goose had crashed badly enough to block traffic in both directions, and require 4 or 5 fire trucks, several ambulances and every cop in the inner west to attend. There were so many flashing lights, it looked like a Die Hard movie. Or the Blues Brothers. The only option was to chuck a U-turn over the curb and head back the way I came and then find another route to the beach. Thank goodness for the Disco and huge ground clearance. Any dickhead in a WRX that came round that bend behind me would be stuck, unable to get the front spoiler over the kerb.

Ha ha ha.

On the way home later that morning, I passed the scene and noticed a few patches of sand – oil or fuel spills I guess. There were no skid marks. I’m assuming some idiot in a blue Subaru WRX (which I saw parked across a few lanes) had been hooning home, lost it on the corner, hit the curb (which is quite tall at that point) and the rest is history. How they came to require so many fire appliances and ambulances is beyond me - unless he ploughed into a busload of grannies on their way to church.

The beach was not much good on Sunday – no chop, but a million blue bottles. I didn’t notice them until it was too late. No swimming, much stinging, but hopefully one less idiot on the road to get in my way next weekend.

Reminder to self - look at the tide mark when getting in the water and check for bluebottles that have washed up. When I got out of the water, there were about a million of them washed up. Somehow, I had walked right through the middle of them without noticing them or treading on any.

The tip is rubbish

My view of a tip is a big hole in the mud, half full of rubbish, covered in bulldozers pushing piles of rotting prawn heads this way and that and smothered in wheeling, screeching seagulls. Cars backup to the pile, kids and Dad jump out and everyone grabs stuff from the boot and flings it onto the tip with a satisfying crash. Occasionally things are scavenged and the car returns home half full.

My local tip is not like that – it is an “environmental waste management facility” out near Homebush. Those expecting a hole in the ground are in for a rude shock – those people like me.

Instead, it looks more like a multi storey car park with rubbish trucks parked underneath. You drive up a ramp, park and then put recycling onto sorting benches on one side and fling the rubbish into a dirty great compactor on the other. The compactor is about 20 feet deep and easily large enough to take a semi trailer whole, and there are two of them end to end. I had much fun skidding bags of rubbish across the concrete floor and then listening to them crash into the bottom of the compactor.

Half a car load of junk cost $20 to tip. I recall going to a tip some years ago and it cost half that to dump a car. I don’t mean a car load of stuff – I mean a car that we had stripped and towed there on a trailer.

Rubbish is getting more expensive by the day.

One thing hasn’t changed – the place still stinks like a million rotting prawn heads.

As for it being an interesting day out, going to the tip these days is a rubbish experience. Where's the fun in not being able to pick through piles of other people's junk? Bloody enviro-nazi's.

Monday 12 March 2007

An interesting campaign

This guy is not my local candidate - he is running for the seat of basketweavers. Hope he gets in.

What I did find interesting was the fact that he has put together a 10 minute clip and posted it on YouTube. I don't think that's really been done much in Australia before. It's quite a well made clip, and I thought it was pretty cool to see him talking in front of a lot of local spots that I go through quite regularly.

I like the sentiments that he is expressing, but I'm not sure they will go over that well with the local populace. They are a hard lot to please, and they are solidly anti-capitalist, anti-development and anti-anyone-moving-into-Balmain. He has only been there 18 years, which is not long enough for the luvvies, and he wants to build sports fields and things like that for the kiddies, which means bulldozers and "development".

Unfortunately, he might be beaten by some green maniac harridan who will violently and loudly oppose anyone doing anything forever, and thus solve no problems.

Anyway, check out the clip, as it is the most wonderfully un-Liberal looking thing that I have seen in a long time.

Loud mouthed tools

I was sitting at a red in the city as usual, waiting for the lights to change, when a car that had the green decided to turn left from the middle lane. It wasn't a terribly dangerous thing to do, as the lane beside him was a left turn lane, so no one was going to collect him in the passenger door whilst attempting to go straight through.

However, he had to slow down to make the turn, and this annoyed the idiot in the slightly bogged up Commodore behind him. He leant out the window as he went through the intersection and yelled out something like "dickhead".

The only people that heard where the pedestrians on my side of the road (as he was facing our way) and me. The driver who annoyed him had his window wound up, was on the wrong side of the car for sound to travel his way, and was zooming up the road by the time the statement was made.

I was expecting the annoyed one to plant his foot and leave a bit of rubber behind as a statement, but that would have put him into the back of a bus. He had to be content with yelling abuse at us instead.

What a tool. Why couldn't he accept that the other bloke screwed up and had to make a turn from the wrong lane? After all, did it cost the idiot any time? No, he still got through the traffic lights, albeit a little bit slower than he would have if the other bloke had gone straight ahead, but we are talking CBD traffic and traffic lights here, so for all intents and purposes, he was not delayed at all.

