Saturday, 28 December 2013

Interesting crash stats

I just happened to be perusing the bike plan of a neighbouring council when I found this paragraph:

Fifty seven (57) of the recorded bicycle crashes involved a collision between a bicycle and another vehicle, predominantly cars. The most common types of crashes recorded were:
A motor vehicle side swiping a bicycle (12);
A motor vehicle emerging from a driveway or footpath impacting with a bicycle (10);
A bicycle and another vehicle impacting from adjacent directions at intersections (9);
A bicycle and another vehicle impacting from opposite direction (7);
A bicycle colliding with a vehicle door being opened (7); and
A bicycle losing control on a carriageway (4).
There were no recorded fatalities during this period.
The above crash types give some indication to the main issues that cyclists experience in the Leichhardt LGA with side swiping (left turn across straight through cyclists), driveway exiting and intersection crashes the most prominent.

This data is now 6 or 7 years old, but it matches with more recent UK research that suggests that motorists are at fault in the majority of bike crashes. In this sample, cyclists are clearly at fault in 4 out of 57 crashes - or 7%. The rest are the sort of stuff I narrowly avoid every month - motorists not paying attention when opening doors; motorists in a hurry overtaking cyclists and then immediately turning left in front of them (or into them); motorists turning across oncoming traffic choosing to not give way and hitting cyclists coming in the opposite direction, or screw ups at intersections when motorists go through roundabouts, stop signs or give way signs without giving way to a cyclist that has right of way.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Very silly people

Thank goodness the holidays are here and I don't have to ride into town for a while. I've seen more than enough silly people roaming the streets over the last week to last me a life time.

For starters, there was the very silly cyclist who decided to run a red light. I was going one way, he was going the other - and I could see that sitting right behind him as he approached the lights was a motorcycle cop. He didn't notice. I thought he was going to stop for the red - and I imagine the cop did too as he was gobsmacked when the cyclist in front of him just tooled straight through the red. It took him about 5 seconds to blink away his surprise and find his lights and siren.

Then there were all the silly pedestrians. They weren't doing silly walks, but they were walking (or running) in silly places. Like running across the road right in front of me as I was bearing down on them at high speed. After a few close encounters with the moronic kind, I gave up trying to ride quickly through town and throttled back and took it easy. There is a form of madness that infects people at this time of year and it causes them to do silly stuff they would not ordinarily do. I'm just glad I survived through it.

And didn't get a ticket.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Mobile phones will be the death of me

I'm heading home. My (very) short warm up is done. I now have a bike lane to ride in, and it's time to crank the pedals a bit harder and lift the pace. The only thing stopping me is a car in front which is speeding up and slowing down and swerving far enough to the left to cut into the bike lane a few times. I hold back, wary about passing a driver that can't hold a straight line or a steady speed. I'm doing 33km/h and am itching to boost it to the next level.

Then I think, "Screw it", and I stomp on the pedals.

Half a second later, I am grabbing the brake levers for all they are worth. The back wheel locks up. I feel the rear slide slightly to the right - but I have it under control. My sole aim is to avoid smacking into the back of the car - the driver has suddenly braked and done a hard left-hand-down and pulled up in the bike lane. It's a no parking zone - what the hell are they doing? No indicator. No warning. No checking the mirrors or looking over the shoulder. Just a rapid tossing of the car in my direction. Having a bike lane is nice, but the only thing separating me from 1.5 tons of metal is a faded unbroken single white line. It's days like this that I wish for a bit of a concrete barrier. Clearly, the painted "line of death" isn't keeping the cars out.

I pull up. The car has stopped as well. I look over my shoulder for cars behind us, then slowly pedal along the driver's side.

The driver has one hand and both eyes on her phone. It's down by her right leg in the "you can't see my phone" position. I guess she got a text message that she just had to stop to reply to. And no, she wasn't a teenager - she was about my age.

I resisted the urge to yank open her door, give her an earful of observations about her driving skills, parentage and sexual habits before ramming the phone up her date, and slowly pedal off. The pulse rate is a elevated a bit, but not that much. I'm getting too used to this. Once, it would have scared the poo out of me and I would have been left shaking and very stressed. Now, I congratulate myself on my calmness and not punching the living daylights out of the driver.

And then I floor it. The adrenaline gives me wings. I am going 40km/h before I know it, and not a single car passes me over the next section of road before the traffic lights. I am flying - doing my best to put a lot of distance between me and that moron. I don't want to run into her again today.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Overdoing it a bit

I certainly haven't been overdoing the blogging of late, but I think I might have overdone the cycling a bit (which would have led to a lack of blogging).

I haven't been doing more kilometres per day - but I have just had a short break after riding 3 weeks straight. Due to a few things happening, I ended up having to ride every day. Twice a day. The rides might be relatively short (15km each way generally), but the impact of doing 15km two times per day for 21 days in a row adds up after a bit - especially since I do a good chunk of those 15km fairly hard. If the air is calm and the road is flat and the traffic allows and the legs and lungs are up to it, I'll tonk along at a nice 37km/h for as far as I can. I'm pretty happy to have reached that cruising speed over slabs of my commute - you don't get passed often at that pace.

I'm not getting any younger, so the lack of recovery between rides takes its toll after a while. In week three, I was almost falling asleep face down in my food at the dinner table, and I crashed on the couch at the slightest opportunity. I found that when I got home, I had to stay on my feet if I wanted to stay awake. Constant movement and activity were the only things keeping my away from the Land of Nod.

Which made it pretty hard to blog. If I had tried to blog, most entries would have looked like this:

savuklnacgklj238946 12368907897756(*%&*

That's what you get when your nose and forehead impact with the keyboard.

I had the weekend off. I can actually sit here and type without falling almost instantly into unconsciousness. That's a weird feeling.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

No one does this to me when I'm in my 4WD

There's an intersection that I go through twice a day on my bike where driver behaviour is at its worst. I'm going straight ahead, but most drivers coming towards me are turning right. That means I have right of way. The intersection has lights, which I have not bothered to draw as this taxed my drawing skills to the max. When I go through this intersection in my car, drivers turning right stay behind the line and don't nudge their way out into my travel path. 


When I'm on the bike, it's a different story. Buses wait for me. Trucks wait for me. Plenty of car drivers wait for me, but there are also quite a lot that decide that since I look skinny (ha ha), I don't need much road space, so they creep out into the intersection and block half my lane. I have to swerve to the left to get around them. I should point out that due to the physical makeup of this intersection, I can actually get across it faster than most cars from a standing start (there's a big, deep fuck-up front bumper/sump removing gutter that they have to crawl over - but it slows me down not at all). So the cars are not pushing out because I am taking my time getting across the intersection. If there is a car behind me, they'll stay put. They only emerge from their burrow when I'm on my own on my side of the intersection.


Then there are the tradies - the fuckers in utes - who decide that they aren't going to give way to a cyclist, and they plant it when the lights go green and just tear across without any regard for me. I'm pretty good at spotting these clowns whilst I'm sitting at a red light, so I haven't been skittled yet - but the close calls have been legion.


As I said in the heading - no one dares do this to me when I travel the same route in my 4WD. Some drivers clearly do it because they know they can push cyclists around with their cars and generally get away with it. I really don't want to get clobbered by them because I reckon that if I am run down, they'll do a runner.

There's no nice way to put it - they're just cunts.

Tyre pressure

Most of my driving has been done in fairly heavy vehicles with normal profile tyres - as in a 75 profile. When a tyre starts to go flat, it's pretty obvious with a heavy car and a high profile bit of rubber. The sidewall bulge sticks out like dog's balls, braking performance suffers, steering can be heavy and you can even feel a wobble through the wheel or the seat.

