Sunday, February 24, 2008

Row n Roll

The New Inventors
7:30 ABC 2 Saturday 23 February

Dr Boris Gregorievich Tarasov with his 'Row and Roll'
(photos courtesy of Dr Tarasov)

Row and Roll in action
(photos courtesy of Dr Tarasov)

The Row & Roll
On the New Inventors last night Professor Boris Grigorievich Tarasov showed his amazing Row and Roll bike. Essentially the invention is a bike that the rider moves by using the same motion as a person would if they were rowing a boat.
He claimed it could produce speeds over 100 kmh. The bike which is ridden in the recumbent position, uses a telescopic rod to move mechanisms for steering while transfering energy to the rear wheel. The invention did not win. The panel did not appear to consider it very practical. However shouldn't more credit should go to people who are prepared to experiment with alternatives to motorized transport? Maybe the New Inventors could have a special category for inventions that address the problems of global warming?

As far as the Row and Roll is concerned, I'd give it a go.

Confined to house all I have to blog about is what I saw on TV!

Garnaut report....

Sometimes I think I am going mad... not just angry, not just confused... but truly insane. It's OK I'm taking steps to remedy this problem but my efforts are constantly hampered by living in an insane society. I'm sure you can see why it is so difficult for an individual such as myself to find equilibrium when there is no sane standard I can find in my own society.

Just when I think I'm doing OK and can happily live in the world as it is I am reminded of just how bloody inconsistent our collective consciousness is. For example I work in an educational institution that claims to be at the forefront of indigenous knowledge systems yet I can find precious little evidence of this in our library. We also claim to be at the cutting edge of environmental sciences yet there is no evidence that any of this knowledge is transmitted to university policy or function.
An example is the weeds management unit I studied as part of my Lands Parks and Wildlife studies a few years ago. Every year teams of students study tropical weeds and how they can be treated and eradicated yet, as far as I know, not one group has addressed the enormous weed problem on campus! Our university contains a few areas of native habitat that back on to parkland. The universities land is heavily infested with the most invasive of weeds yet we have done nothing to prevent this! Meanwhile our academics write papers on environmental issues they even recommend actions that may solve the problems of our times but it all seems to amount to no more than academic theory! Rarely would our own institution attempt to put it's own expert advice into practice. Having recently read our environment policy I am saddened and appalled that we can make such grand claims while our own policy doesn't reflect in any way what we are claiming.

The theory that human beings are influencing Global Warming, the effects of global warming threaten to disrupt the systems we rely on for our social, economic, and environmental stability. We are facing very uncertain times and potential catastrophe. What will 'WE' do about it?

On the Thursday 21st February The 7:30 Report ran a story titled 'Garnaut issues climate change wake-up call', in which, Federal government appointed economist Ross Garnaut claimed that Australia will be severely impacted by the effects of climate change and that drastic measures are needed to halt the warming process. In short he recommended a 90% reduction in emissions from year 2000 levels!
I believe that the 60% reduction our government has already suggested will require major alterations to the way we live, but 90% is unimaginable! So why, If the writing is on the wall, aren't we acting right now? Surely if the projected outcomes of climate change were the potential result of an enemy attack on our nation, the whole of the countries resources would be willingly spent on defense! All our efforts, scientific knowledge, resources and time would be devoted to the prevention of such a catastrophe. What are our institutions, our governments, ourselves doing right now to ease this terrible burden we have put on all future generations?

Have I lost the plot again? Is this not really happening? As I continued to watch the 7:30 report, the following story was a direct contrast to the message given about Global Warming. The next story was about Australia's dwindling supply of oil and how we must search farther and farther afield to find new reserves... It was an optimistic story about the technology we are using and the possibility of stretching Australian borders so we can claim more of the world's oil and reduce our imports... Am I missing something here? Isn't it the burning of fossil fuels that is threatening our very existence? Shouldn't we be scouring the planet for new ideas on how to live in a changing world? Shouldn't we be focusing all our attention on redesigning our infrastructure and lives to function without relying on fossil fuels? Have I gone completely mad???