Some people are just such knobheads.

Was a bridge

This was taken just up river from the Gladesville Bridge. It is the abutment of the old bridge that went over the river at this point before the Gladesville Bridge was built. It's hard to se in this photo, but there is another abutment visible on the other side of the river (if you know what to look for).

Interesting that they demolished the bridge but kept the abutments in place as small parks. This one makes a good viewing platform up to the Gladesville Bridge on the right, and it has a nice potted history on plaques about the area and the building of these two bridges.

Will there come a day when the Gladesville Bridge is demolished to make way for another structure, and we'll have two of these little parks along the foreshore?

Feel like climbing this?

This is the Gladesville Bridge from underneath. As you can see, it's a fairly tall bridge. You could sail a fair sized boat under it. I've cycled over it a number of times, and it's a fair puff of a ride.

The underside has always interested me, as it consists of a big concrete arch with piers coming out of it. The arch is pretty steep at the bottom, but it's obviously climbable as there is plenty of graffiti up the top.

Well, it looks steep from this angle, but it never looks that bad from side on. I meandered slightly out of my way tonight and went out on a peninsular to take a photo of the bridge from side on. It looks so gentle from side on, yet it is such a bastard to climb. Of the three big bridges in Sydney that I have ridden over, the Gladesville Bridge is easily the steepest and nastiest one to get over - partly because the cycle/footpath is the narrowest of the lot. If one bike is going up and another is coming down, there is a reasonable risk of collision if you aren't careful. There is just no elbow room to spare.

The road to hell

I think I have written about this road before - except this time I hae photos to prove my point. I had pulled over to take some snaps of the tarmac when this other cyclist very conveniently went past so that I could include him in my shot.

This road is in Drummoyne, and it runs parallel to Victoria Road. It is where the sensible people cycle, as the road is littered with speed humps and is not infested with two lanes of fast moving cars, buses and trucks going in each direction.

It would be a lovely place to cycle, if only they had bothered to provide a decent road surface.

The road surface where the cars drive is quite nice - more than acceptable. Then over to the left is the parking lane and the "bike" lane. Bikes are expected to keep to the left of the unbroken white line. Just one problem - in most places, there is only a strip of rideable tarmac about 4 inches wide between the white line and the surface of death on the left.

That means the only sensible course of action is to ride on the line or slightly to the right of it, which just pisses off the drivers as they expect you to stick to your side of the white line, and not go meandering out into their space.

I can't believe the dickheads that thought this idea up. The road surface in the bike lane is so bad that only mountain bikes can safely traverse it. My road bike, with its skinny tyres, is not built for roads of that quality.

Like I said - dickheads.

This place cracks me up

This shop is on Victoria Road. I love it - the Stool Shop. It makes me think of all those horrible medical soaps where a patient is given a plastic tub and told to return with a stool sample. Well, this place is full of stool samples - there is only one of each type of stool on display.

I thought this shop would last about a week. After all, can there be that many people buying stolls each week to keep the till ticking over? Obviously ther are, although I have never seen anyone in the shop fondling the stools.

I just find it fascinating to see how specialised shopping has become in this day and age.

Sunday 11 March 2007


After several years of cycling, I have just read an article on shoes that explained everything that I ever needed to know about cycling shoes. And to think; I bought mine for the simple reason that they were the only pair in the store that would fit my fat feet. I have since found out that they are very serious shoes, and are designed to transfer the maximum amount of thrust through to the pedal via a pair of very stiff soles and uppers.

For those of you that ski, think of them as a pair of cutdown ski boots. They allow very little movement of the foot, and the sole does not flex like a sneaker, thus allowing energy to be dissapated uselessly.

The downside is that after about 30kms, my feet swell and my toes get pinched and start to go numb. I have to do some fancy saddle manouveres at that point to take the pressure off one foot and then the other for long enough to get the blood circulating again. Either that, or find a good coffee shop for a short break.

Unfortunately, on my regular routes, there are no coffee shops (good or otherwise), so I am stuck with numb toes. I have sought out a pair of mountain bike type shoes that are soft and flexi, but they are all too bloody narrow. I do not have big feet (or long feet). I have tall, wide feet. They splay out like stumpy flippers. I can only wear two brands of athletics shoe, as only two companies make shoes wider than a D (so I am told by my local shoe salesman). I am out there on the E or EE width. By the looks of things, compared to most other cyclists, I have an extra toe on my feet. That's the only way to think of it. I am going to walk into my next cycle shop and say, "I need some shoes that will fit a guy with six toes" and see what they come up with.

Jack Black

Jack Black should stick to supporting roles. I like seeing a bit of Black, but not a whole movie with Black. Two movies to compare:

  • Hi Fidelity
  • School of Rock
Black was fantastic in the first as the wierd, horrible guy in the record store. A few moments of bitterness and anger here and there throughout the movie are fine, but not 90 minutes worth. I have never been able to watch more than 15 minutes of School of Rock.

