Monday, January 09, 2012

Thinking outside the Square

What would I be doing if I had just a little more time? Well I'd like to think that if I had more time on my hands I'd be out the back tinkering and fiddling with my bikes or learning how to build an outrigger canoe... You know, stuff like that! Catching up on all the hours I wasted in my youth.

I am inspired by the creative people I have come to know both personally and via the internet. One fella who's work I really enjoy is Peter Wagner from Davis (Bicycle capital of the USA). Peter's creations all perform some kind of function, usually locomotion, over land or even water. They are fashioned from old bicycle parts but with the added ingredient of eccentric physics and uncommon dimensions! He calls his creations Whimcycles and they bring a lot of joy to the people in his community.

Check out this great video of my 'Buddy' Peter and some of his friends.
Film maker Nicolette Daskalakis really captured some of the magic in this short documentary.

Whymcycles: A Boy and His Bikes from Nicolette Daskalakis on Vimeo.

 This is Flestering at it's best!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Paths and predicaments

Last September while riding out to the Elizabeth River bridge I noticed that the bicycle path had been extended beyond the bend which used to mark the end of the Darwin - Palmerston bike path. I returned a few days later excited to see how far the extension went and discovered that an excellent bike path had been created along the old Darwin Rail line, all the way to Howard Springs!

Howard Springs - Palmerston Bicycle path 1
Palmerston - Howard Springs bicycle path (crossing rail bridge)

Howard Springs - Palmerston Bicycle path 2
Palmerston - Howard Springs bicycle path (rail cutting)

According to the NT Transport Group the 5.4 kilometre path was officially opened on the 11th September 2011, just a few days after I rode it. It's an awesome path and quite easy to ride. Unfortunately I have two major complaints about the path. I can't stand those stupid bent poles which force people riding in opposite directions into each others way to avoid hitting the poles (These things are really dangerous in town where kids ride, they are just the right height to hit a child in the head!) The other thing that I can't figure out is the crossing at Howard Springs Rd which instructs cyclists to Dismount prior to crossing the road! WTF for? I presume it's purpose is designed for the safety of cyclists. However I just can't see how getting off one's bike and pushing it across a road is going to improve safety for anyone. If it's based on road accident stats I think they'll find that Pedestrians are much more likely to be hit than cyclists (OK Stats can be extremely subjective but for goodness sake!). If I'm riding my bike the safest way for me to avoid being hit by a car is to spend as little time crossing the road as I can. My bike provides me with the means of doing this, why would I want to 'Dismount'?

Car blocking divise
 What's this chicanery?

Dismount. For what?
Dubious safety research!

A technically legal predicament presents itself to cyclists most times we enter the road. Follow the ill conceived directives of road planners who appear to have given bugger all thought to the practicalities of their arbitrary designs, or follow ones own instinct for reading road conditions based on a keen sense of self preservation? Well in the case of this 'Dismount' sign I decided to follow the instruction purely out of curiosity and for the sake of experimentation. Result: I felt quite compromised standing in the middle of the road! Now I know for sure what to do next time!

Since it's construction I've ridden along the new stretch from Palmerston to Howard Springs about 6 times and have really enjoyed my experiences on the path; it's like a public esplanade in the middle of nowhere. There are always heaps of cyclists on the path and it passes through some really nice country, including a raised section where you can ride over the top of paperbark wetlands which will likely be in full flow by February.

Besides it's ride-ability there was another plus to the path which enticed me back a few times.
Last year when I first rode the path I really enjoyed riding past a well wooded mango orchard which wasn't fenced. Besides the potential to glean a few ripe mangoes the orchard created a wonderful atmosphere. It was densely wooded and had a full, lush canopy which created it's own micro climate. Riding past it was like riding through a shady grove, it was aesthetically beautiful.

I kept my eye on the orchard and wondered if it was being maintained. Some of the trees may have reached senility but most were in pretty good shape, non commercially speaking of course. There were dead branches and signs of parasites or disease among them but also thriving colonies of green ants. It appeared that the trees hadn't been tended to for quite a long time. 

As the season rolled on, the grass grew longer between the trees and I felt sure that no one cared for the crop. Eventually the fruit had grown to a size that could be picked. I decided to head out there and collect some that had fallen, after all no one seemed to care for it. I managed collect a few pieces of fruit which had fallen on the ground. By the time I visited again there were tons of mangoes on the trees and the grass was quite tall throughout the orchard. I decided to pick some fruit... and filled both slings on my Xtracycle. Technically not Gleaning but it seemed the fruit would only go to waste. After two trips I had far more fruit than I could eat in the two weeks it would take it all to ripen! I was ecstatic that I had come across such a perfect situation. Food falling from trees and all I have to do is go for a nice ride on my bike to collect it!

