Wednesday 28 April 2010

Great little film

Copenhagenize has found a gem of a film here from Bupapest. This event looks to be quite different from the Sydney version, where the organisers want you to ride as slowly and annoyingly as possible. Here, it seems to be all about being anti-car.

Screw the politics - enjoy the film.

Tilt & Shift Critical Mass from fiantok on Vimeo.

Sore hands

No, it's not what you think. Go wash your brain out with soap.

I bought a new set of gloves recently - their big selling point was the gel inserts in the palm section, and instead of making them more comfortable after a while on the handlebars, they feel like I'm wearing an old pair of unbroken-in boondockers on my hands.

Sigh. This is one of those times when "less is more" fits the bill. The old gloves have no padding - just leather on the palm - and they are perfect.

Monday 26 April 2010

Segway lessons in the park

Now I have seen it all - a training course on how to ride a Segway cross country.

Here's the irony - I was in the old armoury at Homebush at the time. This place is all green grass and bunkers because of the masses of unexploded ordnance still lurking in the bushes behind the fences. Given that this is an ex-military base, it's lucky this lot weren't treated as sniper training material (scroll to about the 40 second mark in the video below).

Monday photos

Monday - a long weekend. A nice break from the daily grind of going into town and back. With that spirit in mind, I went in the opposite direction from the CBD, heading out through Homebush towards Parramatta. I thought about doing an early morning ride, but the mercury was struggling to get above 14, and it looked nasty, cold and windy. I have to put up with that sort of crap weather all the time when getting to and from work - no sense in having a morning of misery on a weekend as well.

After stuffing myself with a breakfast of bacon and eggs, I found I couldn't ride for hours - just too much fatty food in the guts. That eventually subsided around 2pm, and off I went.

Me and about 2 million others. Every Sydneysider must have decided that this would be the last spot of good weather before winter bites, and did their best to enjoy it. I couldn't get above 30km/h anywhere - there were just too many bikes and pedestrians about. Especially the weekend type cyclists, who pootle along slowly (and rarely in a straight line). Hey, the weekend is their time on the bike, so I'm not going to complain about them. It was nice to actually ride casually for 45km without suffering from Warp 9 burnout syndrome.

Chasing shadows.

The logo at the top of this jersey caught my eye - NSW Institute of Sport. Nothing else.

I followed the bike path that runs along the northern bank of the Parramatta River. I thought I'd get all the way to Parramatta, until I struck this thing. I stopped here and looked at it for about a minute, thinking "You must be fucking kidding". It's not that I mind climbing steps - I used to carry the bike up the steps at the Harbour Bridge every day, so that's not the issue. It's the fact that the damned things are so narrow - lugging a bike up and across that thing would be a bitch. So this is where I did a U-turn and headed for home.

Good thing too, as it started to get nippy as the shadows lengthened, and I hadn't packed any warm clothes.

Things I found:

  • Feet went numb after 20km or so. Never get that on the commute, as my longest leg usually is 20km.
  • Hands started to hurt after 35km or so, even with comfy gloves. Again, don't usually ride for long enough to get sore anywhere.
  • Did most of the ride without unclipping - only had to stop at one red light. That was a long time in the saddle for me without a break.
  • With a nice, long casual warm up, I went like stink when I had to (on a few rare occasions).
  • Geez it's flat out west - I can't remember breathing hard at any time during the entire ride.

Riding into the dawn

Going to see more of this over the next few months. A cold front came through yesterday, and the daily min temp has dropped 4 or 5 degrees overnight. Time to think about rugging up for the winter starts.

Sunday 25 April 2010

Impatient enough to kill someone

I was going to title this post "Mongs behind the wheel", but I figured that would offend a few folk, so I had to think of something else. After all, it's insulting to the less-abled to be compared to some of the freaking fucktards out there on the road.

Like this person. A road engineer, with possibly a degree and all that, has decided that people were driving around this S-shaped bit of road too fast - so they put a bumpy strip down the middle to slow people down to a more sensible rate of forward progress. I drive around here every now and then, and know that the going any faster than 30 is a bit silly.