Jack Black - best taken in small doses.

Getting the kids to eat

There I was at the dinner table, trying to get the little monsters to eat some food. I almost gave up and trotted out Mum's favourite line from when I was a kid - "There are children starving in Africa at the moment who would be glad of what's on your plate".

Well, Mum was saying that over 30 years ago, and what's changed? Not much, except for my reluctance to use that phrase. Mainly because the reply would be, "Well, why don't we post it to them then?"

Funny how kids were starving in Africa when we were kids, and kids are still starving now, and given the way the idiots run the place, they'll still be starving when my grandkids start sitting down to dinner.

Africa seems to exist for one purpose only - to give parents a line to use at dinner when the kids won't eat. It's not much good for anything else. Kids were starving in China when I was a young-un, but today they are more worried about the toddlers being obese than stick-babies. Just shows what a bit of capitalism and economic growth can do for you.

I was thinking about famine in Africa, and our usual response. We get charities to load up lots of trucks with bags of flour or some other staple and they go trundling off to a dusty, fly blown camp in the middle of nowhere. The dust I can understand, since it is dry, but why all the flies? Is it because sanitation is non-existant and the ground is covered in crap as far as the eye can see? It's nice that TV cameras don't pickup smell, as no one would want to watch stories about starving stick babies if they could smell what the places are like. Maybe we should ship a few thousand fly traps as well.

Anyway, the next thing you see is all these people sitting around eating mealie-mealie off a plate, and not much else. Porridge is cooked up in great big kettles.

Then I thought - bugger me, what happens over here when people are going hungry? Do we ship them a big cast iron kettle and a bag of mealie-mealie? Nope. Poverty these days seems to be about not being able to afford a turkey at Christmas. The "hungry" end up having boxes and boxes of canned goods foisted upon them.

Hope they remembered to include a can opener.

Saturday 10 March 2007

How to avoid a problem

I have just finished reading the regular newsletter from our school principal. In part, she notes that some kids want to ride bikes to school, but the school doesn't want them to do it.

I can understand the reasoning:

  • space is limited for installing bike racks
  • motorists use the surrounding narrow streets as rat runs
  • some kids might have to cross two busy roads - roads that are so nasty, I avoid them wherever possible, and only cross at one location where I have found a fairly safe crossing point
  • young kids are idiots (this was described as "developing peripheral vision").
However, I think the answer is pretty stupid - ban bikes! Instead of trying to attack the root causes, which are difficult, they take the easy way out and want kids to get driven to school. They'll weasel out of that by saying that kids can take the bus, but that's like saying paraplegics can drag their wheelchairs up and down stairs - it ain't going to happen.

I have done the school run dozens of times over the last two years, and it is a nightmare of congestion. The kids aren't too bad. The problem is the mums - talk about "developing peripheral vision". Most of them tunnel vision on their kid, and then nearly run into or over everyone else. They are useless.

One of the simplest things the school could organise would be car pooling for kids. They know where every kid lives - it should be easy enough to get a map and organise a few kiddie car pools. That might reduce the amount of 3.30pm traffic around the school, and make it a bit safer for those of us that want to ride.

Bloody beauracrats.


Cycling, particularly if you do it a lot, is one of those things that requires a reasonable degree of mental toughness. Physical toughness helps, but it's the mental toughness that gets you through. Particularly if you commute to work that way - I know that no matter what the weather is like, I have to get up, saddle up and venture out into whatever nature has delivered that day. Fierce heat, strong winds, bucketing rain, lightning, hail, freezing cold, mist and fog. I've seen it all.

If you are only cycling for training, you can give those off days a rest. Looks a bit wet? Stay at home and put a tour de france DVD in and relax on the couch. Driving to work? Well, you might get a bit damp whilst running to the car in the rain, but once you are there, life is peachy in your little coccoon.

Cars are too nice these days. We've forgotton what it is like to have cars that are leaky, draughty, lack air conditioning and break down at the first sign of rain. We used to experience at least a bit of the weather inside the car, as one window had to be wound down partly to let in fresh air to defog the windscreen. Now, I press a button and the windscreen is blown clear in a few seconds.

We've gotten soft. A trek across country used to be hard work, as it was done without air conditioning. Now, you'd just about die getting out of the car to change a flat - the difference between the inside and outside of the car being so great.

But I digress. I was aiming for 150km this week, but only made 140. Even then, I was lucky to make that, as I was going soft on Friday. I was on my way home, and was feeling a bit off. My legs felt very brittle and stringy, like a muscle was about to give up and pop. I thought about it and decided to take the short way home.

