October 2006

Cycling and Sunset
Westgate Park Has Trails
You Yangs
To The Market
Another Gale
Bike Computer
Sunset Ride
Melbourne - World's Most Liveable City
Energy Efficiency
International Rugby
A Couple of Pictures
First Long Ride
Tram vs Bike
First ride
Giant Trance 1
One more day...
Paid a Deposit
Shopping for Bikes
Sneezing Pandas
Sea Freight!
Pub Food
Sea Freight
Pictures of Animals
Melbourne Zoo
A Recipe for Kangaroo
No Bloggage Today
Fishing for tenants
Rugby Tickets
Another Day, Another Final
Mon Oct 30 22:37:11 2006

Cycling and Sunset

We are so virtuous

The Less Obsessive Cyclist was persuaded to have a look at the trails in Westgate Park today. While I swooped and whooped about, she took a slightly more conservative approach. They are a bit on the twisty side. Lumpy, too. Occasionally, a foot hit the ground. There was an incident that almost led to over-familiarity with a hedge, but the trail was tamed.

After the ride, we both lifted some heavy things for a bit, and then went for a swim. The Competent Swimmer led the way confidently and elegantly as I trailed in her wake, breathing equal amounts of air and water for 400 metres.

Then we undid all the good work with a six-egg omelette. Whoops.

Another stunning sunset today. I grabbed the good camera and took a few shots. It took a while for me to notice that the camera was in manual focus, and set for some bizarre priority that only The Proper Photographer understands. As a result, I missed the shots of the liquid gold sun melting into the horizon.

It was clear enough to get a couple of shots of the You Yangs. If you look beyond the suspension column of Westgate Bridge, you can see a series of hills on the horizon. The bridge is about 3kms away. The hills are about 50kms.

You Yangs Sunset Sunset
You Yangs Sunset Ten minutes later

If you look down from the suspension pillar on the left, then a bit further left to the next two bridge supports, that's Westgate Park. You can almost see it, if you already know it's there. That picture includes every real trail that we've done together. All that and a sunset, too.

Mon Oct 30 00:36:48 2006

Westgate Park Has Trails

Also, shopping.

Apparently, the the whole Southern Hemisphere leapt 15 degrees towards the Sun, while the Northern Hemisphere did the opposite. The time difference to the UK is now 11 hours. We slept through the whole trauma.

After the exertions of yesterday, we had no plans at all. Somheow, we ended up at Chadstone Mall. I was good. I Made Constructive Comments. I Held The Handbag. When not needed, I faded into the background. Then, most importantly, I bought the ice-creams.

Because I'd been so good, I was allowed out to play with my new toy. There was a vicious headwind as I pootled down past the docks to Westgate at ludicrous velocities. I was going so fast that the red lights were green and the green ones looked blue. My computer disagreed. Still, 15mph is nearly lightspeed. Almost.

I paused to watch a tug steam up the river. My desire to stop and haul metric tons of oxygen into my lungs had nothing to do with it.

Once I'd recovered, I had a bit of a rootle. When we were out the other day, we saw some people goofing around some trails before their race started. Today, I followed their tyre tracks to find the trails.

Once I'd found it the trail (singular) caused my facial expression to go from 'pleased' through 'grinning' to 'requires plastic surgery'. It's a single loop about 3000 metres long. It's got fast traverses, tight, twisty stuff, dips and jumps, varied scenery and Drop Bears. Well, something clobbered my helmet, and I was riding too well to have hit a tree. Drop Bears for certain.

On the way back, I took a couple of pictures. Firstly, a Gondola:

Gondola on the Yarra Gondola on the Yarra.

We can tell what the windspeed is by looking at this sculpture. It's calibrated from 'Gale', through 'Violent Storm' to 'Call Your Insurer', which covers all of Melbourne's weather.

Blowhole Sculpture Docklands Melbourne Blowhole Sculpture
Sat Oct 28 22:26:12 2006

You Yangs

Strangely, that's not an insult

On a clear day, we can see all the way across the western suburbs of Melbourne to some hills on the horizon. In the middle of the lava plains, the You Yangs stand tall and attract morons who think they can climb. Ahem.

We went there with our bikes today. The full description of our day is here

Some comments:

  • The fuel crisis was (a) not really a crisis, and (b) not really my fault. Honest.
  • Whenever I see a hill, I climb. I stop climbing when I reach the top, or when (due to oxygen deficit) the world greys out and I fall over. This is not always a good thing. Particularly when riding in company. People comment.
  • Planning is good. One chocolate bar between two can fuel you through 20kms of trail, but it shouldn't have to.
  • One day soon, I am going to do the full 300+ metre climb from the plain to the summit. Soon. One day.

Go and read The full story. There's a wild echidna in there somewhere.

Pictures of the real heroes:

Giant Thermo 1 in forest The Other Bike.
Giant Trance 1 in forest My bike, in its natural habitat.
Sat Oct 28 21:20:47 2006

To The Market

Live Produce

After an evening of gales, Melbourne's weather treated us to a vicious hailstorm early this morning. I was surprised to find any paint left on the bikes when I checked them.

On the positive side, I managed to get to the market before 0900. It was less crowded, and the range and quality of the food was amazing.

Ducklings in cage Going cheep.
Quail in cage Quail, mortals

Unfortunately, I only saw these after I'd bought the meat. If I'd seen them earlier, tonight's meal would have been different. Vegetarian, for a start.

