Saturday, 14 October 2006

The loonies have taken over the supermarket

There are quiet checkout chicks in supermarkets, and there are chatty ones. Tonight, I got a chatty one - until I mentioned the "L" word.

She asked me what I had done, and I said that I had been to the markets. She then asked why I bothered, as they were crap. I told her that I had been to the Flemington markets, not one of the local markets that have sprouted in every public school in the area.

We both knew which markets we were talking about, but could not remember the name of the school. I simply blurted out, "The school opposite the loonie bin". At that, she went a bit red, clenched her mouth and started to tell me off, saying that it was downright rude to use the "L" word etc etc etc. She was all of about 18, and she gave me a 10 second tirade.

I was too gobsmacked to say much after that. For starters, I am not used to staff badmouthing the customers, no matter what they say. After all, she started the conversation. I was quite happy to browse the checkout magazines until she opened her gob. Second, I am not used to be upbraided by some youngster. Talk about fucking precocious, precious and disrespectful. Old people like me should be listened to - we hav much wisdom to depart. I should have told her I was Aboriginal, an elder of my tribe, and the featherfeet would be coming to visit her if she continued to scorn the knowledge of her betters.

I think her problem is that she had been there for a visit that lasted for more than half an hour. Frankly, if I had ever been to a loonie bin for a holiday, I'd be saying "I just had a vacation in the loonie bin. If you continue to write out that parking ticket, I will be forced to bite your nose off. I've just been to the chemist to get my prescription filled and the lithium hasn't kicked in yet".

What should we call former-residents-of-loonie-bins? "Special People Who Are Misunderstood"? How about, "Nutjobs who are fucked in the head".

Next time I am there, I'll have to go through her checkout and make funny faces.


There is a big ride on through Sydney next weekend - about 10,000 cyclists expected - and it pretty much goes past our front door. With that many bikes wandering around, the event organisers need to drop a flyer in every letterbox en route in order to let the occupiers know that they might not be able to get out of their driveway for an hour or two. Since I am a member of our local cycling group, I put my hand up to hand a few of these things out.

I didn't have a lot to do - my stretch was only a kilometre or two and it included no apartments. However, I decided to do it after dark as it was about 38 degrees out there today.

My first comment is that people should be given no say when it comes to choosing either their letterbox or the location of their letterbox. Little neighbourhood Stalins should be sent around to smash up all non-compliant letterboxes and install a standardised Chairman Mao version. Give people a choice, and a certain number will make some very bizarre and stupid choices. I should have carried a second bag of flyers that read, "You have a stupid mailbox, which makes you too stupid for words". However, I had no idea how bad letterboxes could be until I actually attempted to stuff a very simple, folded, one page flyer into a few hundred of them.

One stupid design is the dwarf letterbox. Obviously, the owners are about two feet high, because the opening is down below the level of my knee. I know that people were shorter in the old days when a lot of the low lying letter boxes were installed, but they weren't fucking hobbits. Besides, if you think about it, the postal service would probably favour tall Posties as they have longer legs so they should be able to cover ground faster than an animated garden gnome. If I was a postie, I'd carry a bag of cat turds and stuff them into anything below knee height and insert a flyer saying that a local group had trained cats to back up to kitty toilets and crap in them so that the parks would not be covered in cat turds, and that cats would probably be unable to distinguish between the new cat dunnies and their letterbox, so they should raise it in order to stop attracting cat crap.

The second stupid design was the camouflaged mailbox. I know that many people are sick of junk mail, but hiding the letter box behind a shrub, creeper or bush is a good way to avoid getting any mail. I should have taken a bottle of RoundUp with a squirter on the top and written "knob head" on their lawns.

