Monday, 30 April 2007

The mystery of the shopping trolleys revealed...

We might now have some idea of who is dumping shopping trolleys in our street, and it's not the neighbours.

Our Deputy Mayor gave us the answer yesterday - it's shoppers who park in our street, go shopping, and can't be bothered to take the trolley back.

Now I was initially gobsmacked and dumbfounded at that idea, and thought it lunacy, as the local shopping centre has two underground levels of parking and you can always get a spot down there. But I had not counted on the wierd phobias and habits that some people have. As he told us, some people will not drive down the ramp to the car park as it is "too steep".

Now I have driven into a lot of shopping centre and office car parks in my time, and I don't think our local car park ramp is overly steep. It's not the going down that freaks people out apparantly - it's the coming out again. The nutters seem to think that they need to build up a great head of speed to get up the ramp, and they'll never be able to stop at the top at the pedestrian crossing, and they'll run old grannies and prams over because they won't be able to stop at the exit.

Crikey, what are they driving? Steam engines or bloody Subaru's? Yes, steam trains facing a long gradient need a good run up to get all the way to the top without stalling, but no modern car faces that problem. Even my old Hillman Hunter would not have had a problem with the slope in question - even with 9 people in the boot. Well, ok, realistically, it only would have made it up the hill with 6 people in the boot (and thin people at that).

So what this means is that our suburb is full of demented people who can't control their cars properly.

And these demented people with the car driving skills of drunken kenyan truck drivers are parking outside our house.

Hmmm, not good. Next time one parks in front of our place and goes shopping, I'll have to use the Disco to push their car a few houses down the street. They can then pull their stupid car driving antics in front of someone else's place.

But this does give me an excuse to look for some sort of security web cam on ebay to stick outside the front door.

St George ovens are crap

It's a good thing Trev and Angela are out of the Kleenmaid business. Otherwise, I would have been ranting down the phone line at them yesterday. We have a very flash St George oven and hotplate in our place. Until yesterday, it had been the best pizza oven that I have yet seen. According to the temperature thingy, it gets up to 260 degrees. I can believe that, for if you open the door at that temp, it will almost take your eyebrows off.

Until yesterday. We had the Deputy Mayor and his family over for lunch and a few bottles of wine, and the bloody oven refused to do its thing. It wasn't on the blink - it just decided for a few crucial hours (around lunchtime) to not get hot. It's never done that before - you normally just turn it on, twist the dial to whatever temp you want, and away it goes - simple as can be. But for some reason, yesterday it was as cantakerous as a goat with a headache.

The first two pizzas were of course complete crap. I had to resort to trying to finish them under the grill (at least that was working), but it meant that the top was super crisp (almost burnt) and the bottom was completely uncooked and soggy. A good way to end up with a case of the trots.

By the time I got to pizza number 3, the gremlins had packed their bags and gone home, and I was able to produce something edible.

The gas oven at the last place was not that accurate when it came to setting a temperature, but at least you knew that if you lit the flame and cranked the knob around to 11, it would get pretty hot - unless the gas ran out. I think this St George oven has too many settings - too bloody fiddly. It's too easy for someone to press a button and before you know it, your pizza is being cooked on a "defrost" setting.

When I go oven shopping, I want something that has three settings - simmer, normal and bloody hot. I don't need the dial to say 160 degrees or 210 degrees - I just need those 3 settings. Anything else is a waste of time.

Next time we have guests, I am going to stock the freezer with frozen pies. At least we can nuke them up if the oven goes guts-up again.

Legs of steel, lungs of lead

If I had known when I left home how I would feel when I got to work, I would caught the bus. If there is one thing about riding that stands out, it is how much it amplifies how your body is doing. At the first sign of ill-health or a sniffle, I really cop it. Today was like that. The legs were pumping like mighty pistons, but my lungs felt like I was inhaling aersoled napalm.

The legs always go like titans after a few days off. I presume that if I took any notice of my timings into work, I would find that Mondays are always the fastest day - although paradoxically, I force myself to take it easy so that I am not a blithering mess by Thursday. For most people, Mondays seem to be a nightmare, whereas for me, they are bliss on a bike. Fridays are always the nasty day, as the kilometerage is being pushed higher and higher and I am at the tail end of my energy and perserverence, and all my leg muscles feel like overstretched rubber bands that are ready to pop at any moment. Some might look forward to a cleansing ale on Friday afternoon - I sometimes just think, "God, let's get this over with". Bum sore. Legs tight. Motivation left at work in the rubbish bin.

It's then that the lack of an alternative way of getting home kicks in. There's nothing like having no alternative to get you moving. I need the smallest number and choice of transport options, not many.

A famine rather than a feast.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

A lesson on handguns

I like reading The Economist each week. It has a nice world view, and it gives me a good idea of how important Australia is to the rest of the world. That is, we appear in it about twice a year. Right up there with Burkino Faso and Fiji in importance.

A recent edition had an article calling for a ban on "semi-automatic handguns", which is a silly bloody expression, obviously written and edited by some goons that have never pulled a trigger in their lives.

To my way of thinking, a weapon either has to be cocked between firing each round, or it doesn't. If it doesn't have to be cocked, then it can either fire one shot at a time, or it keeps firing until the ammo runs out. The last type is an automatic weapon.

A Lee-Enfield rifle is not semi-automatic. The bolt has to be worked to eject the empty casing, load a new bullet and do something tricky with the firing pin inside the bolt.

A revolver is semi-automatic, in that if you have enough strength in your trigger finger, you can keep pulling the trigger and it will fire six times. People who have never used a revolver are often amazed at how much strength is required to pull the trigger if the weapon is not cocked, which is why the easiest way to fire one is to cock it with the thumb (which has more strength), then pull the trigger. If it is not cocked, when you pull the trigger, your finger has to be strong enough to do two things - rotate the cylinder and pull back the cocking lever. Police recruits where revolvers are still used routinely have to spend time each night dry firing their revolver in order to build up the required strength.

Which is why people love pistols, or "automatics". They are nothing of the sort, as they are semi-automatic. A Glock is semi-automatic, just like say a .38 revolver. It just takes more hand strength to fire a revolver at the same rate as a Glock.

Given how much a Glock kicks though, you still need plenty of wrist strength to control it. I always laugh when I see idiots in movies holding a pistol side on. That's a great way to break your wrist, as the recoil goes all the wrong way.

Anyway, The Economist is retarded on this issue.

Only in a public hospital....

Another visit was required to a public hospital last week to see a specialist. Only in a government run agency could you find people that are so arrogant and dismissive of the time of others.

My expectation is that if you make an appointment to see someone at say 1pm, then you turn up a bit before that time and you see them at 1pm. A delay of 5 or 10 minutes is acceptable by that time of the day due to slippages etc, but you should still see them more or less on time.

Our wait was nearly 2 hours, at which point, we split, as the car was parked in a 2 hour time limit spot. At that point, the wait was still at least half an hour.

After asking a few questions, it turns out that the routine booking method is to double book every appointment, and to also take people that just rock up unannounced.

The result is predictable if every double bookee turns up, as well as a few rock-ins off the street. Huge waits.

The amazing thing is that to the people in that office, that was business as usual. They wouldn't have it any other way. Incredible. You just have to live with it. There is no alternative process imagineable.

Our taxes at work. Wonderful.

I am a wally

After closely inspecting fruit at the markets yesterday, I discovered that I had not made my orange chocolate cake with blood orange - instead, I had made it with grapefruit.

No wonder it was as bitter as all get out.

Next time I go, I will wear my glasses.

I'm from Queensland and....

I was at the markets this morning. I passed a stand that had "Queensland pumpkins". I couldn't work out why it was so important to identify them as being from Qld, unless they were a special Joh variety.

What a great slogan; "I'm from Queensland, and I'm a pumpkin".

As I was walking around, I saw (and heard) a stallholder shouting at a Chinese bloke. He was pointing at a box of apples and she was yelling at him, "This is a market mate, not bloody David Jones. That's not how it works here".

He was obviously wanting to go through all the boxes and sort the apples and put together a special box of only apples that he wanted. She gave him a good bollocking. It was a pleasure to watch. "It's not David Jones". I like it.

I'm here to help

Thank you Kevin.

But I don't need any help.

Now fuck off and please, just stand around and do nothing.

I hate the thought of a hyper-active twit that just wants to do stuff. Very dangerous people.

One of these days, I am going to dig out "About face" and write down the story about how a Prussian general categorised his officers.

He had two axes on his chart - there was a stupid/smart axis and a lazy/active axis.

Smart but lazy people made great staff officers - they'd work out the simplest way to do something, then go play golf.

Smart and active people commanded battalions or something like that. I guess they all went over the top and got shot.

Stupid, lazy people are always with us, so sinecures had to be found for them - managing the stables and that sort of thing.

However, stupid active people had to be sought out, identified and gotten rid of as quickly as possible. There is noone so destructive as a stupid person that wants to do things.

