Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Silence is golden

Most mornings, I like to read the dead-tree edition of the paper over breakfast. I'm not choosy as to what I read - whatever is available will do. Unfortunately, most mornings, that is the SMH - but anything is better than nothing.

It struck me yesterday that the state government rarely features in the news these days. When Labor was in charge, a day didn't go by without some government announcement near the front of the paper. It was government by press release - they announced a lot of things, but didn't really get much done. I guess that was a hangover from having Bob Carr - a former journalist - running the show. I reckon he came to government with a media-centric view of the world - if it wasn't in the media, then it wasn't happening. You can see the same thing happening now that he is Foreign Minister - he has to be announcing something new every day. He just can't help himself. He might wake up one day and discover that apart from a few foreign affairs tragics, no one really cares.

Frankly, I'm happy to rarely read about what the government is up to. I like government to operate nice and quietly in the background with minimal interference in my life. Kind of like the sewerage system. It does its job with a minimum of fuss and bother. I don't want my toilet telling me every five minutes about a proposed upgrade to the main trunk running down to Balmain. I don't care. Just do you job, and kindly shut up while you're at it.

The federal government is just as bad - they have to be in the news every day. It's relevancy deprivation syndrome gone mad. That's probably another hangover from when Krudd was running things. As he said, "He's here to help". That says a lot about the guy - he believes it is his job, and the job of government, to interfere in how you live your life. He's here to help you do a better job with raising your family, running your business and interacting with your friends - because you are a useless, incompetent, idiotic booby compared to him - who is all wise and all seeing.

I don't view government as being an important part of my life. I don't view government as being particularly effective and efficient. It has a job to do, and I just wish it would do it and be done with it. I'll judge how well it's performing on the results. What are you going to believe - a press release from the Roads Dept proclaiming that our roads are getting better, or a bone jarring, spine rattling trip down the pot holed main road nearby?

I hope that when Abbott gets in, he enforces a ruthless culling of Press and Media Advisors across the public service - getting rid of 90% of them would be a good start. It would be even better if he can cut them all without a single press release being generated.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

German greenery more expensive than Greece

As a result of Germany’s green energy transition, electricity prices are exploding. Consumers and businesses are paying the price while Germany faces gradual de-industrialisation. Economists estimate that the cost of the green energy transition will total 170 billion Euros by 2020. This is more than double of what Germany would have to write off if Greece were to withdraw from the monetary union. “The de-industrialization has already begun,” the EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has warned. 


Man vs state

I pinched this from Samizdata.

It's just a reminder that the state can't give you anything until it has taken something from you.

Weekend rant

Some days, it's lovely. A bit chilly, but lovely. You just need to give it 5 minutes for the blood to start flowing to the fingertips, and after that, it's OK.

Friday was a different story. It was blowing a gale when I left town, and I was knackered before I even started. The whole family has had a cold, and it started to bite me on Friday morning. To top it off, the legs were cramping heading in to town.

Don't ask me which muscles were cramping - it was the back of one leg and the front of the other. That meant I could pull up with one leg and push down with the other. Not the best way to ride.

I really struggled home - it was pretty shocking on the last stretch, battling up hill into a head wind with the beginnings of a fever. I was out like a light before 9pm, utterly spent.

And that's part of the problem with relying on a bicycle for transport - you need to power it. If the power plant is feeling a bit icky, you're going nowhere. There is a good reason why most of us own and drive cars.

Riding a bike does have its consolations though.

The views are pretty smashing.

And it can be very social.

Plus it beats the hell out of the bus. I took a bus into town yesterday to pick up a few things that were too large to carry home on the bike (plus I was well and truly rooted). Going in was fine. Coming back was a disaster.

I was shopping near the office, and I know that I need to leave the office at least 12 minutes before the bus arrives in order to make it in time. I gave myself 15 minutes.

And then I stood around at the bus stop for 20 minutes, waiting for my bus. For some reason, the timetable goes to custard in the afternoon. In the end, I said "sod it" and hopped on a bus that went most of the way home. It meant a 20 minute walk once I jumped off, but I can live with that on a fine day.

Of course as soon as I got off that bus, I spotted the bus that I wanted to be on across the road - it had caught up behind us, and because of where it turns, I had to cross a busy road to catch it. Which I failed to do. That wasn't too bad - due to traffic, I walked alongside it for about half a kilometre as it crawled towards home.

Door to door by bike is 40-45 minutes. I can shave it down to nearly 35 if I take the short route - I always do a few sections I don't actually need to ride in order to give myself more exercise. Yes, I have to change clothes at the end and have a shower, but if you're going to work, you have to do that anyway. You either shower and get on the bus, or get on the bike and have a shower. Unless you are a stinky weirdo. Or English.

Here's how the bus compares:

  • 15 minute walk from office (without lights and idiot dawdling pedestrians, I could do it in less than 6 minutes)
  • 25 minutes on the bus - outside of peak hour. It can be 40-60 during the peak.
  • 6 minute walk home
Time wise, the bus and bike are about the same.