Fri Oct 27 22:20:48 2006

Another Gale

So no cycling

The local stations were reporting force 8, gusting 9 when we got home today. Riding in traffic with 40 knot crosswinds is probably not a good idea, so we went to the pub instead.

Thu Oct 26 21:49:46 2006

Bike Computer

and a new tail light

I would like the record to show that I have (finally) settled up with the Wealthy Partner, and can actually claim ownership of my bike.

The local bike shop loves us. We went there to pick up a new tail light, since I lost mine yesterday. I mentioned that I might also be in the market for a new magnet for my bike computer. They were only too happy to provide one for $10. It's still a lot cheaper than a whole new system, so I forked over yet more folding stuff.

I salvaged the transducer and head mount from the remains of my old bike, and fitted them to the new toy. When I say 'I', what I actually mean is that I fussed around ineffectually while my Talented Partner actually did the practical bits, like re-engineering some cable ties. My contribution was to fix them to the bike the wrong way round. Hey, ho.

After we'd got it all working, The Occasional Cyclist was persuaded to come out for a tootle round the local vicinity. We pottered down the river through the docks to Port Melbourne. Some sort of endurance cycling event was setting up in Westgate Park. Lots of keen-looking people with lycra and helmet-mounted lights were strutting about trying to intimidate each other. It looked quite fun, but we didn't stop. There was a risk I might have joined in.

We rode on along the sea front, then back along to the tram track. The Other Rider claims not to understand my competitive behaviour. She doesn't worry at all as faster riders breeze past. On one memorable occasion, she was overtaken by a runner. No embarrassment at all. Show her a tram, however, and the red mist descends. Off she goes, head, down, legs pumping, she will get to the next stop first. Two trams were left reeling in here wake tonight. I'm wondering whether we have the makings of a new spectator sport.

Wed Oct 25 23:01:36 2006

Sunset Ride

Lost a light

After a pleasant day yesterday with sunshine and a balmy 30 degrees, today was grey, windy and very cold. As I've commented before, the weather here is wildly changeable. I took the bike out for a short trip round the port. At some point, my rear light fell off. I imagine this happened while landing a jump. Maybe I should lay off that for a bit.

A ship was steaming down the river. Her home port is in Tasmania, so she was probably off across the Bass Strait. She'll be there in the morning.

Ship on Yarra Bound for Devonport, Tasmania.

I stopped to take a picture of the city illuminated by the setting sun. I should have done something more creative with my shadow.

Melbourne Melbourne from the West

The bike was going well, so I took the long way home. The Helicopter Ambulance was training. I caught it in a hover between circuits.

Helicopter hovering Helicopter

Pictures usually get posted at the other place, but these were taken on my mobile phone, and so don't meet the quality standards for inclusion over there.

Tue Oct 24 22:06:20 2006


with a cool icebow

While I was out doing battle with the mighty legions of food retailing, the Other Blogger spotted an icebow in the sunset. I was still trundling down Flinders street on a tram, and couldn't see the sun, so I missed it. Later, we saw the fine crescent of a new moon, with the dark part illuminated clearly in Earthlight.

Then we went for a swim. No bicycling took place.

Mon Oct 23 22:18:04 2006

Melbourne - World's Most Liveable City

...my arse

I took the new toy out for a short ride this evening. I hammered down past the docks to the Westgate Bridge, where there's a sign saying "Welcome to Melbourne - The World's Most Liveable City".

Later, after putting a pot in the oven, we went out for a beer. We can see one of our favourite bars from our apartment. It was shut. Again. If they're not busy around sevenish, they close. I'd put in a few Ks on the bike, and felt entitled to a beer or two, so we went to another pub. It was closed too, as was the one across the street from it. Did we miss the memo? Do all the pubs in this city close on Mondays as well as Sundays? Is there a website we could check?

Whenever people talk about Melbourne's 'Liveability' two things always crop up: Trams, and 'European-style cafe-culture'. Well, here's some news: Lots of cities have trams! Some even have street cafes. A few have both at the same time. A tiny minority have pubs, too. Let's do a quick round-up:

  • Melbourne: Trams, Street cafes, weather that can kill you three ways in an afternoon, pubs that shut randomly.
  • Paris: No trams, Street cafes, weather that can be a bit annoying, French Waiters.
  • Rotterdam: Trams, Street cafes, can be chilly, excellent beer at all hours.
  • Amsterdam: All that and drugs, too.
  • London: No trams. The Tube. Street cafes with added soot. Drizzle. Lots and lots of beer. Even on Mondays!
  • Berlin: Trams, Cafes, Reasonable weather except in winter, excellent beer, even on Sundays!
  • Helsinki: Trams, Cafes, Hypothermia, Beer (caution - mortgage required).
  • Atlanta: MARTA, no cafes, foetid climate, no beer on Sundays.

So, in a brief survey of eight cities, Melbourne comes seventh. Beating Atlanta should not be seen as a consolation. They started from a swamp.

Sun Oct 22 22:42:47 2006

Energy Efficiency

Including helicopters, kangaroos and a foal.

First, a correction. In our reports on the match yesterday, we both independently stated that the Kiwis were ahead at half time. In fact, the Aussies were up 6-4. I'm sure there's a lesson of some sort in that. I have no idea what it is, though.

