/* Blog goes here */

Virtual Friday
Fun is hard
Two Ships
Bush Flies
Venomous Things
Lysterfield Again
Rudeness to Roadies
Happy Birthday!
No Crashes Yet
Nearly Summer!
Playing Pool
G-20 in Melbourne
Key Grip
Another Barbecue
Tram from Karachi
Barbecue Three
Dear Santa
Lysterfield Trails
More Trails in the You Yangs
Mountain Biking
Tram Jam
Wed Nov 29 22:51:15 2006

Virtual Friday

Celebrations tomorrow

In a couple of hours my age will increment from a perfect square to a prime. This won't happen again for 63 years. Some code for the geeks (the language is scheme):

(define (range x)
    (if (= x 1) (list x)
        (append (range( - x 1)) (list x))))

(define (composite? x)
  (define (composite-iter n)
    (if (= n x) #f
        (or (= (remainder x n) 0)
            (composite-iter (+ n 1)))))
  (if (or (= x 1) (= x 2)) #f
      (composite-iter 2)))

(define (prime? x)
  (if (= x 1) #f
      (not (composite? x))))

(define (square x) (* x x))

(define (square-succeeded-by-prime? x)
  (prime? (+ 1 (square x))))

(map square-succeeded-by-prime? (range 20)) 

To celebrate this auspicious occasion, we're going to go to Lysterfield Lake Park. There are hills to climb, obstacles to avoid and an ever-present possibility of kangaroos. With any luck, it won't rain.

Tue Nov 28 23:27:01 2006


A pleasant ride by the bay

We pedalled down through Westgate Park and on to Port Melbourne this afternoon. Rather than come straight home, we pottered on through the force 6 crosswind to St Kilda. As we approached, we saw increasing clouds of kitesurfers. There were over 20 of them, being hauled acrosss the waves at astonishing speeds by their enormous parasails.

It doesn't really appeal to me. The learning process seems to involve being hauled nose-down across the beach at high speed. When you have some control of the kite, you can upgrade to the joy of being hauled nose-down through the water. When the survivors move on to the next level, they get to hurtle across the water surface, totally focused on managing the kite, risking painful injury and death. I'd rather ride my bike. Same risks, more fun.

They are very pretty, though.

Mon Nov 27 23:47:27 2006


You choose...

Imagine a TV show. Two cages of cute baby animals are introduced.

In the red corner we have:

Cage of chicks Chicks

In the blue corner, it's the ducklings!

Cage of ducklings Duck off!

The viewers get to decide which are cuter, and which are deep-fried.

On second thoughts, maybe not.

Sun Nov 26 23:13:10 2006

Fun is hard

Climbing, drinking and walking

Three hours ago I had a simple blog entry planned. Then we went out for a beer. If this is the "world's most liveable city", why are trams slower than walking? Who decided that trams should run at 30 minute intervals? Which genius decided that they would be the same 30 minute intervals? Hate punch stab. Calm.

So. The Ashes? Don't know what you're talking about. Not enforcing the follow-on? Well, only seemly, really. Declaring as soon as an opener has a century? Harsh, I felt. England rugby team getting demolished by South Africa? Even when taunted by South African friends, I feel no pain. I am strong. {weeps}

Back to our day: After a large dose of delicious cholesterol, we would have proceeded in a straightforward manner directly to the You Yangs. Unfortunately, some inconsiderate plonker had caused a pile-up on the Geelong freeway. This wasn't your usual high-speed fender-bender. It was enough to close the whole freeway. Poot, I would have said, except I know some properly rude words. After a 30-minute detour, planned and managed by The Senior Navigator, we pottered down the Prince's Highway to our favourite batholith.

I followed The Other Cyclist as she hared round the long looping trail. Her bike-handling skills have grown to the level that the only thing keeping my ego intact is her much, much lower guts/brain ratio.

Part of the way round, we found a new playground. Somebody has been playing with bulldozers and doing woodwork. Boardwalks, banks and berms. Shiny. Even though it's not finished, I had a bit of a go.

Eventually, I was persuaded to stop playing and we continued along the path. The Other Mountain Biker earned several beers by tackling scary obstacles. Some of these have yet to be redeeemed.

I still had some juice left, so we took the car into the park. The Photographer stayed in the shade, adjacent to the air-conditioned car while I climbed the batholith. Twice. Well, it is only 352 metres tall.

I started by descending to the main gate (at about 55kph). I turned round at the bottom, sent a 'Climb until further notice' order to my legs, and steered towards Flinder's Peak. seven minutes later, I arrived at the highest point you can go to with a bike unless you ignore signs.