Assuming reliability

If you assume reliability, you've got rocks in your head. The trip home yesterday took me 75 minutes, and that has happened often enough in the past to make me stick to the bike. It's blown out to 90 and even 120 minutes on really bad occasions. I can walk the entire distance in less time than that (assuming comfortable shoes). Even if I get a flat tyre, or two flat tyres, the worst I can expect on the bike is 60 minutes. It gives me freedom and reliability. Plus a bit of exercise. What's not to like about that?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Muscles and ninjas

First off, I'm never going to shave my legs. But if I ever did remove the hairy layer, I hope that underneath, my legs would look like this. Phwoar. 

And Cav - you orta see the legs on the blokes!

My pet hate at the moment - bloody ninjas. I don't care whether they are running or on a bike - anyone that runs along a busy, unlit path in dark clothing is just a complete moron. A cyclist is going to smash straight into one of these idiots one night, and the paper will be full of stories about speeding cyclists. No one will mention the runners in their black hoodies and black trackies with the earphones in and the volume turned up to 11. Or the idiots that fail to keep left, or the groups that fill the entire path from edge to edge.

Speaking of morons, I had to suppress the urge to beat a taxi driver to a pulp tonight. I was coming out of the Rocks (in the bike lane) and I was being annoyed by a lady in a silly little car who was driving rather erratically and slowly. I think she was looking for the Sydney Writers Festival, and had no idea where to stop or park. She was going at that really annoying speed where she was moving slowly enough to hold me up, but fast enough to prevent me from overtaking. I'm really careful around drivers like that - if they look dodgy, I hang back and never put myself into a position where they might suddenly brake or swerve and take me out.

Which is a good thing.

Because a taxi came blatting up behind her at high speed and started flashing his high beams at her. I don't think she noticed, so he then stood on his horn. At that point, she panicked and swerved (without indicating) right across the bike lane directly in front of me. She ended up in the parking lane. If I'd been along side, I would have been toast. Just like that. 

The taxi driver then roared off impatiently.....and sped off to the next red light.

I don't know why these buggers just can't calm down and drive like reasonable people. What's the point of being impatient in peak hour traffic in the Sydney CBD? You're not going anywhere fast - just get used to it. And you certainly won't be moving very quickly if I pull you out of your cab through the window by your ears and then give you a good talking to about your behaviour.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Gumby, gumby, gumby

You ever have one of those days when you get out of bed on the stupid side?

One. I sprayed the lawns for weeds. Afterwards, I thought that the bottle of weed killer wasn't any lighter. I pulled the cap off the bottle, and sure enough, the hose that sucks up deadly chemical poisons was not connected to the cap. I have been watering my weeds for the last month instead of napalming them.

Two. I made a loaf of bread, turned the oven up flat out, let the oven get really hot, put in the loaf and then went to water the weeds for 15 minutes. When I came back, the oven had gone out and the loaf was anything but baked and crispy.

Three. I made a lime tart. This called for some blind baking. This is where I really went stupid. The instructions said to put the pastry in a tin, line the pastry with baking paper and pour rice or baking weights on top. I line the baking tin, put in the pastry and then poured rice all over the pastry. 10 minutes later, I was picking soggy rice out of half cooked pastry.

It was shortly after that point that I decided it would be safer to return to bed.

Catallaxy joins the solar party

The logistics of solar and wind don't add up.

The numbers are truly astounding, regardless of how low solar costs have fallen so far. They simply haven't fallen anywhere near enough to be economic.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

I got a comment over the weekend that suggested I pay Rotto a visit. Been there, done that. Haven't been for over 20 years though - and the last time I visited, it was on something like this:

I don't know how or why, but someone in our regiment managed to organise a trip to the island on a landing craft. It definitely wasn't official Army business - we turned up in civvies, took lots of beer with us and got very drunk on the way over. As they're pretty slow, the trip took at least 2 hours. Instead of docking at the jetty, the coxwain put us ashore right outside the Quokka Arms hotel. 

Apparently the pub is pretty upmarket these days - it was definitely anything but that in my youth. However, even the patrons of the pub blanched when the landing craft beached, the ramp dropped, and 50 drunken yobbos in board shorts poured out yelling something like "ATTAAAAAAAAAAACK!", and then proceeded to assault up the beach (by section) and then buy many jugs of beer which were drunk, thrown over the heads of anyone within arm's reach or vomited into. And of course there were always a few under the table - for those that couldn't be bothered getting up and walking to the toilet. 

I always get confused as to whether we did our section brown eye against the plate glass window at the Quokka Arms or Steve's Hotel. That was quickly followed by a section squashed frog*. I do remember the bouncers wouldn't let use inside because the place was "too full". After our squashed frog display, the room completely emptied, and the bouncers had no choice but to let us in. I think expected standards of behaviour have changed since then.

We were only there for a few hours - the landing craft had to float off on the tide, and if we didn't stagger back across the beach in time, we were staying the night. I don't know why the siller buggers in Transport let us on board - the thing was ankle deep in vomit by the time we made it back to Freo.

When I was a kid visiting Rotto, one of the best things to do was to "tour" the gun battery tunnels. It looks like they've been spruced up as a tourist attraction now, but 25-30 years ago, they were abandoned and a mess. The Army simply welded up the doors and walked away.