Then I got onto the flat, and started feeling better, so I decided to extend out to a different intersection which would add a few k's to the trip. By the time I got to that intersection, I was cooking, so I decided to push on for the Iron Cove Bridge, with the intention of bailing into a side street before I got there and going home a back way.

By the time I made the Iron cove Bridge, I had warmed up and was cooking. Yes, I still had some nasty hills to do, but nothing troubled me.

I'm just glad I was able to convince myself to do "one more block, one more block", and by the time I had done a few more blocks in succession, I was ok.

I think part of my problem is that I do 8 short rides per week. They add up to a reasonable distance, but going back and forth 4 days a week necessitates short rides. Going in is 14km and coming back is anywhere up to 25, depending on where I go. Given that it takes me 12km to warm up, I am doing 4 rides with stone cold legs for most of the distance. I am essentially doing lots of little "sprints". I hesitate to call them a proper sprint, as I'm really not going that fast, but I guess the pace is faster than it would be for say a constant 160km ride. I have good speed over short distances, and I can hold my own for 25km no sweat, but I don't think I have a lot of endurance. I am not going out and doing even a 40km ride in one go, let alone 80km. Those things build endurance, and they allow one to think about pace. I don't have to think about pacing much coming home - I simply push as hard as I can, limiting myself only with the thought that (a), I have to get home without a lift, and (b), I have to get up in the morning and do it again.


The gender mix

I've always noticed that a lot more blokes seem to cycle than women. I did a count over a few days and found that the ratio going into work was usually 10 or 20 to 1 in favour of men.

To cap it off, I then read this survey at my favourite bike shop and noted that the last question was about gender. 80% of those who did the survey were male. Which makes me think that renegade cycles does a very good job of attracting all the female customers in Sydney.

Friday 9 March 2007

Finding a new route

I moved office today. I have lost count of how many times I have moved. One symptom of all this moving is that I gave up on business cards years ago. I had my last one printed in about 1999, and haven't bothered to get new ones since. No one seems to care - after all, this isn't Japan.

Moving these days is easy - I have stuff-all crap in my office, so the total move consisted of my PC and a notepad that went into my briefcase. That was it. No files, photos, books, plaques etc. I travel light.

The hardest part is finding a new place to have breakfast. One thing about riding is that I can never eat before riding to work. If it was flat all the way, I wouldn't have a problem. But my ride is not, and there are at least three hills that would generate much vomit if I ate too soon before riding. And I am buggered if I am getting up at 5am to eat, then sit around until 6.30am to ride. I wake up, I dress, I go. I get to work, I shower, I eat, I do some work.

The first few weeks after any move are beset by the constant quest for a good breakfast. It has to be good and cheap and tasty, and the staff have to be nice. If any cafe served good bircher muesli, I'd eat that every morning, but the only place that ever did that was in Melbourne, and it closed years ago. The next choice is to find somewhere that does something with bacon and/or eggs that is not too greasy. A good omelette. A nice bacon and egg roll. Poached eggs and bacon on good toast.

Another thing is that it has to be close to the office - no point in walking 10 minutes each way to have a feed. It has to be a minute or two from the lifts.

Apart from that, I also have to find a new route through town. The Sydney CBD is a mass of one way streets and nasty little hills, so the trick is to find a route that is reasonably flat and has no nasty traffic spots. I define a nasty traffic spot as one where the cars are moving faster than I am. At the moment, even though my route goes up George St, I can keep up with or go faster than cars and buses because of the congestion along that part of George St. However, once you go past Town Hall, the road opens up and the traffic speed picks up and suddenly you have impatient cars up your bum and the risks amplify. Cars tend to be nice to bikes if the bikes can keep up, which means being able to belt along at 35-45 kmh over some stretches.

My first week in the new office will be spent trying a different route each day until I find the best one, or a selection of routes, with each one being better at certain times of the day. When I lived on the north shore, I had a few routes once I got off the Harbour Bridge, and the one I took each day depended entirely on what time I got up. Traffic speeds and densities change remarkably within a short space of time in the CBD, and bikes are much more flexible than cars as we can cut across footpaths or up alleys or even the wrong way up a one way street, so you are not stuck with one route like cars. You pick your route to suit the conditions.

It's no different really to driving a truck through the CBD. There are some places where you do not want to take a truck in the CBD - roads that are too narrow or corners that are too sharp to get around, kerbs in the wrong place, overhanging awnings etc. A smart truck driver will have his no-go zones, and will pick a route that avoids them. Bikes have to do the same.

The last thing I have to find is a good iced coffee. My current cafe does a really good iced latte, and I am quite addicted to it. They also give me plenty of ice, which is crucial. Bugger it - it isn't that far to walk if it all goes pear shaped at the new office.

