Wednesday 31 October 2007

"This will destroy Ashfield"

"This will destroy Ashfield" - that is the headline in our local rag this week. The destroyer is the M4 extension, which some locals appear to hate.

What I don't get is that they make it sound like destroying Ashfield is a good thing.

Bugger using the M4 to do it. I say we send in the F111's before they get retired and get them to finish it off once and for all.

Here's Bob!

I was standing in the local butcher shop last week, chatting with the butcher about sausages when he looked out the window and went, "Hey, that's Bob Hawke over there".

Sure enough, Bob was across the road preparing to walk into the campaign office of John Murphy, our local sitting MP. Bob was officially kicking off his campaign. I know all this because it is in our local paper today. I did not find this out by walking across the road and asking what was going on, because I did not want to end up having my hand shaken by Bob Hawke. I get the feeling it would be like being fondled by an elderly relative who had been on the whiskey all day. Ugh.

I bought my sausages and split. There was little chance of Bob looking across the road and seeing me and wanting to bolt across to press the flesh, but I prepared to do a runner if necessary. I didn't have to worry - I think he was wearing brothel creepers, so he would have had a hard time keeping up with me.

On another star spotting note, I passed Ian Chappel in the street today - right outside the courthouse in town. Hope he wasn't coming out of there after being charged with something.

He's shorter than I expected.

The Foxtel salesman from hell

Got a knock at the door last night - it was Foxtel going door to door flogging their wares.

I think I'd prefer a visit from the Mormons.

We made a conscious decisions years ago to not get pay TV. We already watch 2-3 hours per day of free to air, and I reckon that is about an hour too much on average. But then again, I sit in front of this stupid thing, typing and reading, for about the same each night. Which is worse?

The thing is, the Foxtel salesman was really good. Really, REALLY good. He almost had me convinced that we should sign up for it. If J and I hadn't made a pact all those years ago to avoid it, I probably would have signed up on the spot.

It's not that I want pay TV. We get all the viewing that we desire on the terrestrial channels. It's just that his spiel and his logic were mesmeric. Very hard to resist.

I am too polite to just slam the door in the face of someone that is making a living by wearing out their shoe leather and knocking on the doors of complete strangers, but that might be my downfall one day. I managed to fob him off by saying that we have a digital reciever, and we get perfectly good reception and are quite happy with it.

A close run thing indeed.

Debate? What debate?

Our local candidates apparently squared off for a debate last week, but nobody turned up. Well, 15 people turned up, which ain't a great turn out.

The sitting member was interviewed by the local rag, and he didn't sound impressed. I don't blame him, but then again, I walk past his office every night on the way home and I don't recall seeing a "Great debate - coming soon" sign stuck up in his window. If he couldn't be bothered to promote it from his own office, which is on the main drag through Five Wog, then what the fuck should he expect? Stupid bugger.

His main opponent was no better. His office is a few doors up, and he completely failed to promote it either. He has picked the better site - it is on a T junction where a lot of people drive down to the T and have to sit at the lights for a few minutes. They spend those few minutes looking at enormous mug shots of the contender staring up the street. If he'd replaced one of his mugshots with a huge ad for the debate, they might have drummed up a bit more interest.

I read all the local papers every week, and I don't remember seeing any mention of it in there either. One paper deigned to interview all three candidates and gave up half a page in total for those interviews. That's not what I'd call in depth coverage of the candidates or the issues.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

The suffering of the bus drivers

I really pitied the driver of the bus that I caught into town this morning. It was an express bus, which meant that it was prepaid only. (For those of you outside of Sydney, it means the driver will not sell you a ticket. You have to buy a prepaid ticket from a shop like a newsagency).

The poor driver went through hell. When I got on, a passenger was berating him and asking him to close his window (the bus was air conditioned, and I think the window was letting flies in). The driver told him that he felt a bit off, and if he got any worse, he'd stop the bus and get off, and that would be it.

You'd think the idiot passenger would have enough sense to leave it at that and sit down, but no. The fool had to keep on going. Hey, when I am driving my car, I am in charge. I make the rules, you obey. Idiot passenger should have been ejected onto the footpath.

At the next stop, two people try to buy a ticket from the driver. They somehow managed to miss the sign at the front of the bus that said "prepay only" and the big sign next to the door saying "prepay only". And for crying out loud, the bus stop was right outside a newsagency that had a big sign out the front saying "buy your bus tickets here". Idiots.

Then the driver encountered a number of pedestrians that decided to risk death by running across the road right in front of the bus. I almost lost my front teeth from head butting the back of the seat in front of me everytime he slammed on the brakes. The driver was bloody furious at them, and raised his blood pressure further by waving his arms at the idiots and tooting his horn. No wonder he didn't feel well.

Then we got onto Parramatta Rd, and the idiot woman in front of me pressed the stop bell, and then complained to the driver when he didn't stop at the next stop. He pointed out to her that it was an express bus (denoted by the big "express" sign at the front) and that the next stop would be Central. She returned to her seat with an expression on her face that said that she was going to complain right to the top about not being let off the bus where she wanted to get off. Idiot.