I got the shock of my life yesterday when I took a little car to the petrol station for a top up. There was an air filling station in front of my spot, so after filling up, I drove over and checked the tyres.

They were 1/3 to 1/2 around where they should have been. I couldn't believe it - the tyres showed no visual sign of being underinflated, and they're only a few months old. When driving around, the handling of the car gave no indication of flattish tyres - I'm not sure why that should be the case. Light car? Good suspension? Well built tyres? I know instantly when the pressure is getting low on the other car - it provides good feedback - plus walking around the car and eyeballing the tyres is a dead giveaway.

As soon as I got home, I ordered some of these. They cost me less than five bucks delivered. I don't know how good they'll be, but I'm going to give them a crack.


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Can cycling make you a better driver?

I have witnessed some monstrously stupid driving in the last few weeks. I don't know if it is the approach of the silly season, or the fact that lots of high school kids have finished exams and run out to pass their driving tests. Some of it has been caused by driver arrogance and impatience, but most of it has been really piss poor driving skills. In cooking terms, you wouldn't let these people into a kitchen to boil an egg. One of the major driving skills is being able to use the steering wheel to point the car where you want it to go - I've shaken my head at quite a few drivers this month who haven't even acquired more than the most basic handling skills. We're talking simple things, like being able to keep your car in your lane and out of the lanes beside you.

To digress for a moment. I spent a few years driving trucks in the Reserves (after back problems essentially invalided me out of my favourite infantry role). The Army spent a week teaching me how to drive on an enclosed circuit, and then another week of hands on training on the road. And by training, I mean 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. We did a lot more than just drive around - we covered basic maintenance, tyre changing (always a challenge on a truck), load management, convoy skills, paperwork, refueling and so on. This was followed up with more courses and practical work to teach off road driving - how to debog a truck buried up to the door handles etc in mud, sand or whatever horrible stuff our instructors could find; how to carry ammo and explosives, how to react to an ambush, how to carry fuel, how to use cranes to load and unload blah blah blah. It was terrifically good training, although I still can't tie a truckies hitch.

The vantage point of a high up driver's seat in a truck allowed me to see heaps of terrible driving by other road users. There were plenty of trips where I climbed down from the cab totally soaked in sweat from the stress of driving a truck full of troops through a maze of idiots in cars. The thing I hated the most was approaching a red light in the rain and having a car driver duck in front of the truck and then slam on the brakes. I worried a lot about simply running over, squashing and killing morons like that because I wouldn't be able to pull up in time. I learned a lot about bad driver behaviour during that time, and it made me a much better driver. I didn't want to be like them. When you're driving a truck with a crash gearbox, poor brakes, offroad tyres, no power steering and an underpowered petrol engine, you learn to think a long way ahead about what you are doing. If you don't keep your eyes open, anticipate what's going to happen and think about how to avoid problems that might arise, you will quickly end up in a world of shit. And that might involve a couple of dead people. That made me calm and methodical and it forced me to think about my driving and how it affects other drivers around me.

Given what I picked up as a truckie, it's plain as day to me when a driver is not paying attention, isn't thinking and hasn't grasped the intricacies of coordinating eyes, hands, brain and feet. Which is why I started thinking this week that maybe a big part of the problem with bad car-cyclist interactions (ie, close calls) could be attributed to totally shit driving skills. After all, I had plenty of close calls in trucks as a result of drivers not thinking about what they were doing - and I've had even more when driving a car. The main differences when commuting though are:

1. Truck hits car driven by idiot. Idiot in car comes off second best.
2. Car hits car driven by idiot. Might end up with some bent metal, broken glass and a tow truck, but no injuries
3. Bike gets hit by car driven by idiot. Idiot suffers no damage, bike rider ends up with injuries that range from a few bruises right up to death.

Which is why cyclists tend to get very touchy about bad driving. If you smash into my 4WD (as an idiot did last year after doing a U-turn burnout over a double white line after leaving a pub), you're coming off second best. (I drove away, he got towed. He had to put up with no car for a few weeks whilst the panels got beaten into shape, and he had to pay my excess). If you smash into my bike after doing the same stupid manouvere, I'm the one that suffers all the pain.

So how can cycling help with this?

When you're on a bike, you need to have your wits about you. You can't switch off for a second. A pot hole that would be a minor jolt in a car could throw you off the bike and land you in Emergency with a broken collar bone. Glass that a car will drive over without damage could cause you to puncture and crash. Drivers who aren't looking or paying attention will put you down. The doors of parked cars could be flung open in your face at any moment. The brain has to be engaged at all times and the eyes and ears constantly scanning for threats. In a way, it's a bit like an infantry patrol, but done at much higher speed (and without any threat of mines or booby traps - but everyone out there is trying to kill you). The hands have to be ready to pull on the brake levers at the sign of any problem, and you need to be looking for escape routes in case the worst happens. Plus you really have to ride to the conditions - you really don't want to slam into the back of that taxi in front of you because you were going too fast and not leaving enough of a gap. You can't afford distractions. You have to be able to recognise risks and know what to do about them. Of course there are cyclists that don't do any of this - essentially they are riding around with their head wedged firmly up their arse - perfect candidates for a Darwin Award.

All of that good stuff is second nature to me now, and I drive like I ride. The roads would be a lot safer for everyone if all drivers did that all the time.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Both sides are to blame?

The most annoying comment I have heard recently was from some peanut who, when discussing car-bike crashes, said that "both sides are to blame".

Really?

I've been collected twice by a car. In both cases, the Police charged the driver. One copped a dangerous driving charge. I was almost collected coming home last week by a bloke who turned across my path - he was on his mobile phone of course and not watching the road. I've had a near miss with a lady who drifted into the bike lane because she had one hand holding a bowl of rice and another holding a pair of chopsticks as she drove (and ate). I have near misses with tradies on a regular basis who refuse to give way at traffic lights and roundabouts. I could go on and on for hours about the stupidity I witness on a regular basis.

And I am equally to blame for all of this?

Sod that.

The get out of jail card for anyone spouting this sort of rubbish is that "lawless cyclists ride through red lights all the time". Somehow, the actions of a few idiots make me equally to blame when some moron fixated on texting his mate cleans me up.

Just one question - of all the cyclists that do go zipping through red lights, how many end up spread eagled on the pavement after crashing into a vehicle? Are the papers full of stories recounting the deaths of cyclists who disregarded the lights and charged through regardless?

No. Most of the cyclists killed recently around the western world have been killed by drivers overtaking them and then turning left into their path (or right if you're in that funny part of the world) - including turning across marked cycle lanes. Impatient drivers kill cyclists - and they are solely to blame. I'm sick of this "both sides are to blame" crap. Next time someone comes out with that statement, I'll have to ask them why they think rape victims are also equally to blame for being raped.

Good movies need good baddies

Why do so many action movies flop?

Simple - their baddies are not good enough. A strong good guy needs to overcome a powerful bad guy for a movie to really resonate.

Which is why Jaws worked so well for instance. OK, the bad guy was a shark, but he was a monstrous, unstoppable nasty shark. Same with the Terminator. Both were so much more powerful than the puny humans ranged against them, so taking them out was a truly heroic achievement.

Two movies I have really enjoyed recently have been Man of Steel and the 13th Warrior (an oldie but a goody).