Because I can take a straight line through here on the bike, I can actually go faster than most cars can. They have to turn the wheel this way and then that way, whereas I just cut through the apexes.

But not even that deters the "I'm in a super-hurry" crowd from crossing over a double white line and going the wrong way through the S-corner - even though the corner is blind at a few points.

This is the 3rd or 4th time that this has happened to me over the last few months, and I don't go up this road all that often (or that slowly). You'd think that people would take it easy on the quiet suburban back streets (kids playing cricket on the road and all that) - but no. They actually get faster and more aggressive.

You can see the Mong-man here in full motion video.

There are lots of trees with overhanging branches in these streets. I might have to start lurking in the canopy with a chainsaw, ready to drop the odd bough on the idiots tearing past below.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Creepy volcano photo

Thanks to Kae for the volcano links - especially this one. Can you see a face peering out, just to the left of the spurt of lava? If it's unclear on this photo, go to the original at the link above.

A smattering of cycling risks

To start with, a small risk - dopey pedestrians walking in the bike lane, with their back to the traffic, along the side of a busy road. This is not a shared pedestrian/bike lane - pedestrians aren't supposed to be down this way at all.

Next, we have the classic being overtaken in a roundabout - which is capped off by the car plowing into the bike lane on exit. I'm totally used to this now, so when I hear some pinhead coming up behind me as I approach a roundabout, I slow down and let them through, rather than trying to contest for space with a tonne and a bit of metal. It can only end badly.

This next one actually shows a driver doing the right thing, and me doing the wrong thing. The van overtakes me and indicates he's going to turn left across the front of me. 99 times out of 100, the vehicle just turns left and you have to slam on the anchors or steer hard right and go around the outside of them. I've seen the aftermath of a bloke that failed to do either - his bike frame was snapped, as was his shoulder. However, the driver of this van stopped to give way to me - and I wasn't ready for a driver doing the right thing, and I went around him on the outside. He was probably thinking "idiot cyclist - I give way and he doesn't take me up on the offer". Sorry chum, you were right - but I've been conditioned by too many numbnut drivers to risk it.

I hate people that park across bike lanes - but check out the ute that flies past after a few seconds. This is a 50 zone - I reckon he was doing 80. I heard him coming, turned my head, saw it was a ute and just knew that I had to stop - or die. Tradesmen in utes are just the worst of the worst.

Last one - and the most unexpected. A cyclist going the wrong way in a cycle lane. This gumby really should have known better.

Friday 23 April 2010


Just me and my shadow. Nothing else.

Friday photos

Another of the new breed of relaxed cyclist heading into town. Sales of these things must be doing well.

Lady in nice, expensive Mercedes chatting on her mobile phone.

When she realised that I was taking her photo, she wound down the window and asked, "Are you right?" I responded, "Can't you afford a car kit?"

She seemed to be quite taken aback at that, as she was driving a flashy set of wheels. It must be awful to be accused of being broke, or cheap when driving something this ritzy. She spluttered and stumbled through an excuse about it being someone else's car - possibly hubby's.

I should have asked if she was too broke to afford a Bluetooth ear piece as well.

Here's my position - if you are going to drive a car (any sort of car), I'd prefer that you keep your eyes on the road, both hands on the wheel and your brain focused on the matter at hand. I don't really want to get run over by an arse-twat who can't go 5 minutes without having a gasbag. Put the phone down, shut your pie hole and focus on the job at hand.

Thank you.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Cop that

I was a tad annoyed at Plod for parking so awfully yesterday - taking up 80% of the bike lane. But I got over it as I figured they might actually be attending to a crime of some sort - there being no cafes or donut shops in the area.

Sure enough, 50 metres down the road, I saw 3 Plod talking to someone. And then I opened the paper this morning to find this.....

A SYDNEY man who stabbed a woman in the chest and back has been charged with attempted murder.

A Sydney man who stabbed a woman in the chest and back has been charged with attempted murder.

The 43-year-old man became involved in a shouting match at a unit complex in Lilyfield, in Sydney's inner-west, about 2pm (AEST) on Wednesday, police said.

During the incident, he allegedly stabbed the 29-year-old woman multiple times before she managed to run to a neighbour's unit.