I was almost laughing by the time we got to my stop. I know that bad things come in three's, but that driver was copping it in 33's this morning. I thanked him for getting me into town in one piece, and told him that I sincerely hoped his day improved. At least that got him laughing.

It's nice to know that some people have much crappier days than me.

Scum of the internet

I was having a look around eBay recently with the aim of getting another digital camera. I already have a Canon Ixus, and I want another one. Or two.

You can currently get an Ixus 70 at Hardly Normal for $288. That's about $40 less than it was last month, and about $200 less than it was when it first came out. I suspect it is on its last legs as far as models go. Canon will be shoving 9 megapixel cameras as the entry level model before long.

I found the Ixus 70 offered by one seller at $245, with a $55 postage fee. Another offered one for $260 with a $39 postage fee.

I don't care whether you are sending an item like that from Antarctica via the Space Shuttle - it does not cost $55 to post a camera that fits into your glove. I know that it fits into my glove, as I stuck it into my ski glove when I was skiing.

The postage of course raises the price to $300, which means I will be wandering down to Hardly Normal (as soon as the knee clears up) and sticking a new camera on the credit card.

I hate these eBay shennanigans.

Monday 29 October 2007

I have nothing interesting to say

I just wanted to see how much traffic I could drive over here.

I was chatting to a work colleague today and he showed me a video of his revenge on his old boss. This was all done pre-9/11 by the way, and just goes to show what an anti-fun place the world has become.

His boss played a prank on him by sending him a text message in the wee small hours of the morning telling him that a high ranking manager in the company was having laptop problems.

My colleague, being the newbie, immediately rang the manager to ask what the problem was.

Manager, who had just been hauled out of bed at 3am by his ringing mobile phone, was not amused.

My colleague plotted for months, and eventually secreted a small explosive charge in the rubbish bin of the prankster, covered it in confetti and sparklers, and attached the detonator to the prankster's chair. When the prankster sat in his chair and moved it forward, the charge went off and showered him in shredded paper.

The shock was so great, prankster had to take two weeks stress leave.

But he never tried to pull a practical joke on anyone else at work again. The amazing this is that my colleague was not sacked for the whole affair. But I guess that is what life was like a decade ago.

Stupid, stupid icons

Why is it that everytime I install a bit of software, or upgrade a bit of software, the stupid installer program wants to stick a stupid icon on my desktop?

I don't want your stupid icons on my desktop. I just want the software to be installed and my desktop to be blessedly clear of your stupid icons. If I want to run your software, I know where to find it. You don't need to stick it there in front of my nose. I am not some daft, half blind pensioner with a fondness for sherry.

Now take your icons and go away.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Would you buy a landcruiser?

I did a survey last week that wanted to know my opinions about a new ad that Toyota have put together for the latest Landcruiser.

It was a great ad. I even remembered that it was for Landcruiser 10 minutes after watching it, which is not bad going, given that I can't remember what most ads were on about 10 seconds after they finish.

However, it did nothing to convince me to buy a Landcruiser. If I was working on a mine, or on a farm, I'd want a Landcruiser. I think they are great off road, and are as rugged as they come. However, I also think that they are hideously uncomfortable and a pig to drive on the bitumen. Even the fancy pants top of the line models are pigs. Enormous fat pigs.

So Toyota have a great ad coming up, but it skates over me like a flat stone skipping on a pond. In the end, the things that sell me on a car are nothing to do with the advertising - they are the intrinsic qualities of the vehicle. If the vehicle characteristics do not suit what I want to do, then all the advertising in the world is a waste of money.

This toe has to go.

Here is my big toe.

The colour is a result of my terrible prediliction to lean back when I ski - particularly when I do certain turns. When I lean back, it forces my foot forward and up, so my toenail bangs on the top of the inside of my rather stiff ski boot. After a week of this, my toenails tend to be rather black and the big toes about 20% larger than usual (due to swelling).

This year, my style improved 50% - since I only came away with one black toe. It is now 3 months since I was in the snow, and the nail feels like it is getting ready to depart from my toe. The nail underneath has grown out sufficiently so that there is now a gap between the bottom of the nail and the skin at the back of my toe. It feels loose and floppy. I now have to be careful that I don't catch the nail on something and tear it off. I have done that quite a few times in the past - I've rolled over in bed, caught the nail on a sheet and woken up with the nail almost completely torn off. I've then had to rip the rest of the nail off at 3am.

Not pretty.

The first time I got black nails, my toes were so swollen, I could hardly walk. I had to go to medical centre where a doctor heated up a soldering iron and plunged it through the top of both nails. That allowed all the blood underneath to get out, and the release of pressure drastically reduced the pain I was feeling.

I then went straight out and bought a pair of custom made ski boots - boots that had a toe box wide enough to cater for my EE wide feet. Now all I get is black toes that hurt a little bit, rather than absolutely crippling pain.