From Flinder's Peak High up
Trance 1 How to climb a hill

After a 250m climb and a scary fast descent, I had a go at the 12km circular drive. The climbing was fine. The washboard road surface is nasty. While climbing, you waste energy hammering through the ruts. Descending can get quite exciting. At 50kph, tracking the smooth surface is important. When you hit the lumps it hurts.

Top of the hill from the top

Close to the end, I saw a strange shape by the side of the road. I stopped 20 metres from it. At the last moment, my brake disk squealed. The kangaroo turned and stared at me. I had my phone out and was engaging the camera when a car blasted past at high speed. The kangaroo loped of into the forest. I am doomed never to photograph a wild kangaroo.

Not a marsupial Still no marsupial

The Other Blogger spotted some ponies. Trails, climbing, kangaroos, ponies. That's a good day.

Sat Nov 25 23:11:16 2006


A topsail schooner

After a happy potter around the Westgate trails, I pointed my ludicrously wonderful bicycle back along the Yarra. My attempt to break a personal record was interrupted when I saw the schooner Enterprize sailing up the Yarra.

The Schooner Enterprize The Schooner Enterprize (Replica)

Due to my superluminal performance on the bike, I got back home, had a shower, caught a tram back around the harbour, stopped to buy some essential supplies, and strolled down to the quayside just as she hove back into view. The ship gets full marks for prettiness. We watched her as she manouvered in Victoria Harbour. First, she tried to tack. Dropping the jib and stays'l didn't help. The donk was called upon. Even scandalised, the fore tops'l was holding her head off. After a while, they dropped the foresail, opened the throttle and swooped aimlessly around the harbour for a bit under donk and mainsail. Maybe that's what the paying customers want, but it was painful to watch. The Other Sailor was threatening to swim out and take charge. She'd have done it better.

Sat Nov 25 00:19:22 2006

Two Ships

Different Eras

A few days ago we saw a huge, brand new container ship being guided gently up the Yarra. My pockets aren't large enough to contain a lens that would have captured the whole ship beam on, so this shot is from her quarter.

Container Ship ...iron-ware, and cheap tin trays

This evening we watched a little topsail schooner donk into Victoria Harbour. She looked quite old. She would have been built and operated for exactly the same reasons as the container ship - to carry cargo. It's a difference of scale and time.

Topsail Schooner Where's the apple barrel?

In other news, no, I am not following the Ashes at all. Not after the last two days, anyway. 602 for 9 declared? Not very hospitable, really.

Thu Nov 23 23:41:46 2006


Yet another timesink.

For reasons long since forgotten, we have another blog. I suspect alcohol was involved. The Other Blogger has set up a WordPress blog on it, and actually published some content. Go and have a look. We plan to publish more general stuff there, and keep the 'I had cake today and it was nice' blogging to the usual locations.

We've been meaning to do something with the domain for a while. A big thankyou to The Racing Yacht Crew who reminded us to do something about it.

We cooked Thai food today and it was nice.

Wed Nov 22 23:36:12 2006


and sports

A strange day - windy, sunny but quite cool. The flat, being a greenhouse, was over 30 degrees. While that cooled down, we took the bikes for a run down through Westgate Park and back along the tram track from Port Melbourne. We stopped to watch a huge container ship steaming up the Yarra. Our vantage point was right by a restaurant that we'd been meaning to check out.

We came home, had a short swim to cool off, and headed back out for some food. Confusingly, our intended destination is part of afamily of restaurants with slightly different themes, all represented in Docklands. We picked the steakhouse. I had a huge T-bone, while others (preferring quality over quantity) chose the eye fillet. Excellent meat served on a potato gratin with exquisite sauces. The chips were absoultely perfect - crunchy shells with light, fluffy centres. We skipped starters, but ploughed happily into dessert. My passionfruit and chocolate mousse was a light, frothy delight. The chocolate pudding with extra chocolate and double chocolate sauce was demolished in reverent silence.

We'll be going back.

Tue Nov 21 23:24:43 2006

Bush Flies

Wine, too

Every weekday morning our tram takes us past an old stone-built place with a huge sign saying 'Vintage Cellars'. Every afternoon we stay on the tram and go straight home. It's always been to cold or too wet or too far. Today, we hopped off early and went for a look.

We browsed happily through their extensive stock for a while. The staff were helpful and unobtrusive. Their range covers everything we want, and goes on to things we can't possibly afford. They advertise tastings every day, but there was nothing happening while we were there. We'll phone ahead next time. It's not Avery's Cellars, but it looks very promising. We heaved a couple of bots into my rucksack and headed home.

