Sunday 30 June 2013


A small snippet showing why I have faith in the market rather than regulation.
Bought a new bike helmet today. As I was trying to find one big enough to fit my fat head, the shopkeeper pointed out that the model I had just tried on had a red light built into the rear. I’d never noticed that before.
Commuters have a tendency to light themselves up like Xmas trees – paranoia about being collected from behind by a dopey driver. Just about every commuter I see on my route has bought an extra light and attached it to their helmet.
Some smarty marketing or product dude has noticed this and thought, “Why not manufacture helmets with a light in them? Because many cyclists clearly want a helmet mounted light”.
Which is why you can now buy a helmet like that. Not because some pencil pushing bureaucrat in a regulatory agency thought it would be a good idea – but because a company took a risk, retooled their product and chucked it out there to see if people would buy it. Which I promptly did.
And thanks to a competitive market, the new helmet (with light) cost about 1/3 what my last one did.

I also got a good lesson in paying more for a proper bike fitting.

I bought a new saddle as well - the old one was well and truly worn out. The mechanic fitted it on the spot in a few minutes, but I didn't test it out before leaving the shop. About 5 minutes into my ride home, my legs really started to hurt - the new saddle was an inch or so taller than the old one, which meant my legs were being forced to extend that much further on every stroke. Before long, I was in total agony.

Of course the only thing I forgot to pack before riding to the shop was the multitool that I could have used to drop the saddle height. 

I am going to be in serious pain tomorrow.

Pig over, pig out - redux

I couldn't resist it - I had to cook pork belly again (slowly). That involved an early Saturday morning visit to the butcher with the little tackers to stock the freezer with meat, meat, meat. I had a choice between a 1kg pack of belly and a 2.5kg pack. I was tempted to go all out and get the big one, but I figured that even our family would have a tough time putting away that much pork in one go.

I followed the recipe this time - instead of sitting the pork belly in a sea of oil, I poured in water instead and slow cooked it for 10 hours.

The result was still pretty good - but nowhere near as good as the goofed-up oil bath method. The skin didn't crisp up as well at the end - I guess the steam from the water didn't help, whereas you don't have that problem if you slow cook it in oil. The oil method also produced a softer, more succulent result.

I'm now on a mission to try doing pork belly in a bath of duck fat. Choice - buy a can of duck fat, or cook some duck and save the fat.

Chemistry education - then and now

Nitrogen triiodide is the inorganic compound with the formula NI3. It is an extremely sensitive contact explosive: small quantities explode with a loud, sharp snap when touched even lightly, releasing a purple cloud of iodine vapor; it can even be detonated by alpha radiation. NI3 has a complex structural chemistry that is difficult to study because of the instability of the derivatives.

When I was studying chemistry at school, our teacher made some of this before a class and sprinkled it on the floor. As the students walked in, it exploded in little "cracks" under their shoes. The reason for doing that? Shit and giggles mainly. Everyone thought it was a hoot - it certainly got everyone engaged that day.

I imagine that would get you sacked and charged with about 50 OH&S and explosives offences these days.

The Modern Alchemist - Contact Explosive - detonating Nitrogen Triiodide from The Royal Institution on Vimeo.

Saturday 29 June 2013

Why can't some drivers hill start?

I made another doomed attempt to buy some pants last weekend. Once again, when I tried on several pairs that were the right size for my waist, I could hardly get them past my thighs. I got one pair over most of my thighs, but they then jammed up on my calves. I couldn't believe it, so I went and stood in front of the mirror and looked at my lower legs. Hmmm. They're stupidly wide thanks to cycling. I can't get both my hands around my calves. If this keeps up, I'll have to start wearing tracksuits to work.

About the stupid driving - as I was going into the car park, the car in front nearly rolled backwards into me three times. We were waiting in line to get a ticket on a shallow gradient, and every time he had to move forwards, he started by going back about half a car length. Good thing I had left him plenty of room.

What is it with people that can't hill start a manual without rolling back 10 feet every time? Haven't they heard of a handbrake? Can't they co-ordinate their feet properly? Sheesh - if you think hill starting a Ford ute is hard, try doing it in one of these....

And yes, the pinhead that couldn't drive was behind the wheel of a Ford ute. Then again, maybe he could drive, and he was just having a hard time with a hopeless vehicle.

Friday 28 June 2013

Apple crumble and jumping the shark

One thing I need after riding around in the pouring rain is good, hearty comfort food. And yes, it has been pouring with rain, and I haven't been wimping out and catching the bus or driving to work.