In homage to Kevin Rudd, I am thinking of peeling off this nail and eating it.

Friday 26 October 2007

Organic frogshit

I have just completed a survey asking my attitudes to all sorts of organic and carbon friendly types of wine. It looks like one of our wine regions wants to go all "carbon neutral" on us, and wants to see what the attitude of the buying public is to all this hoo-ha.

There are very few things that I care about when buying wine.

The main thing is whether it tastes any good. I don't really care where it comes from or how it was made - it could be filtered through the underpants of Peruvian slave goats for all I care, so long as it goes down well and does not provide me with an instant crashing headache.

The second thing is whether it has a cork or a stelvin seal. I won't buy anything with a cork in it these days - not that I care about cork taint. I simply find twist tops so much easier to open, and I live taking a few bottles into a restaurant and being able to get a drink as soon as I sit down. As opposed to waiting half an hour for a dopey waiter to turn up with a cork screw.

The third thing is the price. In my pre-child days, I wouldn't pay less than $15 or $20 for a bottle. Now, I rarely pay more than $10. On the other hand, I seem to drink a lot more of it these days as we now sit down to a family dinner almost every night, and that provides a good excuse to drink a bottle between us. Or maybe half a bottle.

Do I give a toss about environmental friendliness and carbon neutrality and organic-ness? No. Couldn't give a shit. In fact if I see any of that bullshit on the label, I am 99% sure to avoid it like the plague. As soon as a winemaker has to resort to gimmicks like that, it's a sure sign that their wine is not competitive in the normal market.

When it comes to all this wine that has been tainted by political correctness, I just say no.

Why are conference calls never like those in "24"?

My new job involves taking part in a few conference calls each week, with most of the participants being from another country. Talk about two peoples separated by a common language. Everyone on the calls are native English speakers, but each call produces enough confusion for me to think that we'd be better off talking to Koreans via a translator.

My main complaint is that no one appears to have been trained in how to behave during a conference call. Or how to speak clearly.

We had an example last week where one bloke screamed out in the middle of a call that if someone else got a task finished for him quickly that he'd take him to a strip club for a lap dance. That caused one bloke to drop out of the call in a hurry, since he was obviously taking the call from home and you could hear his kids in the background. Mr scream-stupid-things-out-loud should have been taken outside and shot, but nothing happened.

I had another call this week where one bloke joined the call (late) and immediately the conversation moved to discussion of a sporting event that half the participants had no interest in. Several minutes were consumed in discussing this event - I presume that the other blokes on my end of the call were sitting at their desks giving their telephones a puzzled look. Why would anyone want to waste time with this sort of crap?

Our calls have no chairman to keep them in line, which is half the problem. We don't have a management structure - we have an anarchy. I don't mind too much if I have a good headset and no one coming around and bugging me, but today I did not have a headset and I was frantically trying to take notes whilst being interrupted at my desk. I was approaching that point where you put your phone on mute and scream out "will you stupid fuckers get on with it", except that my phone did not have a mute button either. I really don't trust the mute button either - I just reckon it is better to bottle it up and not say anything stupid out loud (if you can help it).

Doing conference calls at work has complete ruined any enjoyment that I might have gotten out of watching 24. I watch those guys go into crisis mode where they are all conferencing in from halfway around the planet, and I have to laugh. People don't talk over the top of each other, try to tell inappropriate jokes or apologise because their wife is putting the kids to bed in the background. Decisions are made in 24, whilst they never seem to be made in the real world.

How can people watch so much TV, but get so little out of it that can be applied back in the real world?

The SAS are "men" but we call them soldiers

As usual, the SMH is driving me nuts again this morning. They have a headline screaming "

SAS man dies in gunfight

Like I said in the heading, the SAS are men, but a better term is "soldiers" or even "troopers".

If an SMH journalist or editor died, would they use a headline like "SMH man dies in bar fight"? No, they say "Fairfax editor tragically killed" or " Star SMH reporter collapses and dies" (from liver failure). They would use their correct title. I can't stand how the Fairfax stable and the ABC thinks they can get away with this kind of shit. I find it bloody disrespectful and simply another excuse to punch the next SMH sub-editor I see in the face.

Elf Lord

We had an NCIS moment at home recently. J was trying to print a document and it was refusing to print anything beyond page 3. We could see the document spooling, but not spooling properly.

For the dilberts amongst us, I solved the problem by reconfiguring the switch port to 100mb/full duplex and then did the same on the printers network card. After that, the document printed in about 10 seconds.

J asked me what I did afterwards, and I refused to answer on the grounds that it would make me look like an Elf Lord. I relented after a minute and went into probie-mode and gave her an answer that included TCP/IP stacks, port speeds and ethernet duplex modes, and that seemed to satisfy her.

I was waiting for a smack over the back of the head, but it never came.

