Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Time Machine

Last night we watched the video of The Time Machine and it's starting to dawn on me why I might have wanted to watch that particular film. Not that it suggests any kind of solution to the problems of time management. So; as I am obviously not able to tamper with time, I will just have to manage the way I spend mine. Important stuff only from now on!

time machine
I bought this video last year in excelent condition

My maths is not so great so it wasn't obvious to me how little spare time I will have this semester. Thankfully Sam has reminded me that full time work, parenthood, study and cycling 20km to class (and 20km back) twice a week is going severely limit my available time. I'll be cooking for the family and entertaining a two and a half year old every other night. Darn it! I need more time! "And when" my wife aptly asks, "will there be time for us?" "Daww? Err? I dunno?" I reply desperately trying to show that I had given some consideration for family time. Apparently (I am told) I will be able to manage to study this semester if I drop a few of my personal pursuits like playing games on the computer, reading for leisure and Blogging.

Here's another Trishaw story. From The New Straits Times online (28 Jan 2007)
Ah Chai's glad he sticks out like a sore thumb

Oh and the guys/girls at Cycling Silk have made a short promo video of their trip. Great images and music.


This morning I was up early so I wouldn't miss my morning ride.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Well I've finally made a start. Last week I rode to work via Lee Point which extends my trip to work by about another seven or eight km. I'm lucky I live in such a great area full of cycle paths and parkland, because I hate riding along busy roads. The trip to work via Lee Point is quite picturesque and takes me through the Casuarina Coastal reserve. On my way to work last Thursday I saw ten Orange-footed Scrub Fowl and various other birds including a Rose-crowned Dove.

Today I will enroll in some library cataloging units. These will be held at Palmerston campus which means I'll have a 40 km round trip once a week which I hope to do on my bike. The problem now is that none of my bikes are in good enough shape or suitable for a road ride like that. Officially I have four bikes including Sam's $100 Kmart special (no actually there are now five bikes because I picked up another one from the tip last night!) but three (four) are in need of desperate repairs. I think for a commute like this I must resurrect the old Shogun road bike.
I have only a short time but this must be done.
Riding in Darwin is a wet and sticky affair, when the evening temperature is often over 30c and the humidity between 50% and 90% there is no way to arrive anywhere dry. Often I hope it will rain so that some of the sweat is washed out of my cloths before I have to meet anyone. The Palmerston Campus has a shower for students to use so what I can do is put a pannier rack on my racer and carry dry clothes to wear in class. I can wash the sweat out of my cycling cloths in the shower hang them somewhere inconspicuous and then put them back on (wet but hopefully not smelly) for the ride home.
Now the bike will need some work, I'll have to lubricate the brake cables so the brakes will disengage when I use them, re-wrap the bars with some tape, try to find some heavy duty tires and get some lights because I'll be riding in the dark.
So hopefully this is the beginning of a more active year for me. I think I'll get a battery for my bike computer so I can measure my distances and times. Racing against the clock should keep me motivated for a while.
Well it's already quarter to seven and I've been blogging when I could have been cycling now I'll have to take the quick road to work! Mr Homer Simpson has a word for this.... "DOW!!!"

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Snake on the road

This morning the girl and I went for a drive (way too hot to ride the bike) to the tip shop. There were heaps of great bike parts there but I've promised, again, not to bring anything home until I have made space for it. On the way back I noticed a dead snake on the side of the road so we pulled over to check it out. The child was fascinated and I had to remind her not to get too close even though it was dead. I'm not exactly sure what species it was but it had the look of a young Tiapan (Oxyuranus scutellatus). We were very curious to find that it had eaten a small monitor lizard. Whenever we see anything interesting I always try to take a photo and my little mate was on to me to get a shot of the snake so we came home got the camera and went back to snap off a shot of the dead snake. It was really interesting to see the way she responded to it and understood that it was a dead animal.

snake meal
The dead snakes belly with it's last meal poking out

The front section of the dead snake (If you recognize the species please post a comment)

More news on the push to remove human powered transport from the streets.