Anyway, The day started as a carbon-copy of yesterday: we didn't go to the market again. The plan derailed about there, when the lack of eggs (and muffins) in the fridge became apparent. It's actually cheaper to go to the coffee shop than to keep the makings, so I went and picked up a long black and flat white. And a muffin. A chocolate one. This may not be the ideal breakfast, but they didn't have any ham croissants left.

While we were sharing the muffin, the police helicopter did a display over the harbour.

Victoria Police Helicopter Police Helicopter

Once the muffin was thoroughly demolished, we headed off to Dight's Falls again. The Yarra makes some extravagant loops and turns in its terminal phases, so the route along its banks is twisty. I don't think any amount of twistiness can possibly account for the constant headwind, though. It doesn't matter whether you ride up or down the river, the wind is against you.

After about 12km, there's an urban farm park. We stopped to have a quick chat to these two:

Grey Mare, Bay Foal Mare and Foal

He was suckling a few moments later. Cute. There are, however, limits to cuteness.

Foal bites tail Tail nibblage

Once she'd had enough of that, she picked up one of her hooves and rammed it firmly, but not violently, into the his foreleg. The point was taken.

We had hoped to have a quiet, peaceful rest at Dight's falls, listening to the gentle sound of the falls while enjoying the sunshine. When we got there, the place had been taken over by a bunch of workshy smelly long-haired hippies and their diesel-powered boombox. Thoroughly unpleasant. If it hadn't been for my distaste of their body odour, I'd have harshed some serious mellow.

So, instead of enjoying a pleasant restful interlude, we high-tailed it back towards the city, leaving the soap dodgers to their insalubrious cavorting.

When we got back to the city, we were both feeling the effects of cycling 30kms powered by a single muffin, so we stopped for an ice-cream before going home.

Dinner was kangaroo. Almost a whole one.

Sun Oct 22 00:04:45 2006

International Rugby

Beer, too!

After my travails with inner tubes, I really didn't want to go shopping before the Big Match. The Best Person Ever had worked this out before I was home, and the plan for the rest of the afternoon was settled. We hopped on a tram to the pub with the intention of getting a snack. Unfortunately, they were planning to show a certain international match, so the place was heaving. We adjourned to the upper bar to drown our sorrows for a bit. By a miracle, just as I went downstairs I spotted an empty table. The relevent verb here is not so much 'grab' as 'annex with extreme prejudice'. Once we had a horizontal surface at our disposal, arranging diverse viands was the work of a moment. (Is anyone else detecting the presence of ethanol in this narrative?)

Suitably refuelled, we went home to pick up the tickets and don the regalia. I wore a black sweatshirt, and hoped not to be mistaken for a Kiwi. The Rugby Fan suited up in her Australia shirt from the last RFU world cup.

We walked the 200m to the Telstra Dome and went in. The place was busy. There's a bar every fifty metres or so selling beer. There are three types - heavy, medium and light. No brand names are displayed. I assume it's because no brewer wants to be associated with the stuff. I suspect that there is a remarkably simple recycling cascade from the upper level urinals to the lower level bars. You don't buy the beer - you rent it for $5 an hour.

Passing on these delights, together with the anaemic hot-dogs, we found our seats. We were about ten rows from the pitch, looking straight down the try line. It was probably one of the better places to be, the way the action went.

There's a match report in the usual place. It was a seventy-minute snoozefest followed by ten minutes of amazing, attacking, scintillating rugby. The Kiwis edged a slight lead in the first half, ably assisted by some either-way decisions going favourably for them. The Australians had a number of great performances, but no noticable team. Neither side did much for the first thirty minutes of the second half either. Then the whole game changed. New Zealand scored a cracking try right in front of us, converted it and scored a drop goal, putting themselves two scores ahead with eight minutes to go. We expected Australia to fold at that point, based on their apathy so far. Instead, they woke up, took the initiative and started some dazzling attacks, including a brilliant 60 metre run for a try behind the posts and another pacy, well-supported attack thet led to a second try with less than two minutes on the clock. The emotional reverse in the stadium was astonishing. Final score: Australia 20, New Zealand 15.

A day with bikes, beer and rugby. Sometimes, it all just comes together.

Sat Oct 21 23:34:28 2006

A Couple of Pictures

City and Sunset

In a token effort to convince myself that I have a backup strategy, I downloaded some pictures from my phone. Here's one I took today:

Melbourne Skyline from Yarra Bend Park Melbourne

I took that one today from Yarra Bend Park. It's got the whole rural/urban contrast thing. Or maybe not. I like it, and it's my blog. Next!

Sunset Sunset

This was a striking sunset we watched from our apartment on the 4th of September. As I took a few shots, I noticed a lens artifact. I goofed around until I had it placed in an interesting position. There's another shot of this sunset over there. Scroll down to the entry for the 4th of September. It gives a striking demonstration of the difference between the camera in a good mobile phone and a real camera.

(Never mention backups - while I was writing this entry, the machine had a kernel crash and rebooted. I'm reaching for the DVD-Rs now.)

Sat Oct 21 16:19:47 2006

First Long Ride

...idiocy, inevitably, ensues

The weather was absolutely lovely when we were woken up at 0800 by the builders next door hammering on the roof. Again. After some deeply committed efforts to ignore the noise, we gave in and got up.

Since the climate here is so deeply unreliable, we skipped going to the market, and went for a ride instead. After scrambled eggs on muffins, naturally.