Man of Steel features General Zod as the bad guy. He is so good as the bad guy because he thinks he is doing good - it's just sucks that the outcomes of his actions will be bad for the human race. He is totally driven by his desire to restart Krypton - and to him and his troops, that is a Good Thing. We're just unfortunate enough to be standing in his way. He isn't a cartoon bad guy who is doing bad things because they are fun to do - he is doing bad things because they have to be done to resurrect his race. He needs to kill a few billion people so that his people might live again. He's great.

The 13th Warrior didn't do very well at the box office, but I must have watched it at least 20 times. The characters are a hoot, and the interplay between them is done well. But again, you have a band of 13 guys facing a terrible, implacable foe. There is no reasoning with the bad guys (and there are a lot of them). They can't be bargained with. They can't be bought off. There is no discussion about the rights and wrongs of their actions - they simply want to kill everyone and eat them. There is no fluffing around with moral equivalencies and the good guys aren't torn with anguish about whether they are doing the right thing or not. They are facing a ruthless, evil enemy, and they need to kill them all. There are no pathetic civilians muttering about doing a deal with the enemy or "learning to get along". No one tries to understand why the bad guys are bad, and the only negotiating that they do is with the pointy end of a sword.

Great stuff.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Rain makes you fat

At least that's what I thought when I got to work earlier this week. Thanks to the rain pouring down for the entire journey, I reckon I weighed a few kilos more than usual by the time it came to disrobe. Everything was saturated - my jersey was easily 3 or 4 times its normal weight.

But it was very pleasant rain. It wasn't the useless piffling rain that falls in hot weather, dries as soon as it hits the ground and does nothing except crank the humidity up to 119%. It also wasn't the pounding rain that stings your eyeballs and lips when you smack into the larger drops when going downhill at over 40km/h. It was in between rain - Goldilocks rain.Enough of it to keep the body beautifully cool, but not so much of it that you'd start to think it would be more pleasant to ride into a fire hose.

I don't know why so many people hate getting out in the rain - it's blissful.

Monday, 11 November 2013

My name is not Gaylord

I got asked a lot today if I rode to work. Sure I did. OK, so I had to put up with 50km/h wind gusts and pouring rain - but what's the problem? It's just air and water.

I'm more concerned about all the gaylords who took the bus.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Is Al Gore in town?

Went for a ride yesterday. Thought it was a bit warm - looked at the bike computer and found it was showing 37 degrees. Flipping forecast was for 29. Had to sleep with the fan on all night to cool down.

Went for another ride today - got absolutely pissed on. Half froze. Now wearing fleecy pants to stay warm. Very glad I didn't bother washing the bike on Saturday as it is now completely covered in filthy road crap.

Is this what it's like to live in bloody Melbourne?

Tandoori in minature

I don't get to eat a lot of Indian food these days - just about everyone else in the family dislikes it, so it's pretty much off the menu all year round.

I finally got the chance to have some last night - possibly my first Indian dinner this year. It was my first time ordering from the restaurant I chose, and I was taken by the idea that they served an entire chicken tandoori, not just chunks of breast or thigh meat.

My suspicions should have been raised by the fact that they were willing to cook a chicken tandoori style and deliver it to my door for about the same price as a supermarket roast chicken. But my mind was elsewhere, and I didn't pick up on that salient point.

The chicken duly arrived (with the other dishes). It was pretty much as advertised - a chicken, chopped into 8 bits and cooked in tandoori marinade.

There was just one small problem.

It was the smallest chicken I have ever seen. Either this restaurant has invented a shrink ray, or I now have an explanation for the shrinking population of pigeons in the neighbourhood.

I won't be eating Indian for another year, and after this experience, I won't be missing it much.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Cardamom ambush

I'm a bit of a sucker for Indian desserts, but I've always held back from actually making any. There's just something a bit weird about them that puts me off putting one together.

I took the cheats way out tonight by making a dessert with cardamom - that's close enough for me.

It's a lime and cardamom sauce for bananas. Just the sort of thing that's needed to fuel a hungry cyclist.

I made this with just one large banana - the recipe calls for 6 small bananas. I reduced my quantities a bit for one large banana. Here is the recipe proper. It should be enough to feed two hungry cyclists.

Here we go.

- 6 small bananas
- 50 gm butter
- 50 gm flaked almonds
- seeds from 4 cardamom pods
- 2 limes - juiced and zested
- 50 gm 1/4 cup) brown sugar. Or molasses
- 2 tablespoons of dark rum
- ice cream to serve

Here's how you do it.

Lightly squash the cardamom pods and pull out the seeds. Don't smash the pods - if you do, you'll have bits of pod stuck to your banana. Just crack them hard enough so that the pods split open.

Add the pods to the 50gm of flaked almonds. (I like to put everything in its place beforehand, so I had a little bowl for the almonds and chucked the seeds into that). I didn't have flaked almonds - but I did have slivered almonds. They did the trick.

Peel your bananas - as in take the skins off. Slice them in half down the middle. Chuck half the butter into a frying pan and fry your bananas until brown on each side. As I was doing one banana in a medium sized frying pan, I had an easy time of it. With 6 bananas, you'd probably need to do 2-3 batches. Be careful turning the bananas as they tend to fall to bits as they cook. I started with 2 slices of banana and finished with six chunks of banana.

When the bananas are cooked, slide them onto a plate - or even into the bowls you are going to serve them in.

Chuck the other half of the butter into the frying pan and add the almonds and cardamom. (This is why I put them together in one small bowl). When the almonds are a nice brown colour, tip in your lime juice and lime zest. Whizz it around for say 10-20 seconds and then throw in the sugar. Reduce it a bit and then tip in the rum. Stir some more, then pour over the bananas, add ice cream and scoff.

I used very dark sugar - it was almost black. That was quite good. I might try it with a lighter sugar next time. I also added the sugar before the lime, but it appeared to make no difference. I also paid no attention to the measurement of rum, simply tipping in a reasonable quantity. Probably a lot more than the recipe called for.

To begin with, I could only taste the merest hint of cardamom. I was starting to think that I had wimped out by only adding the seeds of one pod.

However, the little buggers ambushed me towards the end - all the seeds must have ended up in the last three spoonfuls, because I was pounded with cardamom. That's not a bad thing, but it can be a bit overpowering, when hosed on like that.

This thing is a piece of cake to make, and it's very tasty. I reckon it took me no longer than 10 minutes from reading the recipe to eating it.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Riding in the big smoke

Thanks to the fires around Sydney this week, it's been a bit smokey on the ride home.

And before you ask if the fires are close by - no, they are not. Sydney is a big place, and the fires are on the outskirts. For instance, if I was sitting in Washington DC, the fires would be out around Fredericksburg. If I was in London, they'd be around Milton Keynes. Sure, it's really smokey if you're near the fires - but around here, you can just barely smell them (unless I have become completely desensitised to smoke).

We've had health warnings every day about not doing strenuous exercise due to the smoke, but that hasn't stopped me - or a lot of other cyclists around this way. I've slowed down and taken it easy so that my breathing is shallower, but that's about it. I've seen one bloke in a face mask.

Bob Carr and a sad decrease in hazard reduction burns


I found this graph in an Australian Institute of Criminality report on trends in deliberate vegetation fires in Australia. They have reports for each state - the one for Victoria is here.

Labor, under Bob Carr, came to power in 1995. Bob had a distinctly green tinge to him. I haven't been able to find the figures fore before 1995, but they were certainly pretty low in 1995/96 and they got much worse from that point on - declining to zero in 1999/2000. I guess Bob didn't want any smoke to interfere with the Sydney Olympics.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Smoking

There were some bloody awful bush fires around Sydney today - lots of houses destroyed but thankfully no one killed (so far). We've had some very good rains over the last 2 years, and that has meant lots of grass. The grass has now dried out and - woof - it's gone up in smoke.