I lifted the photo above from this blog - nice pics. That door is about 10 feet tall, and up the top, you can see where the concrete has been chipped away. That must be new door, because in my day, you could stand on the shoulders of someone else and slip over the top of the door where enterprising vandals had removed a good chunk of concrete.

There was no lighting inside, and the place was half full of sand. However, you could explore the entire tunnel system, ending up under the guns themselves. It was great fun. And just to show you how much the education system has changed since my day, we used to break into these tunnels and scamper around in the dark with our teachers. They weren't particularly worried about us getting tetanus from the numerous bundles of rusting barbed wire that surrounded the place, or falling down an unmarked shaft in the dark, or picking up some unexploded ammunition. I don't think they even made us wear sun screen, or take water with us, or wear a sensible pair of safety thongs. What 12 year old boy wouldn't give their right nut to partake in a bit of dangerous, unauthorised trespassing on ex-military territory?

* A "squashed frog" is where you drop your pants and squash your genitals against a window. Preferably when there are lots of women on the other side.

What's wrong with cheap energy anyway?

Whilst I don't agree with a few things in this article, I do agree with these points:

For one thing should now be clear: The key to decarbonizing our economy will be developing cheap alternatives that can cost-effectively replace fossil fuels. There simply is no substitute for making clean energy cheap.

Government funded research aiming to make energy cheap, clean and abundant is surely a better approach to our energy issues than government regulation aimed at making energy more expensive.

Clearly, I'm not alone

A rather..err..interesting blog that isn't safe for work. But it makes some good points:

Total federal subsidies in fiscal year 2007 were $24.34 per megawatt hour for solar-generated electricity and $23.37 per megawatt hour for wind, compared with $1.59 for nuclear, $0.67 for hydroelectric power, $0.44 for conventional coal, and $0.25 for natural gas and petroleum liquids. 


This paean to the pResident’s genius comes on the same day Warren Buffett, sitting on $44 billion, said his wind and solar projects wouldn’t be built without tax payer cash.

Wow. One of the richest guys on the planet saying that he needs subsidies to get these things going. Amazing.

And a bat shredding project stops dead:

Paul Copleman, an Iberdrola spokesman, said that without the federal Production Tax Credits, which will expire at the end of 2012, its two projects and many others in the state and nation won’t get built.

I found this pic at that blog - had to grab a copy for myself.

Great Bloomberg predictions

Rob suggested I got read this paper at Bloomberg: "Re-considering the Economics of Photovoltaic Power"- which I did. More on that later.

In the meantime, just for some laughs, here is a great prediction from Bloomberg from 2007:

Apple iPhone Will Fail in a Late, Defensive Move: Matthew Lynn

Just because you read something in the financial press, doesn't make it so. h/t to Copious Gasser - my kind of blogger.

Sunday solar

Just what you wanted to wake up to - some more stuff on solar power.

I'll start with this point - if you want solar power, good for you. Just don't expect me to subsidise your power bill, either through paying part of the installation of your system, or paying you above market rates for any excess power you produce. And if the power grid needs expensive upgrades to cope with you exporting power into the system, you can pay for that too. If the cost of solar power has in fact reached "gird parity", then you shouldn't need to steal any of my cash in order to install a system on top of your house. 

So how much money are we pouring into roof top solar installations?

Well, as Rob has pointed out, the current price for STCs is not $40 - it's $27.35.

That price has moved around a lot over the last few years.

From the link above:

REC/STC brokers take the assignments and then create and sell the REC/STCs for several dollars more.

That's another way to generate "green jobs". If 44 million certificates are created, and the brokers push a few electrons around and charge $2-3 for the service, then they can cream off over $100 million for themselves. In The Bonfire of the Vanities, this was described as picking the crumbs off the cake. That's some crumb! Remember this - a pretty big chunk of the cash being poured into these renewable energy schemes is not actually being spent on installing renewable energy systems - it is being soaked up by brokers and intermediaries who probably used to sell shares in mining companies, tobacco companies and arms manufacturers.

I've read plenty of opinions this morning that the price is heading south due to a large over supply of STCs. When supply greatly exceeds demand, the price can only go one way - down. 

The Regulator has issued a target of 44.78 million STCs for 2012. If we multiply the spot price of $27.35 by 44.78 million, we get $1.063 billion.

Where does that $1.063 billion come from?

STCs are bought by the "big polluders" - mainly coal fired generators I suppose. As this increases their costs, they can either reduce their profitability or put up their prices. As many generators are state owned, and they pay dividends to state governments, any reduction in profitability means less revenue for state 
governments to spend on health, education, roads, police etc. So they have a big incentive to put up prices. If they can't put up prices, then governments need to raise taxes somewhere else. Either way, residents get it in the neck. Or the hip pocket.

Alternatively, they can pay exorbitant amounts for solar power - up to 52 cents per kWh - and then pass that cost on to consumers.