Last week was a weird one for me... Maybe having a head cold hasn't helped my ability to think rationally or laterally. Maybe I snapped after receiving those emails....

Oh yes the emails!
I think it was last week when I received the same forwarded email, one from a friend and the other from a family member. The email was put out by a group of people who are so incensed by the price of fuel, that they are calling on all car drivers to boycott petrol stations on a particular day! They claim this would through the petroleum companies into a state of panic and force them to reduce the cost of fuel at the bowser. (I believe here in Australia we have close to the cheapest fuel of any country in the world).
So amid all the injustices, all the issues that are actually worth fighting for it seems Australians are most concerned about how much they have to pay for petrol! I can't f--ing believe it! We are given clear and undeniable evidence that burning fossil fuels is a major cause of global warming but we protest the right to continue to do this at bargain basement prices!

Maybe I should just give in now and have myself committed!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

RFK speech and the state of our own nation

It seems this country has fallen into some rather ugly habits when it comes to the way we treat our fellows. Whether they are people of different ethnicity, asylum seekers or even other teams on the sports ground. We have sacrificed environmental as well as social values for the sake of becoming more affluent and less responsible. Australians have gained a reputation for being less than progressive in many areas of social and environmental development, and hypocritical in terms of our values and and expectations of others. How do we articulate our disappointment and sadness at the seemingly deliberate degradation of our values and the exclusion and demoralization of our fellow human beings?
It seems to me that we have been experiencing a time of darkness and fear in this country which in a large part is due to the to the manipulation of our response to it by the recently replaced Federal Government.

Kevin Rud appears to have snatched the opportunity to bring us back together and make us stronger by speaking of a unified country. No more talk about 'Mateship' as though it is an exclusively anglo Ausie value, or implying that this is the true and only interpretation of the word. Let's see this country get back on it's feet after having groveled in the gutter!

Last night I saw the film 'Bobby' which was loosely centered around the time of the 1968 US 'Presidential Candidates' election and the assassination of Robert F Kennedy. At the end of the film they played this speech! It was an awesome speech and should be remembered... What Robert Kennedy was addressing way back then was a cancer within American society that threatened to tear the country apart. 40 years later they are still battling the same problems.
The issues he addresses in his speech do not belong only to the USA. They are ours too. Please read this speech and consider what kind of world would you rather live in? The consequences of our actions can reach far beyond the here and now. They are the foundation for the future of our local communities, our countries and our world but most importantly our children. How would you have it?

On the Mindless Menace of Violence'
(City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio April 5, 1968: by Robert F Kennedy)

"Mr Chairmen,Ladies And Gentlemen

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lost their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again."

There's also audio and a slide show on Youtube:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How much can we do?

Just another thought on this current attempt to intervene in the lives of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory.

Somehow all these grand plans and massive projects to transform communities from an atrocious state of disrepair and dysfunction into a more acceptable state of existence are, as history may show, destined to failure.

I think the answer lies in the following quote:
"We can do no great things - only small things with great love"
Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997)

Politicians are inclined to want to do great things. Thinking this will elevate them in the books of history as great men or women. They may be right about that. However the greatest changes must surely come from the smallest actions of individuals. The way we treat our neighbor or someone in need, how we talk to or about each other, what we are prepared to sacrifice in order for others to live with an equal amount of dignity and honor. With love and humility we may be able to right the wrongs we have inherited and create a better future for the generation we are raising.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sweedish film 'As it is in Heaven'

Last night for Valentines Day I decided to hire one of the more romantic looking selections from the shelf. I wasn't exactly sure of the story but there were bicycles on the cover so I thought even if it was a bit mooshy I would find something of interest in the film.
What a stroke of luck! The film turned out to be the most beautiful film...!
The best I've seen since 10 Canoes! Both wonderful stories of the importance of community that give a real sense of belonging to a place and people.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The film was called: As it is in Heaven
A great story about community, love, music and fear. Once again I've run out of time for blogging but if you get the chance you gotta see this film!