I urge you to be swindled

I have just watched "The great climate change swindle". It's only 75 minutes long, and is well worth watching. I think it is the best 75 minutes that you can spend this week. Sit on your fat, lazy arse and watch it.

I will never feel even the slightest bit guilty ever again about driving a 4WD - or even using it to run over a greenie.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Big Brother? Highly unlikely.

Paranoid about the government knowing everything about you? Fear not. Bits of government might know bits about you, but I doubt that anyone will ever be able to stitch it all together. Departments hate nothing more than having to share with each other, as it can represent a loss of power and prestige - or just plain work, and who wants to work if you don't have to.

We are entitled to a measly child care allowance - it's not even enough to buy a packet of fags a fortnight. However, we like to claim it in order to feel that we are dipping into the great bucket of "middle class welfare", whatever that might be. To me, it sounds like paying about 10 times more in taxes than what you get back, but it makes you feel better.


The thing though is that you don't get your fag money if the little monkey doesn't have his needles up to date. I was going to say "immunisations", but I doubt I can spell it properly. If he has been jabbed a sufficient amount of times, the tit gets removed.

When he gets his jabs and has a howl, the quack is supposed to inform Medicare. They then inform the mob that hand out the dole - Social Security or whatever they are called this week. They then inform our local council, who pays out the cash. Or the rebate. Or whatever. The welfare.

So you see the problem - you need to have two federal departments talking to each other, and then one of them talks to a local government body. Conspiracy theorists would say that all government systems are joined up and "they" know everything about us.

Well, you can take off your tinfoil hats, because the bludgers couldn't talk to the idiot in the next cubicle during their tea break, let alone another dept on the other side of town. We got monkey jabbed before his last shot was due, and the quack filled out the appropriate paperwork and sent it off, and then the tit got removed. Just like that.

After a month or two of phone calls, and promises by various agencies to forward the paperwork and doublecheck that it had been sent and to send us a copy, nothing happened. A letter from Medicare did eventually arrive at home, stating that all the shots were in order, but it appears that Centrelink never got it, or filed it "appropriately".

So J had to traipse down to the local Centrelink office and stand in line with a bunch of smelly, pregnant bludgers in order to get our file stamped the appropriate number of times. It took well over two hours for two pubes to find our file, fiddle with their computer screens, send the file back and forth between the two of them for verification, and then print out a letter for council.

The hilarious thing is that printing the letter, the final step, took 45 minutes. When they had done all the approvals, they advised J to go home and wait a few days for the letter. She asked the obvious question of, "Why don't you just print it and give it to me and save us all some postage and delay" and they looked at her like she had two heads.

Which is probably not an unusual occurence in a Centrelink office, given how many cigarettes their pregnant, drug fucked clients smoke per day.

The thing is, no one in the office knew how to print the bloody letter. I am sure that duty fell to Albert, a CSO1, who happened to be taking a week of flexi time followed by some accumulated RDO's, and then a sickie in order to darn his cardigan. Their duty statements or PDs probably said that only Albert could do the printing. Or something along those lines.

I am certain that the only reason they relented and figured out how to do it is that J was probably the only person they have seen this year that looks like she is gainfully employed, and had places to be and things to do, and would happily rip their arms off if they didn't get the printer working. The regular clients would probably go, "Whatever" and wander outside for a cigarette. Which is probably what Albert was doing.

They actually managed to print the letter correctly, and we are now entitled to a whack of back pay. It's not even enough to buy a carton of cigarettes. It might be enough to buy two cases of Crown Lager, but that's about it. A couple of months worth of middle class welfare.

So much for buying a big, fat, fuck-off TV with it.


I followed this bloke into town yesterday who was the most vocal and aggressive rider that I have ever seen. If a car made one false move, he absolutely bellowed at the driver (and the driver generally meekly responded). He rang his bell regularly and furiously. In fact he rang it so often, it was quite loose, and it would tinkle everytime he hit a small bump in the road (which is about every 10 feet in Sydney).

I have never seen anything quite like it. I am more the reserved type, given that if you annoy a driver too much, he can just run you over like a bug. It was interesting however to tail this bloke and see (and listen to) him in action. I might have to give this hollering thing a try.

I might need a new bell too. When I was coming home in the rain the other night, the bell turned into a wet squib. I need it most days to warn pedestrians as I am coming up behind them - I give them a warning bell or two to let them know that I am about to shoot past them. That way, they don't go "Eeeek!" as I zip past them, even if they are well over to the left. Since bikes are so quiet, you can scare the crap out of someone who is zoned out as they walk. So I do the polite thing and give them a warning.

But the bell just couldn't cope with the rain. I had to ding it a few times, and instead of a nice clear "TING!", all I got was a "blug", and a very sad and quiet "blug" at that. You can buy air horns that make a ferocious racket, but I think that I already have enough junk hanging off the bike, so I'll give the air horn a miss. However, I will give the old fashioned bell a bit more thought. I think my problem is that I have a new fangled bell that is much small than the old style thing (which looked like a yo-yo lying on its side). The new things look like a thimble, and whilst they are good in the dry, they are useless in the wet.

Maybe it is trying to tell me something, like there are nights when the best thing to do is catch the bus....

And now for a laptop

My PC might arrive early next week, so now it's time to think about a laptop. J wants something that she can take to meetings etc, since she has all her meetings away from the home office.

Personally, the only things I take to meetings are a notepad (to make notes about stuff that needs to be done), a mobile phone (in case I am late, or I can't find the meeting place or the other party), a magazine (to read if I am early or the other party is late) and money to buy coffee.

I have never really seen anyone succesfully use a laptop in a meeting. I find that I can scribble notes in my notepad without tuning out of the meeting, but if I use a laptop (to take minutes), I tune out and lose the thread - which is pretty stupid if you are the one taking the minutes. I just can't multi-task. I certainly can't do something and listen to someone else. My brain just doesn't work that way - it focuses on one thing and one thing only. I can't spin off a subroutine to do something else whilst my focus is on the thing at hand.

A couple of blokes at work used to take their laptops to boring meetings, tap into the wireless network and then send each other emails along the lines of "This is the most boring presentation I have sat through this week", or "Fuckhead is sprouting shit again" (except they would have to do that with IM as our email system picks up naughty words and you get told off if you use them, especially to call a fuckhead a fuckhead).

I would not have called that the most useful and financially sound use of company property, but it helped to pass the time. Thankfully, I no longer have to deal with that particular fuckhead, so I am in no hurry to buy a laptop. I am quite content to pull out my mobile and play "snake" on it during boring meetings.

The blackberry threatened to take over as the boredom conquering machine for a while, but the beauty of a laptop is you can use the lid as a shield to hide from the boring git on the other side of the table. Plus, if you are sitting next to someone equally bored and in a similar frame of mind, you can swivel it a bit to show them some juicy comment from the other laptop user down the table, like "Stupid has had too much coffee this morning and has migrated to his alternate universe again".

Quite frankly, the only useful tool to take to a meeting is a pistol. Fuckwits should be dealt with summarily.

Failing a pistol, the other useful gizmo that I have heard of is very simple - it's two cards, a red one and a yellow one. Say something stupid, or get into a fight, and you get a yellow card. Do it again, and you are red carded - out of the meeting. I am usually more sneaky than that - I just don't invite people who are likely to be a pain in the arse. But I do like the red card idea. The bloke that used it could get away with it because he was the GM of the company that he worked for, so people had to obey, and he was also a big bastard, and could toss people out if need be.

I would just have to settle for a pistol.

Those overbearing Google-heads

Not long after I signed up for blogger (which hosts this blog), it was bought out by google.

All was quiet for a while, but I guess there was furious activity in the background which we bloggers never saw.

Then one day came the edict - "You must have a gmail account to sign into your blog".

Now that didn't hurt much, as I already had a gmail account. I guess the idea was partly to get some more gmail subscribers, but moreso to try and create a single google universe - a googleverse, where everything is driven by a Google account. Once you are sucked into the googleverse, there is no escape.

Frankly, I am offended by the thought of a googleverse. I know that they don't want to be evil (like the arch-enemy in Redmond), but they will end up being evil if they keep going down this path. They might not want to be evil - they might want to be benevolent - but I don't need Big Brother - or Big Google - controlling my universe. There may soon come a day when Google really oversteps the mark and finds that its market share goes down the toilet.

Google - the tyranny of good intentions.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

When too much chocolate is too much

I made a cake this week - the first thing I have baked in months. I made an orange chocolate cake, also known as a jaffa cake, because it has a whole orange in it. I did it because I remembered making this cake or pudding years ago that had a whole boiled orange in the middle of it, and I wanted to make it again.

Sadly, I could not find the recipe, so I did the next best thing and looked one up and made it instead. It still had an orange in it, but not a complete one. You boil a whole orange for a while, then stick it in the blender (peel and all) and add that to the chocolate cake mix.

There were two problems with the cake. The first is that I got smart and used a blood orange, which is usually bloody hard to get, but I found some at the markets, and the second is that I used inferior cocoa.