Police and paramedics arrived to the scene and the woman was rushed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

She has undergone surgery for her injuries and remains in a serious but stable condition.

The man was arrested a short time later and charged with attempted murder.

He was refused bail and is expected to appear at Newtown Local Court today.

Right time, right place.

Lack of loons

No lycra clad loons this morning. First shot of the day was a bit odd - there was this woman trundling along in all the gear on a nice bike - with a loaf of bread dangling from the handlebars. Couldn't figure that one out at all.

These comfy step-through bikes with baskets seem to becoming more popular.

And here is number 2!

And that's it. The legs are utterly knackered. I've been extending my rides a bit this week because I'm finding that no sooner am I nicely warmed up than I've reached work or home. I'm adding detours of around 10km simply because I can wind it up beautifully once warmed up. I've been cracking up hills and thumping along the flats, and now I am totally shot. I was almost reduced to bottom gear when going over the ANZAC bridge tonight - that's how shattered I'm feeling.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Wednesday photos

A fold-up sort of contraption. Didn't deter this guy from moving quickly though. I've often thought of these as the domain of Captain Slow, but this bloke changed my mind. It's not about the bike.

I don't get the lopsided pannier business. I can understand evenly weighted panniers on both sides, but why put all the weight on one side?

A trail of 8 bikes heading into town. Just out of interest, I counted 4 proper road bikes and 4 flat-bar hybrids. Not a mountain bike to be seen.

A very buff looking fellow basking in the morning light.

This photo is all about the saddle - which hasn't shown up at all thanks to the lighting distortion. She was using a Brooks saddle, and this was only the second one I have seen.

The Fog

It wasn't quite John Carpenter's "The Fog" this morning. But for Sydney, it was pretty foggy.

The way the light and fog combined at this spot made it absolutely blinding. The sun is shining through a gap between two buildings, and my eyes whited out just like the camera did. No funny Photoshop stuff here.

The Bay was pretty murky.

The rowers had to stick close to shore to avoid getting lost in the murky depths.

Normally at this spot, I'd be looking straight at the city. Not this morning.

It wasn't cold though. I had to peel off my 2nd layer after 5km - I was starting to cook. Then it got up to 28 this afternoon - it's like summer is never going to end.

Napalm sticks to cars?

Spotted this plate the other day. Slightly odd choice, I have to say.

Sunday 18 April 2010

The education department that can't add up

I have been putting my toe in the water over at the Tele's education blog, which is usually a fun experience. In order to provide a reasoned comment on one thread this week, I did some research on the DET website. Bloody hell, it's hard to get a straight and simple answer out of the education dept.

What I was looking for was an average cost to put a kid through a state school. I then wanted to compare that to a fair/average sample of independent schools - not the elite schools, just the run of the mill ones.

Well, I can give you a range of numbers, and you can pick whichever one you like.

The DET has a flyer that claims the cost of running a high school kid is $13,551 and a primary school kid is $10,772. However, it classes these costs as "in the classroom costs" - and it provides no background as to how it calculated these costs.

The same flyer puts the cost of NSW bureaucracy at $426 per head - again, with no methodology as to how it came up with that cost, or the comparative costs of other states.

I decided to use Rosebank College as one point of comparison, mainly because it is not too far from my place. I drive past it occasionally. Their last annual report gives a figure for bureaucracy of $145,000 - but averaged over 527 kids, that comes to $276 per head - which means the cost of the state bureaucracy is only 54% higher (if you believe the numbers - which I don't).

I then tried the Fast Facts section of the DET website. According to this section of the website, there were 735,779 kids in state schools last year, and running the state school system cost $11.67 billion - or $15,860 per kid.

Hmm, small mismatch there.

There were 420,801 primary school kids last year. That leaves 314,978 in secondary or other schools.

If we crunch the numbers, we get:

420,801 primary kids x $10,772 = $4,532,868,372
314,978 secondary kids x $13,551 = $4,268,266,878

That adds up to $8,801,135,250.

However, Fast Facts tells us that it costs $11.67 billion to run the school system. Where has the other $2.8 billion gone?

For starters, they wouldn't have included the $426 per kid in bureaucracy in those numbers. That comes to $313,441,854.