Thursday 8 March 2007

To photograph, or not to photograph

It is now 16 months since I bought a digital camera. I bought a small one with the express purpose of it being able to fit into the pocket of my cycling top, and to be of a shape that didn't catch when I tried to remove it from a stretchy, elasticised pocket. Before this camera, I had one that had a more traditional SLR-shape with a protuding lens etc. It wasn't a bad unit, but getting it out of the back pocket was a nightmare. I nearly dislocated my shoulder once trying to get it out when I tore just about every muscle from my nipple to my shoulder.

So I went for a small camera with no protruding parts whatsoever. It's a lovely little thing, but I am now paranoid about taking it cycling in case I drop it and break it. I am too attached to it. Most weeks, I see something on the road that is worth taking a photo of. This week, I spotted a ute on the side of the road that had not fared well on a wet day - the driver had obviously slid into a kerb and one front wheel was pretty much horizontally tucked under the body of the car. I thought it was an interesting look.

Another interesting look was when a courier on a motorbike pulled up beside me whilst I was at a red light, switched off his engine, popped his visor and started yelling about "Muhammed Mundine - the worlds greatest boxer". He was clearly completely off his trolley - just the sort of person we need zooming around our city streets on a motorbike. It's times like that when I wish I had some sort of European cycling top on, and I could babble back in German in the hope that he would get fed up with me and ignore me. I just had to put on my best "ignore the looney" face and wait for the light to go green.

Wish I had the camera.

Beware the useless tourists

I'm coming home the other night, blatting down Lilyfield Road on a slight decline at about 45kmh when I spot a car coming down a road on my right. That road intersects Lilyfield Road at a T-junction, and has a stop sign, so I fully expected the car to pull up, look and then go whichever way it wanted. I usually keep a weather eye on cars coming down that road as quite a few couldn't be bothered giving way to me - they just pull out with a "so - you're on a bike" attitude. Luckily, there is a wide bike/car parking lane on each side of the road, so it doesn't matter if they do - I just go further left and give them a wide berth.

This turkey though doesn't stop at the intersection - he just blows through it and turns left towards me. Not only does he do that, but he turns onto the wrong side of the road, where I happen to be - over a double white line and all. I start going left to avoid him, and he keeps heading for the kerb! I can see a head-on approaching, and am thinking about leaning hard right to go around him the wrong way, or banking left and jumping the kerb and just smacking sideways into the chain link fence that runs along the verge. Thankfully, bozo wakes up and returns to the correct side of the road.

I then notice that the driver appears to be a Japanese male, and has a death grip on the steering wheel with both hands. His entire body language is, "Oh fuck, what am I doing driving this car in this foreign land?" His missus has her seat belt off, and is kneeling on her seat fiddling with something in the back. I think he ended up over my way because she leant on his arm and he couldn't turn the wheel enough to tighten his turn and stay on the correct side of the road.

They went their merry way, the car wobbling this way and that down the road. Dazed and confused. Hope the stupid bastards had insurance.

Sunday 4 March 2007

Tomorrow is Monday

Tomorrow is Monday, meaning a back on the bike day. Last week was a bit slack - I only just scraped in 100km over a three day period. One day was taken up with a laundry run, and the other with a job interview (ie, I had to wear a suit and look good, so I caught a lift into town).

Wearing a suit for the first time in ages convinced me of one thing - I want a job where sweating doesn't feel miserably uncomfortable. I don't mind being hot and sweaty - the office is currently 29 degrees and if the fan was not on, I'd be sitting in a puddle. I ride twice a day, and generally arrive at my destination wet as. I don't mind working hard in the hot sun - if you're wearing appropriate clothing. For some reason, I find suit pants to be the most horribly uncomfortable item of clothing once the temperature goes over about 22 degrees. They are hideous. They are an iron maiden of discomfort. Putting on a jacket is even worse. I don't know how I would have coped in the 1930's.

Anyway, tomorrow being Monday, I will be trying to crawl out of bed by 6.30am in readiness for a 40km day. I need to be up early at the moment as we are in a "hot" spell, and I prefer to ride just after dawn whilst it is still fairly cool. There's just one problem - after a weekend at the pool, my legs are killing me. Normally, I have the weekend off to let the legs relax and recover. At the moment, they are anything but. It's going to be an interesting week leg-wise. I would like to crack 160km - there is no reason why I can't, buggerance aside. I just have to try not to fade when home is almost within sight.

I must keep writing letters to the ABC

Michael Duffy has an interesting piece in the SMH this weekend about the ABC and Border Security. I liked his angle on the ABC - it is in our interest to have it as biased as possible. If I had it my way, I'd introduce a policy that all staff must be recruited from the Green Left and Socialist Alliance and that all drama programs are not allowed to show any white, heterosexual, non-drug using, employed characters at all. Robert Fisk would be headhunted to run the news and current affairs division. Sport would be ok, as long as it covered the gay tennis tournaments, lesbian bowls and innuit soccer. All ballet and opera shows that appeal to the eldsters would also be revamped to feature the Paddington Dance Company and their show, "Naked in the moonlight with a goat", and opera would be allowed, but only if performed in a tin hut in Madagascar by homeless tune deaf one legged orphans.

