Friday, June 15, 2012

When I set off for work in the morning I am always prepared to find something new out there in the world. I love the mystery that awaits on the open road and even a trip to work can be really interesting. Sometimes I find stuff I need, sometimes I discover wild fruit or a rambling lime tree hanging over a fence, sometimes there are interesting animals like the Dingos who hang around near the airport or the Black Cockatoos eating on the side of the road. This morning on my way to work I stumbled across a Federal politician! None other than ex Midnight Oil Front Man, Ex Australian Conservation Foundation President... Peter Garrett!

 Apparently Mr Garret was here to announce a big cash handout for schools... Good news.

There are so many things I've wanted to say to Mr Garret since he's been involved in politics and there he was delivered virtually at my feet and all I could do was say Good Morning... as I cycled past him on the footpath! I can't believe it! Even as I was passing him my conscience was telling me to stop and have a chat... fire some questions at him do something! But no I just smiled said good morning Peter and peddled on. Meanwhile I have friends who have been fighting tooth and nail with the NT Education Department and no doubt their Federal counterparts to get a fair hearing for Bilingual Education... not to mention the Federal Government's Occupation of Aboriginal land via the Intervention! What a wasted opportunity.
In the end all I did was write him an over edited unclear email complaining about the road! It's not even his portfolio! I even deleted the bit which explained that I'd like him to take the issue up Paul Henderson, our Chief Minister! 

Anyway here's a copy of my letter to the Honorable Member for Kingsford Smith...

To the Honorable Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth.

Dear Mr Garret… Peter,
I expect that by the time you receive this letter you will have left Darwin. I trust you found your recent visit rewarding and the Hospitality of the locals suitably welcoming.
I write to you because I feel I owe you an apology. This morning as I rode along the footpath past the Ludmilla School I saw you but failed to stop and welcome you to our town. When I realized it was you I gave a thought to stopping to say hello but hesitated only saying G’day.  
I have two apologies to make. Firstly that I did not extend the traditional Darwin Hospitality to you, a visiting dignitary to our town (And front man for one of my favorite bands!).
The second apology is for whizzing by you on my bike as you stood on the footpath in front of Ludmilla Primary School. You had to step back and I fear I gave you a fright. I am sorry for that.
 Unfortunately, due to the lack of an adequate cycle lane or path along the notorious Bagot Rd I ride along the footpath at that stage of my commute.  Bagot Rd is quite dangerous and unfortunately many cyclists choose to ride along the footpath. This can make things decidedly more hazardous for pedestrians.  When I ride home, I choose to ride on the road rather than risk being skittled by cars reversing out of their driveways, but the risk is high regardless.
Although our roads are less congested than in other states I think you’ll find that NT motorists don’t like to be delayed for any reason and this is why much of Bagot Rd is an 80km zone regardless of the proximity to schools and residences. You may see children from time to time attempting to cross the road at any of a number of bus stops on the inbound lane; I tend not to look for fear of what I might witness. Shoddy planning has given the RAAF base a manicured golf course while cyclists and pedestrians are left literally in the gutter.
If you visit again I recommend you advise your driver to take the middle lane and travel at a speed of about 60kmh, especially at night! This will help you avoid any embarrassing incidents such as collisions with cyclists, children, the elderly or infirmed as they attempt to cross this bastard of a road without being squashed by oncoming traffic. Your driver might also like to bear in mind that many of the residents at Bagot Community have dark skin, and are on low income making it necessary for them to rely on the public transport system. They have to cross Bagot Rd whenever they travel, and the results are sometimes devastating. Local drivers know this and speed regardless.
On your next visit don’t forget to pay your respects at the various sites where pedestrians and cyclists have been hit and killed crossing Bagot Rd. Plenty of flowers and chalk (paint) silhouettes to mark the locations.
Sir I hope you enjoyed your stay in Darwin I’m sure it would have been a pleasure to have met you. I look forward to nearly bumping into you again sometime.

Yours sincerely
 I actually wrote a few P.S's at the end of the letter relating to Bilingual Ed and STOP THE INTERVENTION, including the Don't cut out our tongues postcard but the truth is that I had my opportunity and I blew it! Maybe I'll do better next time we meet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Leisurely week

More notes for the gratitude list... Although I've failed to commit to any kind of creative activities I am feeling quite happy and content with life so far this week.
I didn't know until Friday that it would be a long weekend... I rarely pay attention to time and date, I only work four days per week and don't watch the clock so am usually somewhat oblivious to those dates which most minions await eagerly... I don't salivate for that end of week reward like so many workers do. I'm pretty happy about that!