The over supply in STCs is exacerbated by the deliberate government policy of handing them out with a multiplier (currently 3, although it is 4 for contracts signed before May 2011). That's like me employing you to dig a hole in my backyard, "deeming" that you in fact dug three holes (when you dug one) and paying you for digging three. Yes, it makes about that much sense to me too.

Yes, the cost of solar panels is plummeting - more on that later. If that's the case, and solar is now at "grid parity" (which I view as the wholesale price of power charged by large coal fired generators), then we should be able to do away with this entire panoply of subsidies and certificates. Close down the STC scheme and eliminate the solar tariff - let the market decide.

Green jobs

Environmental preachers like to spruik the idea of "green jobs". Most people probably think that means lots of people running environmentally friendly tourism ventures, or bike shops, or planting trees west of Tamworth.

Actually, the only green jobs that I can find have been generated in the finance industry. You know - that evil bastion of capitalist greed.

Consider TFS Green:

TFS is one of the largest and most successful energy brokers in the World and is part of the Tradition Group, which employs over 2,200 people worldwide. Founded in 1985, TFS has built-up a global business in the power, gas, coal, weather and oil markets and since 2001 has been prominent in the renewable energy and emissions markets in Europe, the US and Asia Pacific. In 2005 TFS began building a presence in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VER) which has led to a global team of 12 brokers now specializing in these, the newest of the environmental markets.

TFS Green, the TFS environmental team, spans the globe, with offices and representatives across London, New York, Stamford, Beijing, Sydney, Melbourne, Manila and Frankfurt. In addition to having environmental staff in these offices, TFS Green has strong links with their other TFS offices worldwide in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Dubai, Houston and Copenhagen. TFS Green is therefore well-placed to structure successful transactions and provide advisory services across the entire spectrum of the environmental markets.

From reading  this, it appears that "green jobs" means working for a massive multinational financial conglomerate, sitting in an air conditioned office in front of energy gobbling computers and pushing electrons back and forth. I can't see any difference between what they are doing and say Goldman Sachs. 

Why isn't the Occupy movement going after this lot?

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Affordable housing

House prices in the US have certainly crashed:

For well over a year I have mentioned that it is likely that nationwide we are reaching a bottom with the median home price being $163,000 and the typical household pulling in $50,000.  Historically this seems to work fine and given current mortgage rates, there are many good deals to be had across the country.  

They're back to what used to be the old rule of thumb - your house cost you three times your annual income (back when families had only the dad working - back when families had a mum and dad).

I guess apartments are even cheaper than that.

Sneaky solar scoundrels

This flyer landed on our front lawn recently - "carbon tax is designed to increase electricity bills". Regardless of where they got that quote from, this solar installation company is clearly trying to scare people into buying a solar power system.

The price is quite incredible - but you have to read the fine print.

For $1991, you get in (big print) and 5KW (and then in small print) Growatt inverter, along with 8 x 190W panels. That gives you a nominal 1.52KW.

I bet a lot of people get suckered into thinking they are getting a 5KW system for that price. And as we know, due to things like night time and cloudy days and winter, you'll be lucky to average 20% of 1.52KW over the course of a year. 20% of 1.52KW - that's about enough to run all the lightbulbs in our house.

Why is it that you can get a solar system for this price?

Simple - the government subsidises the installation via Solar Credits using "small-scale technology certificates", or STCs. Notice they never use the word "subsidy" or "cash handout" or "transfer from one taxpayer to another". You can read lots about this scheme at the Department of Climate Change. At the moment, a multiplier applies to the handout of these certificates - the Department deems an STC to be worth $40, and at present, the multiplier is 4. So for the installation of a 1.5KW system, you get 124 STCs, worth $4960. The installation contract requires you to hand over your STCs to the installer, who cashes them in.

So let's look at the total cost of this 1.5KW system.

The householder pays $1991.

The installer collects a subsidy of $4960 from other tax payers, courtesy of the government.

Total cost - $6951. Which works out at $4634 per installed MW.

The average household uses around 8000 kwh per year. This system will generate about 2600kwh - about 32% of total household requirements. For the householder, this might work out to be a pretty good deal - but would they buy it if they had to pay the full cost of $6951?

I doubt it. If it wasn't for a 71% subsidy, these things would never be installed in the metro area.

Here's a cracker from our local rag - "Beat the carbon tax". Apparently pergola prices are going to rise on 1 July because of the carbon tax. I wonder if the compensation we're getting from Wayne Swan will cover that increase?

Friday, 18 May 2012


Check out those low lying clouds on the centre left - they look like mountains. They really looked incredible.

15 seconds later, the sun came up just a tiny bit more, and I was a bit further around the Bay, and suddenly those same clouds were tinged with pink.

The usual flock of early morning rowers - they must have nuts of steel to be out on the water at this time of the year. They reminded me this morning of the water boatmen insects. Yes, it's cold and all that, but it really is a stunning time of the day.

When most cyclists want to carry a stack of stuff, they buy some panniers. This lady was stuttering along with multiple shopping bags hanging from her handle bars. I'm always paranoid that a bag is going to go into the front spokes, and then over you go.

This bloke must have been seven feet tall - the top of my helmet didn't was below the line of his shoulder. 