The third stupid design was the mailbox like a steel trap. Yes, I know that there is a saying about people having minds like a steel trap, but I bet you never knew that you could also buy a letterbox like a steel trap. They have a vertical flap intead of a horizinotal one, and the flap is held shut by a very strong spring. Instead of slipping a neatly folded flyer into those letterboxes, I ended up stuffing in a crumpled ball of paper. I was taking any chances with them after the first one nearly cost me a couple of fingers. If I had a portable arc welder, I'd weld the damned things shut. It would probably take the stupid owners a few weeks to work out that it was not the extra strong spring that was stopping the flap from opening and the mail from appearing.

The last stupid design is the narrow mouthed letterbox. These things are typically found on older houses with a brick front wall. The slot is just wide enough for an old fashioned aerogram, which were pretty thin and flexy, but not quite wide enough for a modern, stiff envelope with a bill in it, or one of my flyers. Jamming a flyer in was like trying to grate cheese by using the wrong side of the grater - annoying and non-productive.

I can see now why people drive around at night smashing up letterboxes. Personally, I reckon the culprits are enraged posties.

Sunday, 8 October 2006

Shopping centres are not pedestrian free zones

Some architects or urban planners or whatever the hell you call people that design concrete monstrosities known as shopping centre car parks must imagine that all cars are fitted with short range teleporters. I have just been to the Lane Cove shops. You park, and then find that there are no footpaths through the carpark to the shops. You just have to walk on the road through the car park and hope that you don't get cleaned up by a granny looking for a parking spot. It's insane - no thought has been given to how a shopper gets from their car door to the shop door - unless they park and then teleport from their car seat to the shop.

I can understand why you don't see a lot of footpaths alongside freeways for instance - pedestrians and fast moving traffic do not mix - but shopping centres? I thought the whole idea of shopping centres was to lure people out of their cars in order to spend money.

You might need brains to get into an architecture course at Uni, but you certainly don't need common sense.

Back on the bike

After two months of no riding, I climbed back into the saddle fulltime this week - four days of commuting to work on two wheels. I took it easy each day, not wanting to push it and burn out. On the first day, I rode like a girl - literally. I simply caught up to one as I rode around The Bay and then stuck on her tail all the way into town. Women only make up about 10% or less of the commuters on my route, and I generally find myself blasting past them. They ride like grannies most of the time, so following one into town was a great way to keep my speed down to a sedate pace.

The non-commuting women however tend to blast past me like I am standing still. Tri-athletes and the like are just at a fitness level that is way out of my league.

Anyway, by Friday, the pace was picking up a bit and I was extending the ride a little bit by taking detours to add a bit more distance. Even that was probably too much - by Saturday, my lungs felt like they were being pulled out through my armpits. It is going to take a while to get back to my old form. Instead of pulling my belt in another notch every few months, that has gone into reverse of late and I have just gone out a belt notch. Must ride more. I want to buy some new pants and I want them to be smaller than the last lot.

I blog therefor I ham

I decided to break the great pizza drought of 2006 the other night by whipping up 5 home made pizzas - enough to stuff to bursting all the family members on this side of the continent. The ratio was 4 adult pizzas to 1 kids pizza, and I needed ham for the kiddy number.

I eschewed the trip to my favourite wog deli for double smoked ham sliced into paper thin morsels, and instead decided (due to time constraints) to simply buy it from the deli located within our local supermarket.

God, was that foolish. I requested 10 slices of the double smoked stuff, which is about double what I need for a pizza, but I like to scoff it on its own as I make the pizza, so I always need extra. It's that tasty, it is hard to resist.

Stupidly, I didn't watch the deli-chick making up my order - I was browsing through an enormous basked of cheese trying to find an acceptable wedge of parmesan. It wasn't until I got home that I discovered that instead of 10 super thin slices - slices so thin that you can almost see through them - slices so thin that if you hold them up by one edge, they tear under their own weight - I had in fact purchased 10 slabs of ham, each about the thickness of a fence post. Even I, a totally hamfisted slicer of ham, could have shaved it more thinly than that. The slabs could have doubled as tarpaulins for patching holes in the roof next time a storm comes through and rips off a few tiles. You could take that ham on an outback roadtrip and use it to plug tyre punctures. It was almost solid enough to use as a frisbee, and if you played dog-fetch frisbee, it was so tough, your average dog would catch the frisbee about 100 times before putting a dent in the ham with his teeth.