I should have known it was a long weekend since we'd planned to go camping with friends but it was a short trip and didn't require any planning so I didn't give any thought deeper than; grab the gear and hit the road. Sam is still recovering from the effects of shingles, with some pretty severe neck pain lingering so I negotiated a pretty sweet deal for camp. It might not sound much but I was actually able to ride my bike out to the camp and home again on the proviso that she can go home to sleep in her own bed each night; I would stay and look after the kids. Fantastic! A chance to get out on my bike! The cam wasn't far out of town an easy ride to a property on the Elizabeth River just behind Noonamah Pub. So on Saturday we packed our camping gear into the back of the car, Sam picked up a friend and her daughter and we made our way to camp, according to our preferred mode of transport!

I rode with a friend and we took the cycle path out as far as Howard Springs then continued out through the back blocks looking for a short cut back to the highway. We actually added about 5 km to the trip and eventually got back on the highway at Girraween Rd. Fine with me, I was just happy to be out cruising around on my bike. The high pressure tires and newly packed rear wheel made the ride so much easier than I expected. 3 hours riding in the heat of the day was enough for both of us and we rolled into camp thirsty but amazingly not sweaty.

 Bush Bread and Jam

Camp was just what the Doctor ordered! There were plenty of other kids there and plenty of room to run around! No hassles! We had a bit of a talent show with about 5 acts, mostly the kids showing off their skills on guitar, flute, keyboard and our new friend Basil played ukelele while trying to teach us to sing a Luritja folk song... Great fun and chance to let our hair down! On Sunday we made dampa and Rosella Jam with no recipe, just some rosellas, sugar and the grated skin of a lime. It turned out the best jam I've yet tasted!


Monday being a public holiday I decided the kids and I could stay on another night. On Monday we had a game of soccer which I wasn't really fit for. Out of condition and with no actual sporting skill I tried to compensate with raw enthusiasm. Not a good idea! By the end of the day I had one foot scratched up bleeding and full of pandanas barbs while the big toe on the other foot had swollen and was beginning to turn purple... possibly fractured, lucky I didn't notice the colour until after the game, I'd hate to have let the team down.

Ride home was an easy 2 hour cruise, with a slight southerly breeze pushing me along.

This morning I had no work and two tickets for breakfast at the casino, which my mum had sent up out of sympathy for Sam. We decided no time like the present and at 9:30 found ourselves feasting on the smorgasbord breakfast. Those places bring out the worst in me! Even though I didn't pay for our breakfast I was determined to get my money's worth and ate much more than I normally would for breakfast. Once again I was sitting in the bizarre and surreal world of the Cassino restaurant, looking through tinted glass at the manicured garden, the horizon swimming pool, palm trees and the smooth as glass surface of the sea beyond Mindil Beach.

This time something different. A photographer who had been setting up some pretty fancy equipment was soon joined by a bunch of models (more than half a dozen of them) all wearing one piece bathing suits, high heeled shoes and jewelery... WOW we didn't expect to see that today! We watched them conduct their business with models adopting all the usual poses for the camera. Now this is surreal! Watching the young girls going about their business really was entertaining! How awkwardly they moved, attempting to get up the stairs in their extremely high heels as their knees were knocking together from the cold morning air. What an odd combination of attire! Their hair was long and blow waved all boofy, make up, the lot! Who hangs out at the pool looking like that? Jewelery and high heels? The more we watched the more weird it looked to us. Once each girl had completed her shoot she had to go and huddle down in a corner with the other girls.. all looking a little bit different but all essentially the same. They looked like sheep corralled into a pen waiting to be sheared, or slaughtered... Bit sad really, it reminded me of watching Ben Stiller mindlessly responding to the commands of a photographer in Zoolander.
What do you call a bunch of models anyway? A gaggle? A pack? A troupe?

I'm so glad I was there to see this bizarre show. It got me wondering what is it all about? What was the shoot for? Who was in Charge? Who gets the Glory? Who gets paid? Was this exercise all put together to sell jewelery or was it bathing suits? Maybe stilettos? Who will earn themselves a reputation? The models or is it the photographer who is the professional here? What do they do when this is over? Where is the next job? What is the novelty? (We've been seeing models posing in the same positions wearing the same shit for years... but they're still doing it. Why are we so easily stimulated by the simple convoluted image of a woman appearing in such familiar but unnatural circumstances?

You can find me loafing here!