Well it was too good to be true! A couple of weeks ago I rode past the orchard and it had been razed to the ground! Nothing left of that little grove but a smouldering pile of smashed branches and roots, a few stumps sticking out of the ground and some mango seeds remaining from the fruit that rotted on the ground! So much for "The People's Orchard!" At first I thought it was an act of malice against the trees and those who enjoyed their bounty but most likely a simple pragmatic decision to reduce potential spread of disease or re-develop the land or something like that. Either way it pisses me off when things like that happen.

Mango trees destroyed!
Mango tree stump (100s of trees destroyed)

mango stumps burned
Pile of burned roots and branches

It was such a beautiful orchard. I guess I was always preoccupied with its fruit to bother taking a photo before it was destroyed.

So much space so few places to sit!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Larding up

A life of balance and moderation... must be nice.
Even though I've reduced many of my excesses I am still prone to over indulging for pleasure or recompense. Like just about everyone else I tend to seek escape in worldly pleasures, these days they're fairly tame but can still cause problems. My indulgence at this time of year is FOOD! There's so much around, Christmas is like a glut!

Shortbread for your love handles!

Early January is a funny time of year, the stores are over stocked with Christmas goodies and Darwin is still mostly devoid of people, due to the annual Christmas Exodus. Basically in this town many of those who live here come from elsewhere. A lot of people head back to whence they came to spend Christmas with their family. Retreating South, 'going home' for Christmas! I reckon Darwin is a pretty cool place to live in at this time of year. It's nice and quiet. It also means that the shops have to reduce the price of all that Christmas stock, which presents me with more temptation than I can bear!

By nature I tend to function a bit like a 'Hunter gatherer', well more of a scavenger actually. I plan my personal meals around what I can scrounge for the lowest price if not for free! Family meals are more organized but we do tend to rely on marked down food from the supermarket, we get by pretty well like that actually. It's more of a lifestyle choice than a necessity for me really, living frugally has allowed me to work 4 days a week and doesn't create too many problems... Unless I actually get more than I need!

Through the year we tend to eat a lot of potatoes, rice, noodles, vegetables and not too much meat (not counting last month's unprecedented amounts of ice-cream!). I can usually counterbalance any dietary excesses by doing extra miles on the bike or riding harder... or missing lunch at work... (I hate missing out on lunch!)

I love food but can get away with eating fairly large serves of normal food so long as I work it off on the bike. The problem at this time of year there is so much cheap food and this month I am only riding to work twice a week! I've been scoffing down cheap fruit mince pies three at a time and so much lovely shortbread that I can feel the butter oozing through my veins! It's disgusting and they keep marking the prices down, cheaper and cheaper! Today we got half a dozen three dollar packets of the shortbread for 49 cents each! At the rate I've been eating this stuff it's possible I'll die from a heart attach or an aneurism on my way back to the shop for more shortbread while stuffing another mince pie in my gob!

Moving Lard Cart

It's time for a reality check! Last night I as I slipped into my chair at the computer I felt my belly resting on the desk! A loose roll of fat rolled over the edge of the table and wobbled as I sat down! Not a good sign! I can no longer rely on physical activity and a limited budget to maintain reasonable health... I'm going to have to practice... moderation.... and possibly stop eating after my first second fruit mince pie... ARGH!
I find the thought of being mindful of my weight appalling! What kind of life am I living that I cant expect to burn off any excess energy simply as a matter of course during my daily activities? Have I become some sedentary suburban slob? (Well yes technically I have been living like this for many years but I refuse to be classified in that way or to concede defeat!)   

Now that we've got this new Cargobike our family is facing another dilemma, although we are getting exercise riding to the shop, we actually have carrying capacity for so much more junk food! 

I may be saved... they're selling 5kg bags of Basmati rice for just $6! I can remain true to my scavenger nature and actually get some reasonable food back into my diet!

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


It's tricky and uncomfortable to be dragging my ass through what can only be described as a half-assed attempt to strip bare the shrouds of a false existence! I'm hoping the journey out of attachment might be something like riding an eternity on the diamond tip of a turntable needle, trip trip tripping and scratching it's way across an old vinyl record! Will I hear the same song a million times before the grooves dissolve and I'm released from the first track of this LP?

I went back to work today but couldn't shift gears... I think I need to just sit down and do nothing! The desire for this doesn't come to me very often but when it does I know I should, 'not' act on it. The thing is that I'm spoiled for work and and I'm worried I might sabotage the whole situation just to get out of it! I can't force myself to care about what I am supposed to 'be' or 'be doing!' With no time for me or to myself, barely even for for my own thoughts, bit by bit life has collapsed from deliberate action back down to automatic behavior, reactions, duties and an inner refusal to comply or accept any of these things!
It's quite maddening actually.