One result of getting knocked off my bike some years ago and landing on my head is that I have a very reduced sense of smell. I actually couldn't smell the smoke today - even though the sky was black with it. I wasn't bothered by it riding home - it didn't seem to clog up my lungs at all. Needed to give the eyes a good wash though - they were full of muck.The worst thing was the horrible head winds - apparently it was gusting up to 60km/h, and it certainly felt that way. I was getting blown backwards and side wards and when I got home, I was expecting the side fences to blow over.

This photo doesn't do this justice - the sun was a blood red orb glowing through the smoke. It was quite spectacularly spooky. Those bare topped poles by the way are were the monorail used to be. The demolition crew is still in the process of chopping it up into little bits and carting it away.


This photo didn't capture the scene either - that patch of sky in the middle was the most brilliant blue, with the black clouds above it.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Fascinating view of the past

Well, if you view the dim dark past as 1973 and 1978. Two videos that are worth a look - the first for what technology was like 35 years ago, and the second for what then navy was like 40 years ago.


Monday, 14 October 2013

Surviving riding when it's 39 degrees outside

We've finally had a burst of hot weather - 39 degrees last week and 36 yesterday (although a cold change came through overnight and I am currently freezing - I'll need arm warmers and a vest this morning!).

Riding when it's 39 isn't that bad if you're prepared for it. If you ask me, apart from drinking plenty of water before setting out, carrying enough for the trip and drinking some electrolytes, the main thing is to have a good level of fitness. The hills and the heat could easily kill someone who is badly out of shape. I'm now at a level where if I potter along easily, I don't sweat at all.

On hot days, I leave around sunrise so that I get to work whilst it is still relatively cool - I don't have a hard time cooling down with a shower. Riding home in the heat is unavoidable - you just have to suck it up. All I do is drop my speed by 20-25%. That causes a serious drop in the level of effort that I have to make, so I don't overcook myself. It's hard to rein in the speed when you're used to charging along a certain section at a certain pace - I really have to watch the speedo and think about it.

Yesterday was worse, even though the temp was lower at 36. There was a howling headwind blowing, which meant I had to work bloody hard to make it up some hills. That negated the "take it easy"philosophy. For instance, although I was in low gear going up the Anzac Bridge (doing a paltry 11km/h - almost standing still), I was still working like a maniac due to the wind. If I'd dropped my effort level, I would have come to a standstill and fallen off the bike. I had to pedal hard down the other side just to keep moving. I was thinking about hopping off and pushing it was that bad. It was seriously hard work, and I am still feeling it this morning.

Friday, 11 October 2013

If you're going to honk at a cyclist, make sure you can run away

Had a fun little run in with a motorist this morning in the city. It ended up with me calling him a number of rude things through his open window.

Here's the deal. Two lane road, with the left lane turning left and the right lane going straight ahead. I'm in the right lane, intending to jump into the left hand lane (which is a bus lane) as soon as the lights go green and I am across the intersection.

One small problem - about 50 metres up the road, there's a taxi stopped in the bus lane letting out a passenger. Or waiting for the passenger to pay. So I stay in the right lane and intend to stay there until I'm past the taxi - at that point, I'll hoik hard left into the bus lane and everyone will be happy.

The thing to note is that at this time of the day, traffic rarely moves more than 35km/h, and I'm doing nearly 30, so it's not like I'm going to cause people to be an hour late for work.

All is well, except for the impatient little turd behind me who decides he wants to overtake. Which he can't, because there isn't room. He does the usual impatient driver thing, which involves moving up enough so this front wheel is overlapping my back wheel. It's a horrible position to be in - the equivalent of having a gun held to your head. One false move by either party and things could end badly for me. It scares the willies out of me, but it also makes me mad as hell.

As I passed the taxi, I indicated I was moving left and then turned around and gave Mr Honker the middle finger. Honker gave me another honk, then came up along side me and returned the middle finger through his open passenger window (he was smoking).

Honker had one small problem. Although he was able to take off up the road, he was stuck behind a delivery van - and the van pulled up at the next red light.

And that's when I pulled up alongside Honker and gave him a good serve through his open window. It turned out the guy was perhaps in his 20s and quite fat - his gut was a lot larger and rounder than mine. He looked vaguely like a beach ball intersected by a seat belt. He really hadn't been expected that there would be a Round Two - that the cyclist might actually catch him and call him out on his stupidity. He thought he could be a dick and then run away from the consequences.

I definitely had the last laugh. My lane was clear. The lights changed and I took off. The van that Honker was stuck behind was not as quick as me. I made it through the next set of lights, but the van and Honker didn't. Honker was an idiot because he wanted to race ahead, but in the end, I ended up way ahead of him through lucky light changes. Being in a hurry did him no good at all.

I'll tell you what though - it gave me a super adrenaline rush. I was ready to rip his spleen out and feed it to him raw.

Monday, 7 October 2013

I don't get to overtake Police cars very often

I went into town again today to witness the madness that is the naval review. The hordes that were there yesterday were there again today. Not sure if they were the same horde or a new horde, but they were certainly a horde.

Even though there were a bazillion people walking around, there was very little vehicle traffic. Everyone must have grown a brain and caught public transport. That didn't stop the police though from cruising around slowly to keep the cars down to a nice, calm pace.

But I don't do "nice, calm pace". I tend to go as fast as I can until I'm about to blow a gasket. So when I found myself behind a 10 car line moving at a snail's pace, I hotfooted it up to the front by zipping down the inside. And yes, up front was Plod, plodding along at about 25km/h.

I hung back for just a little bit - until we hit a stretch of road with a bike lane - and then decided it was time to leave Plod behind. Just one small problem - there was a roundabout coming up, and we went through it side by side. Which you can do (thanks to the bike lane) - but Plod made the usual driver's mistake of going to wide on the left as he exited the roundabout, which would have smeared me if I wasn't ready for it. Of all the drivers in the city today, I really didn't expect to get smacked by a meandering plod.

On that note, I planted it and left Plod to eat my dust. You're much safer in front of a car than beside one. I wonder how Plod felt about being dragged off by an old guy on a push bike.

I had to swerve out of the bike lane a few seconds later - did I mention Plod was out in force? Right in front of me, in the bike lane, were two mounted police. Thankfully, their horses had decided to crap somewhere else this afternoon, so I didn't have to put up with dodging around (or plowing through) some enormous horse pancakes.

Thanks to that, I am now cooked. I can barely walk.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Manners - or lack thereof

I ducked into town today to have a look all the kerfuffle the Navy has been causing. Plenty of people must like sailors and warships because the bloody place was heaving with people. I don't think I have ever seen so many people on the Pyrmont Bridge as today. A ship was tied up at Barangaroo, and there was a long line of people waiting to go onboard to have a look.

I pass the Star Casino on the way home. Some days, they have some sort of chimney malfunction and the smell of smoking ribs is ejected into the street to tempt terribly those like me who are passing by. But that was not what happened today.

The stretch along there is proper, solid, green, well marked bike path. I sometimes have a problem with people walking in or crossing the path without looking, but it's not often that they block the entire path.