Blood oranges, as I discovered, are not very sweet. If anything, they are a bit bitter, which is good if you like a nice, gutsy cake, and not a sweet, poofy confectionary thing. It would have been fine if I had used good cocoa, but the stuff that we had in the cupboard turned out to be bitter as well, so when you put the two together, you got a very bitter orange cake. If you are the sort of person that likes tart or bitter things, it would be perfect. I think it is good - maybe a 7 out of 10, as I don't like super sweet stuff. I like it to have a bit of an edge, but this thing has a whole lot of edge. I'm going to wait a bit and then do it again - with a normal orange.

The other thing that I might do is take out some of the cocoa and substitute melted cooking chocolate. We'll see. Anyway, the good thing about it is that it is impossible to eat a lot of it. One small bit is plenty, as more than that will just kill you. Although I paired it with poached plums tonight, and the sweet plums went very well with the bitter chocolate cake. I think I am on a winner here.

I can guarantee that very few people will ask for seconds.

A book not so bad

Some time ago, I ended up with a copy of a book by Jack Welch. I have no idea how I got it. I don't remember buying it, and there is no price sticker on it to give me some clue which bookshop it came from.

Around the time I got it, his reputation was being shredded over an affair or something. I can't remember. What I do remember is reading the first 10 pages, then sticking it back on the shelf and thinking that it was a book best avoided.

For some reason, I picked it up again this week. I didn't make the mistake of reading the first chapter, which is always about the small town in which they grew up, and the influence of mum and dad and the local baseball coach etc, and nothing about their business career. I picked up when he was at uni, and from that point, found it to be a good read. Not a ripping yarn, but a good read.

With Welch no longer in charge, GE doesn't get the same press and rave reviews that it used to get. It even seems to have disappeared from the radar of "great companies we should emulate". How the mighty have fallen.

I have only met one person in my business career that worked for GE. He was my boss for a few short months, until he saw the light and moved on to another company. I only spoke to him twice, but they were both good one on one interviews, and I liked the guy. Pity he didn't stick around, but I guess he found himself in a situation that he couldn't change or fix, so he split.

Funnily enough, so did the 5 or 6 managers that came after and before him.

Anyway, I was hoping he would stick around as I wanted to see if some of the "GE way" was going to rub off on us. I thought I could pick up some good pointers from him.

Then I read about the A-B-C rating system in Jack's book, and wondered if he left because he was a "C"?

If you want to know what I am talking about, read the book. It's not that bad - really.

A job well done

Some years ago, I had the pleasure of spending a week in the snow with an Army officer who was managing a project to up-armour the LAV's. I think they were also adding the remote weapon stations as well (the things that let you shoot without sticking your head up), plus some other stuff.

Given the lack of serious injuries after one got blown up this week, I would have to say; "Job well done, Tim".

It would be nice to be sitting there in your couch, watching the news and seeing footage of a smoking LAV and knowing that everyone got out alive and with all their arms and legs and thinking "I did that" (not blowing it up - stopping the guys inside from being blown up).

That would be job satisfaction.

A completely horrible tale

This article is about Jessica Lynch and her ill-fated convoy. I cringed as I read it. The stupidity of her commander, the dirty weapons that didn't fire, the implied lack of convoy discipline.... ugh. Unfortunately, the yanks really do seem to have the stupidest troops at times.

I spent a few years driving a truck in the Reserves, and if I had stuck around, I might have ended up doing a tour or two in places like East Timor and the like. There aren't enough Regulars to fill all the spots these days, so reservists are doing more and more of the rear echelon stuff.

Anyway, I blanched as I read the article. When I was a pogo driver, all of us were not that long out of the infantry. We knew all about cleaning our weapons every day, regardless of whether they had been fired or dropped in the dirt or not. It was part of the daily routine - wake up, clean weapon, shave, shit, eat etc etc. The thing was always ready to use.

The yanks grunts always seem to get in the shit thanks to dirty weapons that don't work when they need them. Then again, the M16 is a bastard to keep clean, and it is a "prissy" weapon - it doesn't take much dirt to stop it working. I liked the old SLR - it was quite robust and it took a lot of dirt and muck to cause a stoppage. I don't know what the Steyrs are like, as I got out just before they reached the Reserves, but I do know that the Australian military is red hot when it comes to cleaning weapons. It is just absolutely ingrained. I would sooner stop brushing my teeth than cleaning my weapons.

The other horrible thing was the lack of convoy discipline. For starters, driving at night with the lights on. I couldn't believe that. Then the fact that Jessica Lynch was captured because her humvee ran into the back of a semi trailer and the crash killed or badly injured everyone in the humvee.

For crying out loud! When we were doing convoys, it was standard to have 100m separation outside of built up areas, and 50m separation when in built up areas. You never got closer than that, except for when the convoy had to stop at a red light etc. There was no way one vehicle should ever have cause to run into the back of another, as there should be sufficient separation to stop. The other reason for being separated is that if you did drive into an ambush, the convoy would be spread out enough so that one or two vehicles might get caught, but the rest would be far enough away to be out of the killing zone, and thus able to conduct an anti-ambush drill.

In short, the whole thing sounds like a complete fuck-up from start to finish. The company commander should be taken out and shot.

Goons in cars

We had our first bingle in the Disco last week - J was dropping a friend off after a girls night out at the movies when an idiot did a U turn across a double white line and smacked into the back of the Disco.

As far as damage points go, it was Disco - 3, Subaru Outback - 100. We ended up with a cracked rear bumper (it's made of plastic that is designed to deform), two bits of broken tail light and a bent exhaust pipe. Although I gave the exhaust a poke with my foot the following morning (it was poking out the side of the car rather than the back) and the back two feet of exhaust pipe and can broke off and landed on the road.

The Outback had a very bashed in front end. It's times like these that I am glad I have a tow ball, but curse the fact that it does not stick out even further than it does. I wish it stuck out enough to not only impale the idiots radiator on the ball, but the engine block as well.

The reason I say this is that the cretin appears to have been at the pub with his girlfriend (prang took place right outside a pub, and both were dressed up for a night out), and he did a burnout as he took off and did his U turn (or as much of a burnout as you can do in an Outback). After smashing into the back of J, he got out and immediately started aggressively mouthing off, and then proceeded to kick the crap out of his car. Luckily for him, his girlfriend had more sense, calmed him down, got rid of him and took control.

Now comes the big moral question - to call the police, or not call the police. If you suspect booze or drugs are a factor, you're supposed to call the cops. However, if he blows in the bag and is over the limit, he has no insurance, and chances are, won't be able to pay for the damage to our car.

On the other hand, it would be nice to see him led away in handcuffs, and be stuck with a huge bill for fixing his car.

In the end, details were exchanged but the police were not called, mainly because they were not obviously pissed. They didn't smell of booze. And I wasn't there, so I can't tell what they had been doing.

The annoying thing is that the pitiful amount of damage will probably cost well over a grand to fix, even though the paintwork is not scratched or dented in the slightest. If the damage consisted of a few bits of broken plastic, I'd fix it myself and send him the invoice.

I still have this nagging thought though in the back of my mind that we should have called the cops and taught him a big, nasty lesson. Having a few beers and then showing off in front of your girl in the car is a really dumb thing to do. Idiots like that have a bad habit of wrapping their cars around trees or power poles, killing their passengers yet walking away unscratched.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

A new PC might be on the way

It's time to get a new PC at home. The current one is a work provided one, and it is now getting on 3 years old. How old is it? It's so old, I am still using a CRT monitor rather than a flat screen. How old fashioned is that?

It seems only yesterday that we were arguing at work about when to make the changeover to flat screens. At the time, it was a decision fraught with argument. Now there is no argument - the CRT monitor is dead. I want to dance on its grave. In my youth, I had to lug 17 inch and 19 inch monitors around from desk to desk. That was in the day when a 14 inch monitor was big. 19 inches was enormous - and they weighed a tonne. I think the only reason I got the job is that I did a lot of weights back then, and I was the only one in the office that could carry a 19 inch monitor on their own. I had one at home once, and I had to carry it up 4 flights of stairs. When I moved, I made sure the removalists carried it out. Never again.

Anyway, I am trying to buy a new PC from Dell. In the past, I have been very much a Compaq/HP type person, but I am branching out and giving Dell a go - mainly because I like how easy it is to buy a PC through their website. HP are sticking with the sales channel model, and it shits me no end. I have bought thousands of PC's from HP, and I like them - I like them a lot. But when I want one at home, I want the purchase to be as simple as buying a CD online. Dell does that. The rest are all stuck in the 1990's somewhere.

A mate tried to interest me in buying one from a local shop - one where the proprietor or a Uni student bolts it together for you at 3am on the day before delivery. I could have saved a few bucks, and I could have had a few more options, but to me, a PC is a PC, and it doesn't need to be that complicated. It will get tossed in 3 years time, so there is no sense in making a big song and dance about it. Just buy the damned thing and get on with it.