We headed west to Port Melbourne along the cycle path. We can get from our flat to the path that goes all round Port Philip Bay without riding on a single road. Spiffy. The usual gale (OK, force 5) was blowing off the bay, so we took it quite gently. We got about half way to St. Kilda before stopping to take some photos (go on - it'll be on the test).

I tried seeing how easy it is to lift the front end of my bike up. Very easy. It will cheerfully come up and biff me in the (ample) hooter. Cool. Next, I tried to see what happens when I apply a bit of upward pressure on the pedals while the nose is up. After a couple of goes, I managed to get the sequence right. Airborne. Spiffalicious. I've never managed that before. I kept repeating my new party trick until The Risk Assessor told me to stop being silly. OK, I might have done a *few* more. Not very many, though. We came back by the same route, and The Sensible One decided to call it a day. Her bike is fantastic, and she's really enjoying it. I, of course, decided that some more punishment was called for.

I took the Yarra Valley path in the other direction, and cycled past the city and out to the east. I followed the same route that we had previously taken on hire bikes. I got almost to Dight's falls, and turned off for Studley Park. A bloke at the bike shop had said that there were some trails in this area, so I went for a rootle. This started with a reasonably respectable climb - about 50m in 500m I would guess. Enough to get the blood pumping a bit. Once at the top, I couldn't find anything interesting, so I had a bit of a downhill sprint. This bike has huge quantities of zoom juice, and it feels very stable around 50kph (guessing - no computer fitted yet).

One of the things that Melbourne is lacking is decent hills. You have to go about 50kms to the Dandenong Ranges before there's anything really worth climbing. Other People fail to see this as a drawback.

Eventually, I found something unpaved that looked a bit interesting. I followed along the river as the path climbed a bit, and got narrower. And narrower. And steeper. And Oh My Gosh is that a tight turn where a misplaced tyre would lead to plummeting death? Yes it is. What fun. Eventually, the path got so steep it had steps in it. I gave up and carried the bike up. At the top there was a big sign saying 'No Bicycles'. Hey, ho. Must have missed the one at the other end.

I hammered along past Dight's Falls, and had a look round Yarra Bend Park. There was a little bit of fairly technical single track there, but not as much as I had hoped. The bits I did increased my respect for the awesome capabilities of this bike even further. I was hacking along very twisty stuff far faster that I would have done on my old hardtail, and the bike was handling it with confidence. I have a nasty suspicion that crashes on this machine are going to happen at higher speeds than I am used to.

After some more pottering about, I headed for home. A minute or two later, I spotted a lovely kerb. Aha, I think, I bet my new-found skills at hauling this machine airborne are a match for that. Lug, we go and the front end pops up sweetly. Yank, we are going to go next. Too late - rear tyre clobbers the corner of the kerb with the full momentum of bike and rider. Crush goes the tyre. Bang, hisssssssss goes the inner tube. Oh, poot, I say.

I'm a good 5kms from home with no repair kit. Whoops.

The next forty minutes is a triumph of modern technology. I carry my lovely, expensive, featherweight machine (so glad I've got a really expensive, really light bike) out of the park to a road, and call the Logistics Director on my mobile. "Help. I'm somewhere near the river in East Melbourne. Where's the nearest Bike Shop?" The response, while not entirely sympathetic - I think I could hear giggles, was fantastic. Once we'd worked out where I was, the combined power of Multimap and Yellow Pages gave me everything I needed. Fortunately, I was only about a kilometer from the nearest one. The Logistics Director vectored me in by mobile.

It turned out to be a bit of an odd place. It specialized in Italian road machines, and was populated by the sort of people who like this sort of kit. Not entirely a place I was comfortable with. They had a (fairly crap) tube of the right size, and were happy to fit it for a grand total of $25. Result.

I came home very carefully, and didn't jump at all. Not even little things.

Off to watch some rugby soon. If we can just arrange some beer, this will have been a truly awesome day.

Fri Oct 20 22:53:36 2006

Tram vs Bike

I lose again

We had developed an astonishingly complex plan for picking up the Sensible Person's new bike. It involved careful logistics, perfect timing and a healthy dose of luck. Whoops.

Once we'd sliced through the usual causes of crisis, dealt with some entirely new ones and grabbed a moment to think, I phoned the bike shop. Conversation went like this:

  • Me: Hello, has the bike arrived yet? Is it ready?
  • Them: Yup. I can see it from here. Looks ready to go.
  • Me: What colour is it?
  • Them: Green.
  • Me: {choke}
  • Me: Are you sure it's green? Really sure? Not a trick of the light?
  • Them: Oh, you mean that one - blue, flat pedals, different saddle...
  • Me: Yes, I think I mean that one {heart rate drops back to normal}

So we strolled over there to pick it up. We were well-prepared for financial issues, so the paperwork was a bit less of a stumbling block this time. It only took a few minutes before The Blue Bike was raring to go.

The Sensible Cyclist set off on her new toy, followed less than a minute later by a tram carrying me. I kept a good lookout for a shiny new bike, particularly up the hills. The traffic was light, and the head-start was small, so I was certainly expecting to catch up before the tram turned off. Seeing no sign on the way, I hopped off the tram at the last stop and trotted briskly home. I found the Urban Cyclist already there, with the new bike safely bedded down. She'd hacked happily all the way through the city, barely noticing two intense climbs.