Here's the scene: a stretch limo has pulled up to take on passengers. It's big enough to comfortably carry 6 large people - and it had to be, because it was picking up 6 hefalumps today. Instead of lining up parallel to the limo whilst they waiting to squeeze on board, they gaggled right across the path so that they blocked it entirely. And they were large people. Very large. Each as wide as the bike lane. Prime targets for extra serves of ribs.

Being a busy day, there were bikes coming in both directions. Half a dozen cyclists came to a halt on either side of this enormous human obstruction and just stood there waiting for one of the bovine critters to move out of the way so that we could squeeze past. They didn't need to get off the path - they just needed to clear one side of it so we could be on our way.

But they just stood there like a herd of stunned buffalo. Eventually, one of them woke up and moved a few feet forward. He tried to get one of his fellow lumps to move as well, but the lump was not for moving. The buffalo had to explain to the lump why it was necessary to move - including pointing at us - and the lump slowly started to move. Turning to look our way was not easy, as lump had no neck. The entire body had to be rotated, starting with the feet. It was like watching an old tank trying to do a track turn.

He moved with bad grace. For some reason, lump thought he was perfectly entitled to stand in the bike lane like an idiot. A very large idiot. Yes, he had to get into the lane to get into his limo, but that didn't mean that lump and his super-sized mates had to block both lanes with their mammoth carcasses.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Are all taxi drivers mental?

Ah, Friday. It has the same effect on drivers in the city as the full moon has on werewolves. Except every day seems to be Friday for certain taxi drivers.

I was zipping through a construction zone at a good pace - nearly 35km/h in a 40 zone. All was well, until a taxi driver decided he wanted to be in front. He was one of those drivers that loves to stamp on the power pedal multiple times in order to overtake someone. I could hear him surging up behind me - ROAR-roar-ROAR-roar-ROAR as his foot slammed the accelerator to the floor, let it off, slammed it down again, let it off etc etc etc.

It was getting a bit tedious when thankfully he passed me. He must have been doing 60+ as he zoomed around a blind bend....

....and then I heard the screech of brakes.

But no bang.

As I came around the corner, I found the taxi sitting in a cloud of type smoke - right in front of a lollipop lady who had her sign turned to 'Stop' and was looking mightily unimpressed. I passed the taxi, and she waved me through the zone. As I passed her, she commented on what an almighty tool that driver was - I affirmed her opinion.

The driver sat there for about 10 seconds after she gave him the go signal - I think he crapped himself.

The importance of not choking

No, this is not a story about the America's Cup. It's a story about hayfever.

Spring has definitely arrived, and for the first time in years, I'm getting hayfever. There are some parts of Australia where I get the most miserable hayfever this time of year, but Sydney is generally not one of them. I used to say it was because of all the pollution - but you don't see the thick brown haze on the horizon that we used to get 20 years ago. Cleaner running cars - even though there are lots more of them - means no smog.

Hayfever and bike riding generally means lots of nose blowing to each side. Successfully clearing your nose whilst moving requires a few things - mainly a good aim and plenty of nasal pressure. And not blowing your nose into the wind.

Yesterday morning was calm, and my aim was good. However, I choked at the critical moment. I coughed just as I went to honk the nostril, so instead of generating say 100psi in the nasal cavity, I generated about 20% of the power required.

It was just enough to eject a huge amount of snot - but not enough to make it clear my shoulder.

It looked like a pelican who had been eating too much algae had done an enormous crap on my shoulder. I say "pelican" because a seagull is too small a bird to have produced that amount of green crap.

What to do? Ignore it? Try and wipe it off?

Let me just say that trying to wipe it off compounded the error enormously.

Just don't choke. Don't.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Radio check


  • Still alive? - check
  • PC and internet working? - check
  • Got anything worthwhile to say? - not really
Normal transmission will resume when I find something interesting to write about.

BOAB out.

Friday, 23 August 2013

How much is public service maternity leave costing us right now?

We now know that the public service gets very generous maternity leave arrangements. What we haven’t done though is look at the potential cost on a department by department basis. There's a big problem though - I can't find any hard numbers on how much individual departments are currently spending on maternity leave arrangements.

Consider the parental leave arrangements for state school teachers in WA - it's 14 weeks paid leave, and you are eligible after being employed after 12 months. According to this CPSU article, 18 weeks seems to be fairly common across swathes of the public sector.

One major criticism of Abbott's scheme is that it will involve paying out lots of money to high income earners. Well, let's have a look at a public sector department with a lot of high income earners and think about how much the public sector scheme is costing us right now.

Take the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

According to the last annual report, the department had:


  • 602 staff (although this number seems very rubbery)
  • 60.8% were female
  • 77.2% were under 45


In short, the PM&C seems to be chockful of breeders.

Pay bands:


  • 64 SES staff paid – $139,000 – $388,498 (although the top staff seemed to take home a lot more than this)
  • EL2 107 staff – $112,340 – $141,591
  • EL1 173 staff – $96,518 – $117,647
  • APS 4-6 – 227 staff – $59,119 – $92,456


Total employee expenses – $109.6 million

Average employee expense based on 602 staff – $182,059 per employee

So let’s recap.

We have a department full of women at peak breeding age. They are very highly paid – the average salary puts them in the top 1% of earners in this country. They are entitled to possibly the most generous maternity leave arrangements in the country as they stand today. 

And somehow the Lib’s policy is gold plated for rich people?

FMD.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Oh, my freezing gonads

What the hell happened to the warm weather we were having until recently? It had reached the point where I was riding home as if it was summer - no vest, no arm warmers and no leg warmers. And then this bloody cold snap hit. I had to drag out the undershirts this morning - it was wear three layers or die. I rode home last night wearing everything, and I was still cold even after tackling the hills. I rode with some poor buggers who had no limb warmers - they appeared to be turning blue no matter how hard they hit the cranks.

I was amazed when I got into a hot shower this morning and found that I didn't really have an icicle hanging from the end of the old fella. It certainly felt that way.

Tanya's minions


Tanya Plibersek had her minions out the other day, canvasing drunks outside the Pyrmont Hotel.

Labor's slogans are really starting to shit me. Tanya's is "Speaks for us". Our local King of Stroganof, John Murphy, uses "On our side". Who is "us"? Who is "our"? She should get real and change it to "I love junkies".

Once more, note the tiny little "Labor" logo in the bottom right hand corner. You really have to look for it.

There goes the monorail


The monorail closed down about a month ago. Last Friday, this sign advertising the impending demolition appeared.


On Monday, the trucks and cranes duly appeared and bits of monorail started disappearing.


And how do you get rid of a monorail? Easy - just bring a big crane or two and a gas axe.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Never heard of "floor it"

By Friday, I'm usually knackered and the ride home is slower than normal. However, that was not the case last week - I felt better by the end of the week than at the start, so I was belting it as I left work and headed out of town.

There's a long, straight, flat stretch of road that I ride along after exiting The Rocks. On a good day, due to the placement of a couple of speed bumps, I can outpace the cars for most of its length. On Friday, I was on fire and well and truly out in front.

This road has lots of car parking along both sides, and on Friday afternoons, people are in a rush to leave, so I was not super surprised when an MX-5 pulled out of a car park in front of me. The driver looked at me, saw me, and then started off.

Now I know that the MX-5 is a sports car, and it is capable of pretty sporty performance. I've got friends who have drooled over them for years. The only problem here was that the driver was not very sporty - or not in a sporty mood that day. She pulled out just fast enough to get in my way, but not fast enough to then get out of my way. In fact, she accelerated that thing like a busted slug. If she'd floored it and taken off like an MX-5 is designed to do, I wouldn't have had any headaches.