Aboriginal Education

Finally! I managed to hear a snipit of news today.
Some time between changing nappies and preparing dinner I heard that the Federal government was going to move full swing into "Aboriginal Education". All I can say is Bravo!
It's about time we learned something about the ways of this land. Where are our names? What is our moiety? What do we know of the creation stories of our own country? Aboriginal Education should have been a mandatory subject for every Balanda that ever arrived here. Then every Native born Australian, regardless of the ethnicity of their parents could truly call themselves an Australian!

Ohh and there was something mentioned about mandatory schooling for 4 year olds but I think this must have been one of those paternal policies linked to the stolen generations. We are currently experiencing the trauma of introducing our, nearly, 4 year old to the Pre-School system and finding it a rather unsatisfying experience. I wonder what early childhood education will be like for 4 year olds in Yirrkala or Milingimbi? I hope it's not just another 'assimilate them while they're young' attempt.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Just before I go to bed I thought I'd add a comment to my previous rant about the long awaited apology.
The policies that lead to so many children being removed (sometimes forcibly) from their parents were what is commonly known as "intervention", I'm pretty sure child welfare agencies still use the term. It was the intervention by Government agents, which resulted in effect in the stolen generations.
I really hope that after having made such an important apology our federal government is able to see the similarities between the policies they have recently acknowledged as harmful and wrong and their current "Intervention" in the Northern Territory. Surely now would be a good time to re-asses the way that the federal Intervention is conducted and prevent the terrible errors of our past from being repeated!
It must surely now be acknowledged that Aboriginal communities are not all the same, that cultural and social protocols can vary from place to place and that the people in each of these communities deserve the right to be listened to. Shouldn't the members of those communities be offered assistance to improve their communities based on the work many have already begun by their own initiative?

I hope the attempt to protect children in aboriginal communities can now be approached in a more compassionate way rather than applying the carpet bombing approach.

Aside from the current NT intervention and the dysfunction it is trying to address I believe a lot more can be achieved if we Balandas could simply give in and make some attempt to understand and become part of this countries rich heritage.

P.S... (added 16.02.08)

PM speech:

Nelson speech:


This morning as I was sitting at my work desk, about to begin the morning ritual of logging on, checking email, updating record etc... etc... I received a call from my wife. It was early and I'd only just arrived at work, so naturally I suspected there was something wrong at home.
The tone in her voice was heavier than usual which worried me a little more. I quizzed her straight away. "What's wrong?" "What is it?"

She replied with an air of disbelief and shock, "The Prime Minister is saying 'Sorry' on TV right now!"
It was 7:45 am! I knew it was on the agenda but being busy looking after 2 young kids has totally prevented me from following any news outside of what pre-school we can turn to when we're not happy with the one we're at or how long can you keep fresh milk out of the fridge and does that apply when you've already warmed it!

Oh... in case you are not Australian or don't know what the Sorry is for. Basically it is an apology from the Federal Government for the policies of previous years which oversaw the removal of children from Aboriginal mothers. The policies were responsible for the fracturing of aboriginal communities, the separation of children from their natural families and the various forms of abuse, neglect, displacement and general harm resulting from the actions involved in their removal. The children who were removed are commonly known as The Stolen Generations and as the name implies the removal process spanned across generations for most of the 20th century. (This is my very rushed and poorly researched understanding)

So I furiously and fruitlessly ran around looking for a TV, found none, spat the dummy and ended up tuning in to the ABC's online podcast of the historic event.
On the whole the apology was quite eloquently made. Of course the opposition leader Mr Brendan Nelson responded with a general lack of tact or understanding choosing to preach a rather irrelevant history lesson in some kind of attempt to negate the appropriateness of the apology. It seems his place history will be gladly forgot. However I must commend the previous Prime Minister Mr Howard for his show of good taste in not showing up at the great event. Stick to your guns Mr Howard and watch the country unite without you.

Anyway I've got heaps on and have to fly.

Here's a link...

(apologies for any inconsistencies in this post it was a 10 minute rush job on a subject that seriously deserves much much more time to consider)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Raining finaly!