The Global Renewable Energy Index is crashing

Oh dear. Read the whole lot here. And just remember this - in Australia, some unions have poured a lot of superannuation money into these money pits. If the Australian renewable sector goes the same way, a lot of union members are going to have their retirement funds hammered. 

The RENIXX® (Renewable Energy Industrial Index) World is the first global stock index, which comprises the performance of the world´s 30 largest companies of the renewable energy industry whose weighting in the index is based on the market capitalization (free float).

Since 2008, the index has lost about 90% of its value. In the last month, the nosedive seems to be accelerating

Filed Bankruptcy:

Beacon Power
Range Fuels
Solar Trust of America
Evergreen Solar
Eastern Energy
Bright Automotive
Olson’s Crop Service
Energy Conversion Devices
Mountain Plaza

Teetering on the Brink:

Abound Solar
A123 Systems
Brightsource Energy
Fisker Automotive
First Solar
Nevada Geothermal
The Bard Group
NRG Energy
Alterra Power
Enel Green Power
Sunpower Corp

Thursday, 17 May 2012

It's getting too dark, too dark to see

It's that time of the year when photography is becoming painful - literally. The morning temp dropped to 9 degrees this week, which is when the finger tips start to ask for the fingerless gloves to be put into storage until spring time. The top two joints of my fingers ache with cold for the first five minutes - then the blood starts flowing, and all is well. However, it's bloody hard to take a photo with frozen fingers. It's even harder though taking a photo on the move with full length gloves on. And it's really, really hard taking a photo on the move in the dark, as the above photo attests. 

The dark blob in this photo was out of the ordinary - I could smell cigarette smoke, but couldn't work out where it was coming from. That's nothing new - I smell people smoking dope fairly often, but what kills me is when I smell something freshly baked - like croissants - and I know I can't stop for a bite. Anyway, the smoke was coming from the cyclist in front of me.  It wasn't slowing him down at all. His lungs appeared to be in better shape than mine.

I've seen classic old photos of cyclists having a fag whilst racing, but I can't remember the last time I saw a real life bloke on a bike having a puff. I wouldn't have minded, except that he flicked his butt out behind him and it nearly went down my top. 

Speaking of which, I made the classic mistake of being careless when zipping up this week. It's been one of those weeks of greatcoats on, greatcoats off. Pretty cold in the morning, requiring two layers and leg warmers. Fairly warm in the afternoon, requiring the shedding of the top layer. I was starting to overheat, so when I pulled up at a red light, I quickly took my jacket off and was in the process of neatly folding it away when the light went green. So I simply stuffed it down the front of my jersey, and rode around with one massive tit.

At the next red light, I extracted the jacket, folded it neatly and stowed it in a rear pocket. And then the light went green, so I rapidly zipped up the jersey.


Careless old me managed to insert a nice four inch stretch of chest hair into the rapidly moving zipper. That was way wrong. I thought I was going to end up with a landing street between my man boobs, but it didn't eventuate. It certainly felt like half the hairs on my chest were being ripped out.

By the way, follow this link and check out the bears at the bottom. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cut lunch and a water bag

See that bum bag over his bum? It's contained a few rounds of sandwiches. I'm used to seeing energy bars and energy shots and that sort of thing - but brown bread sandwiches?

An interaction with a depressingly stupid motorist

I've been commuting up and down my route for about 7 years. That's at least 1500 trips by bike back and forth. You could say that I know the road pretty well. I know how drivers, cyclists, dogs, pigeons and pedestrians generally behave at different points along my route (yes, you have to watch out for the Saturday morning pigeons and ibis on the path outside the fast food shops next to the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel - they're gorging themselves on all the pizza, burgers and chips that the drunks have half-heartedly thrown at the overflowing rubbish bins). I know where to ride to avoid the cracks, the suddenly opened doors and the drivers that stop too far forward when entering from side streets. I know where to stop at every intersection. I know where the puddles form when it rains. I know where the trees with the drooping, head catching, branches are. I know.

Tonight, I met a gumby in a car who had no idea about any of this; or about the rules of the road for that matter.

I stopped at a red light. The road is two lanes wide each way. The left lane, holding me, is for cars turning left and bikes going straight ahead - the two lanes merge into one on the other side of the intersection, and there is a bike lane there as well. The right hand lane is for cars going straight ahead or (very rarely) turning right.

Gumby pulls up in the right hand lane, winds down his window and asks me which way I am going.

I tell him straight ahead.

He tells me he is going left, and inquires who will go first.

I kind of snort in surprise and tell him that it will be me. There is no way he is turning left across in front of me. No way in the world. If he wants to be a knob, he can be a knob somewhere else.

At that point, he starts to get quite irate, saying a few rude things about cyclists "always wanting to get it their way".

No mate - I was doing the sensible thing, and you were being a tool. I got the feeling he didn't want to wait a few seconds behind me when the lights went green, and changed lanes in the hope of scooting around me from the wrong lane. He didn't like it when his moronic plan fell apart.