The luvvies would love it, but it would allow me to produce at least one angry letter per day. And it would drive the elites further up their own bumholes.

This culture of "balance" at the ABC needs to strangled at birth. We need a whipping boy, and the ABC currently excels at it.

Poolside antics

Two pool related things happened this weekend.

The first is that we ran into one of our local candidates. Or more accurately, he almost ran us over as he backed out of his car spot at the pool. I could tell it was our local candidate as it was plastered with "Vote 1 Peter Shmigel" signs two feet high, had flags flying from both sides and was generally otherwise smothered in stickers.

I've swapped a few emails with Shmigel as he has written the Liberal party policy on cycling. He also managed to get some local media coverage by stating that he was doing most of his electoral business by bicycle, which isn't that hard in an electorate like Balmain. (He drove to the pool though, in a Subaru 4WD of all things - ha ha, just like me). It's not a bad idea. The expectation is that Labor will lose Balmain, but that it will fall to the Greens. It makes sense for Shmigel to try and outflank the moonbats by actually acting reasonably green, rather than just posing and making a lot of noise (and making stupid paper mache puppets).

He is the first candidate that I have actually laid eyes on during this election campaign. We've had no doorknockers and not much mail encouraging us to vote this way or that. It's a bit like a phony campaign.

Anyway, the second interesting thing was an "incident" at the pool. We were in the kiddy pool, which is about 1.2m deep at the deep end - just deep enough for say a six year old to drown in. I was standing in the water doing monkey business when the life guard just strode to the edge of the pool, leapt in (shoes and all) and waded across to a young girl and dragged her out. She had obviously been struggling, but no one had noticed. I don't think she got more than a mouthful of water and a bit of a shock at being grabbed by the lifeguard.

The reaction afterwards was interesting. Mum came to the edge of the pool to collect kid. Mum couldn't do much, as she had a baby (proabably 2 or 3 months old if that) wrapped up in a poncho across her chest. It's not like mum was able to jump in and grab the older kid. For some reason that I didn't follow, Mum seemed to get quite cross at the lifeguard, telling him that there was not much she could do with a kid attached to her chest. (I think lifeguard had told her to keep a better watch on her kid).

Then dad turned up. He had another kid in tow - it looked like a twin sister. He collected both kids and went to walk off, when a woman in the pool had a go at him verbally. Well, that was that. He was fully dressed, but he strode down into the water not far from me and had it out with the woman, telling her to mind her own business and not to tell him how to look after his children etc etc. She called him a bad parent and all that kind of thing. I thought that if it went on any longer, punches would be thrown. He was quite furious, and she was in a totally self-riteous mood.

The lifeguard had to jump into the water again to pull them apart. I noticed then that he looked the part - he had about 20 tatoos all over him. He could have bounced at any manly hotel in his spare time. Interesting that the council needs to employ people whose primary skill is breaking up fights, and their secondary skill is CPR.

After a while, the bloke took his kids and wandered off. I assumed that the lifeguards had a word with him and booted him out.

Frankly, I had the shits with that woman. She didn't do anything to help the kid, who had been no more than two feet away from her when she was in trouble. All she had to do was reach out one arm and pull the kid up, but she just stood there and watched. Then afterwards, she has the temerity to butt into someone else's problem. I doubt that the parents felt particularly good after causing a scene where a lifeguard had to grab one of their kids out of the pool. If it was me, I'd feel pretty embarrased and ashamed. To then have this useless bystander turn around and tell you that you are a bad parent.... he should have put her in a headlock and held her under for a minute. One less blathering Balmain basketweaver would have been a blessing.

Hair today, wallet gone tomorrow

Spotted an ad in one of the local rags this week for laser hair removal. The bit that caught my eye was that they had knocked 50% off everything, and a back cleanup was only $200.

It's not like I am a complete hairy backed ape, but I was intrigued to find out how much it would cost the average wog to have the pelt removed.

$200 didn't sound too bad.

Then I spotted the fine print. They recommend 6 treatments, and they are only knocking 50% of the first one. I guess they must give you a GT stripe down the middle to ensure that you keep coming back to get the rest cleaned up.

So there you have it - a $2400 process reduced to $2200, with an ad boasting "50% off".

Not bad going with the fine print I thought. I wonder how many of these guys get pulled up by fair trading, given that the fine print was written in about a 6 point font that would be unreadable without some CSI style magnifying equipment and paper dyes.