Outside, it was about 30 degrees, humid and overcast. Anywhere else in the world and we'd have expected a thunderstorm. In Melbourne we got a northerly gale with enough dust to blind a camel. The tall buildings in the CBD cause huge turbulence in the general galestream. As we crossed the bridge over the railway, the wind direction rotated right round the compass at wildly varying strengths. This, coupled with the explosion in the bush fly population, leads to ambivalence. While you stand in the galestream, the flies get blown away. Bliss. Then, as your corneas abrade in the gritstorm, the sweat-stealing eyeball-sipping blood-dunking turd-breeding vermin suddenly seem less unpleasant. Then the breeze drops back to 12 knots, the flies can overcome the headwind and your shotblasted eyes become easy pickings.

Beer and aircon are the only known cures.

Mon Nov 20 23:54:10 2006

Venomous Things

...so don't get bitten.

Since I've seen two snakes while pottering about on trails, I thought I'd find out whether any of them can chase a mountain bike down, bite the rider and eat the whole lot. Executive summary: No. Recommendations: Avoid honey farms.

This article (caution - includes pictures) has some good data. Between 1980 and 2004, there where 38 deaths from snake bite in all of Australia. A good number of these were caused by people trying to hunt down and kill snakes. Over to you, Charles Darwin. If you take the simple metric of 'Most people killed per year', the most dangerous venomous creature in Australia isn't Australian. The European Honey Bee kills around ten people a year.

The weather has finally improved. About 30 degrees, reasonably calm and sunny today. Meteorology, entomology and herpetology, all in one blog post. Consider yourselves educated.

Sun Nov 19 23:59:20 2006

Lysterfield Again

With Kangaroos

After a quick trip to the market to lay in essential picnic suppiles, we slapped down another $10.80 to expedite our journey to Lysterfield Lake Park. Our usual car park was full - the first decent weekend weather this year, coupled with a cycling competition, had brought the place close to parking capacity. We found another spot.

Once we'd put our bikes back together and started off towards the trails, the park felt empty. Most people never go more than a few hundred meters from their cars.

We climbed up past the lake, and then climbed some more to the top of the Middle Buckle Trail. We decended back down long, looping, occasionally technical single track for a few miles. The More Sensible Cyclist got bored with lifting her bike over the obstacles, and started riding them. She's cheerfully cleaning 6-inch logs, providing she doesn't have time to think about it. We need to do more work on her guts/brain ratio.

We rode back to the car, and discovered that we'd chosen the only space in the entire park with no shade. The interior of the car was well over 50 degrees. The planning and foresight of The Smart One included putting the picnic bag under cover, so the food was actually still chilled. Despite the vast numbers of loud obnoxious children, we found a good spot for our picnic, and ate the whole thing.

After lunch, The Photographer went and did her stuff, while I took my outrageously over-specified bike and pointed it up some hills. Once I'd scared myself enough with thoughts of venomous snakes, plummeting descents and heat exhaustion, I hammered over to the top of the trail we'd done together. I was swooping down the trail with more speed than sense when I saw a kangaroo standing on the trail. By the time I'd hauled my phone from my pocket and fired up the camera, it had bounded off into the forest. As I put my phone back into my pocket, another three hopped across the track. I waited for a few minutes, hoping to get a good shot. After a while, I started to have the slightly creepy feeling that, while I was failing to see kangaroos, the kangaroos were having no trouble seeing me. So I blundered on. I saw one more a few minutes later. I may have captured it on CCD, but most things were looking like kangaroo by this point.

Lysterfield forest Could be a kangaroo in there. Maybe.

In other news: Melbourne - World's Most Liveable City. Except Lagos. Seriously, if you live in the center of a city, should it take 56 minutes to find a place to sell you a beer on a Sunday?

Sun Nov 19 22:03:20 2006

Rudeness to Roadies

Some of my best friends have road bikes

I would like to apologise to the person riding a high-performance road bike who I passed yesterday. You were obviously on a rest section as I caught up with you. I fully understand why you changed up a couple of gears as I passed you. Taking my hands off the bars to exercise my wrists a bit was not an insult. After 20 minutes of hammering into a headwind with my nose on the bars my wrists were a bit sore. Lengthening the gap was, I admit, fun. Losing sight of me as I outclimbed you on a heavier bike, wearing baggy shorts must have been hard.

So, get faster.

Sun Nov 19 01:35:49 2006

Happy Birthday!

I promise not to sing

Happy Birthday! Hugs, Felicitations and Best Wishes to my wonderful Father. We expect to hear the sound of corks popping from here.

Sun Nov 19 00:25:48 2006


Three modes of transport

The tap in the kitchen sink had a blocked nozzle. Whenever we turned it on, it sprayed wet happiness wherever it could. Normal people would have told the landlord, waited a few days, stayed in, and let a surly plumber fix it. We just lived with it - until this morning. After a light brunch on our balcony, I attacked the tap with a spanner and an incomplete understanding of the problem.