Amnesty is starting to shit me

I had to walk from one end of town to the other last week to attend a meeting. The route took me past Town Hall, and hanging around out the front was the usual pack of rent seekers of some form or another. There is always at least one weird beard in sandals protesting about something or other, and there is no getting past the marauding hordes of "sign up for this group" happy-smiley people.

I wonder if the WWF and Greenpeace and all these other groups get into punch ups on the pavement over who owns the turf?

The annoying mob in question on the day I went past was Amnesty. There were four happy young souls, all dressed in identical orange T-shirts, trying to coerce my fellow pavement travellers into joining Amnesty.

The bloke I was with curtly brushed them off with a "we're late for a meeting" and they gave way. He told me later that his favourite line with them is, "Mate, I don't speak English". That confuses them so much, their brains seize up and it gives you a chance to escape.

I thought about this incident later and it really started to annoy me. If I want to join Amnesty, I'll go to their website and join. I don't need to be harangued on a street corner by muppets in orange shirts about why it is such a good thing for me to join. If I feel strongly about what they are doing, I'll get on board. If I don't feel strongly about it, I have no wish to get involved.

I just wish these fuckers would get out of my face. I can't stand their smug, moral superiority. "We're better than you because we've joined Amnesty, which runs noble campaigns all around the world. Nah nah nah."

Well you can take your smug moral superiority and shove it. I don't care. So you wrote a letter to some nasty Burmese general - so what? You know what I'd do if I was a Burmese general getting those letters? I'd wipe my bum with them - and then send them back.

The moment an organisation sends paid spruikers out onto the streets in order to drum up membership, you can be sure that it has lost its moral compass.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Fish redeems itself

We had fush and chups again for dinner. It's been at least a month or two since we last had any, and I have been loathe to go back to the fish shop after our last feed there.

They must have been having a bad night on our last visit, as the feed tonight was pretty good. It was not the best battered fish that I have ever had, but it was by no means the worst.

I did have some pretty lousy fish and chips in town not long ago. I went to a pub called Equilibrium for lunch with a work colleague one Friday afternoon. It's a nice looking place, being on the ground floor of the brand new World Square building. It's also a large pub - you could pack the inhabitants of half a large company in there and no one would be rubbing elbows with anyone else. That meant it was easy to find a table, even though the place was busy.

My fish turned out to be elongated fish fingers. I was expecting a whole fillet of fish in one piece, but the chef obviously had other ideas and sliced the fillet into fingers about 3/4 of an inch wide. The upshot was that after being fried, they were almost completely devoid of moisture. The idea of putting batter around a fish is to keep it moist, but there has to be a sufficient quantity of fish inside the batter for it to have enough water content to not dry out during the time it takes for the batter to fry. Chef got his sums wrong. The batter was crispy, but so was the fish.

The chips were fairly ordinary as well. Not happy at paying $15 or whatever it was for that meal. It was not terrible, but it did not entice me to come back for more. I suppose chef thought he was "putting a new spin" on an old dish, and that if he didn't put a new spin on it, people wouldn't eat it.

Here's a news flash - people won't eat it if it doesn't taste good or if it is one step away from being dried fish flakes.

That's the thing that I hate about these flash new pubs. They think they need flash new food to go with them. How about providing good food, rather than flash food?


AFC stands for "absolute fucking carnage". Alas, this vehicle is no more. It must be 15 years since it went to the great junkyard in the sky.

What you are looking at here is an XT Falcon that has been slightly modified for paddock bashing duties.

The XT used to look something like this, except that the example we bought was in such poor condition, we got it for $100. The owner had long since given up on driving it, and was using it as a kennel for his dogs. They didn't need to open the doors to get in - they just crawled in through the rusted out holes in the floor. He had big dogs. The car had very little floor.

Once a home made cage had been welded onto it, the roof sliced off behind the front seat and the back wheels converted to dual-wheels (by the simple method of welding two rims together), it was perfect for roaring around the dry sand plains north of Perth. The rear wheel wells had to be cut out quite a bit as well to accommodate the wider wheels (which were necessary to 'float' across the sand).

These are the only two photos that I can find at home. The rest are in storage 500km away. Poop.

Another modification was to reroute the exhaust pipe so that it would not catch on rocks as we tore across rough paddocks. The new exhaust pipe was a four foot length of pipe that had a U-bend at one end, and was connected directly to the exhaust manifold. The new exhaust poked straight up through where the bonnet used to be, and terminated at a height just above the roof line.

AFC was loud as hell as a result.

The safety nazis would of course throw you in jail for building something like this these days.

The great vanilla slice hunt continues

After visiting the quack today, I ducked (or hobbled painfully) next door to a bakery to try out their vanilla slice. I have tried to stick a photo of it into this post, but I can't get media sharing to work properly on the home network. I created a playlist with the vanilla slice photos in it on my PC, and I can see that playlist on my laptop, but I can't see the photos.

Stupid bloody Vista.