I guess the biggest single difference between the people that work in a supermarket deli and those that work in a family deli are that for the supermarket folk, the deli is just a position that you work in. You might be on checkout one day, packing shelves the next and serving ham the day after. It's a low paid job that pays your way through Uni.

A family run deli on the other hand is presumably full of people that are selling food because they like that food. I would hope that the wogs flogging expensive olive oil at my local wogarama have tasted all the oils on the shelf and probably only stocked them after a taste test - not because some buyer in a distant head office decide to stock brands A, B and C because they were cheap.

Hence my totally crap ham.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

Aeon flumoxed

I recently laid eyeballs on Aeon Flux, and boy, was I disappointed. I love a well done sci-fi movie. Bladerunner has always been a favourite. Firefly was a total loss. What I like to see is intelligent use of future technologies. Amazing technology is not good enough - it needs to be used in a way that is interesting or makes sense. Simply serving up woopie-doo special effects is not enough. That's what always annoyed me about the Star Wars movies - you had all this fancy technical gimmickery used in the most ridiculous fashion. Hover cars towed around by six legged bullocks. Balls!

Anyway, movies that did it well in the past have included Bladerunner, Gattaca and Minority Report. I liked Minority Report - not enough to watch it a second time, but it was contentedly adequate. I liked the eyeball recognition stuff with the personalised ads - which is just cookies taken a step beyond the internet. I liked the way Tom Cruise used gloves as an interface to the computer - like a mouse in the air. I liked the little heat seeking robot things. To me, they all made sense, in a horrible kind of way. Total Recall was also based on an interesting premise - memory implants, and they were done well for a good reason - taking holidays! I could relate to that.

Anyway, Aeon Flux had some groovy little technical things, like a strap on transporter thingy and some interesting implants, but the rest was garbage from go to woe. I'll tell you a major plot element right now, because the movie is not worth watching, so I can give a big part of the game away without spoiling it for everyone. It's set 400 years in the future, and most of the population has been wiped out by a virus. Only 5 million survive in one big city.

I'll digress for a second. At the start, it says the virus killed 99% of the population. If we currently have a world population of - what - 5 billion say, then a 1% survival rate is 50 million people. As usual, Hollywood is no good at maths. The should have said that 99.9% died out.

By the way, 5 million people is a city bigger than Sydney. The city that they show looks like a town of about 25,000 - more of a University campus than anything else. And it is not crowded. If you ask me, 99.995% died out and the remaining handful lived in a place the size of downtown Tamworth.

With a wall around the edge to keep nature out.

Anyway, the big deal is that the cure for the virus left everyone sterile, so instead of women getting pregnant, the government has been secretly cloning everyone and impregnating the women for 7 generations. The same 5 million people just keep going around and around and around again. It's a really good plot idea - I loved it. It was simply executed like crap. The director or the screenwriter started with a great idea and then decided to add lots of Matrix style action and shoot-em-ups and some lifestyle fashion technology. By that, I mean they let some fashion designer go nuts on all the apartment interiors to give us an idea of what Ikea will be selling 400 years in the future.

The shooting and stuff was just a total waste of space. Aeon is a super-assasin, which means she can pick up a pistol and kill about 100 cops in head to toe body armour. The fight scenes are just daft. I much preferred the action in Bladerunner, where you have one guy with a mega-pistol chasing some mean replicants through a futuristic version of Kings Cross on a rainy Saturday night. And doing it badly. I can relate to that.

I liked about 3/4 of the movie, and just hated the last 1/4. They should just cut and reshoot the last 25 minutes.