I can't tell you how fast it is, because I didn't pay attention to the processor speed thingy. Anything made in the last few years is fast. Hell, my three year old PC that I am using now is plenty fast enough for everything that I want to do, so the extra speed is something that I don't care about. It's like you can only do 110km/h on the open road in NSW, so why buy a car that will go 250km/h? It might be of use if I start playing the latest generation of games, but most of them don't interest me. I am happy with an old version of Red Alert. It's enough for me (old fart that I am).

I have put 2GB of RAM into it, which will seem like nothing 12 months from now. Still, it is 2.5 times more than my current home PC, and it rarely runs out of memory. I have 1.5GB in the PC at work, and I run more apps on it that I have fingers and toes, and I never run out of memory, so 2GB should be enough....

....unless Vista eats it all. I have no experience of Vista. One bloke in the office was playing with it, but I haven't been excited by an operating system since NT 3.51, and that was a long time ago.

The only thing that I am looking forward to is the monitor. I am getting a 20 inch high definition thingy. I will probably have to buy a new desk. The video card is supposed to be capable of handling two monitors, so if I get really silly, I will buy another one. I am used to using 2 x 19 inch flat screens next to each other at work, so I will probably want to buy a second monitor soon. I just like to compartmentalise what I am doing onto two screens. I would rather have two medium sized screens than one enormous one.

It also has a DVD player, but you know what? I have never burnt a DVD. Ever. People at work spend all day burning them, but I can't be shagged. So they have 500 pirate movies burnt onto DVD - so what? There are very few movies that I want to watch again and again - the only time I have ever bought a DVD is in Bali, and even then I was hard pressed to find 5 that I wanted to buy. They are a one shot thing for me in the main. Anyway, with a 20 inch monitor on the PC, I can use it as a second TV if I want to.

Put it this way - the bloody thing is really just a glorified toaster for running Firefox. I have tried to buy the cheapest machine with the biggest screen, and that is it really.

Now if Dell can't deliver it, Angela is going to be in trouble next time she comes to dinner.......

A cafe that makes you fart all afternoon

Had lunch at a local cafe today. I have eaten breakfast there before, and been totally unimpressed. However, we decided to give it a go for lunch.

Both of us had pasta of some sort - J had gnocci and I had a penne bosciola (I can't spell it - it had cream and bacon in it).

The plates that came out were enormous - I didn't realise how much food they had put on the table until after I had eaten it, and at that point, I worked out that I had eaten way too much food. Walking home was quite painful - and then the farting began.

It was an afternoon of tooting from one end to the other. It was worse than baked beans. It was just terrible.

I am never eating food in Five Dock again. To hell with the atmosphere - we're driving to Balmain. I think we put out more gas after that meal than a car trip to Balmain would produce.

A good video about cycling

This is 24 minutes long, and it is a presentation by the CEO of Trek (who made my bike).

I like it because it is not some long haired gumby in a hair shirt running around with his nuts on fire yelling about how all cars must be destroyed and the capitalist system laid waste and that we must all convert to using single sheets of recycled toilet paper.

It is a guy in a suit (well, a tie) at a large industry conference in Taiwan, and he is talking sensible facts and figures about what can be done. The bit about obesity at the start is horrifying, so if you only have 5 minutes to spare, just watch the first 5 minutes and the fat stats.

I liked his line that "No amount of money in the world will solve these problems", which referred to obesity and traffic congestion. No drug or pill will solve obesity. Physical activity really is the only option. That's what he meant about money - you can't just buy your way out of being fat - you need to invest a considerable amount of personal effort.

People aren't going to like that.

The same goes for congestion - you can't build enough roads to cater for the demand for traffic movements, although 50% of them are trips of less than 2 miles. I can believe that - before we moved, we used to drive to the supermarket several times a week, and it was only about a kilometer away (but I am not pushing a shopping trolley that distance). Similarly, the distance to school was only 2 or 3 kms, but the drive was made twice a day, every day. And it still is. Because we are not living in a cycle friendly world. I'm happy to risk my own skin, because I am reasonably old and wise and experienced and I keep my ears and eyes open, but kids don't do that. You can't chuck them out into the car friendly world that we inhabit today. It is unfortunately a place for grown ups.

And of course too many kids will be totally fat by the time they are old enough to be trusted on the roads, and they won't want to ride then because it will be uncomfortable and difficult, so they'll take the easy option and get fatter.

How glad I am to be at the tail end of the last generation of thin people.

Shopping trolleys

Some twat is leaving their empty shopping trolley outside our house each night. I've walked a couple back to the supermarket this week - ones that the shop trolley patrol has failed to collect.

I now go running outside every time I hear a trolley going past. I am going to catch this bastard.

Paranoid I am not.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Fluttering bum

I had the most unusual quivering sensation in my right buttock last week - a small muscle would spasm at odd times - it just felt off.

It's funny the things that happen when you go through the 100 mile mark.

That also tots up 8750 km in total for this bike. Looking at my guts, you wouldn't know it.

Wet wet wet

I checked the forecast this morning the old fashioned way - I wandered out into the backyard in a pair of shorts and barefoot and decided that it was cool enough to required the wearing of a thermal shirt under my normal fluro cycling top.

Just as well.

I hate wearing the thermo thing as I am usually too hot after about 10 minutes on the bike, and I can never be bothered to stop to take it off. It's fine for the first few streets, but once the legs have been going around and around for a bit, and the blood has started moving, all it does is produce more sweat.

It is a necessary evil. I usually don't need it in the afternoons as it is warm enough on the ride home, so I just stuff into one of the stretchy pockets on the back of my shirt.

As I was leaving our dungeon today (no view of the outside world), I bumped into a bloke coming who was soaked from top to bottom. He made some comment about it pissing down. I decided it would be a good idea to take the thermal thing out of my pocket and put it on.

And a good thing it was too. Our office empties out into a laneway between two fairly tall buildings, so it is sheltered from the wind, but the rain still comes down. And it was pouring down - the laneway has not been resurfaced since Curtin was around, so the pot holes looked like swimming pools and the lane was absolutely awash from kerb to kerb. Some women were trying to cross the lane without getting their feet wet, and it was a total waste of time. Imagine trying to walk across a swimming pool without getting wet.

It was raining so hard, my teeth were chattering within a few minutes. The problem with the location of the office is that my first few minutes of the ride home are spent in traffic with no option to duck and weave and get anywhere. I just have to suck it up. That meant standing at red traffic lights, waiting for them to change, whilst the rain just bucketed down. There are times when cycling is not for wimps, and that was one of them. I could feel the rain running down my arms and dribbling off my wrists in streams.

It didn't take long to warm up, but warming up means steam. By the time I got to Lilyfield road, the rain had stopped and I had started steaming, which meant my glasses fogged up and I couldn't see a thing. I had to take them off and just put up with rain in the eyes.

Taking the glasses off was wierd, as the nature of the lens makes it look like I am riding at a lower position than I actually am, so I almost got vertigo when I took them off - I felt like I was suddenly riding a penny-farthing. Wierd.

One of the worst things about riding on a day like today is the shoe squelch. If you go through a reasonably deep puddle at speed (deeper than a few inches), water just jets out from the front wheel and hits you around the ankle of your forward foot. That water collects in the sock, and it all runs down into the shoe. At that point, the only option is to ride through another deep puddle with the other foot forward, as one squelchy shoe feels really off.

The only odd thing about such a ride is how filthy I get - all sorts of muck runs off the road in the rain, and I end up with sand and mud splashed up my calves almost to my knees. The bike looks like I have been doing some serious off road mountain biking - the only time it needs a wash paradoxically is after a heavy rain.

Thankfully it was still around 20 degrees when I left work, with an apparent air temp of around 17. It would be miserable to have to do that in winter when the temp is around 15. Ugh. Must remember to buy spray jacket.

Also must remember to search the wardrobe for the leggings. I know that they are the gayest thing, but better to be thought a fag than to freeze like an idiot.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Why are school so dumb?

We live near a school, which is pretty handy as it has nice playgrounds that the little monkey can play in after hours.

In my day, schools weren't generally surrounded by eight foot high fences. Ours had a bit of hedge around some of it, what looked like a five strand farm fence (the type that keeps in sheep) around other bits and none at all in places. We all knew where the boundary was, and we didn't cross it.

I'm talking about a primary school being the type that is nearby - how kids that are about 3 foot high are expected to climb over a normal fence is beyond me, let alone one that is so high, I couldn't get over it with a ladder. Do we need fences this high to keep the little tackers in? Is school that bad these days? Looking at the fencing reminds me of The Great Escape.

Anyway, I noticed today that some of the gates have a wheelchair symbol painted on the ground in front of the gate. That's probably because the gate is on a level patch - no steps inside or out. However, what got me is that the gate has one of those pool fence latching mechanisms on it where you need to be at least 5 feet tall in order to lift the latch and get out. It's obviously been installed to keep the short arsed little primary school kids from escaping.

How on earth is someone in a wheelchair supposed to open the latch? There is no way that someone in a wheelchair could reach that high. It is so high up, I almost need to stand on a wheelchair to open it, and I am just shy of six foot. So is the person in the wheelchair supposed to get up and stand on the seat and..... oh, slight logic problem here.