He wasn't the only moron on the road tonight. I had the displeasure of having to play tag with a taxi driver on George St who lane hopped six times in three blocks. He kept changing back and forth, hoping to get a break in the traffic. I could have told him that he had no hope - George St was wall to wall buses from Town Hall to Circular Quay - in those conditions, even skinny cyclists have a hard time getting through. Pudding basins like me just have to sit tight and wait it out. The worst thing about him playing tag is that he kept on barging into my lane - either when I was beside him, or when I had left a bit of a gap between me and the vehicle in front, and he lunged into my safety gap.

Seriously, the sooner retrospective abortion is legalised, the better off we'll be. Starting with the driver of Taxi 9716.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


I occasionally have a gander at cycling forums - as in once or twice a year. I had a look at one last week, and there was a long string of complaints about the bad behaviour of quite a few commuters at peak hour. People racing stupidly, overtaking like morons, lane splitting, barging in, tearing across cross walks when there are pedestrians crossing etc etc etc. As I'm usually on the road before the morning and evening peaks, I rarely witness that sort of thing.

I got caught up at work this afternoon, and for a moment, I thought I was going to be stuck behind that bloody awful pro-Palestinian parade that was due to kick off at 5pm. Thankfully, I was out the door just before it was due to start (I found out later it was delayed until 7pm), but that meant I still had to face the start of peak hour.

Things were OK until I got to the far end of the Pyrmont Bridge - then it turned into a completely undisciplined scrum. Most cyclists formed an orderly queue at the lights, but a few idiots barged in up the front. When the light went green, it was like the start of a major race - the group suddenly went 5 or 6 wide with the front riders fighting to be the first into the bike lane on the other side of the intersection - with bikes coming the other way and pedestrians meandering everywhere and space for only two skinny cyclists riding abreast. Once we got into the bike lane, a few blew through the pedestrian crossing, narrowly missing some women who had right of way. There were cyclists on the wrong side of the road ducking around cars in order to get first position at the lights. A few morons blew right through several red lights. It was sheer bloody madness. I've never seen such a chaotic zoo.

Some of those idiots were pretty fast, and were miles ahead by the time the more law-abiding group made it to the Anzac Bridge - but at that point, the fit and fast moved to the front and the useless lawless types were quickly ridden down. There's no point running red lights if you don't have the legs to take on the hills.

When I started commuting, the bike commuting community was pretty small. We smiled and waved to each other. We took it easy, and didn't cause other people grief. Sure we raced, but only when it was safe and sensible to do so. The rapid growth in commuting over the last few years has dragged in a reasonable leavening of morons - people completely bereft of common sense and courtesy. If they're this bad on a bike, I'd hate to see them behind the wheel of a car.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The North Shore

The North Shore of Sydney is a nice place to live - leafy, rich in parts and picturesque. Geographically, it's got lots and lots of ridges, so there are plenty of views; and lots of valleys where you can have quiet little suburbs. It's not uniformly wealthy, but there are enclaves like Mosman which are wall to wall merchant bankers and lawyers - places where the women drive Volvos, own Labradors, wear pink fluffy sweaters and have long lunches in expensive cafes. However, the North Shore is not uniformly full of silvertails sending their kids to elite  private schools.

I lived there for a few years. It's worth remembering that before the Harbour Bridge was built, it was nowheresville. Land was cheap, because transport into the city was awful. Transport is still pretty bloody awful, but that's not the issue. But it's a very nice place.

I don't know where the Prime Minister gets off when she put the place down the other day. The high property prices and rents on the North Shore say to me that it is a desirable place to live - people want to move there. A lot of people living there weren't born there - they grew up somewhere else and became successful enough in whatever it is they do to afford to relocate there. Australia is a socially fluid place - if you do well, you can live well.

Here's my advice for the PM:

  • If you want to live on the North Shore, forget about spending your life existing on welfare. You'll need to get a job and work very hard at it. There aren't enough hand outs in the world to subsidise a life on the North Shore.
  • That will almost certainly involve starting in a shitty, lowly paid job and working your way up through a whole series of jobs until you get a good one. Every rich, successful person I know started out in a job that was the equivalent of flipping burgers. (In fact, their first jobs usually involved cleaning up for the burger flippers - burger flipping requires skill).
  • Alternatively, start a business and work even harder. Your first few businesses will probably fail, and you will be broke for a while.
  • There is no certainty success will happen - life isn't fair
  • A good education will help. Study hard, work hard, be thrifty. Don't blow money on crap.
  • Try and hang out with like minded people. You'll find the going harder if you hang out with crooks and neer-do-wells.
End rant.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Trying to ride away from your own stench

I'm used to getting sweaty twice a day, but it's usually good clean sweat - followed by a good long shower. I get rid of it before it has a chance to pong.

One of the beauties of lycra is that it dries quickly and rarely smells when I have to put it back on at the end of the working day. It might whiff a bit, but not enough to put anyone off.

That all changed last week with one jersey. I dragged it out at the end of the day, and it smelled like a wino had pissed on it. It reeked something awful. It was so bad, I couldn't stand still for a moment because the fumes wafting up were so over powering. Red lights were a nightmare - I was sorely tempted to jump a few, just to leave the stench behind. It was eye-wateringly bad.