Riding in the rain isn't that bad at all. Rain doesn't generally fall in monsoonal sheets all the time - it comes and goes, meaning that on some "wet" days, I haven't gotten wet at all. I've arsed it and picked the gaps in between showers. And even if it does bucket down, it usually only pours for a short part of the ride. If you're dressed for it, it's water of a duck's back.

Here's how silly it gets - it rained all the way home, yet when I walked in the front door, I went straight to the shower to wash off all the sweat. I had been under a flooding sky for 45 minutes, and the first thing I did was to go and pour more water over myself because I had sweating pissing out of every pore. Except I got to adjust the temperature of the water. I'd hate to be poor, and unable to pour water over my leaking pores.

On to food.

I've rediscovered the crumble. For me, the secret is using a good bircher muesli in the crumble rather than plain oats. All the fruit and nuts in the muesli tarts it up nicely. I discovered this by happy accident - I had run out of plain oats, so I used up the last of a packet of bircher. I've never looked back.

I fear though that I might have jumped the shark tonight by adding just too much stuff to what is traditionally a fairly simple dish. I also threw ground almonds and dried coconut into the crumble, sprinkled slivered almonds on top and threw in a handful of dried apricots and sultanas into the apple. I'll see how it goes - I might have reached that event horizon in apple crumble cookery where just too much fruit and other whizzy bits destroys the dish.

Whatever. As they used to tell me in the Army - "If you don't eat, you don't shit. And if you don't shit, you die". With all that muesli and fruit waiting to be eaten, I don't think I am going to have any problems tomorrow.

Saturday 22 June 2013

Forgive me, for I have cooked lentils

I'm not saying any more than that.

I screw up pork belly

Geez, how hard can this be?

Pork belly
50 g garlic, chopped
15 g anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked 
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked 
pinch of salt 
25 ml pomegranate molasses 
1 kg piece pork belly, bones removed
200 ml olive oil
400 ml water

To make the pork belly, preheat the oven to 100˚C. Add the garlic, anchovy, thyme, star anise, cinnamon, rosemary, salt and pomegranate molasses to the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Rub the flesh side of the pork belly generously with the paste. Line a baking dish with baking paper and place the pork inside, skin side up. Drizzle the skin with olive oil and season with salt. Pour the water around the pork, transfer the dish to the oven and cook for 10–12 hours until completely soft. (You can refrigerate the pork at this point if preparing ahead.) 

Increase the oven to 220˚C and cook the pork for a further 10–14 minutes or until the skin is crisp.

Well, if you're me, it's hard beyond belief. I read the list of ingredients, then read the bit about mixing stuff in the food processor, so I threw all the ingredients for the rub into the processor and then tipped in the oil.


The pork belly is now cooking confit style in the oven. If you can slow bake duck in a thick layer of fat, why not slow bake pork belly in a sea of olive oil?

This is either going to be an epic disaster, or it will be fantastic. I don't think it will get 10-12 hours in the oven - more like 7, and then we're having it for dinner.

Assuming it's edible.

PS - it turns out that 50gm of garlic is an entire head.

Friday 21 June 2013

I ride; therefore, I must eat

Riding home can be a bit lonely some days, so the brain starts thinking about all sorts of things. Today, it was fixated on food. Possibly because I was bloody starving.

Over the course of half an hour or so, I decided this is what I want to cook this weekend. I had to promise my body that I would make these things - otherwise, it would have rebelled and where would I be then?

  • Bread - will make the dough tonight and let it rest overnight
  • Mussels - because they go so well with freshly baked bread
  • Tarte tatin - already done. It should be ready to turn out by the time this blog entry is finished. More on the recipe in a minute
  • Pasta - as in make my own pasta from scratch
  • Slow cooked pork belly - it was fascinating to watch this bloke cook it up after he had just been on a cooking tour through........Iran. I didn't think pork belly would be that popular in Iran.

That should be enough energy to keep me going through a few more days of riding. 

As for the tarte tatin - I was going to make it days ago. I read a great tip in the linked article whereby you peel and core the apples the day before and leave them uncovered in the fridge to dry out a bit. If the apples have dried slightly, the tarte is firmer.

So of course I peeled them on Monday, smothered them in a bit of lemon juice and promptly lost them up the back of the fridge. I found them again tonight and remembered to cook the tarte.

Speaking of tarte - time to tip it over and pig out.