Schools - they aren't getting any smarter.

My legs ache

It's been a long week in the saddle - 180km in five days. Compared to someone like Stuart O'Grady, that's a walk in the park. I read about some race the other day in France that was about 260km in length, and the winner romped home in about 6.5 hours.

It took me the better part of 8 hours over 5 days to do 180km, and I need 3 days off to recover.

Still, it's nice to be able to get up to that kind of number. I managed to do 200 before the crash without falling to bits, but 180 at the moment is really a bit over the limit of what the body will handle. My neck starts to hurt at that distance, and I need to start popping anti-inflamatory pills to survive.

Doing 180 in a week from our current location is also a stretch as it means taking the long way home every night. I am constrained by geography. The leg into work is a short one, so I have to make up distance on the way home. I could do more per day by simply stretching my morning leg, but there is no easy way to just add a few kms to the route - I would be adding 10 or nothing.

Now I figure I could do the long route in a few times, but then I would probably fall apart and need to catch the bus to work for a week. Unless I get one of those stationary trainer things, there is no easy way for me to just add a few kms and build up slowly. It is all or nothing.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Crash landing

Since I didn't get a photo of the crash the other day, the next best thing is a photo of the site. Here we are looking downhill towards the first roundabout behind Darling Harbour. It's a nice little hill - I get enough of a boost by just rolling down it to be doing about 40km/h as I go around it most mornings. However, it is a nasty roundabout, as it has a bike lane thingy at the exit, and if a vehicle is going to fast, it will clip the small island. It is one of those stupid things where the exit is tighter than the entrance, so drivers can easily be fooled and enter too quickly (like the truck did).

The second photo is a nice blury closeup of the island at the exit - the small dark car is going around it. I had a look at the island as I rode past, and sure enough, there were some rubber skid marks across it and a bit of gouging in the concrete. The truck had gone right across the middle of it - the marks are about where the back left hand wheel of the dark car is.

Silly sod.

Even cops can be silly sods, as this photo can atest to. It's a cop car on the Hume that has been rear ended by a semi. (I didn't take this photo).

Names that are not what they seem.

The name on the side of this ship is "Eukor", but the first time I saw it, the first letter was partly obscured by a tree and I was sure it said "Fukor".

As in, "Hey, that's on fukor of a ship".

Undies must pay well

I presume this belongs to the owner of the "Aussie Bum" underwear company.

A nice, shiny black Range Rover.

You'd have to sell a lot of undies to pay for that.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Wanker numberplates

Unfortunately, the Chasers are way ahead of me in this regard.

Must get myself a uniform of some sort and a notebook. Can't do anything without the notebook.

A well armed militia

This crap was published in the SMH Radar site today:

"But while the Second Amendment exists, and can be used to strike down laws such as Washington's (which were ruled unconstitutional by a DC court last month), it's unlikely we'll see any change in the gun control regime. It's an anachronistic law, dating from a time when well-armed militias were useful in warfare – whereas in an era of high-tech weaponry and nuclear missiles, the national self-defence argument seems to hold no water. Rednecks often argue that their guns are a means of warding off government tyranny – but again, it's hard to imagine what hicks with pop-shooters could do against tanks."

Some other commenter beat me to the punch, but it seems pretty clear to me that a well armed militia in Iraq is giving us the run around. A well armed population is a bastard to control. The Soviets tried using bombing, mining and brutal reprisals in Afghanistan, and they gave up after a decade. The Yanks and Poms are using a much more sophisticated approach, but even they are not finding it easy in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

I find it interesting that the same mob that want us out of Iraq also want gun control, and they use arguments that don't add up to support their desires.

In Iraq for instance, they claim we are losing and should pull out. If we are losing, who are we losing against? A well armed militia. In other words, a well armed population can be a check on "tyranny", if being occupied by a benign mob like the US is your idea of tyranny.

When it comes to gun control, they argue that militias are a thing of the past and should be abolished, and that guns are no check on tyranny.

Well, you can't have it both fucking ways!

Personally, I don't like the idea of my neighbours being armed to the teeth, and I don't see a need for a rifle or pistol in the house in our quiet suburban streets. But if things did start to turn to crap, I'd like to have the option of getting some without too much drama.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

A flipping bad day to not take the camera

I checked the forecast this morning - it predicted showers this afternoon, so I didn't bother to take the camera with me. If it's wet, it involves putting it in a plastic bag, and I just hate carrying around two plastic bags in my shirt pockets (my wallet and phone are in the other one).

So I get to Darling Harbour, and what do I hear? Sirens. As I approach a T-junction, an ambulance zips past the street in front of me. A minute later, I am heading down the hill towards the first roundabout behind the Darling Harbour convention centre, and I find the road blocked by two ambulances, several police cars and a big red fire engine (possibly the same one that tried to run me over last year at the very next roundabout up the road). There was even a policeman's bicycle - never seen a bike mounted cop at a crash before.

I thought I was going to have to do a U-turn and get into town via a route that I just hate, but a cop was waving the cars in front of me through, so I followed them through the roundabout.

Of course the cop had not seen me, so he waved the car in front through, turned his back and lo and behold, one of the ambulances took that as a signal to come forward and almost bowl me over. I exchanged a funny look with the driver - me shrugging and pointing at the dopey cop with my shoulder, and the driver looking back with a "we almost picked up a case". I think they only needed one ambulance for the crash, so that one was spare, and it was being sent home. It would have been ironic if I ended up in the back of it.

Anyway, all the fuss and bother was over a small truck lying on its side just past the roundabout. The best description that I can think of is that it looked like a fish delivery truck - maybe 2 or 3 tonnes capacity, and a box on the back big enough to stand in with double doors. I presume he had taken the roundabout too quickly, hit the bike lane kerbing on the far side and gone over onto the passenger side. If there was anyone lying under the truck, they were a goner. Flat as a pancake.

I dislike that roundabout intensely as although it has a bike lane going around the city side of it, most cars ignore the line markings and barge into the bike lane as they negotiate the roundabout. A fast way to the hospital is to be next to a car as you enter the roundabout - the bastards never stay in their lane, and they are much bigger and heavier than me, so I always give them a wide berth. That means getting into the car lane as I go down the hill, and going around the roundabout like a car. Some drivers really get the shits when I do that (how dare a bike get in front of me), but the funny thing is that I can rip through the roundabout much faster than a car (as I can take a very straight line), so I actually never hold any cars up. If anything, they hold me up when I find myself stuck behind one. I have almost eaten a few bumperbars going into that roundabout.

Anyway, stupid truck driver obviously thought he was in an F1 car rather than a top heavy truck, and he is probably now rather banged up. Having a truck go over onto its side whilst you are inside would not be pleasant or painless.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Dribble by idiots

Before I gave up reading the paper yesterday, I did spot a side article about the school shooting in the US that raved on about an attempt to ban .50 cal rifles in some state or the other. The article stated that they can kill people from a mile away and bring down aircraft.

What a pile of steaming crap.

If the author of that idiotic article bothered to read "Jarhead", he could learn all he ever wanted to know about the use of the .50 cal Barret sniper rifle. For starters, even highly trained Marine snipers, who fired thousands of rounds through it in training, were only getting good aimed shots at 800 metres. OK, that is still a long way away, but it is only half a mile, not a mile. Plus, they needed really good optics (sights) to see that far away, and needed to know how to read the wind conditions, humidity, temperature and all the other factors that affect the trajectory of the .50 cal round. Plus they were using match grade ammunition.

If I picked up a Barret tomorrow, I would be lucky to hit much at 500 metres - even with a scope that could pick out a golf ball on the moon. It would take a lot of practice, including getting the breathing right, the feel for the trigger pull and all of that before I could hit a Hilux at 800 metres, let alone a person.

Yes, I could probably hit someone at a mile - if they were sitting in a sports stadium surrounded by about 50,000 other people - you just aim in the general direction and you'd be pretty sure to hit something.

As for bringing down a plane - yes, if you hit it in a vital spot, like the engine, or the pilot, or a fuel tank (if it didn't have self sealing tanks). A shot through say the rudder won't do much, expect make a hole half an inch in diameter. That won't bring down a plane. And riflemen on the ground generally don't have much luck shooting down planes, especially with single shot rifles, or a semi-auto rifle with a 5 round mag. Especially one that weighs a tonne and would be no fun to wave around in the air. The only way one of these would bring down a plane is if the gunman was sitting in the plane and fired a few rounds into the engine (and I am talking about a Cessna here, not an airliner).

Journalists should just not attempt to write about anything to do with things that go bang. They don't have a clue.

Why do we pay good money for newspapers again?


We've had two bottles of 8 year old white wine lurking in the cupboard for a while, so we finally bit the bullet, put them in the fridge and gave them a taste.

Ugh. Complete goats piss. Check out the colour of the Wise wine on the left - it's almost turned into a Rose. I wouldn't feed it to a wino, unless the wino was sleeping in our laneway and needed to be disposed of as quickly and expeditiously as possible.