$300 million. That's a pretty big head office. However, we are still missing $2.5 billion. Apparently, that is spent on capital works and maintenance.

Interestingly enough, they list capital works as $660 per kid, regardless of whether they are in primary school or high school. But when you multiply $660 by 735,779 kids, you only get $485,614,140.

We are still $2 billion short. Why the difference? Where has it gone?

I tried to get an answer from the financial statements, but they are indecipherable. I'd have to spend all weekend going through them with a highlighter and a spreadsheet to make any sense of them.

Here is my take on this.

With a private school like Rosebank, when you read the financial statements, what you see is what you get.

Salaries & Related costs: $5,652,582 = 68%
Non Salary Expenses: $1,982,651 = 24%
Departmental Expenses: $145,318 = 1%
Capital Expenditure: $566,608 = 7%
Total = $8,347,159

Although they don't provide a further breakdown, you can see where all the money is going. You can also read their report and see where it all came from.

With 527 students, and a total running cost of $8,347,159, we can see that the average cost to educate a kid here is $15,839. That's not the fees. Here is where the money came from:

School fees & charges: $2,292,074 = 32%
Commonwealth Govt:. $3,183,475 = 45%
State Govt.: $1,290,142 = 18%
Other income: $378,392 = 5%
Total income: $7,144,083

With fees set at $2,292,074 and 527 kids, we can calculate the fees as being about $4349.

Now, let's go back to the DET numbers.

They think that it costs them $13,551 to educate a high school kid. Using that number, Rosebank looks bad with a cost of $15,839. Bad private school, bad, bad, bad. Expensive and elitist to boot.

However, you have to remember that if you use the DET number of $13,551, you end up with a "missing" $2.8 billion in the state education budget. I reckon the more accurate number for the state system is $15,860. Suddenly, Rosebank is $21 a year cheaper.

But wait, there's more.

In the state system, secondary school kids get 56% of the funds and primary kids get 44%. The figure of $15,860 is an average across the board. If I re-weight it the same way that the DET does it, the cost of educating a high school kid in the state system is suddenly $17,446 per year.

Fees at St Joseph's, an "elite" private school are only $21,555.

What cracks me up is this line from the DET flyer:

The Department of Education and Training continues to pursue lower costs for 'out of school' support services to allow more money to be directed to students in the classroom. Economies of scale and efficiencies achieved by virtue of being the largest public school system in Australia assist this process.
I have to laugh at the line about economies of scale and efficiencies. Instead, what we have is a massive and intrusive bureaucracy that can't erect a tin shed without stuffing it up.

The DET of course will say that they provide all sorts of administrative and managerial backup to the schools - which is just horse poo at its worst. How is it that the Principal of Rosebank can manage to run a school without requiring a massive bureaucratic back office, but the Principal of a state school is seemingly unable to function without input, advice, guidance, assistance and direction from 3,000 mouth breathers in head office?

(I use the term "mouth breathers" with confidence, as I used to work in a building that also housed part of the DET head office. I saw a lot of their staff over the years whilst going up and down in the lifts. I have never seen such a collection of freaks, wierd-beards and muppets in my life. I wouldn't trust most of them to clean my toilet properly, but we happily entrust the education of our kids to them. They really are a freak show).

This is why I like the idea of vouchers so much. Just stop stuffing around with all the programs, systems, initiatives and so on that head office comes up with, and just divide the annual budget by the number of kids and give each parent a voucher for that amount. Let them figure it out from that point on. (And yes, you might hold 10% aside for kids with special needs and so on - but the principle is the same - get the money away from the oxygen thieves who currently run the system, and put control back in the hands of parents).

Friday 16 April 2010

Friday photos

A morning rower, getting ready to head back to the sheds to pack up, before getting on with boring things like going to work.

One Lancer.

One slightly stuffed tyre. I'd say someone has been laying a bit of rubber here and there.


From now on, I am going to call the goo in my lungs "jiggles". Watch this to find out why.

Vezi mai multe video din Animatie

Thursday 15 April 2010

Thursday photos

The chilly mornings have arrived - the long sleeved jerseys have been extracted from the back of the wardrobe where they have been lurking for 6 or 7 months.