Last night I gave in and watched the latest version of Moby Dick on video (OK I know they're called DVDs now but what's the frigging difference?) I had refused to watch it until I'd finished reading the book but I figure it doesn't matter at all. How can that book be translated into a film? It can't fit in a film! OK I saw the characters, the boats, the chase and even a strange version of the whale. Ahabs words are there but the desperately wild madness of what he's saying can't be bound in the film and neither can a film contain 'who is Ishmael?' This might never be revealed the way that Jed McKenna describes but his character did have rather creepy detached lack of presence in the story.
I think watching the film only set me up for chasing whales when I should have been preparing to re-join the world of work! The problem is that when you're considering life as an illusion it's hard to find anything that can scare you back into caring about the consequences of taking a mental excursion.

Chatterbox lizard

Half Assed! "Strike through the Mask?" Not likely! I'm just poking at it like a 'Hand puppet of Maya!'

How will we do this tomorrow?
Maybe I'll just look for a new job or something... Or maybe I should stop listening to crazy bastards who think they've attained enlightenment, it just gets me crazy and I'd probably be better off spending my nights stacking shelves at a supermarket somewhere with Heavy Metal music in my headphones!


Monday, January 02, 2012

Just another day

Happy 2012!
Once again I commence the New Year without any major objectives, plans or ambitions. 
We shrugged at celebrating New Years Eve, just another day really. Having spent the past 16 years, to the day trying to live just one day at a time, the temptation to 'Party' on New Years Eve has lost all it's allure. I welcome the opportunity for rebirth and renewal which the first of January has come to signify for me but the idea of making a fuss on New Years Eve just doesn't do it for me like it used to...

Christmas was quite nice, we spent the day with some friends who live around the corner. This year Santa was on a pretty tight budget so the kids got only a few presents, they were quite cheep but well and truly worth the money. Our eldest was warned not to expect too much, she may have been a little bit disappointed but she didn't really show it. As it turned out her presents were ideal, mostly crafty stuff, which she could have just thrown in a corner but she actually decided to use it and over the course of just a few days has learned how to thread a needle, do some basic straight stitches and tie off the thread when she is finished! We were extremely impressed with her enthusiasm for sewing and are now looking for some more advanced needle work to get her started on.

felt dog
Hand stitched felt dog, (deliberately contrasting thread with material)

felt elephant
Hand stitched felt elephant
On Boxing day we received word from our landlord that he wanted to come and re-tile the living area and bathroom in our flat, so having spent the past week moving everything into the bedrooms we were ready to move out for a few days. Thankfully Sam decided that the Piano can stay in the bedroom!(I was dreading moving it back!) Thankfully some friends offered us a great opportunity to house sit while they were away, so we bundled up the kids, some bedding and essentials and headed off to stay at their place. The house we stayed at is elevated and the garden is full of bamboo! For me it was like paradise, Sam missed the aircon but the kids were happy exploring the garden, playing with the dog and feeding the chooks. After three days I had well and truly settled into our temporary treetop home. For some reason I always find it easier to read when I'm away from home and had just about knocked over the book that Sam gave me for Christmas (Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes). I dreaded leaving the breezy bamboo loft retreat but Sam was desperate to get home. Time had come to return so we headed back to our poorly lit 2 bedroom unit where tiles had been laid over a cracked concrete floor and the dust of ground tilers cement hung from cobwebs and clung to the grimy walls! 

As we were moving all our stuff from the living area to the bedrooms in preparation for the repair of our floor, it occurred to us that we have accumulated TOO MUCH STUFF! So today on the second day of 2012 I have decided to make a beginning on a small personal transformation... (Damn as I write this I know how unoriginal it is to declare resolutions at this time of year but, I've nothing original to write and feel compelled to post something so you're gonna cop the cliche' ramblings of this unimaginative dilettante!) I intend to reduce my attachment... So as we've been moving all our crap around I realized that I've got boxes full of attachment that I need to get rid of! 

Today I have shed more of the treasured stuff that I've been hoarding! I'm sure I dumped piles of my old assessments from when I was studying but today I found some more and was able to half fill a bin with research papers, reports, assessment tasks and graded work from several years worth of TAFE study! Most of the land management papers I'd been saving are now in the bin.
Library studies assessments and projects.. ALL GONE! 
Tour guiding resources....70% GONE!
Disability Services assessments and projects....80% GONE!
Parks and Wildlife Management assessments and resources...70% GONE!

OK I held onto some of my projects, maybe I'll chuck them next year.

After having spent years of studying for various TAFE certificates I can't say that I have retained any of the knowledge that I once received certificates of competence in, that's not to say it was all a waste of time, it's brought me to the place I'm at today but I definitely don't know all I've learned... if that makes any sense? 

shaved ice snow cup

Once I started eliminating some of my old files Sam came forth with boxes of other stuff like old photos and various other memorabilia that I'd been holding on to. How much of these things to I need to fulfill my memories? What can I live without? Just about all of it actually. Out it Goes!

Having ditched a lot of stuff I feel a little lighter but still have a lot to go. Now I think I'll sit back with the kids and enjoy a shaved ice Snow Cup!