The other wine was almost as bad.

Bugger, we should have kept them. Some bogans were littering in the laneway last night, and I bet if we left a bottle of grog out, they'd take it and drink it. Too late - it's all gone down the sink.

Poor drains. I pity them.


I cross this canal several times a week on the way home, and I am always cursing myself for not taking a photo from the bridge. At times, when the sun is low on the horizon, it reflects quite incredibly off the water. However, once I am across the bridge, I have this thing about not going back to take a photo. I always want to be moving forwards, which means that I miss good photo ops on a daily basis.

The ride around this area is pretty good - it's dead flat, the dogs are few, the path is fairly free of bumps and root intrusions and it meanders nicely through the trees and past tennis courts and a doggie cafe. The trees generally cut down on the wind, so that the air is fairly still and fresh.

The only problem with the canal is that all the bogans up the road dump their rubbish anywhere, and it all washes into this canal whenever there is some decent rain. And you can't houseboat on it, given that it is barely deep enough to drown a poodle. Still, it serves to keep the dogs on their side of the park and the bikes on the other side. Dogs and bikes do not go together.

How people forget

When I first arrived in Sydney many years ago, the controversy of the day was over the construction of the monorail around Darling Harbour and the city. A dozen years later, it is still standing (despite continued futile calls to pull it down) and people wander around obliviously underneath it. It's funny how quickly people adapt to changes in their environment.

I just wish the blathering hordes would shut the hell up whenever someone wants to pull down a building and put up something new. Yes, the old thing might have been there since they were a kid, but that is no reason to leave it standing if it isn't performing any useful function, apart from attracting graffiti and shedding broken glass into the surrounding overgrown grass.

Personally, I think bulldozers are an underutilised part of city planning. If we razed things to the ground first, we could plan with a clean sheet of paper, rather than trying to build around some old piece of crap that only three teacosy wearing nutbags in a VW care about.

The only thing that I don't like about the monorail is the way it sheds water when it rains. Gallons of water collect on top of the big, wide rail, and when the train goes past, it slushes all the water off onto anyone silly enough to be sheltering underneath. It only happens to you once. In fact, I reckon that is a pretty good feature, since it generally only gets stupid tourists, and tourists always need memories of the places that they have been - good and bad. "Hey honey, remember when we got utterly saturated by that stupid people moving contraption in Melbourne?'

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

I can't bear to watch the news for a few days

Another school shooting - 33 dead this time. I got the headline, and then turned off the TV. I won't read the paper for a few days - I just can't bear all the sanctimonious drivel that the mainstream press brings out at times like these. The sermonising, the stupid analysis, the hunt for meaningless experts, the "how could they let this happen", blah blah blah.

Shootings like this are like fires in that great movie "Switching Channels". Fires are great for ratings, as are shootings.

They can go to hell. They're not getting my eyeballs for a few days.


Got passed by a loud Lancer this afternoon with the license plate of "WLD 7OY", or "wild toy".

It was anything but wild. It was a bog standard Lancer with an exhaust can the size of a kitchen bin lid.

I really wanted to pull up alongside him and spread my thumb and forefinger about an inch wide and say, "This big mate, it's this big".

Second tool of the evening was spotted in Drummoyne, when a young lady P Plater blasted through a stop sign next to me and proceeded to tail gate the car in front all the way up the street. The street had a speed hump about every 50 yards, and she religiously tailgated all the way up the street over every speed hump. All the guy in front had to do was slow down a bit more than usual for a speed hump and she would have been right up his bum.

Funnily enough, this was going uphill, and I was trundling up in low gear, taking it easy, and I still got to the top of the hill just after she did. Again, I felt like telling her that tailgating was not a good idea, especially considering that the side of her very new silver Peugot was a mass of scratches - clearly she had rubbed up against something fairly solid in the recent past. But she looked like the kind of idiot driver that would run me over if I tried to give her some advice, so I steered clear and thankfully she drove off in the opposite direction. Some people are just idiots.

I need a helmet cam to capture a few of them.

Price differentials

I was back at the Flemington Markets last weekend for a spot of dinner party shopping. We can actually afford to feed 8 people on Saturday nights if we shop at the markets and lay of the caviar.

I found myself being intensly annoyed by the capsicums. At present, they cost nearly $10 a kilo in our local supermarket, and they have been that price for months.

At the markets, they are $2.50 - max. Sure, the ones at the markets are smaller, and are not a uniform red, but who gives a damn when you are going to roast them and skin them and serve them as a puree in home made ravioli? Supermarkets shit me with their obessions with the look of food, when most of it is going to be chopped up and cooked and will bear no resemblance to its raw state when served at the dinner table. There are a few exceptions - I like apples to be unbruised, but I don't really care what size they are. They don't all have to be exactly uniform in size and colour. They just have to be tasty and crunchy.

Anyway, we got to eat capsicum on the weekend thanks to the markets. For some people, that might not be a good thing, but I wish supermarkets would offer a broader range of stuff. Why can't they have uniform, A grade stuff at $10 a kilo next to undersized stuff at $2.50 a kilo?

Probably because there is more margin in the $10 stuff, and most people would probably go for the cheaper, lower margin offering.

Given that most people are too lazy to shop at the markets for their fruit and veg, I will buy supermarket shares and continue to shop at Flemington on Saturday.

It's getting cold

It's that time of the year again - I have swapped over from my summer fingerless gloves to my winter ones that keep my little pinkies nice and warm.

The real reason for the change is that after I got back from a trip, I couldn't find both my fingerless gloves. I left them on the BBQ to dry out, and I figure a cat must have liked the smell of them and taken off with one. I normally wash them once a week in summer, which is about six days longer between washes than they should really get. After a week, they are manky enough to pull every horny tomcat in the suburb.

But it's probably about time to change over anyway. I am not the usual sweaty mess when I arrive at home or work, so it must be cooling off. In a few weeks, it will be time to pull on the leggings and drag out the thermal undershirt. I haven't seen any of my fellow cyclists in leggings yet, which must be a sign. Plus, it is after 11pm, and I am still pretty hot - almost sweating. Clearly, the thermometer has someway to go before cold weather clothing is required.

One thing that is bugging me though is the sun, pictured above at around 5pm. I normally ride with the brown lenses in my sunglasses, but when it starts to get a bit dark, I have to stop and switch to the halflight orange lenses, and then the clear ones for night riding. Why not just take the glasses off altogether? Well, because they have corrective lenses in them, and I have a bad habit of riding into swarms of insects or flobs of falling tree nuts when I am not wearing glasses, and copping a big dragonfly in the face at 30km is no picnic. Getting it in the eyeball would be like being poked severely with a big winged insect.

So I find that I have to split the office at the moment by 4.30pm at the latest if I am to make it home without having to change lenses. That time is going to drag back further as the days shorten and twilight descends faster. I will have to find both of my blasted clear lenses - I have lost one of them, and don't fancy riding home with one clear lens in and one orange one. Might be a bit of an odd look.

One thing that hasn't changed though is that I still need to wash my riding clothes after each day. Even in the depths of winter when one is shivering with the cold, the blasted lycra still needs a scrub to get the stench out. Some couriers look like they never wash their kit - they look dirty and manky and just plain yuk. Never put your logo on a courier - it would be like sticking it on a dog turd.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Where is all this crap coming from?

Each morning, I wheel my bike out the gate and find that our laneway is once again awash with litter. It is not the sort of stuff that has been blown out of a rubbish bin that has been carelessly closed - it is the sort of stuff that has been deliberately discarded by someone walking by.

Except that I never seen anyone walking down the laneway. It hasn't been windy enough to blow it in, so where is it coming from?

I do a walk up and down the lane every few days and pick up what I can, but the next day, a fresh load has been deposited. I can't do a pickup whilst I have my bike shoes on, as they are too uncomfortable for walking around in. I also don't like to do it without wearing gloves, as some little shits have the nasty habit of breaking beer bottles on the verge, and I don't like the thought of a glass cut.

My brother has the right idea, building a great big tower in the middle of his house. We should all have them. I'd equip mine with an infrared spotlight and a paintball gun and have lots of fun when the drunks stagger home from the pub, dropping chip packets and beer bottles as they go.

A tale of two dinners

We have hosted two dinner parties within the last two weeks on opposite sides of the continent. Both were much fun and quite succesful, but the west coast one wrapped up at about 10.30pm, whilst the east coast one was still barelling along at 1am and we had to boot everyone out.

J was in a bit of a state before the last dinner party as we had two chefs coming to dinner, and she always worries about cooking for chefs. She needn't have worried - both of them scoffed down the food with no complaint.

Nat, who is a pastry chef at a flash hotel, was nice enough to make up a box of chocolates for the dinner. When I say, make up a box, he not only handrolled 24 delicious little chocolates, he also made the box out of sheets of chocolate. It was something to behold (and eat). I say bugger your worries - always invite a chef over for a feed.