I like to download all my photos to my PC only - that way, they are all in one place, rather than scattered across the other PC and the two laptops that we have at home. The idea is that once they are in a central spot, we can access them anywhere in the house via the wireless network. However, Vista and all its insane security features appear to be conspiring against me. The PC came with a McAfee product, whilst the laptops have a Norton product. They both work in mysterious ways, and seem to have all sorts of issues in co-operating with the inbuilt firewall in Vista. The result is that we have reverted to a sneaker net, with the medium of exchange being a 1gb thumb drive. Hell, what's the use of having wireless this and flash new computers if the bloody things can't talk to each other?

The stand out product amongst all of this is iTunes, which makes sharing so easy, it's laughable. Why can't Windows media player do the same? I am currently stretched out on the couch with my leg up and the laptop in my lap, and I'm playing music off my PC using iTunes. The speakers in the laptop are not as bad as I thought they'd be, so it's a good setup. If I can stream music between rooms, why can't I get a photo from my PC to this laptop to my blog?

It will probably all come right after a couple of reboots.

The vanilla slice by the way was complete crap. I might have to try making my own.


I was reduced to a quivering mess on the floor of my local supermarket last night after slipping over and twisting my knee. I can now understand why footy players get carried off in agony when they land badly.

I had just walked in the front door (out of a very light rain shower) when my left foot slipped forward like a bat out of hell. It went forward so far and so rapidly, I went down like a stone. The problem was that as I went down, my right leg went under me, so I ended up pretty much landing on my right knee and then sitting on my foot. That was enough to extend everything further than the manufacturers design allows for. I was rolling around on my back, clutching my right knee and swearing very loudly for a few minutes.

When the pain subsided enough for me to be aware of what was going on, I found myself surrounded by concerned staff and other shoppers. I was also right in front of the checkouts, so when I looked around, I was being stared at by a couple of dozen shoppers who were getting on with paying for their stuff and avoiding having anything to do with me.

The manager arranged for one of his staff to drive me home, which was a good thing as I could not have hobbled home alone. I also had to fill out the usual couple of pages of forms, in case I decide to sue. I slipped over right under a bunch of cameras, so I presume they will be keeping all the video evidence.

I have since been to the quack, and the initial diagnosis is that I have simply torn some muscles along the side of my knee rather than stuffing the ligaments and cartilage. The treatment is to lie at home on the couch with my leg up, which is what I am doing now.

The problem with being at home is that I get bored quickly and will start spending money shortly as a result. I have already added 10 books to an Amazon wishlist, and we might be going to a computer store later today to get some things for the office. If we do that, I will more than likely come out with a wireless mouse, some wireless headphones, an external hard drive and perhaps a new iPod. I am also getting tempted to add some kind of wireless media server thingy to the home network for playing movies and music through the TV and stereo. I don't really need any of this stuff, but buying it and putting it in will keep me busy whilst the knee heals.

The really annoying thing is that I was thinking of taking today off and going for a 4 hour ride - the aim being to discover the route from Five Wog through Petersham down to the airport. I reckon I will need that amount of time to suss out the route, given how hopeless most of the route signage is. Today is a great day for it - the temp is around 18 degrees, and there have been a few light showers (I enjoy riding in light rain).

What a bugger of a thing to have happen.

Monday 22 October 2007

A swag of old photos

A collection of old photos that were lying around my hard drive somewhere.

My Christmas reading in 2002. I got through this lot in a bit over a week.

Flying friends from my apartment in Milsons Point.

The best place to stop for pizza on the way home from the snow.

The best BBQ area I have ever used.

The BBQ area in reverse angle.

A good way to see Kakadu - by chopper.

Mt Hotham sunrise.

An ice shaving machine - great for making exotic drinks.

I helped make that - straw bale house during construction.

More straw bale house - floorboards made from railway sleepers cut thinly.

Sunset near the Gladesville Bridge.

Me and my brother being coffee nazis.

I've been to Bali too.

Why don't we use proper butchers anymore?

I was despatched on a mission tonight - come back with chicken sausages for dinner, or don't come back at all.

Maybe the bit about not coming back at all is something of an overstatement. But I took my mission seriously, and I trawled all possible chicken sausage selling establishments in the local area.

I decided not to visit the supermarket, as they appear to be suffering from a shortage of chicken bits stuffed into guts at the moment. You wouldn't think that the world would be short of either chickens or suitable bits of guts to put them in, but our local supermarket has found a way to corner the market in non-chicken sausages.

That left me with a choice of three butchers, all within about a 300m walk on the same stretch of road in Five Wog. I started at one end of the street, simply because the butcher was next to the dry cleaner, and the monkey had managed to get yoghurt all over a suit recently.

That butcher was not enticing. Apart from offering miserable service, the actual shop looked like a set from a horror movie. There was a curving rail running around the shop, clearly meant for moving carcases along, and it was rusted to buggery. Hygene and presentation did not seem to be high on their menu. I decided to chance them anyway, knowing the sausage famine that is stalking our land.