The problem with these moments is the lack of drama. If I'd been in my 4WD, you would have heard the screaming tyres a mile away as I slammed on the brakes, and then a good dose of horn to top it off. With a bike, you're braking so hard you can't even raise a fist to shake it. The most you might hear is a loud, "You fucking moron" being bellowed at the back of the car.

Anyway, she took off that slowly that after braking hard to avoid her, I managed to zip around, get in front and take off.

I would have left it at that except for what happened up the road. The road splits into two lanes, and I of course was in the left hand lane. As we approached a set of red lights, she decided she wanted to be in that lane too, so she roared past me and then hoiked it to the left - without indicating - at the last possible moment. She made things even more annoying by braking as she muscled into my lane. That was case 2 of truly shit driving.

I've been taught to never hit a woman, but by crikey, I was sorely tempted to drop the bike, walk around to her door and deck her. I've never had two close calls with the same car in under 2 minutes.

In my younger days, I would have dismissed this with "Bloody women drivers". That is, women can't drive. That's clearly wrong - she could drive a car, and I've nearly run into plenty of totally crap drivers of both sexes, all ages and most nationalities to know that it's silly to single out women. She could drive -what she totally lacked was judgement and empathy. What she didn't lack was big boofy blonde hair.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Don't believe everything that gets stuffed into your letterbox

We got an election pamphlet from John Murphy recently. A big chunk of it tells the story of a local woman who had cancer, was treated with a drug called Herceptin and obviously lived to tell the tale.


What this pamphlet doesn't tell you is that Herceptin was put onto the PBS when Tony Abbott was Minister for Health. How's that for misogyny - approving a very expensive drug that only benefits women.


It's a neatly designed little pamphlet - very professional - but I had to look hard to find out which party John Murphy is a member of. There's a very small logo on the back - in the last place most people will bother to look.



The pamphlet states that Barbara Bailey is a teacher. I hope she isn't the one that teaches at Summer Hill.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Interesting

The rich driver differently.

I disagree. Unless of course tradesmen, couriers and taxi drivers are the new rich. Most of the problems I have on the road come from tradesmen in utes, couriers in vans and taxi drivers in bloody Ford Falcons. I have the occasional problem with a knobhead in a BMW or Mercedes, but they are pretty few and far between.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Idiots without spares

It wasn't hard to spot the broken down ute on Victoria Road - there was a Police motorbike parked behind it with lights flashing. I couldn't work out why they had decided to stop there, just before the entry to the Anzac Bridge.

I found out when I drew level with the ute - the back left hand tyre was completely flat. Either the bloke had been driving along with a flat tyre without noticing it and the cop had pulled him over, or the driver had pulled over and the cop came along to investigate.

What amazed me though was the driver was just standing on the footpath doing nothing. He'd pulled over into a bus bay, so he was in a safe enough spot to change the tyre. Instead of jacking the car up and getting on with it, he was just looking sheepish. Unless the cop had told him to do nothing and wait for a tow truck to get him out of the way. I hate to think he was stupid enough to be driving around without a spare, jack and tools.

I've seen plenty of cars being driven with a flat tyre - do the drivers have no brains at all? Don't they notice that they're driving on a rim?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The hard slog of fact checking the Greens

The electorate of Grayndler is not far from me - I ride through a chunk of it every day. The Greens are running a bloke called Hall Greenland against Labor's Anthony Albanese. I'm no fan of Albo - I think he is a horrible little slimebag. However, that doesn't give the Greens license to tell porkies.

Take this article on Hall's website. On my first read of it, I've already spotted three errors. Sorry, make that 4.

Error 1

he’s responsible for the government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation that is now spending $4.7 billion of public money to upgrade the Hunter Valley freight lines to facilitate the doubling of the coal exports through Newcastle.
Wrong. The ARTC is not spending $4.7 billion dollars. The entire value of its rail assets totals $4.7 billion.

The ARTC has published a number of strategy papers on expanding capacity in the Hunter Valley. They released a series of draft papers and then a final paper on 29 June. Earlier drafts of the strategy listed $3.5 billion worth of upgrades over the next 10 years.

The final strategy divides investments into contracted volume and prospective volume. That is, the first investments are required based on the tonnages they have written contracts to cover, and prospective is what they might build if more contracts come along.

The estimated costs to cover the contracted volume investments is $711 million. Not $4.7 billion.

The estimated costs to cover the prospective volumes total $1708 million. If all the new coal mines and mine expansions go ahead, ARTC will invest $2.4 billion over the next 10 years. Not $4.7 billion.

My take - the Greens have no head for numbers.

Error 2

 spending $4.7 billion of public money
It's not public money, allocated from the budget and raised from taxpayers. The coal mines pay to run coal trains over the tracks, and the fees the mines pay for access funds the investment. The miners are paying for the upgrades, not the general public.

Error 3

As Bill McKibben pointed out, there are some days in summer in Germany – which is significantly further from the equator than Australia – when half the power generated comes from solar.
German solar output hit a new record recently when solar generated 40% of demand on Sunday 7 July. However, as this article points out, Germans don't work on Sunday, so offices and shops are closed, so it is not a day for high electricity demand. Sunday demand is 20% lower than a weekday. Furthermore, solar covered only 20% of the demand for the entire day. The 40% figure was peak output, which didn't last very long. Bill needs to explain where he got his "half the power generated from solar" statistics come from.

It costs German power consumers $18 billion per year to support the solar and wind industry - ie, $18 billion worth of high power bills.

And it has to be remembered that July 7 is the middle of summer for the Germans.

The Germans are getting rid of subsidies by 2018 by the way.

Berlin "has so far invested 216 billion euros ($A308.24 billion) in renewables and the biggest chunk went to solar, the technology which does least to ensure the power supply," said the head of industrial group Siemens, Peter Loescher, in an interview published in the business daily Handelsblatt on Monday.

Germany has seen a wave of solar company insolvencies and the number of people employed in the industry fell to 87,000 in 2012 from 110,900 a year earlier, while sales plummeted by 11.9 billion euros, according to government figures.

Funny number, number 1

Clearly that $4.7billion subsidy to coal expansion could be much better spent on catching up with Germany.

Size of German economy - $3.5 trillion.

Size of Australian economy - $1.3 trillion.

That makes the German economy 2.7 times larger than ours. If our government was to waste the same proportional amount on solar and wind as the krauts, it would total $114 billion. $4.7 billion wouldn't allow us to catch up very much at all.

Error number 4

Clearly that $4.7billion subsidy to coal expansion
As I pointed out before, the coal miners are paying for the investment. It is not a "subsidy". If you spend $100,000 of your own money renovating your house, you are not getting a "subsidy" from anyone, especially the government. You are spending your own cash. Just because the money is channeled via the ARTC doesn't make it a subsidy.

Bugger me, I could be here all day analysing these morons. One thing this shows is that we clearly have a problem with our education system if we're turning out such innumerate busybodies.

Brown trousers time

Friday night is a bloody awful time to be riding in the city - which is why I always try to get away by about 1645hrs. That's just early enough to avoid the 1700 madness that erupts at the end of every week.

I managed to do that this week - although I was a tiny bit late, so I was hammering it down George St in order to be well clear of town before the full moon type fever took over the minds of most of the drivers in the CBD.

There's a swish hotel at the bottom of George St - it used to be called the Regent. No idea what it's called these days. It has a semi-circular drive way to allow guests to be picked up and dropped off away from the street. As there is a taxi zone right next door, it's a nightmare at any hour of the day - taxi drivers having no regard for cyclists at all.