The Bloggies
If you're interested in web logs (blogs) you might like to check out the most popular at The seventh annual Weblog awards, The Bloggies. One of my favorite blogs, Up in Alaska is a finalist in the Sport category. Cast a vote if you're interested, have a look at some of the nominations it might be a good opportunity to view some acclaimed blogs I don't know I haven't had a thorough look at them yet.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Australia Day 2007

Today we had a great time. For starters we and I took a ride around the block on our cruiser, me peddling in a kind of frog legged style while kiddo sat up front on her new Weerider. The morning was humid and sticky so we worked up a sweat before we even got out the gate.

The bike paths and local parks were unusually quiet, we only passed two couples walking their dogs and one lump in the track, which, as we drew closer, we realized, was a person. It is not uncommon to find people lying on paths around Darwin often sleeping off a hard night on the grog. At first glance it is often difficult to tell if they have simply fallen asleep like that or if something might have happened to them. Thankfully this fella was snoring so I felt comfortable to keep riding past, he will wake up felling pretty bad it was already hot and there were mosquitoes buzzing around. Sometimes I find people lying in such an awkward position that I have to stop and check that their condition is not more serious than a hangover. After the ride we took the dog for a walk and little mate rode her bike around another local park, she’s really getting the knack of riding.

Australian of the Year

The Australian of the Year for 2007 1s Tim Flannery. Maybe the times are changing. It's incredible how the focus toward environmental issues has shifted in light of recent unusual destructive weather patterns and while the threat of running out of water has become so immediate and real. Good on you Mr Flannery.

Citizenship Ceremony

After an early morning start that was slightly more active than usual we headed in to the Australia Day Flag Raising and Citizenship ceremony at the entertainment center. What better way to contemplate the meaning of this day or to celebrate our citizenship than to welcome those who have chosen and been accepted to make Australia their home.

I have mixed feelings about Australia Day; it’s origins, the relevance of this to contemporary Australia and the contradictions between the establishment of the country as a colony of Britain and who we are today. To many Australians the 26th of January represents the invasion and illegal possession of this land by Britain, it is often called Invasion Day and is a day of grief. As no treaty has been entered between the Australian Government and Aboriginal people to resolve the illegal possession of the land I think it is a bit much to ask indigenous people to, 'move on' and join in the celebration of this day. Celebrating this as our national day does nothing to consolidate us as a nation.

Until 1901 Australia was not a country in it's own right, it was a series of British Colonies but on 1st January 1901 an Australian constitution was publicly declared and we officially became a federated country this day would make more sense as our national day however it's a very inconvenient date. Uniting the states into a country was a big move and brought our country autonomy but along with independence it also brought some very negative legislation. The White Australia policy was also adopted at this time. Celebrating federation although more appropriate is still not consistent with contemporary Australian values.

Personally I would like to see Australia as a Republic with a constitution that acknowledges our past but asserts our shared values as a Nation of many cultures. A country that appreciates and acknowledges the contributions made by all of it's citizens. It is not acceptable to think of ourselves as a white nation who sometimes tolerates a certain quota of non-white immigrants. Every immigrant who has accepted citizenship of our country has now in actual fact become part of the fabric of our society.

This was the first time I've attended a Citizenship Ceremony and it really got my head boggling over the significance of these people becoming true Australians. I saw people from all over the world from New Zealand to Zimbabwe confirm their allegiance to Australia, it's people and it's laws. They made an affirmation that the people born in this country are not required to make. Many of them have come full of hope, expectation and gratitude for the opportunity to be citizens of our country. I hope they are welcomed as an asset into the communities where they settle. Our societies can benefit immensely from the views or perspectives of our latest arrivals, they offer us the opportunity to look on ourselves with fresh eyes and possibly change the things that prevent us from functioning in a healthy way. For some it is the first opportunity they have ever had to participate in a democracy and they take this privilege very seriously.