I'm going to have to get fitter.

Beautiful New Bike is in the usual place. Please check it out. I'll be asking questions later.

Thu Oct 19 18:45:48 2006

First ride

out of condition

To those who know me well, it will come as no surprise to learn that I took my new toy out for a play today. Because it still gets dark at about seven, I didn't have very long, so I picked a route we've done before on hire bikes.

I pottered over the river, and bimbled gently down to Port Melbourne. There's a cycle path from Port Melbourne that goes for miles around the bay. Once I was fully established on the flight path, I opened it up a bit as a test of both the machine and myself. Conclusion: it's a lovely, joyous, charming delight, and I suck.

There was a brisk headwind on the way out, and I was working quite hard when two riders started catching me. I opened it up a bit more, which worked for a few hundred metres. As I started to get a bit tired, they started reeling me in. Not pleased. They caught me after about ten minutes. I kept working hard, slightly puzzled that they weren't passing me. Engaging brain a few seconds later, I slowed right down. 'No - please go on' they said. Cheeky sods. I made them pass and sat in their wind shadow for a few minutes. Much easier. I suspect I was a bit stronger than them, because the pace had dropped. We were caught by another couple, who joined. This little peloton of five then screamed past every other path user at ludicrous speeds, taking turns to lead. There were a couple of attacks, but I bridged them back, being a nutter. I got as far as Brighton Marina, which is actually in Sandringham, about 10 or 12Km from home before I wussed out.

The ride back was a little less energetic, with a good tailwind and fewer people to compete with. I did get passed a couple of times, mostly by roadies, but I passed more. I think. Probably.

It was hard work keeping up with quite a few other riders. I did, in fact, get dropped a few times. I Do Not Like Getting Dropped At All. But, this was my first proper ride for over two months, and I'm recovering from a vicious cold and I'm unfamiliar with the paths and it's a brand new bike I'm only just learning and I didn't have the suspension locked out and I'm not a roadie and it was all flat and... and... and...

I will get fitter and faster. I'd have blown them away on a climb. In mud.

We should be able to pick up The Blue Bike tomorrow, then we can go and look for some trails together. That will be fun.

Wed Oct 18 22:04:51 2006

Giant Trance 1

...but no hardtail

I've got one of these:

Chaz on new bike (Smug)

Technically, actually, I haven't. I'm borrowing it from Someone With A Functioning Credit Card But No Bicycle. Allow me to regale you with the whole sorry saga (happy ending guaranteed).

I phoned the bike shop just before lunch to find out what was happening. My beautiful bike had arrived, but the other one hadn't; it was expected in today's shipment. We went to lunch, stopping only to buy a DVD and do a bit of shopping - only essentials, you understand. As I was involved in the usual byzantine negotiation for a couple of kebabs, the bike shop called back. The other bike had arrived - in the wrong colour. Catastrophe. High levels of outrage, upset and disappointment. Unhappiness. They've promised to get the right one by Friday. They'd better.

Straight after work, we turned up to pick up my new toy. It stood there gleaming, about to float to the ceiling on the smallest zephyr. We goofed about with mudguards and other accessories for a bit, and then handed over the credit card. No dice. Other credit card. Still no good. Third credit card. Nope. Whoops. Could be embarrassed. The Most Perfect Person Ever tries hers. Same result. We start to feel adrift in a sea of cashlessness. Not a pleasing place to be. A mercy dash to a cash point solves nothing. Life is bleak. The penultimate thing to try is a UK debit card from The Wealthy Party. This, finally, works. Happily, if rather sheepishly, I pedalled off into the sunset, leaving my wonderful wife - disappointed with her own bikelessness, and having just paid for my new bike - to catch the tram home. Whoops.

It's a fantastic machine. I can't really describe how good it feels to ride such a well-engineered bike. I'v only done a few Ks through Melbourne, but the absolute quality is outstanding. It climbs up and drops off big kerbs without a twitch or a bump. It corners scarily well. I may want a bit more agression from the brakes, but only because I'm a wuss. It needs some tight, twisting technical singletrack. That's the plan for the weekend. All we need now is The Other Bike. (And a rant at our incompetent banks, but we do that most weeks.)

Giant Trance 1 Sunset Shiny
Tue Oct 17 22:26:57 2006

One more day...

...and I'll have a bike again

We'll be picking up our shiny new bikes tomorrow. If the weather lets us, we'll go for a little ride. The last time I bought a new bike, I had to ride it home from Bath to Bristol. It was dark, and below freezing. It took me an hour and 45 minutes to do seventeen miles along the cycle path.

Because of the general lack of sub-zero temperatures and early evening darkness here, I am hoping that tomorrow's gentle ride will be a bit less character-building. One of the major reasons for coming here was to avoid riding in the cold. I've done enough winter rides where I've kitted up with shorts, long woollen trousers, two t-shirts, a sweater, two pairs of socks, mittens and gloves, only for all sensation in my feet, fingers, ears and nose to fade ten minutes out of the door. After an hour of riding hard (to avoid hypothermia) a warm shower is wonderful, until feeling starts returning to the extremities. It's not 'pins and needles', more 'nails and spikes'. I really felt I'd earnt the beer when I did a ride like that. For some reason, the Sensible One never joined me on those.

Here, sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion are the problems. Not to mention spiders, snakes, drop-bears and the occasional bunyip. I doubt our riding will be so extreme that we need to worry about sharks. Yet.