Still, if all the wogs around here signed up for it, there'd be a few less people that could afford stupid exhaust systems, so our nights would be a bit quieter. We need more fleas. That would force the hairy ones to thin out their pelts a bit.


The great breadmaking experiment continues. I am unlikely at this rate to start a second career as a baker. I have worked my way through half a 10 kilo bag of flour, and I am finally getting the oven to turn out something partly edible.

I have a book on breadmaking, and it has lots of nice photos in it. After over a year of owning it, I finally looked closely at the photos. The dough is supposed to be absolutely wet and squishy, not firm and "dry" and well rounded. I have spent too much time in pizza restaurants observing these nice round balls of "dry" dough that are rolled out into nice, thin dry pizzas. To make buns and things, you actually need dough that is closer to your average swamp mud in consistency.

So I added about 50% more water today and produced an incredibly sticky goop that refused to exit from the mixing bowl without much coaxing. I dropped that onto some well floured pizza stones, let it rise for a while, then whacked it in the oven.

Bloody hell, 15 minutes later out it came, and 10 minutes later, it was all gone. I had to scrape the bread off the pizza stone, as it was so wet, it bonded to the stone like cement, but apart from that, it was ludicrously good. We had it with some zatar and oil and home made hummous and it was a great way to have lunch.

Except that we had run out of lemons, and it is hard to make hummous without lemons. I tried just a dash of lime (not wanting to overdo it) and found that the hummous was a bit bland - kind of like chickpea paste rather than hummous. I also underded the garlic (for the first time in my life) so that it didn't try and remove your upper palate from the rest of your head. Thankfully, the bread saved it.

I might become a baker after all.

I finally got sitemeter to work

If you scroll to the very bottom of the blog, you'll find a simple stat from sitemeter - how many people have bothered to turn up at this blog and read it. As of now, it is "1" - me.

Reading your own blog and creating hits really is a bit like onanism.

Saturday 3 March 2007

Oh diddums

The SMH has run a story today on abusive Army training. Oh boo-hoo. What are these precious little creatures going to do when someone starts shooting at them? Cry that it isn't fair? Run home to the Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission?

Or fix bayonets and run the bastards thru?

In my day, which is now long passed, the purpose of training appeared to be to toughen up wet young civilians and make fighting men of them. That meant hard, aggresive training and hard, aggresive instructors. A bit of blood was not a bad thing - it showed commitment. A broken bone was not a reason for an inquiry - it was an excuse for a few beers and the telling of tall stories. Coming back from an exercise with a black eye or torn clothing or whatever was a good thing. Getting kicked around by a non-com was also a good thing as it taught you not to take cover where there was none (important stuff when people start shooting real bullets) and it forced the lazy and the lame to get moving.

And yes, it was always mandatory for any asians in our regiment to play the part of the enemy (especially since we were re-fighting the vietnam war). They seemed to relish putting on the black pyjamas and the conical straw hats, since it gave them the chance to "kick our stupid round eyed arses". Vietnamese soliders would routinely be addressed in a comradely fashion by non-coms as "Luke", as in "Luke the gook". "Luke, go over to the crappers and tell Major Disaster that he's wanted at HQ". It was no different to calling red heads "Blue".

I particularly liked reading the comment about "put your wanking wrench in the air", as it brought back fond memories of loud, profane, nasty little instructors that worked you to death day and night. Crikey, anyone that can't take a comment like that won't be much good when they're stuck in a mud filled pit on the front line and it's pitch black and some bastard on the other side is calling them names through a loud speaker. Christ, whatever happened to intestinal fortitude. I met chaplains and salvos who were tougher than this lot of pussies.

Frankly, all those who complained should be tracked down and dishonourably discharged. They are good for nothing wimps. The Army Reserve must be scraping the bottom of the barrel and finding recruiting to be tough.

Friday 2 March 2007

The horror of the harbour cruise

To West Australians, it is known as the river cruise. To us transplants here in the east, it is a harbour cruise. Whichever way you look at it, it's a horrible form of social death.

There is only one reason why the boats that are used for cruises have life jackets - it's so that the punters have something to float to shore with when they bale out half way through the cruise.

We had some overseas visitors in town tonight, and as part of the show-them-around-town trick, we went down to the Balmain wharf, which has amazing views of the Harbour Bridge and the city. They are so amazing, they are much too good for public transport. The ferry should be moved around the corner and the wharf sold off for multi million dollar harbourside apartments. If ferry commuters want a million dollar view, they can pay more for their tickets.



So there we are at the wharf, watching the twinkling lights of the city and all that, when a well lit harbour cruise goes by. The boat was about 100 metres away, but I could clearly hear Cyndi Lauper blasting out across the water.

The horror. Being stuck on a boat all night having to listen to the greatest hits of the 1980's. I'd drink until my hearing stopped working if I was on that boat.

May they all run onto the rocks and burn to the water line.