I have no idea what caused it - my diet hasn't changed, I didn't eat anything odd the night before and I didn't sweat a bucket more than normal that morning. When I got home, I had to bolt for the shower, not even bothering to undress before getting under the water.

Next day, I had a different jersey, and it was fine.

And then the jersey rotated around again as the laundry cycle did its thing, and I was stuck with the smell again. Not so bad this time, but it was definitely there.

Some fancy cycling jerseys have things embedded in the fabric to stop this sort of things happening - maybe that particular one has just reached the end of its bacteria killing life. Whatever it was, it was nasty.

If it happens again, I won't throw it out. I'll save it in case the Occupy mob set up camp again. A quick visit to their camp wearing that thing should clear them out quick-smart.

Weekend riding

Normally, I only ride Monday to Friday and have the weekend off. The body likes a bit of a rest from time to time. For various reasons, that didn't happen last weekend - today is my only day off after 12 days of solid riding. Surprisingly, the body has held up reasonably well. I was expecting to wake up stiff and sore and to find the first five minutes on the bike in the morning to be pretty miserable, but I've actually felt better with no breaks at all. The legs haven't had time to tighten up. Well, that was the case until yesterday afternoon when the cramps kicked in, and it felt like all the hounds of hell had sunk their teeth into my thighs. The only other downside is that I haven't felt that zing that you get in the legs after a few days off. 

The weekend brings out a completely different type of rider - the middle aged male pack cyclist. The MAMIL - Middle Aged Men In Lycra. They're rarely found on cycle paths, as the paths just aren't wide and straight enough to accommodate packs that range from a dozen up to 30 or more - especially when you mix in people walking, running, pushing prams and unleashed dogs on the same paths. Plus they tend to move pretty quickly compared to commuters, people ambling down to the pub on two wheels and dads riding with their young kids. 

I saw 4 packs one morning - this was the smallest. The last time I had the opportunity to ride with a group was back in January. Funnily enough, for those who see the bicycle as a Green Machine, most of the blokes who turned up for the ride drove to the start point and then drove home afterwards. One bloke drove 40 minutes each way. Riding actually produced more CO2 emissions than if they'd stayed at home in bed. All is not what it seems.

Although I usually try to get away before the peak hour starts in the evening, I'm occasionally caught by work and find myself riding home at dusk or in the dark. I was amazed at how crystal clear the air was on Friday night, and how sharp the bridge looked. Of course the photo has come out nothing like reality - I would have needed to have stopped and setup a tripod for the photo to come out properly. And there's no room in my back pocket for a proper tripod.

Different perspectives

Same shot, taken from three different positions over a very short period. First one was taken with the camera held at arm's length above my head, the next down at knee level, the last at normal height. Interesting how different the light comes out.

Knobs and other people

I'll start with the other people. For starters, the bloke above is a good reminder to buy knicks that are nice and long at the back. The light is too dim for this photo to have come out clearly, but he had a really, really bad case of brickie's crack. 

Two disparate approaches to cycling visibility - the bloke in the middle has opted to ride Ninja style (black and invisible) whilst the women on either side of him have plenty of lights and shiny stuff. A ninja like this bloke almost ran into me head-on during the week on a bike path. It was dark, the path was unlit, and he was screaming around a bend on the wrong side of the cycle path. I had a concrete wall on my left, and nowhere to go. Thankfully, he swerved at the last minute, and I got home with nothing broken or scratched. It's unsettling to think that my fellow cyclists can be as much or more of a risk than morons driving taxis and delivery vehicles.

And now for our Knob of the Week. This bloke went through 4 red lights on the way into town. This is him going through the first set. It didn't make much difference to our respective journey times - I'd wait for the green, catch him, stop, watch him go through a red, wait for the green, catch him etc etc etc. I don't get why he was in such a burning hurry that he had to keep running red lights. The problem with knobs like this is that drivers see them and start to think that all cyclists are law breaking morons. I don't care if you decline to wear a helmet - that is your choice. But please, obey the rest of the bloody road rules.

The real cost of renewables

No thanks.

More bad news here.

Global-warming-related catastrophes are increasingly hitting vulnerable populations around the world, with one species in particular danger: the electricity ratepayer. Denmark, an early adopter of the global-warming mania, now requires its households to pay the developed world’s highest power prices — about 40¢ a kilowatt hour, or three to four times what North Americans pay today. Germany, whose powerhouse economy gave green developers a blank cheque, is a close second, followed by other politically correct nations such as Belgium, the headquarters of the EU, and distressed nations such as Spain. The result is chaos to the economic well-being of the EU nations. Even in rock-solid Germany, up to 15% of the populace is now believed to be in “fuel poverty.” Some 600,000 low-income Germans are now being cut off by their power companies annually, a number expected to increase as a never-ending stream of global-warming projects in the pipeline wallops customers. In the U.K., which has laboured under the most politically correct climate leadership in the world, some 12 million people are already in fuel poverty, 900,000 of them in wind-infested Scotland alone, and the U.K. has now entered a double-dip recession. –Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, 12 May 2012

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Lots of photos

Electric bike
Flipping heck - a week without posting anything. It's just been one of those weeks - work, work, work and then sleep, sleep, sleep. I was face down on the couch before 8pm last night, just totally toasted. I had to be shaken roughly awake at 11pm and sent to bed.