Mon Oct 16 22:09:49 2006

Paid a Deposit

Bikes on Wednesday

We strolled over to the bike shop at lunch time. We barely had time to look over the delicious hardware before we were asked if we needed assistance. We told the salesperson that I was looking for a Trance 1, and The Slightly Less Obsessive Cyclist was after the Thermo 1. Many salespeople would have homed in with tedious assiduousness at this point. Instead, she gave us a quick optical bollocking, and told us exactly what frame sizes we would need and went to find them. It took her a bit of googling and a few calls to find the bikes. Apparently, there are less than ten of each in Australia. Well, less than nine now. We've paid the deposit, and will pick up our shiny new toys on Wednesday.

Got a good deal, too.

Sun Oct 15 20:56:12 2006


Bicycles, too.

Looking at the calendar, it was three years ago today that the whole breakfast thing started. We were on our honeymoon in Trinity Beach, just north of Cairns when it began. We were staying in a self-catering apartment, and commuting alternately to the rain forest or the reef. To make the most of our time during the day, we started each morning with breakfast. This was meant to keep us going through the day, with no need to stop for lunch. Initially, this was a slice or two of toast. Within a couple of days, it had become a bit more traditional.You can increase your cholesterol level by clicking here. Please note the orange juice. That makes it all healthy.

Today, we had our first proper breakfast in Australia since our honeymoon. The only real difference is the sausages. They're new.

Bicycles are over there. Health freak.

Sat Oct 14 22:55:02 2006

Shopping for Bikes

Trance or Anthem

I've been avoiding the whole bicycle thing ever since I discovered how much it's going to cost to get new wheels for my old bike. Fortunately I married The Best Wife Ever. This is an actual quote: "You're going to look for a bike today. In shops. The internet doesn't count. If you find one you like, you're going to buy it. Otherwise, we keep looking until we find one you want."

So, we went shopping. The first place (don't click - hideous website) we looked at had a bunch of Trek bikes. They're good, but not quite the outrageous expense I'm looking for.

I dragged The Decision Driver on to Simple Harmonic Motion.Neat name for a bike shop. Their staff were a bit scarce, and their stock didn't seem to have the bikes I want. Lots of pretty roadbikes, though.

On we trudged to CBD Cycles. Within seconds I fell deeply in love with five bikes. Two were road bikes built from aerogel, one was a hardtail carbon cross-country delight and the other two are affordable. Maybe. Sort of.

In accordance with the Law Of Minimal People (there are only fifteen people, and you've already met them all) the sales assistant is from Bristol. He tried to help me through the decision matrix. Eventually, he got bored with my prevarication, handed me the brochures and made his excuses.

It's going to be another Giant bike. Probably the Trance. The Anthem is still on the list, too.

Also, new stuff over there

Sat Oct 14 00:09:37 2006

Sneezing Pandas

Still want a bike

Soon, I will bite the bullet and buy myself an extravagant, outrageously expensive bike. Almost right now. Give me a moment. Nearly ready. Any time now.

In the meantime, achoo!

Thu Oct 12 23:12:58 2006

Sea Freight!

It's all here

The guys with the freight turned up early. Their office had promised that they would be here between 0900 and 0930. The doorbell went at 0830. By a miracle, I was not only out of the shower, but dressed when they arrived.

The Building Management people had promised to be there to give us sole access to a lift with protective curtains set up. This didn't happen soI used a mixture of physical presence, sweet smiles and a worryingly deep knowledge of the lift system control software to get us what we wanted: 46 packages moved from a truck in Bourke Street to our flat.

We made the two blokes who brought the stuff unpack it, too. They kept bleating about the free service to take the packing material away. We kept smiling sweetly and nodding. "That's nice" we said. "Only another fifteen boxes to go. Chop chop." They did it. I gave them beer.

We cooked another kangaroo this evening. It was so much more fun to work with our own tools. I kept catching myself thinking 'properly, I'd use {utensil}', then I'd reach for {utensil} and use it. After weeks of butchering meat with blunt knives, a sharp Sabatier is a treat.

I booted the laptop that I had set up to be my Unix workstation. It is hard to express the happiness and contentment that I get from sitting at a Real Computer. Then it crashed. Hard. It can't see it's hard disk any more.

While I waited for some nefarious tricks to run on the desperately sick Unix machine, I phoned around for a quote for replacement wheels for the bike. $550.That's 225 Pounds. Ouch. The bike only cost 500 pounds

It's good to have our stuff back. We've found places to store most of it. All we need now is a MacBook Pro, a Unix workstation, two decent bikes, two ratty Lasers and a partridge in a pear tree.

In the meantime, we have sharp knives.

Wed Oct 11 22:15:17 2006

Pub Food

Kitchen Supplies Tomorrow

We had been planning to do beastly things to a kangaroo this evening. Before we started on that, we went for a bit of a potter round the harbour. This took us dangerously close to the pub. Damn. On Wednesdays they have a two-for-one offer on their excellent food. Double damn.

On the upside, we should be able to introduce the kangaroo to our lovely Le Creuset. Every cloud has a delicately marinated lining. Or something.

Also, 72 posts in two months. I'm going to try that 'quality versus quantity' thing next. Please be patient.