One could make an argument that The Sensible One as was a bit out-of-the-loop, decision-wise. My desire to present a successful result outweighed my common sense.

So, while I was (unobtrusively) wrestling with wrenches, spanners and washers, my conversation had degraded to 'Yes, Dear' level. Imagine my surprise when I was presented with a complete day plan. 'We're taking the train to Williamstown, the ferry back, and that would work better with a washer.' Damn. I hate it when she's right.

With no further argument, We toddled off, hopped on a train at Flinder's Street, changed at Newport and arrived at Williamstown Beach after the advertised 33 minutes. We whinge, but the public transport here is excellent. This trip was, of course, included in our weekly metcard.

Williamstown is about 12kms round the bay to the west of Melbourne. It's actually the bit of land that we can see from our apartment.

The beach is good. When the need to swim in the sea grabs us, we'll be toting our towels to Williamstown. The water looks clean, and people were swimming there today. We strolled along the dog-plagued paths in the direction of the town center. Photographs were taken. We saw our first Pacific Gull. It was only a chick, but was doing its best to haul the rotting carcass of a huge fish ashore, while terrorizing the (smaller) silver gulls. It was about the size of a Bristol Garbage Gull, and if it had been dragging the fish into a chip shop, demanding to have it deep-fried, we'd have felt right at home.

We strolled past the oil jetty where the supertankers deliver Melbourne's fuel, and the harbour where HMNZS Canterbury is getting her military-fit-out, to the centre of the town.

We found a lovely area. There's a huge green, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and at least one supplier of excellent ice-cream, all overlooking the harbour. The central pier hosts tour boats and ferries, and is the permanent home for HMAS Castlemaine.She's a WW2-vintage corvette, rigged for minesweeping. She looks very well cared for. She's open for public viewing. Next time, I'm going to go aboard and have a rootle.

Once we'd eaten our ice-creams, had a good look around and got bored, we hopped on a ferry in the mistaken impression that it would take us to St. Kilda. Wrong ferry. This one took us up the Yarra, past the car carriers, container ships, concrete carriers and a floating oil refinery back to Southgate, a short stroll from home. Result.

Once we got home, Sensible People had a light afternoon snack, rested on the balcony until the sun became too warm, then went inside to relax in the corner, looking out over the city and the bay.

The Team Nutter, meanwhile, grabbed his bike and snorted off by road to take this picture:

HMAS Castelmaine HMAS Castlemaine with my bike

8 miles. 60 minutes by ferry. 33 minutes by train. 31 minutes by nutter on a bike. Including getting lost.

In other news, U2 played the Telstra Dome tonight. We can now claim to have heard them live. I doubt there was an eardrum left intact inside the stadium. Kicking.

Sat Nov 18 00:48:22 2006

No Crashes Yet

wait until Sunday

I hauled the Big Camera down to Westgate Park again today. The Photographer settled down to admire the wildlife, while I hurtled round the trails again.

I started quite quickly. I'd have broken four minutes for the loop if I hadn't stopped for the heron. Startled by my insane velocity, it flew off a few metres. By the time I'd booted my camera and stalked towards its new position, it had got bored and flown off. The best picture I have contains about four pixels of the posterior elevation of the bird, so I'll spare you that.

My next lap took a record three minutes (to the second - not that I care. Honest). I should have stopped there. On my next circuit, I overcommitted to a sharp falling turn, and came to an unscheduled halt - not a crash. 500 metres later, and the the bike left the true path and blundered into a thistle-like plant. I stopped to clear the thorns. Voluntarily. Not a crash at all.

On my final lap, I disturbed a sodding great snake. Once again, it sloped off into the shrubbery before I had the camera booted. Again, I refrained from poking around with my bare hands. I think it was a common copperhead. Highly venomous. That's why it was my final lap.

While I risked my life amongst wild animals, the Photographer did her thing. Cuteness alert.

Thu Nov 16 22:18:19 2006

Nearly Summer!

Soon, the snow will stop.

Right now, it's one degree warmer here than in Bristol. Fifty-six days after our vernal eqinox, twenty degrees closer to the equator, and it snowed again. Temperatures of 14 degrees are forecast for Bristol. We can but dream...

I have a worrying hypothesis. Icebergs are coming further north than expected. As Antarctica melts, it's dumping vast quantities of cold low-density water into the Southern Ocean. This leads to storms, gales, rain and snow in Melbourne. The trails will get wet and muddy, and some of it will get smeared on my beautiful bike.

Global Warming gets everywhere - even the carpets on the 18th floor.

Wed Nov 15 22:35:06 2006

Playing Pool

I won. Eventually.