Nat did the right thing and made up a range of chocolates to suit all tastes, which included some milk chocolates. Now I usually hate milk chocolate, but I thought "what the heck" and tried one of his.

It was awful. I simply can't stomach the stuff. Nat said that my face was something to behold as I bit into it. I assume he is used to people that only really like dark chocolate and can't stand the milky stuff, and had seen it all before.

The rest of the chocolates were all of a dark variety, and were fantastic. We have two top class chocolatiers within walking distance of home, and I have bought stuff from them occasionally. Nat should quit his day job and open a chocolate shop, for his stuff was much better. The reason? Most makes of handmade chocolates put too much flavouring into them - if they make a mint chocolate, they stuff the little chocky full of mint and it is absolutely overpowering. All taste of the chocolate is lost. It doesn't matter what flavouring they are using - they are too heavy handed. Nat's on the other hand were quite subtle, and the chocolate was allowed to dominate.

I am now trying to organise dinner parties for every weekend for the rest of the year.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Slinky socks

I wouldn't normally write about socks, but I got two pairs of cycling socks for my birthday.

Cycling socks you ask? What makes them different to normal socks?

Well, two things mainly. They are very thin, and very expensive. I own about 8 pairs of white "tennis" socks, and altogether, they cost less than one pair of these Pearl Izumo flasho things.

I gave them a go this week, and quickly discovered that you have to pull them on exactly straight over your foot - the toe box has to be precisely aligned across your toes. They can't be twisted to one side or the other. I've never had socks like that before, but it's because they are quite stiff as well.

The reason I wanted them is that my feet swell up in my cycling shoes after about 20km and I lose all feeling in my little toes as the blood flow is restricted. Having thinner, slippery socks might prevent that from happening, as the foot will be able to move around a bit more.

I have not really been able to put this to the test yet, as I don't have a good, long ride on the cards. When you ride to and from work each day, and clock up 140 - 150 km in a week, the last thing you want to do on the weekend is go out and ride some more.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Knobheads in fast cars

Yesterday delivered to me an all time classic knobhead. I had the camera on me, and I am cursing that I did not take it out and get a photo of him.

I had just pulled out of the office and found myself sitting at some lights behind a silver 350Z. The driver had one arm out the window in what looked to be a very uncomfortable, but cool looking pose. Then I noticed two more things - the hand out the window was holding a smoke, and the other hand was holding a phone up against his ear. The lights went green, and somehow he managed to get to the next intersection by juggling the smoke, phone, steering wheel and gears.

Then he flicked his smoke onto the road.

I then had a decision to make - did I pick it up, ride up beside him and drop it in his lap, exclaiming "You dropped something mate", whilst making a sharp right turn to get out of the way of his suddenly weaving car as still burning cigarette attacked his crotch, or just ignore it and hope that he develops lip cancer.

I took the chicken's way out, mainly because if I did chase him and do the cigarette dumping thing, I would have then been trapped at a set of lights that are nasty on a bike. They are lights that are so bad, I ride a block in the wrong direction to avoid them.

So he got away with it.

God I hate tossing wogs in sports cars. I had better go apply for a gun license.

A cure for depression

As I was perusing the Spectator today, I spotted a snippet about how Dr Johnson used to walk to Birmingham and back in a day (32 miles) to ward of depression. I have no idea where he was walking from, but it was a 32 mile round trip. The reasoning given is "that there's time to think, and gradually unfold, while the rhythmic action sorts out the mind, calming nerves and easing pressure."

The same could be said for spending an hour on a bike. Not a stationary bike, but a proper bike - one that thumps along at a rate of knots. I don't find perambulating around at the speed of a slug to be very restful or enjoyable, but belting along at a pace that keeps my heart rate up at about 75% of maximum capacity or more is wonderfully therapeutic.

It doesn't have to be cycling - rowing, swimming, walking or kayaking would do the same. Skiing is even better for clearing the head of all work related rot and pressure. The reason I favour cycling is that it is something that I can do for at least an hour without undue discomfort. I couldn't swim nonstop for an hour.


Here is a close up of the fattest slug that I have found in the kitchen to date. If this thing was sitting on my big toe, it would pretty much cover it completely. I tried sprinkling salt under the front of the dishwasher tonight, and no slugs have appeared. I'll have to pull the dishwasher out tomorrow and check underneath. It will be pretty gross if it is a slug breeding ground.


The tide was out a bit this morning, and boy, did the mud stink as I rode past. I don't normally get to ride around at low tide, so the smell has never bothered me in the past. I don't know what it is that is collecting in that mud, but it is black, yucky and putrid. A good place for developing three headed fish.

The other thing that worries me about riding around here is that if you have to swerve of the path (to avoid a stupid dog or pram), there is no guard rail and a sharp drop into the water. The water of course is generally less than a foot deep, and it vaguely conceals lots of pointy rocks. I always make a point of taking it easy when coming up behind people, and I always try and pass on the right. Going nose first off here would not be fun.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Slug fest

I don't know what it is about the new place, but it is over run by slugs. At first I thought they were coming from this drain by the back door, so I tipped in half a packet of slug pellets and waited for the corpses to pile up.

No such luck. The little blighters kept on coming. There are big ones and little ones and in between ones, and no matter how many I squish each night, there are another half dozen there the night after.

I am trying another tack tonight - I have laid an impenetrable line of salt across the lintel of the back door, so we'll see if any try to get in that way. I think they are sneaking in under the back door, but J is not so sure. She thinks they are coming up through the cracks between the walls and the floor, which is why I am looking at one in the office as I type this.

I think they are coming in the back door as we have a rug inside the door and it is now criss crossed with slug trails. If you look at it in the right light, you can see a plethora of silvery trails all over it - you could drop a 20 cent coin onto the rug and it would land on a slug trail - there are that many of them.

I trod on one the other night - in bare feet. I didn't mind stepping on it, but I hated the fact that it stuck to my big toe and would not shake off. It's an awful feeling, especially if it's a big slug, which it was. I can put up with lots of things, but standing on slugs is not one that I am particularly keen on experiencing again.


Riding to work

Whenever I say, "I cycle to work", people go "Oooh, that must be terribly dangerous and scary".

Well, to put it bluntly, it's not. The greatest hazard that I faced this week was failing to unclip my foot properly as I slowed to a halt and I almost fell over whilst still clipped in.

Most of my ride to work is undertaken on either totally segragated cycle paths, or along cycle lanes that have been painted on the side of roads that are not too busy. I ride over the ANZAC Bridge, but when I state that, most people think that I am riding in one of the four traffic lanes. Suicidal I am not. The ANZAC Bridge has a lovely, wide cycle/foot path down one side, and it's about as wide as a normal car lane.

I have crashed on the bridge - I hit a bit of packing foam as I was doing a sharp turn at the end of the bridge and the front wheel went out from underneath me. The same nearly happened again today when I hit the remains of a rodent that had been squashed onto the road, except that I was not turning quite so sharply, so the bike simply bounced sideways a bit as I went over the red and grey lump of ex-rodent.

There are still a few hazards on this bike path, like the RTA never bothering to replace blown light globes in a spot where it is impenetrably dark at night, and the odd idiot who walks on the wrong side of the path where bikes are prone to hitting 50km/h or faster as they belt down off the bridge. But those hazards are easy to deal with and none too common.

Craning for a look

There seem to be plenty of cranes around the place as new buildings go up, but you never see a crane being erected or dismantled.

Well, today I got my chance. There is a building site just below the ANZAC Bridge, and they have just started putting a crane together. The first step seems to be to lay out all the parts, and to then assemble the boom with a smaller crane. I'll have to see how far they have progressed tomorrow.

Earth hour?

The SMH has got itself into the poop over the Earth Hour fiasco by publishing photos of Sydney at night taken a few days apart, and claiming that they were taken before and after the Earth Hour.

I have decided to chip in with my view of the city at night from my old office window. Unfortunately, my camera will only allow a maximum shutter time of 2 seconds, so all I got was the tail lights of a car going by. This is how Sydney usually looks from the suburbs out where I am - gloomy.

More cars coming in

Those of a greenoid mentality would probably be having kittens after seeing this photo - another car carrier being docked under the ANZAC Bridge. I stopped and watched it come in for a few minutes this morning, thinking it was a view you don't see every day. A ship being worked in by a couple of tugs with the Harbour Bridge in the background.

The state government wants to shut this part of the port down and have all car imports sent somewhere else, which makes sense to me, but it will be a shame if the harbour stops being a working harbour and is left to be overrun by stinkboats and weekend sailors. You need the odd ship coming in every few hours to put the fear of God into the stinkboat drivers. Running a few over every year also makes sense.


I had a late start this morning - jet lag and all that. As I was zipping around the Bay, I spotted a council truck parked in the car park, with one worker reading the Telegraph and the other doing not much at all.

It was around 9am, so for all I know, they were on a break. However, given the state of Council infrastructure on their side of the Bay, there was a little voice in the back of my head going "They're bludging - that's what the Leichardt area is such crap compared to Canada Bay. The staff sit around doing nothing instead of fixing up the pot holes etc".