Another long sleeved, cold morning commuter. Action shots over the shoulder aren't easy to get right.

I tried an "underhand" reverse action shot - and all I got was the camera strap.

This photo doesn't show it that well, but when I got on the ANZAC bridge yesterday morning, there was a string of bikes strung out from end to end. Hordes even.

Like this.

In order to get there though, I had to navigate through the stupid pedestrians of Leichhardt. The lady in red on the far left exclaimed "Shit!" loudly as I went past her - for some reason, she was shocked and surprised to be passed by a bike whilst walking in a bike lane - a bike lane that is coloured pink (to differentiate it from the foot path) and has bike symbols painted on it every 50 yards and has signs on poles proclaiming its bikey-ness.

I am glad to say I did not surprise these dogs in the same way, and they didn't bite me or try and run under my front wheel.

Another long sleeved, rugged up, cold morning commuter. It's been 13 degrees most mornings, which is not that bad. It's not cold enough to resort to long fingered gloves or shoe covers or legs warmers (although I have seen a few of those about, mainly on riders who look like they have been riding since 5am) - but it's cold enough to require two layers. Although I am pretty hot and slightly sweaty by the time I get off the bridge, the cold returns as soon as I hit the canyons of the city. The shadows and wind tunnels created by the tall office buildings bring the chill factor into play, and I never, ever regret that under layer.

More early morning crowds.

Racing the monorail as it enters a station - as we ride along the tram tracks.

Tuesday 13 April 2010


Junior has been away for a week. He got back tonight. I can tell, as we have a couple of 2 litre bottles that we keep in the fridge for cold water.

Who else would put one of them back - after emptying it - without bothering to fill it up first?

Teenagers. At what point do they start to develop a bit of common sense?

I hate idiot journalists

Such simple things...but why does the media continue to get it wrong?

The Aus ran a story yesterday on the violence in Thailand. I read it in a cafe, in the paper edition, so it was accompanied by a photo (unlike the on line version). The paper edition showed a protester holding up a live bullet, and the caption said something like, "This protester is holding bullets fired by the Army".

Idiots. The rounds still had the pointy bits in them. There are plenty of photos on the interweb showing spent casings from the same incident - here are two below. Clearly, the point bits on the end are missing, so these might have been used to shoot a protester. However, a round with the pointy bit still attached has not been fired, so could not have been used to kill anyone (unless it was hammered into someone's head with a mallet).

For fuck's sake people, get it right!

Tuesday photo

Dude, you can't be serious.

Monday 12 April 2010

Monday photos

There was going to be only one photo today, but I thought "who wants to read a post with only one photo?", so I dug an unused one up from last week. The road crew working on the bike lane through Pyrmont have reached the trickiest part - the section near the Pyrmont Hotel. Lots of road has been ripped up and the road reduced to one lane each way. Strangely enough, this has not resulted in mega road-rage from the motoring public. I'm yet to see one fist-shaking, red-faced taxi driver doing his nut. The road works make life interesting though, as the single lane does not leave much room for bikes and cars. It's not so squeezy.

A bloke around the back of Darling Harbour. Nice shaved legs with very pronouned muscles.

I don't know what happened this afternoon, but I was on fire. It could have been the dumping of a kilo of snot this morning, or a good lunch of gado-gado with rice, or reading about Tony Abbott doing a tough ride yesterday. Whatever it was, I thumped it on the way home. Hills - pfft. I just tore up them.

I'm paying the price now though. The legs are like jelly, and I am sure I have pulled a groin muscle. I'm also ready for bed at 2100hrs. Totally knackered. Abbott did 145km yesterday over some very nasty mountains. It will take me 4 days to do the same on relatively flat ground, and I am rooted. He must be as fit as a very fit bastard.

After all the knocking that Abbott has taken in regard to his cycling, top marks to The Aus for actually sending a journo out there to see what it is all about. I hope the poor bugger lives to ride and write another day. As far as The Aus is concerned, I think the worm has turned.