We dined out this evening. The weather was so insufferably foul that we took the easy option - tram to the pub.

After we'd demolished a whole chicken and most of a cow, we adjourned to the pool table. In the first game the Pool Shark demonstrated how the game should be played. I missed everything, potted the cue ball five times and sulked.

The second game was a bit more even. I won by a tiny margin. Several tricky shots off the rest were potted cleanly, by both of us.

The decider was going to the wire. Two balls each on the table. A bloke wanders over and enquires about the status of the table. "We're just finishing", we say. And then I do. Three long, tricky power shots go straight down. The last one hammers the black down with a bit more enthusuasm than was strictly necessary. Polite comments are made. The bloke puts his money in, and all the balls come tumbling out. Except the black. Whoops.

Wed Nov 15 16:01:07 2006


It's meant to be early summer

Weather in Bristol: 12 degrees C, scattered clouds, wind 24km/h SSW

Weather in Melbourne: 7 degrees C, Heavy showers, hail, wind 30km/h SW

It's the middle of November. This is not what we signed up for.

Now it's started snowing. Bloody hell.

Tue Nov 14 23:04:11 2006


Down sixteen beers

Chess is not normally played for stakes. My recent devastating defeat of The Other Player yielded no material winnings.

This evening, we played backgammon. In the first game, I played the odds up and down the board, faked my chances and came out 16 Arbitrary Units* ahead. Go me!

In the second game, the play ran from one end to another, the stakes climbed, and I had my posterior handed to me, gift-wrapped. Whoops. Down 32 AUs.

*1 Arbitrary Unit==1 Beer

Mon Nov 13 22:41:17 2006

G-20 in Melbourne

Bureaucrats and Hippies

The G-20 are having a meeting in Melbourne this week. It's all happening at the Grand Hyatt, right next door to our offices. We've been told to work from home whenever we can, in case the usual lentil munchers, bunny huggers and other assorted soap dodgers make too much of a scene.

It's Australia, so I suspect there'll be strong words, frank exchanges of opinion, and very little real trouble. The weather's crap, so most of the beret-wearing Sartre-quoting tax liabilities will probably stay in the cafes, smoking Gitanes and munching croissants. It beats getting pepper-sprayed in freezing rain, and the dole cheques come through just the same.

Sun Nov 12 21:38:27 2006

Key Grip

or Best Boy

Another trip to Chadstone. I behaved so well (as I should - she was shopping for my birthday), that I was allowed to take the bike out again.

We stowed the big camera (Canon EOS300D with 300mm lens) inside its padded bag, inside a padded rucksack and pootled down to Westgate Park. I was under strict orders to stay on the road, avoid rough surfaces and to refrain from jumping anything. A brief, direct conversation made it clear that, in this context, 'anything' included leaves, manholes, kerbs, gaping holes and Anything Else At All I Mean It. So I pretented to be a roadie and led off at a fixed cadence. I only jumped a few times. Mostly small things. Mostly.

We cycled through Westgate Park to the lakes, where I handed over the camera and left the Serious Photographer in a lovely sheltered spot watching the birds on the lake, while I hared off round the trails.

I was shaving seconds off my laptime with every circuit. Optimizing every corner - in early, brake harder, power on sooner, out faster. In my penultimate lap I ran off the track three times. A sign of enthusiasm over competence. Just as I started my final, really, truly, final lap, my phone went. Apparently, there were coot chicks to look at. I had a hard decision to make - a fast, bike-damaging, bone-rearranging crash, or fluffy baby birds. I still say I made the right call.

Sat Nov 11 22:37:47 2006

Another Barbecue

Fun with marinades

We've nailed it. You start the fire two hours before you want to eat. You add just the right amount of fuel. 15 minutes before cooking, you rake the embers out. A corncob is a great tool for testing when the fire is ready for cooking. It gives visual and audible feedback on the temperature above the coals.

While the fire is starting, you can marinate the meat in gorgeous glazes. By the time the fire is ready, the subtle flavours will have been deeply absorbed, adding interesting new dimensions.

Start with the vegetables. They can cook gently as you munch the sweetcorn. When you're ready for the meat, close all the windows.

For the first time in three months, there's no wind. The smoke from the marinade is still hanging inside the flat.

Damn good sausages, though.

Sat Nov 11 01:39:53 2006


Go Me

Two years ago (+/- timezone issues) I extinguished my last cigarette. After twelve years of poisoning myself and offending my friends, I stopped entirely. It was trivially easy.

The tobacco comapanies encourage governments to tell you it's hard to stop. It's a huge, heaving, hacking, hawking lie. Giving up is easy. I would link to a book, but it won't do any good. If you want to stop, you can, It'll be easy and fun. If you don't want to stop, then keep on smoking. Two at a time. Enjoy.