A tropical low off the Kimberley coast brings rain
(image courtesy of Australian Gov. BOM)

We've been having some fantastic rain all weekend and yesterday was the best. looks like there's more to come. Looks like Indonesia is getting some too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bike Writers 'Cyclists Bill of Rights'

Bikeblog 'that very informative, yet often confrontational bicycle activist blog from New York City' had a very interesting post yesterday.

The post titled Cyclists in LA formulate a bill of Rights refers to a Cyclists Bill of Rights that was formulated by a group called Bike Writers Collective.

Oh and while I'm on it there's another story here at C.I.C.L.E

What an excelent idea! In the few years I have lived in Darwin I have unfortunately observed some truly atrocious handling of road and town planning that not only ignore the existence or rights of cyclists but actually put cyclists lives in greater peril. There have also been deaths of cyclists on NT roads that were clearly the result of negligent driving but the drivers were not held accountable for the result of their actions! In one case a man crossing the road was hit by a speeding driver. Apparently the driver was let off because, (and this is how I heard it in the media) lots of people speed and don't have serious accidents, therefore he can't be responsible for the death! Now I wasn't in the court that day and I haven't read the transcript, yet, but I would say that's the biggest load of crap I ever heard!

It is definitely time for our communities to re-assess the rights of their citizens. The safety and wellbeing of our fellow human beings must take priority over any perceived right of an automobile.

Friday, February 08, 2008

R.I.P Sheldon Brown

Image of Sheldon Brown courtesy of Wikipedia

The cycling world lost one of it's great mentors on Sunday.
On the 3rd February 2008 Mr Sheldon Brown passed away.

Mr Brown was an extraordinary human being who seemed to make time to share his wisdom and knowhow with just about anyone who needed his help. He created the most comprehensive and candid personal websites I have ever seen. His bicycle maintenance pages were comprehensive and accurate with a descriptive style that showed a great love of his subject and spiced with a good dose of humor.
I found the Sheldon Brown website while trying to figure out a problem I'd had with my bike a few years ago. Since that first encounter I have turned to Mr Brown more times than I can possibly remember, for solutions to all kinds of mechanical problems. His enthusiasm was absolutely contagious and he inspired interest in ideas far beyond the world of bicycle maintenance! Even though I never attempted a fraction of the practical tips contained in his web pages, I always found encouragement and inspiration!
He even answered a couple of emails I'd sent him (before I realized just how huge an audience he had or how popular he is).

I don't know how much longer his website will be hosted but I hope someone will see it's value to the cycling, and web community and choose to keep it alive for evermore.

Thank you Mr Sheldon Guru Brown. You were a rare gem!

His website:

Blog devoted to the the memory of the man:

Wikipedia entry:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Onwards and upwards

If you happened to have lived in Darwin about 10 years ago you would probably have been familiar with some fairly common Icons of Darwin. Places that gave it that little bit of special character.
Places like the Darwin Hotel with it's wide open lounge and tropical fans. Uncle Tom's Cabin, that strange collection of railway carriages and shacks that was once an interesting little restaurant and bar. The old Melbourne trams converted into take-away restaurant down near the wharf and a heap of other less noticeable buildings and places all gave Darwin a special atmosphere it had when I arrived here just ten years ago.

Those places are all gone now! Darwin is in the midst of a construction boom and all those places I used to think were kind of special have all been demolished. This town is being transformed into a "Modern", "International" City! I think we need a photo repository of all the special places that still exist before Darwin is totally transformed into something unrecognizable.

Construction on Darwin Harbor
Wharf precinct construction site

Construction on Darwin Harbor
One of many cranes employed to construct a new Darwin

Now construction of our new wharf precinct is under way the waterfront will take on a whole new atmosphere. It's looking like every empty space will be filled in soon and any patch of sky will soon be blocked. Looming apartment blocks spring up one after the other each blocking the sea view of those built before it. In Nightcliff they have built them all the way down to the mangroves! What space will be spared?