Pig over, pig out.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

The loons the Greens reject

Whilst the Greens do their best to put a reasonable face on their party, you know that just beneath the surface, a boiling maelstrom of fadism, stupidity and ginger groups exist. This much was obvious this week when the NSW Greens health spokesman floated the idea of an inquiry into putting fluoride into water (with the aim presumably of giving an anti-fluoride loony group a soap box to spread their ravings from).

That lead balloon floated for a few millions of a second before being shot down by the Liberal health minister, the Labor shadow minister and even the Greens federal leader.

It was very refreshing to hear the idea being trounced as a "waste of money", which it surely was.

Friday 14 June 2013

Green thieves

Two teenagers are due in court charged after a police pursuit through Sydney’s inner west this morning.
Police were in a fully-marked car behind a white Toyota Prius on Averill Street at Rhodes about 1.30am today (Sunday 9 June 2013), when the Prius allegedly made an illegal turn. A registration check revealed the vehicle had been reported stolen from Woy Woy last Wednesday (5 June).
Police activated warning lights, however, the vehicle accelerated and a pursuit was initiated. It continued along Concord Road where seconds later it struck the back of a Hyundai Getz; it then crossed the median strip and hit a BMW travelling in the opposite direction.

For crying out loud - what sort of person steals a Prius and then tries to make a run for it?

Thieves aren't getting any smarter.

Then again, they might have had a choice between stealing a Prius and a Ford, and decided to steal something that would at least get them from Woy Woy to the city without breaking down.

What kills more birds - duck hunting or wind turbines?

Just a thought - if Greens hate the killing of birds so much (ala duck hunting), why aren't they marching on wind turbines with pitchforks and firebrands?

Choice: it's getting cold, or I'm getting soft

Funny thing about the fog - it's actually nice and warm (for something that is supposed to be cold and damp).  I've been quite comfortable riding into work before dawn when the fog has been around as it's taken the edge off the morning cold.

Just when you get used to something nice, it ups and disappears on you. This morning was crystal clear - and crystal cold. Within a few minutes of hitting the road, I thought my arms were going to freeze off. I was cursing myself for not adding a thermal shirt under my jersey.

That quickly passed - by the time I got to work, I had sweat pouring down my face and dripping down my arms. If I'd added the third layer, I would have died from heat exhaustion.

I need to remember that sort of thing next time I find myself going soft at 0600.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

And they call cyclists reckless

Had to drive somewhere this morning. It was foggy as hell - sensible people were taking it easy.

It was also a bit dark.

Some drivers though are invincible. One decided I was dawdling a bit, so she overtook me up the parking lane. Luckily for her, no parked cars emerged out of the fog for her to smash into the back of.

Monday 10 June 2013

As dirty as a hippie's armpit

Hippies. Not the cleanest people who ever existed. I had a look at the bike over the weekend and decided it could do with a bit of a scrub. It really had started to look like it was owned by someone with a beard and an aversion to washing.

I got as far as scraping the built up road gunk off the chain - that took several applications of grease remover. After that, I was stuffed. The rest of the bike looks like Glastonbury in winter.

Sunday 9 June 2013


As we all know, morons come in many shapes and sizes. I had an absolute moron spree on Friday morning.

The first 3 were cyclists - two had their helmets dangling from their handle bars. I hate that - if you don't want to wear your helmet, leave it at home. It won't protect your skull from impact unless it is on your head and tightly strapped on. The 3rd had a hoodie over his head and I could hear the music blaring as he blasted past me - straight through a red light (which is what the first 2 morons did too). He didn't even seem to glance left or right before proceeding.

I was shaking my head at their stupidity when the lights went green. I started moving forward, and then slammed on the brakes.

A bus went straight through a red light in front of me. If I'd been rolling up to the lights when they changed instead of stopped, I would have smacked straight into the side of it.

Sometimes the only thing that saves you from the morons is sheer, dumb luck.

Saturday 8 June 2013

I can even stuff up making apricot balls

I had a go at making apricot balls today - muesli, dried apricots, honey and butter into the blender etc etc.

The recipe included a cup of coconut, so I chucked that into the blender too.

Whilst the ingredients were blending, I read the recipe.

It said to throw all but the coconut into the blender, then roll the balls in the desiccated coconut.

Ah well, I saved one step and it made no difference. And they don't shed little bits of coconut everywhere.

I'm socked, Bob. Absolutely shocked

One of the linkys on my sidebar goes to Bob Carr's blog.

It was revealed this week that, not only does Bob not write his blog these days - he doesn't even read it.

Makes two of us, mate.

It became pretty obvious after the election that Bob's blog was no longer an interesting download from his fertile mind. Instead, it had become a stinking swamp of press releases with all the interest of the back of a packet of cockroach baits.