Since I stopped inhaling free radicals in taxable form, I've saved over $4000. Now, I eat my toxins, instead.

End of Sanctimony. Honest.

I smoked my last cigarette in a hotel in Tallinn. It's a lovely little city, just a bit cold in winter. The sea freezes. Well worth a visit. The food is excellent, the booze is cheap and the people are friendly. The language is a Finno-Ugric trainwreck with fourteen cases and no prepositions. On the plus side, it's not quite as agglutinative as Finnish, and you won't need to speak it. Russian and English are widely understood.

Fri Nov 10 23:52:24 2006

Tram from Karachi

With a kicking bhangra beat

I was waiting quietly for the tram home, when this turned up:

It's all an international friendship city twinning thing, apparently.

Mostly, it was a hell of a surprise. Got me home early, though.

Thu Nov 09 23:16:19 2006

Barbecue Three

A step further from failure

This time, I started the pyromania earlier. The fire started well, and built encouragingly. I left it alone for an hour before we added a few prawns a sweetcorn and some veggie kebabs. This time, the problem was a lack of fuel rather than excess heat. I tossed a few (well-microwaved) spuds in, and slapped the steaks on. Despite my worry that nothing was going to cook ever, it all turned out OK. Waiting an hour after ignition is the key to this game. Next time, a bit more fuel and we'll be sorted.

On a completely different note, I forgot to link to this video of me in Lysterfield Park.

If the weather allows, I'm going to try to persuade The Sensible One to let me have another go this weekend.

Wed Nov 08 23:20:33 2006

Dear Santa

I've been so good all year.

All I want for Christmas is one of these:

We saw her from our apartment. She's moored right outside the pub. It was well before sunset, but she wasn't wearing an ensign. We went for a closer look - the proximity of the pub was not a factor.

She's (going to be) HMAS Ararat, a brand new Armidale class patrol boat. She's come here for her commissioning ceremony, hence the lack of an ensign. Her main armament is a 25mm cannon, with a pair of 12.7mm machine guns for making smaller holes in things. She looks a lot faster than the 25kts in the specs. I'm not quite sure what you do with a patrol boat that's slower than many merchant ships. She's heavier, slower and much lighter-armed than the Fremantle class she's designed to replace. The power plant is similar, the crew is slightly smaller and she's 13 metres longer. The builder's site says 'In excess of 25 knots', but with the same engines, 50 tonnes more displacement and 13 metres more wetted surface, she's going to be a lot slower than her predecessor. She may have a much longer range (3000nm vs 2360), but that's not much good if you can't even catch a container ship.

She looks damn cool, though. Want.

Tue Nov 07 23:32:06 2006

Lysterfield Trails

Whoosh! Climb! Plummet!

The Melbourne Cup was won by a horse, again. I'm certain it's a fix. Every year I bet on a pig, and I've never even placed.

Rather than suffer the hordes of howling hoorays, we loaded up our bikes and headed for Lysterfield Park

We tried a new route to get to the freeway. By going across the Bolte Bridge we hoped to avoid the usual whiplash while crossing six lanes of maniacal drivers. Unfortunately, my attention wavered as I took a poor-quality picture of the city, so we missed the sign saying 'For Lysterfield, move 17 lanes left in the next eight feet".

Melbourne Docklands Fuzzy pic that caused lane-change issues.

After a bit of quick navigation, and a planned detour via a shopping center, we got to the park. It was still cold, grey, windy and miserable. It usually is, here. We saddled up and rode to the northern end of the park. I turned off and rode some silly bits as The Sensible Person kept her climbing to a minimum.

Once we'd added all the potential energy we could, we turned round and rode about 5kms of single track together. Downhill. I jumped some things. Neither of us crashed - not even a little bit. The Sensible Person displayed skill, restraint and talent. I'm hoping that she won't post all the pictures.

We got back to the car, recharged our water bottles, gubbled some chocolate bars, and rode across the dam. Faced with the climb on the other side, Other People decided that they had had enough. I promised to keep my playtime down to 45 minutes, and snorted off uphill.

After the short climb, I was feeling warm and comfortable, so I opened it up a bit on the flat trail along the lake. I entered the first corner at about 35kph, descended towards the next turn with power on, entered at well over 40, and then went through one of those compressed introspection sessions:

  • TOO FAST!!!
  • BRAKE!!!
  • (rear wheel slides sideways)
  • Stare at oncoming tree with horror
  • BRAKE!!!
  • (front wheel slides too)
  • (release brakes, wonder how much this crash is going to hurt)
  • Lean hard, add power, make it round corner.
  • Stop. Review past life. Weep with relief. Get passed by two small girls on 'My Little Pony' bikes. "Mummy, why is that man kissing his tyres?"