Then again, if I was going to park and have a smoko, I'd park where they did. The view across the water is pretty good.

I thought about writing to Council about it, but knowing how useless they are, I'd probably never get a reply, so why waste a stamp?

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

A movie I want to see

If only.

Has daylight savings affected the gravity in Perth?

Perth has recently suffered through a bout of daylight saving, which might help to explain why the traffic never moves when the lights turn green. The extra hour of daylight (or whatever it does) must have left most of the population sleep deprived, since most are clearly nodding off when they stop at the traffic lights.

We hired a 5 door Hyundai, which is really a stretched go-cart with a car radio installed. The engine capacity is somewhere around that of a jug of beer, and it couldn't pull the head off you average badly poured beer. Nonetheless, I quickly found that I was the new drag racing king of Perth, even when put up against cars that had more cylinders than I have toes.

The other effect that daylight saving might have had is that it has messed with the gravity, and if you take off too quickly, you might litterally take off (like that drilling rid thing did in "Armageddon"). Drivers have been told to tread lightly on the go pedal in case they find themselves overtaking the space shuttle in low orbit.

It's not like I am a hoon at home. I drive a 2 tonne thing that runs on diesel and is optimised for pulling sheep or tractors out of bogs, not for pulling off from the line in a cloud of shredded rubber. I didn't think I was driving any faster than usual, except when I noticed that after pulling away from one set of lights, I was through the next intersection about 300 metres away before the car beside me or behind me had cleared the intersection I had just left. If they are putting anything in the water, I can guarantee it is not Viagra.

I felt better after I heard a similar complaint from several other people. I am amazed I made it a week without blasting into the back of the car in front at the lights. I just have this thing about having the car in gear before the lights go green, so all you do is pop the clutch and move off. It's not rocket science. But it seems that in Perth, you can't pass your driving test if you leave the car in gear at the lights. In fact, it appears drivers are being taught to pull on the hand brake, turn off the ignition and take a moment to re-apply the lipstick.

If they install any more traffic lights, it will take people so long to get to work that when they get there, it will be time to drive home again.


J and I had the pleasure of being treated to dinner at Perth's finest French restaurant recently, the judge of what is the finest being my brother, who knows a thing or two about these things. Strangely, for a fine frog establishment, it is tucked away in the very non-frog suburb of Wembley. The only less likely place to find an eating hole of this calibre would be if if was located in the middle of a public housing estate.

Once I got over my initial shock of the location, I was pretty happy with the actual restaurant. It is french enough inside without going in for some horrible Louis XIV type decor with lots of gilt, antiques, wigs and severed heads. It is quite contemporary. I don't know if that is by design, or if the owner despaired of finding any french furniture in Perth and just went with what he could get.

Before we went, I read a few online reviews. All of them raved about the place, but one stated that the owner was quite snooty and rude, and another complained about the small serving of duck (even if it was excellent duck). With those warnings imprinted on my eyeballs, we went eating.

The only thing that I can really say about the place is that the menu was downright wierd. Wierd in a good kind of way, but wierd none the less. It had changed since my brother and his wife were there last, so they were swimming without bearings as well. Apparently the menu was originally in french only, and Em had to rely on a friend to translate the menu into English for her before she could order. The only problem being that I can't believe that bucketmouth knows any french at all, and I'm assuming he just made it all up.

Still, that wouldn't matter as you could poke your finger at just about anything on the menu and find that something interesting and tasty had arrived on the plate in front of you. Well, up to a point. I went for a rabbit thing as any entree (it was Easter after all, and by eating an Easter bunny, I was trying to save some poor fat kid from getting even fatter on more Easter eggs) and then the special. I will get to the special in a minute.

The entree was kind of like one of those Indian fried parcels that are shaped in a cone, except that it was not full of curried rat, but instead nicely shredded bits of bunny meat. I have no idea what came with it, except that it was interesting, tasty and nice. I don't know if I would eat it again, but that's mainly because there were plenty of other interesting things on the menu.

The main on the other hand was a bridge too far. It was monkfish (from NZ no less), topped with scallops, but sitting on a bed of roasted pork belly, along with a very rich brown sauce (presumably derived from the pork belly).

Now monkfish (from NZ) is an odd thing to serve in Perth, given that it had to travel 1/4 of the way around the globe to get there. Given that fresh is best when it comes to seafood, they could have had more sense and cooked something that had been flopping around the kelp locally the day before. Monkfish is also an odd kind of fish. It's white, but it doesn't flake like whiting. I wouldn't run across a bed of burning coals to eat it again.

The scallops were very good, but the whole thing was murdered by the pork belly. It was good pork belly, and it would have been fine on its own, but putting the two together reminds me too much of the Mr Creosote restaurant scene in "The Meaning of Life" - just mix it all up in a bucket. I am sure there is a food critic somewhere that will salivate over the combination to the point where their fingers start to slide of the keyboard, but it was not for me. It left me feeling odd afterwards, and my stomach is not easily upset. Big thumbs up for trying, but big thumbs down for the result.

Dessert was also a bit hit and miss. I ordered a poached pear tart, and what I got in essence was a bit of pear jam thinly smeared over a huge, sugary lump of pastry. I wanted a big, fat juicy pear to wash away the taste of the main course. Instead, I got a big, dried lump of pastry, with a bit of melted ice cream on the side.


Em however allowed me to share her cheese platter, which was lovely as all that I had done with my dessert is smash up the pastry and push it around the plate a bit. The cheese platter was so much better than the dull cheddar-and-brie things that pass so often for cheese platters in this country. It had a lovely brie, a pungent rind washed cheese and a good, strong blue. Unfortunately, the last two always give me mammoth cheese dreams if had before dinner, so I had to largely abstain. All that I got to do was try a nibble of each, but the rind washed one was so powerful, I could still taste it at 3am. I drank a bucketful of water that night to try and wash the dry, salty, pungent taste off my tongue. I think that stopped me from having any dreams.

All in all, although it was a bit of a disaster for moi, I would love to go back. The only way to create great dishes is to heroically throw things together and see what results. Most will fail, but some will shine through. This place struck me as one that if it gets it right, it really gets it right, and if it fails, it really blows it. There is no safe, mediocre middle ground. I salute that kind of ethic.

To heroic failures, and hopefully a better feed next time!

Losing my virgatory

Flying Virgin - welcome to purgatory.

We flew cross country on Virgin, and I'll never make that mistake again. Yes, the tickets were cheaper than Qantas, but then goats piss is cheaper than beer and I choose to drink beer.

Where do I start?

The root cause is Virgin's desire to be a particularly hip and youthful airline. That's great if you are a hip 21 year old flying from Sydney to Melbourne for a bit of weekend clubbing, but it's a bit of a drag if you are a family with two kids that just wants to survive a coast to coast holiday. Especially when the rear third of the plane is stuffed with people like you - families with one to three kids in tow, mostly under the age of 5.

Kids over the age of 5 aren't too hard to deal with - give them a colouring-in book and some pencils, or even better, a multi-channel in-flight entertainment system, and they are set. Kids under that age are more of a problem - particularly those under 2. They don't understand the need to be strapped in for takeoff and landing, and they don't want to sit down while the hosties are pushing a trolley full of meals and drinks up and down the aisle. In short, they are a nightmare to fly long distance with.

All that can be remedied though with a bit of thought. We flew back with Qantas, and the flight was a dream. For starters, Qantas used a jumbo, which had more legroom, more seats and more bulkheads against which to stick families up against. It also has a row down the middle of the plane with 4 seats across, which is magic for families with kids. It also had seatback screens in every seat, which made flying the entertainmentless Virgin look very much like catching an old STA bus to Muckinboodin with little more than an old drunk with a guitar and harmonica for diversion.

Qantas also feed you, which helps. Virgin does as well (if you pay more), and after I read the list of ingredients on the thing that I bought, I will not be buying any more. I would prefer to eat 9 quarterpounder meals from McDonalds than face another Virgin "meal".

The biggest problem though was the hosties. In the quest to be young and hip, Virgin have solely recruited young and hip hosties. They look great in ads, and I am sure they look great in nightclubs, but the are completely out of their depth with kids. They just have no idea, mainly because they don't have any. I discovered that only one hostie on our flight was a mum, and she seemed to be trying to keep that a secret from the other staff in case they ganged up on her and got her fired for being a breeder. How old fashioned! Spocking out sprogs! Don't want to fly with her, thanks very much.

The looks of disdain and "why did I get rostered onto this flight" were legion. I'm surprised that none of the kids were rundown by an enraged hostie pushing a large trolley. They just didn't get it - all these mewling, screaming, dribbling, fighting, yelling, vomiting, pooing rugrats. And I bet they signed up thinking they'd be carting Ralph Fiennes around the sky....

Qantas on the other hand, got it. They had a high percentage of old boilers on the flight, plus a good smattering of asian hosties. They seemed to dote on the kids, probably because they all had a few themselves.

Screw you Branson, I'm going Qantas from now on.