Phew. Lucked out. They didn't have any.

I know that the butcher at the far end does all sorts of interesting spicy Italian sausages, but I have no idea whether they are any good at the plain chicken variety. I still don't know because I visited the in-between butcher and he blew me away.

To start with, he had an interesting looking range of sausages - all at the gourmet end of the market. None of them looked like they contained finely minced polony and breadcrumbs (polony being a particularly awful WA version of luncheon meat). They looked chunky and hand made. I like that.

After I bought a dozen, I noticed that the second butcher was doing some kind of rolled up lamb parcel with garlic and rosemary. I asked a few questions, and discovered that he had half a dozen boned shoulders spread out in front of him, and he was stuffing them, rolling them and tying them off. I have tried this many times at home - with my own stuffing - and usually made a complete hash of it. I told him that, and he simply responded with, "Why not bring a container of your stuffing around and I'll do it for you?"

I could have kissed him. Try doing that at your local supermarket.

I usually don't buy a lot of meat at our local supermarket, but I think the meager amount I do buy is about to drop to zero.

Your local butcher - your local hero.

The killer of radio stations

I blogged a while back about getting really annoyed at misleading ads that a radio station was airing in Sydney. I got mad enough to send them a letter pointing out the factual inaccuracies in their ads - or perhaps more correctly, the mathematical impossibilities of their spruiking.

I got a lovely letter from the station a week or so later saying that they are no longer playing that ad - or "sweeper" as they call it in radio-land. You learn something new everyday. The letter didn't say whether they had bowed to my almighty power and authority, or if they had simply rotated another sweeper into its place as they do on a regular basis.

Reading between the lines, I reckon I kicked them in the goolies. They just don't want to admit it.

All I need to do now is shut down the ABC. Then my mission will be complete.


Since it has been 4 or 5 months now since I was riding to and from work each day, I had forgotten how hungry you get when you are on the road on a bike every day. After that little jaunt yesterday, I got home and wanted to eat everything in the house - tins and all. I finally managed to sate my appetite after a 9 course meal, but have woken up hungry again at 6am.

I guess I will just have to stuff myself with bacon and eggs this morning. Extra-extra bacon and googey eggs.

Sunday 21 October 2007

S.W.A.T - shorthand for pigswill

I have tried to watch SWAT before. I have never been able to put up with more than one hour of it. I can't put my finger on what it is about this movie that gets up my nose, but it does. Right up my nose. Right up into the sinus cavity. So far up, even a nose picking Kevin Rudd wouldn't be able to get it out. Or ear picking. Whatever.

It is not a good movie. It sucks. Unless you are 10 years old.

Spring Cycle 2007 - with photos

The Spring Cycle was on again today. Here's a map of the route, which for me was 50km. It's a very slickly organised event, with different distances for different people. If you have young kids, you can do a 10km or 20km ride instead of the 50km, and the short rides are pretty much around Homebush Bay on off-road bike paths.

Last time I did it, I was away from home for 4.5 hours straight, which involved about an hour getting to the start, an indeterminate period spent standing in a queue to register, 2.5 hours doing the ride, half an hour recuperating at the end and then another half hour or more to get home.

This time I was a lot more organised. I registered on-line weeks before the event, which meant I got my ride number and paperwork sent to me in the mail well before it was ride day. There was no standing around outside a tent at the start waiting to pay. That's such a grown up thing to do. The result was that I had a low-ish ride number around the 1000 mark (not that it means anything - except that I am getting more organised as I get older).

I did a bit of number spotting at various times to try to guage how many people had entered. I saw the odd number in the 7000 range, but because I started early, I would have missed about 3 hours of registrations when they hand out thousands of numbers. It will be interesting to find out how many did it in the end. Probably well over 10,000.

The weather forecast was for a hot and windy day of 33 in town and 35 to 38 out west, so I resolved to leave as early as possible. I initially aimed to get to the start at 7am, but that proved a bit overambitious. By the time I got up, had a coffee and toast, put my still damp riding clothes in the dryer and pottered around a bit, I was out the door at 6.45am instead of 6am.

This is the top of Lilyfield Rd in - you guessed it - Lilyfield, with me on my way into town (that hazy thing in the background). It's 7am, and I have already hooked up with another cyclist at this point. You can just see a policeman on the other side of the road, getting ready to do traffic management duties for the next 5 hours or so. Hope he's got a few cans of cold drink in his car.

This was a quick photo taken whilst going over the Anzac Bridge - down there is the lead car (an RTA maintenance vehicle) and a police escort for the first riders. There were 10 or so very fit and fast buggers hooning across that bridge down below. All of them of course are hiding behind the uprights in this photo. According to the timestamp on the photo, they are 20 minutes from start time.

By the time I got over the Anzac Bridge and into Pyrmont, I was in a group of 10 riders that were all going to North Sydney for the start. The reason I didn't stop and take a proper photo of the first guys back on the bridge is that I didn't want to lose this lot. Once you get into a pack, you don't want to leave it. Must be a thing from our fishy past - not wanting to leave the shoal.