The lights were green, so I was going for it. And then the usual thing happened - a hire car driver coming in the opposite direction spotted what he thought was a break in the traffic and decided to turn into the hotel driveway across my line of travel. Unfortunately, I was in that break. Either he saw me coming (with my brights lights and flouro vest) and decided it was just too bad for me, or he was blind as a bat. Didn't matter - I was hauling on the anchors pretty hard to avoid going into the side of his car.

One thing going for him was that he was moving fast - so long as he kept going fast into the driveway, I'd be able to go around the back of him without any worries.

Except neither of us had thought about the gutter at the edge of the driveway. His front spoiler slammed into it at speed with a horrible crunch, and he came to an abrupt stop with his car blocking 1 1/2 lanes. I now had no hope of easily getting around him.

Yes, it was brown trousers time.

Thankfully, he only stopped briefly and then started moving again - and it wasn't wet. The combination of spotting him early, braking hard and him getting partly out of my way was just enough to avoid a bike meets cars incident.

I thought about riding into the driveway and giving him a piece of my mind, but there were two things that convinced me to keep cool and keep going. For starters, I didn't wanted to get out of town before I ran into another meat head. The second was that he was driving a Ford, and there is no hope for those types.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Sod's Law

Put arm warmers and jacket on last night. Got too hot, took it off after a few minutes.

Went out in jersey tonight - no arm warmers or jacket. It started raining.

Close call

Had a close call with a moron tonight. He overtook me at high speed and then threw a very hard left turn just in front of me - I had to brake to avoid going into his side door. His tyres were squealing pretty loudly as he went around the corner.

Typical - his number plate started with "CAV".

Monday, 29 July 2013

Is a bike fitting worth it?

When I bought my bike many years ago, I spent a few hours in the shop getting it properly fitted. The blokes doing the fitting took into account my size, flexibility etc etc. They did a pretty good job - once my arse had adjusted to the seat, I was comfortable and able to deliver power through the pedals.

All that changed a few weeks ago when I bought a new saddle. Although I got it fitted in a bike shop, it was simply screwed on rather than "fitted". Within 10 minutes of leaving the shop, I was in serious discomfort. By the time I got home, the discomfort had turned into a lot of pain. I immediately sought out some tools, and dropped the saddle. After a short test ride, I dropped it some more (the new saddle was significantly taller than the old one).

A week later, I hurt all over. I had achilles problems in one ankle, burning pain in my opposite knee, terrible hamstring pains and I couldn't ride for more than 5 minutes without having to stand up on the pedals and stretch. It was so bad, I had to take a week off to recover.

After the week off, I had another go. Things were still bad, so I booked myself in for a new bike fitting. By the end of the week, the pain had travelled further up and I was getting killer, knockout headaches.

The fitting took 3 hours and ended up setting me back over $400 (once some new parts were included).

Ouch.

However, the fitter made quite a few adjustments, and they all worked. I've done another week on the bike, and all the pain has disappeared. During the fitting, it was clear that the positioning of the new saddle had bent me seriously out of shape. It was way too far forward, and I had dropped it too much to compensate for the poor shop fitting. I was unable to develop power because my legs weren't pushing in the right direction. One leg was able to bend nearly 15 degrees further than the other - a sign of hamstring lock up. Being tight on one side was twisting everything around, which produced the headaches. 

Because my saddle was too far forward, me knees were too far forward, and that led to knee pain. Orthotics were fitted into my shoes, allowing more power to be transferred to the pedals. Because I was too low, my legs weren't extending far enough at the bottom of each stroke, leading to a huge loss of power.

So yes, it was expensive. But bloody hell - it was worth it. I reckon  the way I was going, I would have spent more on physio fees if I hadn't gotten the bike setup properly.

I wonder how many people buy a bike, go for a ride, find that it hurts a lot due to a bad setup and then park in the garage and never ride it again? I wouldn't think of driving a car without adjusting the seat settings into the most comfortable and ergonomic position - but lots of people buy cheap bikes from shops that have no idea of how to use a plumb bob to check your knee position, or to use caliper thingys to check the angle of your knee extension at the bottom of your pedal stroke.

As they say - you gets what you pays for.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Collingwood


I thought about doing a bit of photoshopping here with a Collingwood jumper, but couldn't e bothered.

Sunrise

Haven't posted one of these for a while.


Noooooooooooooooo!

The Oxford Tavern is changing for the worse.

Where does the SMH get its facts from?

Paul McGeogh wrote a story today titled The race question that won't go away

In it, he states, "But there's a second-tier scandal in the suggestion in these two Florida cases that the ''stand your ground'' defence is more readily available to whites than to blacks."

Actually, Blacks benefit from Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law at disproportionate rate.

"Black Floridians have made about a third of the state’s total “Stand Your Ground” claims in homicide cases, a rate nearly double the black percentage of Florida’s population. The majority of those claims have been successful, a success rate that exceeds that for Florida whites.

But approximately one third of Florida “Stand Your Ground” claims in fatal cases have been made by black defendants, and they have used the defense successfully 55 percent of the time, at the same rate as the population at large and at a higher rate than white defendants, according to a Daily Caller analysis of a database maintained by the Tampa Bay Times.  Additionally, the majority of victims in Florida “Stand Your Ground” cases have been white.

African Americans used “Stand Your Ground” defenses at nearly twice the rate of their presence in the Florida population, which was listed at 16.6 percent in 2012."

Never let the facts get in the way of an emotive article.

More cooking stuff

One good thing about riding all week is that you can pretty much eat what you want - unless you are aiming to become a stick insect. I have no intention of turning into a stick insect, so I happily cook and eat the sort of stuff that the health Nazis regularly warn will turn us all into morbidly obese muffinmen.

This week's attempt was Pear and almond skillet cake.


Findings:


  • It's excellent - a really tasty cake (albeit a bit sweet for my liking). I love the crunchiness of the slivered almonds. 
  • It was a cinch to make - minimum mixing and mess
  • Only issue I had with it was that it took 45 minutes in my stupid oven rather than the recommended 15-20. However, part of that might have been caused by me using a smaller frying pan than recommended, leading to a deeper cake
  • It almost bubbled over the lip of the pan - I hadn't counted on it rising so much
I'll definitely be making this again.

Smoking

Had a go with a cheap smoker last night - scroll to the 9 minute mark to see how to do it. Yes, it actually worked, and I am going to do it some more.



Where we deviated from Jamie:


  • We didn't have hot coals ready, so we threw some firelighters and charcoal beads into the bucket, lit them up and waited until they got hot
  • Don't use hexamine based firelighters - they taint the smoke
  • Used a packet of hickory chips bought from the shop
  • Used a cake rack instead of sticks to hold the smoked meat
  • Put an old fashioned metal fly cover over the top, and then topped that with a wet tea towel


Dead easy - the main bit is getting a galvanised bucket from your local hardware store. 

Monday, 15 July 2013

New power law of cooking

"The volume of chocolate pudding mix that makes it into the oven is inverse to the number of young kids helping in the kitchen".

The kids would eat an entire batch of chocolate self-saucing pudding mix raw if I let them.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Sexist gingerbread

The kids like a bit of gingerbread. I went looking for a recipe this morning. What did I find?

Gingerbread people.

FMD.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Queues

Many years ago, I visited Italy (along with a lot of other European countries). It was well before the age of ATMs being everywhere, the Euro and the ability to make cash withdrawals from an ATM overseas. We're talking the dark ages. Ancient history. The early 1990s.