The speeches made by the attending bureaucrats and politicians were somewhat uninspiring. Rather than rallying the new citizens into becoming active members of our democracy, to my jaded and cynical ears, the message sounded something like this. "Welcome to this beautiful land Australia which is very big and pretty and full of stuff that can make you rich. Please join us in the exploitation of it's resources so that our economy can grow and we can become more powerful. As Australians you now have rights that are better and more generous than where ever it is you are from so don't forget it. This isn't a free-for-all you have responsibilities too! We have laws in Australia and you better abide by them! Then a quote from JFK "Ask not what your country can do for you..." THE END.
(This quote is in no way meant to represent the true words as spoken it is my biased interpretation)
There was an acknowledgment of the Larrakia people but there was no official representation or welcome to country I wonder if this has anything to do with the the date? I doubt it is a day they would choose to welcome new arrivals.

I was a bit disappointed at the lack of optimism and encouragement in the speeches but essentially the basics were covered. There was some singing, the flag was raised and we all stood for the National Anthem, Sam sang it, thank goodness there was some sound coming from our vicinity.

Towards the end of the ceremony all Australian Citizens were invited to pledge their allegiance to Australia so Sam and I both stood and made our vows promising our devotion and loyalty to our country and it's people. WOW that was quite cool. Although I have some serious reservations about Nationalism and the way it is expressed in Australia I did feel somewhat patriotic about taking this pledge. We were reminded before and after however that it was a purely symbolic gesture and not legally binding! However I feel I have affirmed my citizenship and couldn't help wondering if the meaning of this stuff should be more available in schools so we can all learn what it means to be an active participant in a democracy, the most fragile yet fair political structure we know.

While I was there I met up with some friends and people I have met through my work, some of them were receiving citizenship and others were there to see friends and family making the pledge. There was a fantastic feeling of unity and togetherness after the ceremony as people from many different backgrounds celebrated the shared experience of being Australian.

Spending my time at the ceremony also meant that I could avoid other gatherings where the standard expressions of nationalistic pride were exhibited. I managed to escape any events where people draped themselves in green and gold, or the flag, while wearing thongs, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and chanting the obligatory Ozy Ozy Ozy bla…bla…blagh…

This year I had a far greater appreciation of what I think it means to be an Australian.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rickshaw dilemma in Calcutta

This morning I received a link via Google alerts about a rickshaw pullers demonstration in Calcutta.

Is this the end for Calcutta's Rickshaws?

A story about plans in Calcutta to ban rickshaws from the streets on humanitarian grounds.

I have not yet been to India or China so can't speak with much authority about the negative aspects of hand pulled or cycle rickshaws on traffic conditions or the impact either has on the health or dignity of the people who work in the industry. Rickshaws may cause some delay on the roads but surely if traffic is congested and moving slow anyway wouldn't it be better for everyone if they weren't sitting idly in a car belching carbon monoxide? It does seem a bit backward to remove a fuel efficient alternative. If working as a Rickshaw puller or peddler is so degrading then why do the people who do it fight so hard for the right to continue this livelihood?
I have not yet worked as a rickshaw cyclist but I hope to one day, however I have ridden in one once. The funny thing is that I have avoided riding in them for one of the very reasons they are being removed from Asian cities these days. I felt it was unfair to have another person carrying me around when I have two feet of my own!
While traveling in Thailand I caught a bus to Kanchanaburi. When a couple of other tourist and I stepped down from the bus we were met by half a dozen young men on bicycle rickshaws or trishaws. I felt embarrassed about accepting a ride when I usually walk but the guy was so insistent that I eventually hopped in. It was a very comfortable ride and a lot cooler than walking, I sat in the basket up front while my driver/rider peddled and gave commentary behind me. He was very happy to have some work and was keen to take me all over town but I felt inhibited about sitting up there like the Raj!
So why do I have such contradictory feelings about this matter? I guess it goes against the grain to have someone else do for me what I can do for myself. I don't want anyone to have to work up a sweat on my account! I like to meet people on equal terms and somehow the concept of being driven in a rickshaw appears too much social disparity for me to feel comfortable about it. In Australia when we ride in a Taxi I like many people jump strait in the front seat next to the driver! "G'day mate" and off we go.
On the other hand I think that (besides the low wages) being a rickshaw or trishaw cyclist would be a cool, 'honest', job that allows people to get some exorcise, meet people, reduce transport emissions and add colour and variety to the street. Although the article referred to hand pulled carts (quite a different prospect for me) I think for the men doing the work the issues must be similar. Although it may be considdered low work to some people I don't agree.
In many places these foot powered alternatives to a taxi provide opportunities for many people who would have few other options or be forced into more dangerous occupations to earn their daily wage. Maybe it's a good time to consider what is appropriate traffic, and what sort of activities are actually degrading to human beings?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Don't Muck up the McArthur!