Eventually, I hauled myself up to the start of the competition track. This was used for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Start of Lysterfield Competition Course From here, it looks easy

After about a kilometer of swoopy fun fast track, it all got a bit rocky. Jumping is fun. Drop-offs can be amusing. Hard, vicious climbs over technical, rocky terrain are better than caffeine and beer combined. Vertical plummets over raw granite, however, are a taste I have yet to acquire:

Lysterfield Competition Course Vertical Plummeting

So I dropped 150m over 3km of lovely, swoopy single track.

Mon Nov 06 21:38:19 2006


Also, moaning about Melbourne

After three months of dithering, I added ten lines of code to the software that collates these witterings and we now have archives. When it comes to prevarication, I'm going to write the book. The front page is 1/20th of its former size.

With a Hunter's Chicken seething in the oven, we tried looking for an open bar. It's the Melbourne Cup tomorrow, so we'd hoped that the eve of the city's biggest social event would persuade at least one bar in the world's most liveable city to open. We were disappointed. What is it with these people? What is so scary that they have to close the whole beer-retailing infrastructure for two nights every week? Is booze rationed? Or are Australians just a bunch of weak-livered latte-sipping metrosexual wimps? Last Friday we went for a few beers and a meal with some guys from work. The Aussies all sloped of early, or were so far off the pace that we lost sight of them. It was left to me (an Englishman), a Welshman and an Indian to dispose of the booze. The Delicate Flower did more damage to the global shiraz supply than the Antipodeans did. Wusses.

Cup Day tomorrow is a state holiday. We'll probably take the bikes out. Then, I'm going to start an education campaign. Pint glasses only. Including the shiraz.

Sun Nov 05 21:56:24 2006

More Trails in the You Yangs

Practical Herpetology

Anxious to avoid a repeat of the fuel crises on our last trip to the You Yangs, we started our day with a trip along New Quay for a spot of breakfast. The bacon was excellent, the coffee was perfect and the eggs were appalling. There are many things in life about which reasonable people can disagree. Topics upon which reasoned debate can be worthwile, interesting and even illuminating. Then, there are things that are so clearly true that dissent is a clear sign of imbecility. The recipe for scrambled eggs is firmly in this second category, and, let me be very clear indeed about this, it does not involve milk. Ever. For any reason whatsoever. If you want milk in your eggs, go and cook pancakes. No room for debate: Scrambled Eggs are made from the secretions of birds. Until cows sprout feathers and become airborne, none of their emissions shall be included in the recipe. Ahem. Not that I have strong views or anything. It's just the indisputable truth.

Once we'd fuelled us up, we checked that the car was also prepared for the journey, threw the bikes (well, 'placed reverently' actually) in the back of the truck and zoomed off in a generally western direction. Less than an hour later we were happily bimbling through the single-track trails in the Western Plantation at the You Yangs. It was lovely. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the temperature hovered around 25 degrees. We didn't see much wildlife, except for the flies. They were a bit annoying, but I suspect they will get much worse. The More Sensible Cyclist persuaded herself to have a go at some of the swoopy bits, and (I think) surprised herself by enjoying it.

After 12kms of that, we hauled the bikes up the mountain to the Stockyards area. This is at the top of the ridge, about 300m above the plain. The trails here are rumoured to be a bit more exciting. The Sensible Person grabbed a camera, iPod and book, and went to find a shady spot while I went for a bit of a rootle. There are ten trails in this area, from 5kms to a few hundred metres. They're rated from 'Easiest' to 'Abandon all hope, you who plummet here'. Fast, technical descents are the main theme. I started on Trail 1 (Wussy).

I hammered off up a gentle climb at ludicrous velocity. My bike is amazing. On a moderate climb, I just dial in the pain for 15mph and the speedo says 20. Spiffing. I hacked happily cross-coutry for about half a mile. Then, the trail turned downhill. I hammered into the first descent too quickly to avoid it. The reason I made it to the bottom in company with the bike is a triumph of engineering over incompetence. Somewhat chastened, I pointed the front wheel at the climb out of the chasm and pedalled. And pedalled some more. And fell over sideways. With my weight far enough back to lift the front wheel up, the back tyre was still slipping. So, since nobody was watching, I pushed it up the steep bit. This istself was an interesting task, as my shoes had less grip than the tyres.

Steep Ascent It's steeper than it looks
Steep Descent Downhill.