Electric bikes - yes, there are lots more of them about. I might get one some years after I become a pensioner. And only if I can ensure that it is charged with electricity generated by coal or nuclear power.

Hell, it must be cold on the water at 0600. The temp when I depart has dropped from 15 degrees to 12 to 10 over the last week. 10 degrees is where the finger tips in the fingerless gloves start to feel the cold, and I'm seriously considering searching through the shed for my leg warmers.

Bike traffic during the peak periods is getting worse too. I slept in one morning, and found myself leaving for work about half an hour later than usual. I ended up being stuck behind hubbards on numerous occasions - it used to be that the slow riders were never a problem as you could always overtake safely. Not any more - places like the Anzac Bridge now have a steady stream of riders going in both directions, so unless you can accelerate up hill like a world class sprinter, overtaking is a no-no. Of course, that doesn't stop world-class morons from attempting it.

Another tough nut - it was cold that morning, and this guy was out running in bare feet. Notice the two cyclists way off in the distance? Their fluro vests really stand out, even in the dim, overcast early morning light.

As opposed to this ninja, dressed in black from head to foot. I saw another cyclist like her this morning - even  his bike and shoes were black. How the hell do you expect to be seen when you have the fashion sense of Hotblack Desiato.

The best dawn photos really need a few tenths of cloud cover. And maybe some air pollution.

Woops, listing badly. Must be an Italian captaining this ship.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

More solar madness

Watts up with that on the incredible cost of solar power.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Not a good look

I've never gone in for pastel blue ties myself.

Now go read a poem.

Nice to know I'm not the only one who feels this way

I almost choked on my latte this morning when I got to the Readers' Ed section of the SMH - lots of readers got all steamed up about the photos the SMH has been using to illustrate climate change/carbon tax stories, and the editor has even issued an edict about how they're going to caption these things in future.

The thing I found interesting is that Judy Prisk did have a look a the original photo and questioned the photographer about whether it had been manipulated - it hadn't. That's reassuring. However, I think the SMH is starting to get the message that its readers don't appreciate the pudding being over egged when it comes to climate change stories. Or should I rephrase that as "we're all about to die - how climate change is producing mutant killer ants".

I wonder if anyone at the SMH sees the irony in this paragraph:

First, the photographer did not manipulate the image in any way. He says he shot a series of four in the middle of the day using F22, which means a small aperture made the images razor sharp. And the reason he stopped to take the pics on the way to another job was because the scene looked so unusual. He presumes the darkness of the vapour was because it was heavy with moisture.

Hmm. The cloud was full of moisture. Yet it was used to illustrate a story about invisible CO2. The stupid - it burns!


Knobs. They're everywhere.

Knob one. Riding home alongside the City West Link tonight. A police car is tearing up the road behind us with lights and sirens on. Most cars in the fast lane change lanes, but several knobs drive along in blissful ignorance for some distance with a blaring, blazing, honking police car behind them. What hope do we cyclists have of being noticed when there are some people who are so dense and uncaring that they fail to notice emergency vehicles?

Knob two. Riding up George St this morning. A taxi is crawling along in front of me, clearly hoping for business. I get sick of him and overtake. I'm going considerably faster than he was - but he pulls out, overtakes me and then goes back to kerb crawling. He couldn't handle the idea of anyone getting in front of him. So I overtook him again and then took a lane position that prevented him from repeating that stupid manoeuvre. He didn't get a fare after all that.

There was a knob number three, but I can't remember what they did. Ah well, that's enough knobs for one day.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Cold, hot, wet - welcome to Autumn

The mornings are getting colder - not cold enough for leg warmers, full length gloves, shoe covers and an undershirt - but there is definitely a nip in the air.

No - not that sort of nip. I mean a wee chill that's just chilly enough to make the nads wish they were back in bed.

I kept the spray jacket on for the entire ride this morning - not that it was raining - just for warmth. It was about half a degree too cold to take it off, but about 5 degrees too warm to wear it for the entire distance. When I got to work, my gloves were saturated with the sweat that had run down my arms under the jacket.

As tempting as it is to remove the jacket, I'm always thinking of the "urban cool island" that is the Sydney CBD early in the morning. Due to the lack of sunlight in the canyons between the buildings, the last little bit of the ride is actually a lot colder than the start, even though the sun has been up for half an hour by the time I get to the office. If I take the jacket off 10 minutes into my ride, the sweat will freeze on my skin over the last two kilometres. It's annoying to find yourself sweating and shivering at the same time.

So I put up with the sweat - that's what showers are for.

Prick on paper

Our favourite Prick is too shy to mention that he's got an article in this week's Spectator magazine. It's not online yet - I found out by lying back on the couch and reading it the old fashioned way.

Perhaps you can enjoy the back catalogue while you impatiently wait for the latest article to be posted.