I find that interesting. The intertubes were once hailed as a better means of keeping the elected in touch with the voters. Instead, it has become a medium for pouring out sanctimonious, dumbed down pap that nobody bothers to read.

Did Vivid

Had a look at the Vivid light festival this week. The photos I took are pretty useless in comparison to what the pros have been putting on line - it's definitely worth a look.


  1. It's a grand celebration of electricity and electric lighting. I hope we can afford to continue having these festivals in future.
  2. There's plenty of things to keep young kids interested
  3. It would be bloody awful to be pushing a pram around - the crowds were pretty intense
  4. There are 60-odd displays to see - we saw about 1/4 of them and it was still good
  5. The burgers and hot dogs on sale in the street market in the Rocks looked excellent - pity I'd had a feed before I got there
  6. Photos don't do it justice - you have to turn up and experience it
  7. Don't bother showing up during the day!

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Labor party giving away free kicks

We had a pamphlet shoved into the letter box today - I've scanned the front of it. It must comprise the biggest series of free kicks given away to any candidate in yonks. Craig gets his name mentioned 6 times - priceless publicity paid for by the Labor party and distributed via the valuable time of the decreasing number of local Labor activists.

The inside is a whinge about how his family made their millions from gambling - and includes a statement which clearly mixes up turnover and profits.

But look at the above picture - what's not to like about it? Beer, smokes and pokies. Only the most sour faced nanny staters could find those images objectionable. If anything, they'd appeal greatly to traditional blue collar Labor voters. I don't smoke anymore, and I don't gamble - but I don't have a problem with those that choose to do so. And that beer looks awful tasty and refreshing. So much so, I had to go and put some beer in the freezer so I could have one with dinner. I now have a lovely positive association between nice cold beer and Craig Laundy.

And notice the use of the colour red and the naming of the Liberal party? That's amazing, given that Labor candidates have taken to using Liberal blue as their colour and avoiding any mention of Labor in their literature.

First rule of politics - never mention the name of your opponent. Just refer to "my opponent".

This has to get a mention in the next volume of "The history of stupid".

A day by the bay



Monday 3 June 2013

Death on the Bay?

I was zipping around the Bay Run a few weeks back when I came across a gaggle of coppers directing foot and cycle traffic on the path - something had happened, but I wasn't slowing down or stopping to find out. The last thing plod needs at times like that is a bunch of rubberneckers.

On the way home, when I passed the same spot I noticed a lot of plastic bags on the ground (not shopping bags - the sort of bags that electronic parts are sealed in) - that was odd.

I thought little of it until a few more days passed and bunches of flowers suddenly appeared on a tree at that spot.


I still have no idea what happened. Heart attack perhaps? The plastic bags might have contained something used by the paramedics perhaps?

I only remembered the flowers just then - I happened to be riding home early, and saw them before the sun set. You'd never spot them in the dark.

I'm thinking of all the old people that I see on the Run every day, strolling along and chatting with their friends. If you were going to pick a way to leave this world, that's not a bad way to go.

That's a lot of raw fruit and vegetables

I've been watching a very interesting BBC documentary called "The truth about food".

I'm not sure how much truth there is in this show, given that it's one of those modern documentaries that has been jazzed up with all sorts of devices to make it interesting enough to put on TV. Instead of a Professor Julius Sumner Miller lecture on a topic, the modern show requires a celebrity spending time in a helicopter flying over Austria to explain how long it takes poo to move through your guts.

That aside, it's worth watching if you're getting on a bit and wondering about constipation and bowel cancer. One of the things they do in episode one is lock up a bunch of subjects in a zoo for 12 days and feed them nothing but raw fruit and vegetables. They have to eat 5 kilos of raw fruit and veg a day to get enough calories. Plus one olive soaked in brine for their salt intake.

5 kilos is an awful lot of cauliflower and strawberries to be getting through. They can't cook any of it, so things like potatoes and pumpkin are off the menu. I was amazed at the sheer mass of food you need to consume if all you have is the raw stuff. And all they seem to do is lie around all day on lounge chairs gossiping and carrying on.

Personally, I'll stick to steak.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Was definitely time to clean the desk

I cleared up my desk at home today.

Found the Kindle that's been missing for weeks - it was under a stack of papers right in front of my keyboard.

Found a camera too. And a $100 Bunnings voucher.

Off to see what else I can find by cleaning up under the desk.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Lost my Kindle

Damn and blast. I was really enjoying Nick Cater's book. Now I have to clean the house in order to find it.