I approached the next vertiginous descent with a little more care, which is just as well. Lying across my path was a sodding great snake. I think it was a Common Brown Snake. It was well over a meter long, and quietly sunning itself right across the path. By the time I had booted the camera, it had moved into the undergrowth and disappeared. I looked for it, but it had vanished. I didn't even consider picking up a stick and having a poke around for it, which is probably just as well. According to our booze supplier, a bloke in Adelaide was bitten by one of these at the weekend, and snuffed it.

A couple more plummeting descents led me to the car park on the other side of the mountain. I turned round and started the long climb back. Apart from a couple of ego-crushing places where I had to get off and push, it was a pleasant 250m climb. Back close to the top, I turned off from my wussy 'Green Dot' (that had challenged me hard) and had a look at a 'Double Black Diamond' run. After about 150m of that, I turned round and went back to sanity. There are screaming nutters in the world, and some of them have mountain bikes.

You Yangs View from a lump of granite. There's a trail in there somewhere.

We tried barbecuing some steak tonight. Unmitigated disaster. On the plus side, we didn't actually incinerate anything except food. A learning experience.

Sat Nov 04 22:46:38 2006


Only first-degree burns

Connoisseurs of the other blog may be able to work out why I felt a little fragile on my trip to the market this morning. There was a strong possibility that I didn't have enough blood in my alcohol stream, so I lumbered onto a City Circle and breathed beer fumes onto unsuspecting tourists. I think I ruined some holidays.

My purchasing strategy at the market may have been a bit sub-optimal. 'Give me one of them, two of those and a kilo of chillis. And some coffee. And some sausages.

Once I'd unloaded the bags at home, there was clearly only one solution. Incineration. I'd never get rid of this amount of food any other way.

We saddled up in the Toorak Tractor in search of suitable equipment. We started by trying Bunnings, the local huge warehouse-style DIY chain. I was led there by one of their television adverts which showed the sort of charcoal-fired barbecue I was hoping for. They don't sell them any more. Grrr. They do sell tables and chairs ideal for our balcony, so we bought those instead. To their credit, they pointed us in the direction of a competitor who did sell exactly what we were looking for.

For reasons still unclear to me, while on the way to the barbecue shop we fell ito the event horizon of the largest shopping mall in Melbourne. Not to be distracted, I persisted in my search for outdoor cooking equipment while Other People had a shopping frenzy. We saw less than a third of the whole shopping complex, but it has already received high praise from The Shopper.

I'd started my day buying large lumps of meat and ludicrous quantities of vegetables. We managed to pick up solid fuel, tongs, spatulas, firelighters and a gas lighter. We almost forgot to get the actual barbecue. That would have been (a) My Fault and (b) a bit embarrassing.

We went back to the Specialist Barbecue Vendor and chose a 47cm kettle-style unit.

Once we'd got it home, the Impatient Engineer assembled the whole thing, and left me to screw up the fire management. I added a bit too much fuel on our first run, but it all worked out OK. At least we didn't have to send out for pizza.

Barbecue TongMaster
Sat Nov 04 01:43:36 2006


Almost Melbourne Cup


Thu Nov 02 23:40:37 2006


In November!

We woke today to the unfamiliar sight of grey skies and continuous gentle rain. In the UK, people would have been downcast and grumpy. Here, people were confused. Victoria is suffering from a record-breaking drought, so most people are happy to see some rain, right up to the point you drag your muddy footprints onto their freshly cleaned carpets.

Just after lunch, I was sitting at my desk when the sky got darker. I looked out of the window to see snow falling. 'Bullshit', said my colleagues. 'No, really', I said. As more people looked out of the window, the language became more, umm, direct. I wish I'd phrased it differently. 'Bet you a hundred bucks it's snowing'. It's all about presentation.

It was snow. It made the local news. It was caused by an astonishingly deep cold front moving across Melbourne. The showers were vicious, but very localised. I took some pictures from the office.

Dark Clouds Dark Skies
Rain Squall Check the precipitation
It went from grey to snowing to bright sunshine in four minutes. Welcome to Melbourne.
Thu Nov 02 01:23:50 2006

Mountain Biking

Captured on Video

We went back to Westgate Park this afternoon. Rather than enjoy the delights of the tight, twisty, bouncy trails, The Photographer chose to point at me and laugh.

Me on my Trance 1 On my bike, looking like an emergency splenectomy.

Also, Video

Wed Nov 01 01:02:03 2006

Tram Jam

So I walked home. A bit.

As I carried the (heavy) shopping towards the tram stop, I saw a tram just pulling away. No matter, I thought. There are lots of trams down here around five o'clock.

Looking down the tracks, I can't see any. Puzzling. Normally, at 1800 the place is crawling with them. Looking around, I see that there may be a problem.

Tram Jam Tram Jam

So I walked home.

email BurbleChaz

Last modified: Thu Aug 31 22:46:12 AUSEST 2006