Tue Oct 10 22:25:13 2006

Sea Freight

Customs cleared

Our sea freight has cleared customs. The shipping agent is hoping to deliver it on Thursday. I have no idea where we are going to put everything. We've been living here for almost a month now. Why we need a 20-foot container full of other stuff is a bit of a mystery. Except the kitchen stuff. We're looking forward to having our good knives back. I have nefarious plans involving a kangaroo/Le Creuset interaction, too. We'll have enough tools for proper breakfasts, made with eggs and cholesterol. Mashed potato will be back on the menu. Roasts with Yorkshire Puddings may not be too far off, if the weather stays cold. And, of course, omelettes.

Fortunately, a bicycle is involved, too.

Mon Oct 09 22:13:19 2006

Pictures of Animals


The post yesterday was dull, uninformative and negative. Part of the reason for this is that blogging is becoming a chore.

I'm going to wind the rate back a bit soon. I've posted at least once a day for almost two months - over 70 posts. Most of them are drivel. I started posting at this rate so that people in Europe would have something to point at and laugh. I kept it up out of habit, then tenacity, then sheer bloody-mindedness.

My first post was on August 12th. After I've completed two months of pig-headed obstinacy, the rate will drop off. I'll only post when I actually have something to say.

In the meantime, Animals!

Sun Oct 08 22:52:34 2006

Melbourne Zoo

Faster than a speeding tortoise

(I haven't blogged about our trip to the Mornington Peninsula yet. That's because it didn't go well. We were presented with a tiny room. The shared bathtroom facilities came as a bit of a surprise. Then it turned out that only one restaurant was open within 30kms, and we'd have to drive. When we discovered that the shared lavatory had no lock, we turned round and came home.)

Today started with the usual full gale, so we went to the zoo. Our efforts were slightly hampered by the centenary celebrations for Yarra Trams. They closed the docklands lines so they could line up their full set of historic trams on the lines they'd closed. Beyond the obvious problem here, all the 'historic' trams are still in service. For example, the 31 service is operated by W6 class trams. These were introduced in 1923, and are still going strong.

Eventually, we arrived at Royal Park Station and forked over the usual $22 each for the entrance fee. Everything here seems to cost about that, and seems a lot better value than similar things in Europe.

This is the second big zoo we've been to here - the other is Taronga Zoo in Sydney. We've also been to Healesville Sanctuary.

Taronga and Healesville are great places. Melbourne zoo is not.

Starting with the good things, the Platypusary (neat word) is good. The platypus was swimming, then surfacing, then scratching. And scratching a lot. Most of its tail fur was missing. It kept scratching. Judging by size, the one we saw was a male. No partner was in evidence. I don't think they're very sociable anyway.

The lions seemed happy. A bunch of males (not a female in sight) lounging around on a grassy mound. A pair of pumas in a 30x20m cage were doing OK. A lone leopard in a similar sized cage was not happy. Lots of repetitive pacing.

The bears look mangy and miserable.

The Australian animals all seemed content. Kangaroos, koalas, wombats all doing their chilling and snoozing thing.

The huge aviary works well. Lots of Australian species in three different habitats, all looking well and flying freely.

The gorilla environment at Melbourne zoo seems excellent. They goof around, play with each other and spend a lot of time just chilling. It's still far from nature. Staring into the eyes of a beautiful gorilla from ten metres away, I wonder what she did to be locked in a zoo. Would she be happier free? Safer? It's hard to look at a sentient being through a wire mesh.

Seeing a solitary elephant exhibiting cage stress - repetitive, pointless movement with no engagement - is upsetting.

The seals looked happy enough. Except for the one that was isolated from the others. Why?

Nowhere in the whole zoo is there any evidence that they are involved in conservation, breeding programs, research or anything worthwhile. To an outsider, it's a circus.

Melbourne zoo needs to stop keeping animals it can't care for, communicate its conservation, breeding and research better, and take better care of the animals it keeps. We saw too many mangy animals, from bears to echidna.

In addition to having a piss-poor zoo, Melbourne also shuts on a Sunday. I know, we never learn.

The Giant Tortoises seem happy enough.
Giant Tortoise Content.
Sat Oct 07 21:10:23 2006

A Recipe for Kangaroo

Stop moaning. It's not endangered.

We had a table booked this evening at a very good restaurant in St. Kilda. Owing to the ravages of a rhinovirus we've decided to defer that until we can, at least, smell the food. I went to the market instead.

Because of the generally poor state of health in this vicinity, I bought the makings of a stew. Comfort food. A few shallots, some butternut sqaush, some carrots, and two fillets of skippy.

We started cooking by caramelizing some onions, chopping the mushrooms, peeling the squash and so on, when I was struck by the horror of what we were doing. No amount of feeling awful can excuse this. There I was, in my own kitchen, about to stew a kangaroo fillet. Criminal.

So, instead of condemning these poor pieces of meat to a stew, we fired up the oven, and started behaving decently.

We made a bed of caramelized onions on a sheet of aluminium foil, dressed it with chopped garlic and fried mushrooms, and placed the sliced kangaroo fillet on top. Wrapped loosely in foil, this shared an oven with the carrots, pumpkin and a few cloves of garlic for about 35 minutes (160C). Served with lightly toasted and buttered sourdough. Absolutely wonderful.

Wine: Hamilton's Ewell Vineyards, 2003 Grenache- Shiraz-Mouverdre. Rich, fruity, smooth and deep with a lovely long, almost tangy finish.