Being the last day of the Motor Show, there was some sort of exhibition of flash cars on the Darling Harbour bridge. As we went over it, they were driving these sort of cars onto the bridge as well. Some were pretty cool. It was a good juxtaposition between one form of transport (the bike) and the other extreme (complete petrol head). Most of the cyclists in my group affecting an air of lofty disdain, but I had as good a look as possible - ie, without oggling a car and running head first into a pole.

I didn't have time to stop and check out the shiny engines, but all the owners had their lids up and were wandering around inspecting chrome braids and polished inlet manifolds.

Red and yellow were the order of the day for these things.

It was at about this point that I realised that I had left my pump at home. I washed the bike yesterday - for the first time since mid-winter, and took the pump off in order to wash the frame properly. And of course I forgot to put it back on, which meant that I was almost into town when I realised it was still at home on a shelf. This annoyed me intensely, as I have been on the wrong end of quite a few flat tyres in my time, and have learned to never go anywhere without a spare tube and a pump. I figured that I could always borrow one from a kindly soul if I did get a flat, but I hated the idea of it coming to that. The concept of not being self sufficient is just too horrifying for words.

No hitty the glass today though. Thankfully.

Once we got off the Darling Harbour bridge, we started seeing lots of bikes coming the other way on the roadway.

Then it was onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge (this is the gulag section). Most of the riders I was with had clearly never ridden on the bridge before, as they had no idea how to handle a tricky lead-in section about 3 minutes back from here. There is a bastard of a corner that you have to pretty much do a U-turn at, and it confuses all first-timers.

We made it to North Sydney in one piece - on the other side of the road are all those that have gone through the start gate. It was like watching the hordes of Genghis Khan going the other way.

The woman at the end of the yellow barrier was taking photos of lots of people - except me.

The gaggle of riders on the other side of the barrier are having some sort of professional looking group photo taken.

Mum, kids, the whole thing.

Man on phone, trying to find his mates. There was an awful lot of this.

The first of about 50 flat tyres that I saw.

The approaches to the bridge - we're coming up on the tollgates at the northern end here. These two were riding together - I took this to illustrate all the different types of bikes that were out and about. I saw two idiots on unicycles some time later, but was not quick enough to get a photo of them.

I took a photo of that "bombed out" building last weekend. This is just a different view of it - a different perspective.

Riders struggling up the hill to the toll gates. It looks so easy in the car. I was annoyed here as we came down the ramp from near the old Blues cafe or nightclub or whatever it was and I was trying to just open it up and hoon down the hill at 70 km/h, but my path was infested with people doing about 30 at most. Aaaarrggggh.

Family out for a ride - note the kid on the back of Dad's bike.

Approaching the toll booths again, with the first glimpse of the bridge in the distance. It gives you an idea of just how long the approach sections are (and how many buildings had to be flattened to build the approaches - I am reading a book about this at the moment).

No toll today.

Someone with a stupid thing on their helmet - the first of many that I saw. I think this is a parrot.

Note the pair of pedestrians on the left - probably wondering why there are 10,000 cyclists going past them on the road.

Nearing the bridge.

Obviously heading for Darling Harbour to be added to the cars on the bridge being displayed.

Someone who forgot to put on the sun screen before he left.

I worry that I am turning into a bridge-spotter (like a train spotter). Just look at all those rivets! Note the big gap here between the metal part of the bridge and the stone abutment on my left. The big stone towers have no structural role to play at all - they just look good.

More rivets. Lots of rivets.

An ambulance - no idea why it was there. I managed to pass it without being run over.

A stone thingy at the other end of the bridge - and more rivets.

One of many groups that stopped for a photo opportunity partway across the bridge.

Like I said, there were many groups taking photos.

Looking back at the bridge.

The Cahill Expressway was closed for the morning. Last time I did this, some people got confused at this point and went left onto the Cahill. Didn't see anyone do that this morning.

More tollgates. No tolls again.

Note the sign for "lavish apartments" in the background. What is it that makes a place "lavish"? I thought it was the furniture and fittings, which are put in there by the person that lives there. When you buy an empty apartment, it is not "lavish". It is an empty box.

Stupid bloody sign.

An extenda-bike thing with kid on the back. Very nifty idea.

One thing that got me was the number of people riding bikes with plain old-fashioned pedals. I know that the cleat-type pedals that I use have been around for years, but they clearly have not taken on with a significant number of cyclists. I guess people are very conservative in some areas, and pedals are one of them. I have spoken to a number of people that have stuck to their old pedals because they worry about being "trapped" in the pedals and falling over when they come to a stop.

That said, I remember having a look at a cabinet full of pedals in a bike shop not long ago. I was contemplating buying some new shoes and wondered whether I should change to new pedals at the same time. There was not a single pair of "old" pedals to be seen in that case. Clearly, bike shops deem them to be "beneath" them, so they only sell fancy new modern stuff. That's a bit silly, given that so many people clearly prefer the old style pedals that don't even have toe clips.