Jinxes and snot

Being prepared for an early morning start totally jinxed my morning. Before hitting the farter, I'd ironed a week's worth of shirts, laid out my riding gear in the bathroom (so I could get changed in the dark without waking anyone else up), packed my saddlebags with everything that I needed for riding into work - wallet, keys, security pass, sunglasses, phone, camera, bike camera, spare batteries and so on.

My alarm went off at 0600. I woke up feeling good, thinking I'd be on the road before sun-up.

Two minutes later, both the youngsters were awake. One made an attempt to go back to sleep on his own, but the other wanted me to give him a cuddle..... 30 minutes later, I woke up again, and so did he, and the whole morning went to crap from there. They wanted feeding, they wanted a book read to them, they wanted to watch TV, they didn't want daddy to go to work etc etc etc.

When I make no preparations and wake up late, none of this happens. See what becomes of being organised and thinking ahead?

So began another week of riding, and another lungfull of snot to discharge.

You know what jelly is like when it has been left in a cold fridge for a week? You know how it gets a really thick skin on it, which is inedible? That's the sort of thing that coated the back of my throat this morning. It was glued on tight, and refused to budge, even after much hacking and coughing. After one coughing spasm that resulted in me tearing a quadricept, a small pea-sized chunk of almost solid snot emerged. Finally, a breach! A few minutes later, another pea sixed chunk let go. And then a great sheet of jellied snot broke away from the back of my throat, and started flapping around like pyjamas on the washing line in a strong wind. I managed to get rid of that too - but it was more like a very large broad bean instead of a pea. Finally, I could start to breathe.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Bushfires and expenses

Andrew Bolt is making hay at the moment over Christine Nixon and her decision to feed her face whilst over a hundred people were burning to death.

I will start by saying that I can understand getting out of the command centre for a while and to have a meal away from the action. Sometimes you need to take a break in order to do a bit of strategic thinking, and to bounce ideas off other people. A meal in a pub is not a bad way to do that.

That said, Nixon appears to have all the command presence of a marshmallow. I doubt she could lead a bunch of hippies to Nimbin for a week long bong fest.

But instead of ranting about her leadership qualities and decision making abilities, let us think for a moment about her meal, and her expenses situation.

One government department that I worked for had a "reasonable meal expenses" policy. What that meant is that if I had to go away, or got called out on a weekend etc, I could eat pretty much where I wanted and what I wanted and just claim the expense. I had some damned fine meals at some good country restaurants under that policy.

After a merger with another department, we were suddenly saddled with a fixed rate expenses policy - the meal allowance was barely enough to cover a small meal from McDonalds.

Under the fixed rate policy, there was no incentive to travel for work, which meant that our far flung sites never saw another city based person ever again. If I was going to spend a night away from home, or a week away from home, the least the company could give me was a good feed at the end of a long day. When the bastards took that away, I said, "Fuck it" and stopped volunteering for the trips. My stomach has principles.

Under the former policy, the incentive of course was to spend lots of someone else's money on yourself, which meant that I ate a lot of oysters and ate at a fancier grade of restaurant than I normally would have. I even bought a gourmet guide to the eating places of country NSW, and worked my way through most of it before the hammer came down. I noshed well, which is partly why I now need to ride a lot - I have a lot of all-expenses paid three course meals to work off.

I bet Nixon was under the "reasonable meal expenses" policy, which means it would make sense for her to leave the command post and have a really good meal (courtesy of the taxpayer) rather than staying put and having cheap pizza. What is the point of expensing a cheap, lousy meal?

Four cyclists hit by truck, one dead

Four cyclists out for a training ride were hit by a truck on the M4 yesterday morning. One is dead, the other three are pretty beaten up.

Flicking through the comments yesterday, I saw a few that said, "What were they doing on the M4?" Here's a map of where they were hit - the corner of The Northern Road.

Simple - that section of M4 is marked as an "on road" cycle way. Here's a screen grab from an RTA map of cycle routes in the Penrith area (this is the worst on line map I have ever seen by the way).

If you look at the first (readable) map again, you'll also see that there are very few east-west routes that anyone can take in this area thanks to the topography and road layout. It's the M4 or nothing.

And to cap it off, not even walking on the footpath is safe anymore.