The fight to save McArthur River is not dead! There is a new Blog devoted to giving voice to those people who feel strongly about the future of this much loved river.
The blog is called 'Don't Muck up The McArthur' and is a continuation of a desperate fight to protect the river, it's associated ecosystems from the potential disaster that will likely result from current plans to divert the river and mine the riverbed.
The people who's cultural heritage is intrinsically linked to the river claim their wishes have been ignored and that their religious sights are at risk of being irreparably damaged.

Please visit the blog and show your support for this movement.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

What's on the box

It's true these day I am more Spud than Stud. As I have finally conceded that my lifestyle is more one of a couch potato than an international man of action I'll at least try to find some useful cause for my true occupation. (We now have a portable TV/DVD player in our air conditioned bedroom)

Last night I watched a great program called 'LIVING WITH ILLEGALS'. (8:30pm Wednesday)
Sorious Samura, the journalist who produced the documentary gave more of himself for this story than most people would even consider. It was quite a briliant perspective on illegal immigrants and one that we who have the luxury of living in a safe country would rather not consider!
Mr Samura travels with and when possible 'as' an illegal immigrant. Taking many of the risks and suffering some of the hardship that the subjects of his documentary are forced to endure in order to escape what would be a worse fate in their original countries.
The documentary makes the obvious point that, on the whole, these are people whose circumstances in life have forced them into the almost hopeless position of fleeing their own country and risking everything for a chance to live under conditions that we take for granted.
Finally a story that is told in a way that allows any viewers capable of empathy the opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors.
The desperation of these people is real. Although we often look at struggling nations and say if only they would do this or did that, in most peoples cases the circumstances of their lives are well beyond their control.
It amazes me to see the heartlessness of Australians and particularly our government when it comes to dealing with refugees or illegal immigrants. I don't know how often I have heard the words 'Queue-jumper' or "illegal" used to denigrate people who seek refuge in our country! I don't know who started using them but they became common in the media very quickly and even used by our politicians! It wasn't long before I was hearing the words several times a day by people who had never seen the 'queue' and I doubt, like me, most of them wouldn't know what constitutes the difference between a 'legal' or an 'illegal' immigrant.

Why is it that when the xenophobic, paranoia button is pressed in this country we all respond with astounding diligence! It seems we will forgive any lie or deception played upon us by our governments, bureaucrats and truth makers when it comes to keeping 'them out'!

I am so glad that these peoples stories are being told in this way, from a man who has sacrificed part of his comfortable, safe life to share the suffering of his brothers and sisters.
We can justify our neglect and go on living in our fools paradise believing that the troubles of the world are nothing to do with us. Or we can practice some compassion and understanding for people who's dilemma we should be grateful we don't share.

I can't help thinking of the Samaritan from that parable in the bible?

Thank you Sorious Somara!

Interesting timing with the current situation in Tamworth where the council refused to allow 5 families from Sudan to settle in their town. It appears that the decision has been over turned after some heated public debate. I can't help thinking that the debate taking place within the Tamworth community might actually be a good thing. It is not easy to accept changes that appear to have been thrust upon you and it must be better to address peoples fear through discussion and debate than to ignore the way they feel about the future of their community. Who knows Tamworth may end up embracing their new citizens.

The series will continue next week at the same time.

Tonight at 8:30 SBS will be screening a rerun of 'Making 10 Canoes'. an excellent documentary.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A ride and a quote.