Snobbery perhaps? There are some technologies that are clearly superior, and they take over the market so quickly it's amazing - like digital photography. There are not many people around who will only buy a film SLR camera anymore - the benefits of digital are just too overwhelming, and most people get it straight away. The don't get cleats though. The industry has a lot of work to do to convince non-regular riders to change over.

In case you are wondering why anyone would bother with using cleats, it's all to do with power transfer. I wear shoes with very stiff soles - they barely flex at all. When I push my leg down, most of the power of that stroke is transmitted to the pedal instead of being lost in a flexing sole, and because my foot is fixed to the pedal at the most efficient spot for power transfer, I get more power to the ground. Mountain bike shoes tend to be more flexible and comfortable than road shoes, but they are all too narrow for my fat foot. I would wear a soft and flexible shoe with cleats if I could find a pair that fits. I am stuck with hard shoes because they are the only thing that I have ever found to be wide enough for my feet.

Going around the wool stores in Pyrmont. This was a deadly place to take photos thanks to the terrible state of the road surface. I took a photo, put my camera away and then hit a huge ripple across the road (the kind of ripple that you get after a major earthquake or a decade of no maintenance) and would have lost it if I only had one hand on the handlebars.

I took a photo of this crane and building from the Anzac bridge not long ago - here's the view from down below.

The bridge from down below.

Juxtaposing old and new - this is the control cab thing for the swing bridge that I am riding on at this point. It needs a coat of paint.

The worst bottleneck on the whole ride - here we are about to join Victoria Road. You have two complete lanes of cyclists coming around the corner from here and they get squeezed into a pathway about a metre wide as they go through the lights. I am surprised that no one fell over trying to do this. It was a shocking spot.

Ha ha. Bin Riden.

More bottleneck photos (which really don't do it justice).

There is a certain group of cyclists who are of the insane-green or anarchist tendency, and they love to cause havoc and hate the police. I didn't see any of that ilk today. The Spring Cycle is all respectable mums and dads and that sort of thing, and they just loved the police presence - mainly since it stopped us from getting run over (which is a nice change). The absence of the usual hairy legged ferals was quite refreshing.

The worst thing about stopping here and waiting for the lights was the heat. It was starting to warm up, and the only thing keeping me cool was the breeze you get from riding along. Being packed in with a few hundred sweaty bodies meant that the temperature around here was about 10 degrees hotter than it was at any other point, and the humidity was also around 100%.

Lilyfield Road. The first photo in this series was taken from the top of the hill in the distance. Looks a bit different now. This gives you an idea of the sort of crowd that took part. If this many people commuted by bike, I'd probably get really upset as I normally put the hammer down on this hill, and I got stuck behind a wall of once a month cyclists who were one step away from hopping off and pushing. Aaaarrrgghh squared.

Another big gaggle going through Rodd Point. Like I said before - Genghis Khan and his hordes.

These poor buggers in the Jeep wanted to turn right across the flow. I think by the time I got here to take this photo, they had been waiting for some time. They looked less than impressed.

Note the recumbrant up the front on the left chatting to the cop. I only saw 2 or 3 recumbrants all day (they barely outnumbered unicycles) and I have only one thing to say to them - "Get a bloody move on!"

Because a recumbrant has 3 wheels and does not have to worry about tipping over if they go below a certain speed, they can dawdle along at less than walking pace. Which is exactly what every recumbrant I saw was doing. Blasted slugs.

Heading over the Silverwater Rd bridge (I think). Like I said, I am turning into a bridge spotter. Note the old part of the bridge on the left - the bit with the raisy-uppy thing.

Nice day to be on the water. Much more sensible than riding around in the heat.

Going over the old railway bridge over the Parramatta River. I have been over this plenty of times on a weekday, and at most seen one other rider. It was packed today - no room for passing.

Newington Armoury - and a welcome ice cream truck. As I found out at this point, J had raided my wallet the night before and left me with no money at all. So no ice cream for me.

The end - the Olympic fountain at Homebush. This is the thing that Cathy Freeman stood under at the opening ceremony. I put my camera, phone and wallet into a plastic bag and then rode under it. Bliss! Unfortunately, it only cooled off my back. I should have gone back and second time and tilted my head upwards to soak my front as well. The water fairly pounds off this thing - it's not a gentle stream by any means, and it is bloody cold as well! I think I wasn't game to go back for a second go after feeling just how cold it was first time around.

From here, it was a half hour trip home, which meant going against the flow for part of the way. I had to wait at a few intersections for a break in the bike traffic coming the other way - it was like Beijing I suppose. Worse than peak hour traffic on Victoria Road.

Since getting home, I have eaten 3 meals and had a 3 hour sleep, and I now need another feed. I have also been pouring the water down my throat, and am still thirsty.

A good day. A good ride.