This meant I had to visit a bank every week or so to either change currency, exchange travelers cheques or fill out a lot of forms to withdraw cash. Italy in particular had some weird banking laws that meant you had to go into a bank to do a lot of the things that you can do at a kiosk or ATM elsewhere.

I hated doing that with a passion. Because Italians in Italy don't queue. Especially in banks.

It was a massive culture shock for me. Over here, as in most western countries, you walk into a bank and there is one of those portable barrier thingys showing where to line up. Not Italy. You walked in, and immediately joined a massive scrum at the counter. Old women elbowed you in the guts to get ahead. Men just shoulder charged and rammed others aside. It was total chaos. Friday night happy hour at the bar in the most crowded pub in Australia is more cultured, orderly and organised than an Italian bank counter. I wonder if things have changed?

I left Italy being so thankful that we live in a civilised country where people are prepared to queue - to let those that got in line first get served first. People take their place and no one gets to jump ahead. The antithesis of Italy was when I voted at Bondi Beach one year. Like just about everyone else who was voting that day, I'd been for a swim and was lined up to vote in my Speedos and bare feet. The line was long - it snaked right out the door of the Bather's Pavilion. Just behind me was a well known multi-millionaire, also dripping wet and in his bathers. In some countries, he just would have walked to the front of the queue and brazened his way in; or officials would have seen him standing there and come out to lead him to the front. Not here - he just stood there happily like everyone else, waiting his turn to be processed and chatting with those around him in the line.

I love that. I'm so glad that we don't let those with money push in ahead of the less fortunate and less wealthy.

Oh wait........

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Drugs

I'm reading my way through The Secret Race - a great book on cycling and doping. When I read the preview, I thought it would be pretty boring and I didn't have high hopes. However, it's turned out to be an absolutely gripping book.

It's also got me hankering after some EPO and testosterone. I've been feeling very flat and tired these last few weeks (I'm not getting any younger), and the way the application of these drugs is described, I could really do with some. A can of Coke just doesn't cut it anymore.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Another close call with a numpty

Friday evening in the city is usually a time of madness. The worst traffic of the week. The only place more dangerous for cyclists is around any school at pick up and drop off time - there's nothing like a swarm of mums hyped up on coffee, yelling at kids, gasbagging on the phone and driving 4WDs to put your life in peril.  At least the traffic in town is generally at a standstill. 

So there I was, barreling down a bike lane at a good clip, passing about 1km of cars jammed up nose to tail going nowhere. Up ahead, a gap opens up and a Hilux comes zooming across the road from a side street. However, there is just one problem.


Bonehead in the Hilux thinks that the bike lane is a car lane. He doesn't maneuver into the gap - he blasts through it and makes as if to drive down the bike lane. That made for some interesting evasive tactics on my part as I lent right over and zipped around him. The bloke behind me was just as surprised. Hilux driver seemed to realise his mistake after nearly collecting two hood ornaments - he gave up on his attempt to overtake the stalled traffic via the bike lane and got back into line.

Just writing about it makes my heart beat faster. Far out, it was a close run thing.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

A weekend without pork belly is.........what?

Curses. No trip to the butcher this weekend to buy another slab of pork belly. However, I did try something new - a parsnip veloute.

WTF?

That's pretty much what I thought when I first read the word "veloute". So I looked it up and made it on a whim. Essentially it's soup.

But I didn't want a soup - I wanted something more akin to a mash.

Pretty easy really - peeled and chopped two big parsnips, along with an onion. Threw a big hunk of butter into my cast iron frying pan, got it sizzling, swished the chopped parsnip and onion around on top of the stove for 5 minutes (until I saw a bit of brown here and there) and then threw it into a 180 degree oven for - I have no idea how long. Long enough to cook. And I have no idea if the oven was actually at 180. It could have been 140 or 220 knowing my oven.

After that, threw it in the blender with some cream and blended until it was the right consistency. Not like mash, and not like soup. Firm enough to stand up as a blob on a plate without squidging. How much cream was that? Dunno. Started with an almost full carton and I put some back in the fridge. About that much.

It was amazingly delicious - but you probably need to like parsnip for it to work for you. Then again, even the teens ate it, so it can't have been that bad.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Kill for a coffee

There's an early opening coffee shop on Lilyfield Rd that's a favourite with tradesmen and white van man. It's at the bottom of a nice little hill where I can hit 50km/h (the speed limit) without even trying. fast moving bikes + dopey tradesmen is a bad combination. It's the spot where I am most careful every morning. The potential for being doored is huge.

This morning demonstrated the reason for that. I was rolling down nicely when a ute passed me (doing about 60 in a 50 zone). The driver was braking a bit and swerving here and there - it looked to me like he wanted a coffee, and was looking for the closest possible parking spot to the coffee shop.

Sure enough - we passed the coffee shop without him finding a car space, but at the next intersection, he suddenly charged left across the bike lane (without indicating) and stopped in a no stopping zone at the corner. I was ready for him, so as soon I'd hung back a bit and was able to get around him quite easily.

If I hadn't been looking out for that sort of behaviour, I probably would have gone into the back of the tray full tilt. It was a ute with a flat tray, so that would have been nasty. I smacked a motor bike into the back of a fat-arsed Ford ute many years ago whilst doing circle work in a muddy paddock. It didn't hurt a bit because:

a). I was not doing 50km/h
b). The back of a fat-arsed Ford ute was surprisingly soft and squishy - for metal
c). And most importantly, I was drunk and therefor floppy

Anyway, I'm glad his need for coffee didn't end badly for me.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Decisions, decisions

When the weather is like it is right now, I feel like a chick most days. "What should I wear today"? Hmm.

The mornings are easy - lots of clothes, because it is farking freezing. However, it can be as warm as 19 degrees in the afternoon, and being dressed for 6 degrees and riding when it is 19 is a one way trip to heat stroke. The answer that everyone gives is "layers", but there is only so much space in my back pack for storing all the layers that you peel off betwixt morning and evening.

I felt this conundrum mightily this evening - right in the nipples. I went with arm warmers but no jacket - that was fine on the flats and going up hill, but dastardly when descending at speed. I'd get just hot enough on the ascents to get sweaty, and then that would freeze on my skin on the other side of the hill. Thankfully, there aren't that many hills between work and home, and they aren't that big. I could put a vest on, but then I'd be super sweaty going up hill and toasty warm going downhill.

In the end, it's just easier to flip a coin before leaving work.

The safety nazis have taken over

The Silly is running a story called Off limits: 10 places you will never go in Australia.

One of the sites listed is:

Carnac Island
It's just off the coast of Fremantle, but going beyond the beach of Carnac Island requires special permission from the Department of Conservation and Land Management. Anyone arriving by boat and thinking of sneaking inland while no one's looking could be in for a very nasty surprise, however. The island is teeming with tiger snakes. For researchers in highly protective clothing, this is handy for collecting venom for medical research. For an errant daytripper sauntering along in thongs, well, er … good luck.

Having dived with the seals at Carnac, and walked around a bit of the island in my youth, this was a surprise. Yes, we all knew the island had more than its fair share of snakes, which is why we were careful to wear our safety thongs.

The seals were extremely friendly by the way - a delight to dive with. You just don't want to go near them on land.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Innovation

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

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

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

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

I am going to be in serious pain tomorrow.

Pig over, pig out - redux

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

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

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

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

Chemistry education - then and now

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

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

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


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

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Why can't some drivers hill start?

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

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

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


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

Friday, 28 June 2013

Apple crumble and jumping the shark

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

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

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

On to food.

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

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

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