This morning I rode to work via the Dripstone cliffs. It's maybe one or two km longer than my usual ride. Well I have to start somewhere! It was good just to get out of my habit of taking the same route every day, even though I've only been back at work for three days.
The bush is so green and thick it's like a real jungle. I passed some areas of monsoonal vine thicket that had fully closed canopy! It was really soothing to see before work and much better than taking the main road. The wind was up and there was even some wave action at the beach.
I came the same way home but took my time and followed the Lee Point track back past the hospital, what a cruise I barely had to peddle and the track was nice and smooth after the rains.

Not much of a story I know. If you want to read some real biking stories check out Up in Alaska or Ozbybike!

Cruiser and Dripstone cliffs
My bike and riding shoes at Dripstone Cliff

I read a very apt quote in the NT parliamentary debates today. Having visited question time a couple of times last year and being thoroughly unimpressed with the political double speak, crap and muck slinging I had to agree with the quote Mr Woods used.
Back in October of 2006 Gerry Wood (member for Nelson) said this.

Mr Wood (Nelson):

Mr Acting Speaker, George Orwell once said:

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Debates Wednesday 18 October 2006
p. 3373

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A cyclist...?

I would like to consider myself a cyclist.
I would like to say that for me riding a bicycle is a lifestyle choice that reflects my love of the outdoors and combines my sense of adventure, desire for travel, hunger for physical exertion and is an accurate reflection of my zen consciousness. And that this can obviously be seen by my devotion to the road, track or path. That the miles I clock-up on a daily basis are a testimony to my love of the muscle powered marvel we call 'bicycle'.
Unfortunately (if miles peddled are a gage of ones worthiness of the title) I can not really call myself a cyclist. Although I do spend a great deal of time thinking about bikes, and I have accumulated enough spare parts to start my own repair shop, the farthest I travel in a day is no more than 6 km. I am a fraud! A dreamer! A hitch hiker on the peddle pusher highway! At best I am a commuter who can't afford a car!
I think the longest ride I would have done in the past 6 months would have to be a 6 km cruise around Rapid Creek on the way home from work.
It's time to get into action! I don't know what but as Homer Simpson once said, "I'm going to put my foot down!.... I really mean it... Here it comes..." Well I don't want to be a gunna but some thing must be done to remedy this sad state of affairs. Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Drain at Queenscliff

Drain at Queenscliff
Originally uploaded by davidfntau.
I (literally) stumbled over this drain cove on a curbside in Queenscliff while we were in Victoria. What a great idea!
Queenscliff is a coastal town at the heads of Port Philip bay surrounded by three very different bodies of water, Swan Bay, Port Phillip Bay and Bass Strait. Swan Bay is a marine park, it is relatively shallow water and acts as a fish nursery, it is a very important part of the marine ecology of Port Phillip Bay.
Although the Bellarine peninsular has been seriously affected by landclearing for farms (and now urban sprawl) it is heartening to see some kind off effort being made to recognize community responsibility for the environment. Fishing is an important part of life in Queenscliff so this makes good sense.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Geelong's foreshore has undergone some incredible changes in the years since my childhood trips to the Bellarine peninsular. Eastern beach is now a picturesque promenade filled with sculpture, friendly looking bollards an 1800s antique carousel and the new Skywheel (a huge Ferris Wheel). The sea pool has been reconstructed and there is now also a freshwater swimming pool for the kids.

Bollard and wheel
Crying clown with Skywheel in distance

Big wheel
Brightly painted cages in a wispy clouded sky

Skywheel Geelong
Neon lights at dusk

Sky wheel Geelong 01.07
Elaborately coordinated neon

Sky wheel Geelong 07
A guard watches as the wheel spins


While in Geelong we also visited the Bellarine Railway and caught a steam train from Drysdale to Queenscliff and back. The original railway went all the way from Geelong and most of the land has now been converted into a bicycle path known as the Bellarine Rail Trail (Check the Rail Trail map). I had intended to cycle from Drysdale to Queenscliff meet the family for lunch and then put my bike on the train and enjoy the ride back with the kids. Unfortunately as with many of my solo mini-adventure plans this was not to be. Thankfully the ride was such great fun that it was well worth the trip both ways.