Fri Oct 06 10:09:13 2006

No Bloggage Today

Better things to do.

It's our wedding anniversary, so I've got better things to do than blog to you lot. You'll have to entertain youselves.

Have fun. We will.

Fri Oct 06 00:41:52 2006


Off to the wineries

Three years ago I married the cleverest, funniest, sharpest, most beautiful, most attractive woman in the world. To celebrate this, we're going to potter down to the Mornington Peninsula and go on a tour of some wineries. On horseback.

If I get stopped by a policeman, I'm going to blame the horse.

Wed Oct 04 22:11:53 2006

Fishing for tenants

Some interest at last

We were called this evening by our letting agents. They have found some potential tenants. This is not the first time that people have expressed interest, but it's the first deposit we've seen. Well, OK, we haven't actually seen it, what with cheques being practically invisible at 10,000 miles.

We were at a restaurant when they called (yes, it is also a notable local purveyor of beer - thanks for asking). This led to some frenzied telecoms stuff. Rather than go straight home, we used our google-fu to look up our mortgage lender's phone number, phoned them to confirm their terms and conditions, and then called the letting agent back. How people did this sort of thing 20 years ago is a mystery.

Nothing is certain until the lease is signed, but it's encouraging.

Later, we played the deer shooting game again. Afterwards, the microscopic remains of my ego were handed back to me in a small gift-wrapped container.

Tue Oct 03 21:27:20 2006



It has been suggested on occasion, by some, that I am far from underendowed in the nasal area. Setting aside any discussion of the veracity of such statements for the moment, I will admit to having been considerably focussed on this part of my anatomy for the last few days. (achoo)

Rather than do anything constructive his evening, I spent a few moments pottering around the web. It appears that the cause of my continuing distress is one of 99 serotypes of the rhinovirus genus of family picornaviridae. (achoo - oh I'm so sorry - let me wipe it off)

These little sods consist of an icosahedral capsid made of four viral proteins. They protect and nurture a tiny strand of RNA (hence, picornaviridae). The RNA is around 8 kilobases. Each base is two bits of information. You could encode an entire one of these in an average day's burbling.

It takes the human immune system a while to hone it's detection systems when presented with capsid proteins that it hasn't been exposed to before. It will then munch merrily away at them. Theoretically, the immune system should remember that particular pattern for ever. There are two factors against us here. Firstly, there are 99 different serotypes. Secondly, the virus evolves. (Ahh.... no - just caught it.)

Because of the huge number of types, and the unstopping pressure of evolution, the chance of a vaccine for this remains remote. There is also little evidence that antivirals can reduce severity or length of a cold. So, it's back to the chicken soup.

The virus can't replicate much above 34 Celsius. This is why it only affects the upper respiratory tract (I wonder if a sauna would help?). This is possibly one of the reasons why colds are associated with cold weather (I give up). Another reason for this phenomenon is that blood flow - hence immune capability - in the upper respiratory tract (OK, nose) is reduced when it's cold.

There are rumours that the most common route of transmission is direct hand-to-hand contact. Inhaling other people's airborne emissions (yuck) is a relatively minor pathway. I do not wish to know how this was tested.


  • Cold doesn't cause colds. Rhinoviruses do. Particularly when it's cold.
  • Don't touch snotty people
  • Or anybody, when the temperature is low.
  • (achoo)
  • Chicken soup is good

A vaccine or a cure for the common cold would be worth billions. After decades of research, including vast leaps in understanding, the entire medical and pharmaceutical industry remains baffled. By 2 kilobytes of data. Isn't biology fun?

Mon Oct 02 18:43:22 2006

Rugby Tickets

No more footy til March

This is the view out of our window. There's a bit of a reflection on it that I can't be bothered to remove.

Telstra Dome The other view from our window

It's a bit daft to live slap bang next to a venue like this without using it at all, so we've had a look at the programme for the next couple of months. Obviously, the footy's over for the season. Most of the events seem to involve some silly European game involving a spherical ball. Not very interesting at all. In a couple of weeks, though, the Rugby League Tri-Nations tournament is on, and the Australia vs. New Zealand game is at the Dome.

The Best Wife Ever has bought us tickets. It's almost enough to make up for the Worst Flu Ever (or 'mild cold' as others call it).

Sun Oct 01 22:42:04 2006

Another Day, Another Final

How to lose a match

Despite my plangent calls for an apothecary, an undertaker (or at least a vet) being ignored, I think I may yet survive the Man-Flu. Waking up to an infusion of deep, dark cofee delivered to my sickbed helped.

Eventually I coaxed my virus-shedding carcass out of the shower and into the warm, bright light of day. Then, Ikea. How many times have I broken the pledge now? Once again: I will never, ever go to Ikea again. Even if it is cheap. Or convenient. (unless Other People make me).

There was another Grand Final today. Rugby League. Brisbane versus Melbourne. The match was settled before the kick-off. Before the teams ran out onto the pitch, we were shown footage from the dressing rooms. Brisbane were using the limited space to throw balls around, run past each other and focus on positional awareness. The Melbourne players were hugging each other. 15-8 to Brisbane.

Gastronomy news: $11 buys more first-class Porterhouse steak than we need. We ate it anyway. Delicious.

email BurbleChaz

Last modified: Mon Nov 6 11:57:28 AUSEDT 2006