Thursday 1 March 2007

The fit, the fat, and what the fuck?

Cycling is supposed to be a healthy activity. It is supposed to make you fit and trim and brown, and if you're really good at it, you might even look sexy in lycra. (I think that last statement applies to about 0.001% of the cycling population).

I see all sorts of cyclists on the way to the office - every shape you can imagine. When I started, I had this impression that cyclists all looked like bike couriers - lean, wiry, tanned and with a big streak of greasy mud splashed up the middle of their back. Instead, I keep seeing these blobalysts everywhere that I look.

Now if there is one thing that every cyclist should have, it's a pair of toned legs. Above the waistline might be a disaster area, but the legs should be catwalk material. They should be a pair of lycra covered rocks, with funny bulges here and there.

Instead, my morning is spent zooming up behind these people that have calves like rice pudding and thighs like a shopping bag full of chicken fat. What is going on here? Has KFC introduced a special drive-thru lane for bikes?

Where is the oberbulbenfuhrer?

It's been four days since I wrote to the oberbulbenfuhrer (Malcolm Turnbull) and still no response. His staff must be getting slack.

I will have to write again this weekend and suggest that he sends them out to the parade ground for a bit of marching up and down. Discipline must be learned. When I was a spotty young scribe, writing cockroach letters for a living, the deal was that all letters must be acknowledged by return post on the same day. That meant the morning was spent sorting letters into two piles - those that could be answered immediately, and those that required a bit of time to pen a considered response. The latter were dealt with via an acknowledgement letter, which at least meant that the loony tune that wrote in could be assured that their stinking pile of pustulent gibberish had arrived at the office of their MP.

My greatest innovation back then was to produce a book of templates for responding to all the mad letter writers. I found that about 20 templates covered most eventualities, and it was a silly thing to do as it made the job dead boring. Before my templates, you could fill your working week with hand crafting responses to 93 different types of stupidity, and still have work left over to carry over to the next week. The section had a reasonable number of staff, and they sat around all day drinking tea and composing letters that would put Shakespeare to shame.

Then this freshly minted newbie arrives, mechanises the work and compresses 40 hours of toil into about 4 hours of processing. It was around then that I became a serious solitaire addict, as I needed something to fill about 6 hours per day. Drinking was also useful, especially at lunch.

However, there was always the odd letter writer that sent in something so strange, no template could cover it. These letters were cherished by the section, and would be viciously fought over to see who could do the reply, simply because it would allow that person to sit there and stare at the ceiling for 6 or 7 hours without rebuke. The excuse being, "I am thinking of an appropriate response".

And appropriate responses were crucial. A response had to be polite, make meaningful jestures, but promise nothing. Kind of like Bill Clinton in an envelope. When I got there, I promised things. My boss of course reviewed all my letters before they went out and soon beat that out of me. Nothing could be promised! Write nothing that will generate a reply to your letter! Put nothing in the letter to which a counter-argument can be pinned! Leave a warm, fuzzy glow!

The most shameful days were when someone got our response, and then wrote to us again, pointing out some inconsistency, or demanding further action - or heaven forbid - wanting to talk to someone! Our first response would be pored over as we scoured it for clues. Surely we promised just enough meaningless action to shut them up? Are not our arguments sound and irrefutable? Did we somehow mistakenly include a phone number on our response?

Generally, the state of the penmanship would give the game away - and most of the letters were hand written, rather than typed (this was in the age before PC's). If the letter was written in pencil on a scrunched up bit of paper, the author was probably nuts, or elderly, or both. Good reasoning on our behalf would not divert them from their holy mission to inflict this or that on their fellow subjects. I always wished for a big red stamp that said, "NUTTER", which we would vigorously and liberally apply to their letter before sending it back unanswered. But unfortunately, our political masters were too polite for their own good.

Which takes me back to Turnbull. He's known for firing off feisty emails. I wonder if I'll get a rocket?


A speed demon I have become. It's not often that someone passes me these days, and if they do, they look like a stork on wheels. And when they do pass me, it's usually going up some nasty hill, as I am a complete wheezer on the hills. On the flat, I am roadrunner.

Imagine my shock and annoyance this morning when some dweeb on a mountain bike did me in on the ANZAC bridge. He had tyres as fat as a haulpack, but he still managed to sail past me on the way up. I was gobsmacked. Then I looked at my speedo, and found that I was dawdling something fierce.

After a week off, I hit the paths again on Tuesday and boy, did I ride like the wind that day. It's amazing what a week of relaxation will do to your leg muscles. There was no pain. There was no puffing. Hills were not an obstacle. I conquered all.

And I paid for it this morning. I had overdone it by a wide margin. Still, it gave me a solid insight into that training mantra of winding down and taking it easy before a big event. Taking a week off might be even better, except that the hangover is nasty.