Oil fueled train Bellarine
The train we caught was called the Klondite and was an oil-fueled steamer

Tandem at Drysdale
I noticed this tandem bike at the Drysdale station and quizzed the girls about where I could hire one. Somewhere in Queenscliff I was told (forgot soon after). They were really keen about the ride and appeared to be having a great time figuring out how to maneuver a tandem. I was so envious! It looked like an easy and fun ride along the path and mostly down hill too. Maybe next time if I/we can get our act together.

Queenscliff Jetti
Queenscliff Pier - always beautiful

Queensciff Jetti Shed
Ferry Shed


From Geelong we headed back to Melbourne to visit family and seek out some of the natural wonders that can actually be found in the inner suburbs as well as the outlying areas.

A dinner to be remembered in Hurstbridge...

My sister and her partner were pretty keen for us to meet them on our first night back and told us they'd booked a table at a restaurant in Hurstbridge for the whole family and would be disappointed if we didn't turn up. It turned out to be a surprise wedding and by the look on my mothers face they managed to keep the secret until the very last minute. We were still in a state of shock when the vows were being exchanged!
Good on you guys! And congratulations on your marriage and for pulling off the secret of the year, (It's a hard job keeping a secret in our family).

On a patch of land at the edge of the Merri Creek in East Brunswick, below the hulking mass and metal framework of electric cable towers lies a sanctuary for the spirit called CERES.
Today CERES looks like a green oasis of environmentally friendly agriculture and a successful social cooperative. However the site was once a neglected urban dump. (see the CERES history page)

Ceres caffe'
The Caffe'

Ceres bike workshop
The bike shed. This is what I really wanted to see. It is a community based 're-Cycling' program. They collect old bikes and parts, sell them cheap and help people to fix the bikes they buy or learn to fix their own. It's a great idea and a fantastic way to mix cycling and community involvement.

Ceres garden
A garden of mixed produce. (See the power lines overhead)

We made a trip out to Healesville Sanctuary where our little girl had a great time identifying and spotting all the animals she had previously only seen in books or on TV.
The highlight of the trip was the Platypus which she absolutely adores. We must have spent about 45 minutes just sitting in the darkened tunnel/observation area watching the platypus swim (It was quite hot outside).
Another highlight for me was the Lyrebird. I absolutely love these birds. They are such unusual creatures. They're beautiful to watch; delicately moving the litter at the bottom of the forest while they look for food. Their ability to imitate is just too bizarre to be believed. The Lyrebird exhibit had sound recordings of the birds imitating other birds, machines and even human voices!
On our way back to town we took the long road through Toolangi and Kinglake. I pulled into a National Park for a bit of a look around where we discovered three wild Lyrebirds! They must be scrounging further out into the open because of the extremely dry conditions. We were absolutely amazed to see them so close to a public area and a bit worried that they'd be harassed by people.

Male Lyrebird. One of the three birds we saw in Kinglake last weekend

Back to Geelong

Before returning to Darwin we made one more trip back to our family in Geelong and cooled off on the coast at Torquay. There were thousands of people there, all hoping to enjoy their own little piece of paradise.

Torquay surf 01.07

Torquay surf beach at about 2:00 pm on Wednesday 10th January 2007
(Photo courtesy of my wife Samantha)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sad Loss

Every Year we come to Victoria to visit family for Christmas.
Since the birth of our daughter this has become a very special time for her to get to know her family but it has also been important for us to come and visit 'Nan' (Sam's Grandmother Elsie).
Sadly this year when we arrived at her place for Christmas lunch Nan had to be taken away by ambulance with severe back and stomach pain.
This turned out to be an aneurysm in her aorta artery which was now over 9cm across. Nan also had a serious lung condition.
Although she was taken to hospital in a serious condition Nan insisted on returning to her room at Bellarine Court where she felt at home and could enjoy the company of her friends and relatives.
Just after 12:00 am on the 29th of December at the age of 84 Elsie Rodgers Passed away. She will be greatly missed by her many friends loved ones and various organizations of which she was a member.
Nan was the matriarch of her clan and the last of our grandparents to pass away; she contributed a great deal to my wife's musical education and her love of music is a legacy that has been passed on to our daughter.

Goodbye Nan we will miss you greatly.