After a one hour breakfast Sam dropped me down at the Nightcliff foreshore where I met some friends and sat in the shade of a Casuarina. They chatted but I was distracted and just pondered the beauty of the coastline, the sea and the sky, the eroding clay stone, trees clinging to the edge of the land and birds diving for fish in the sea. Another day to be glad for.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Keeping the old girl rolling

Here comes another post about the Long Bike (Xtracycle)!
It's funny how I can fall in and out of love with my bike. Lately I've been tending not to ride the long bike to work. It just seemed a bit of a drag... a bit too much effort so I'd take the lighter, faster Avanti, which I'd never really gotten comfortable with but was starting to get used to riding.
The Xtracycle felt like it had finally come to the end of it's useful life, everything seemed to be falling apart. The lumpy bearings in the bottom bracket, the warn out rear tire, front derailleur leaver busted... mirror come loose and facing the ground, bell broken... (Ok I'm not too concerned about the bell but it was just one more broken thing!) and it just seemed to take so much effort to ride.. I swear sometimes I felt like I had to peddle hard just to keep it going down hill!

Last week I had to look after my bosses V8, which I drove to work every day. By the end of the week I was mortified to discover that it uses more fuel waiting for the lights to change than our car uses in a week of commuting (OK I am exaggerating but it does suck a lot of fuel!). I also realized after a couple of rushed trips to Palmerston that it is much more likely to lead to speeding tickets than my trusty bike ever would! (Sorry Boss). So on Thursday I was very happy to give the mongrel thing back and start riding my bike again! Once again I took the fast bike but on Monday I'd need to take the kids to school and would need the Long Bike.

Fortunately over the weekend I was able to steal a couple of hours and decided to change the rear tire. After I took the wheel off I attempted to gave it the obligatory spin... Ouch! As I held the axle and attempted to spin the wheel I felt the hard edge of the axle spacer nut spinning between my thumb and forefinger. The wheel had virtually seized! Oh Man! No wonder the damned thing wouldn't roll nice. I felt the edge of the rim and discovered it had worn down to a rather sharp edge... The wheel was straight but seemed to be worn out in every other respect. With no money,buying a new wheel is not an option, I had to try and fix this one! The rim wasn't really a problem, the brakes still work fine and there's no sign of the rim being weakened so I set about trying to extract the bearings. Unfortunately the cogs were stuck tight to the hub and I couldn't separate them until Sunday. Once I'd got the axle assembly apart I could see exactly why my wheel stopped turning! The grease had combined with all the crap which had either gotten into the bearings or warn away from the cup and cone of the axle, they'd formed a thick coagulated paste, the bearings had become impregnated into the grit to the point that they had practically stopped moving! I washed the whole lot in turpentine and then cleaned them up, ready to be re-installed, if possible. As I washed them I notice that the cleaning solution was glimmering with tiny polished specks of metal, not a good look! The axle was warn but I threw the whole lot back together and packed it heavily with grease thinking that my wheel was finished and would collapse on my way to work the next day.

finally I fitted the Schwalbe tire I'd been saving, for good, since Douglas (who I've still never met) gave it to me last October, oiled the chain, replaced the bell and straightened the mirror, ready to ride to work on Monday and fully expecting my wheel to collapse!

After dropping child 1 at school I headed off down Mc Millans Rd... fast! I glided smoothly down McMillans Rd, legs pumping at a much quicker cadence than I was used to! The bike kept rolling past the bridge over rapid creek and felt like I was barely peddling! I couldn't believe it! The combination of smooth high pressure tire and slick, well bedded bearings on the rear wheel seemed to give my bike a new lease! Yesterday I rode again and today I took her for a spin into town and home the long way! She's running like a dream! While I was out I ran into a fella who's had a lot more experience getting the extra miles out of old parts than I have. A couple of days before I'd told him my bike is so warn it's pretty much finished! But now it's like I've become even more intimately connected with it and I can't bear the thought of riding a bike that I haven't pulled apart and shoved back together at least half a dozen times! I am really starting to feel that deep appreciation of this strange art! When I told my friend about my success he kind of chuckled. "With a bit of grease and some oil on the chain you'll feel like you're on a new bike". It's a lifestyle he's been living for longer than I've been breathing. And I know why! This was only a simple fix... 10 minute job really, but the feeling of satisfaction is such a buzz! I know my bike that much better, I had something to do with why that wheel keeps turning. I dismantled it and put it back together... no matter how simple the operation it is satisfying!

As I rode home I thought about how worn the wheel and various other bits of the bike were. The Raleigh was pretty worn out when I purchased it about 5 years ago. The rear wheel I bought for another similar bike I'd owned before it. When I got the Xtracycle I put that wheel on the back, it was still pretty new then but that was back in August 2008. I'd been chatting earlier in the day about how many K's I've done since owning the Xtracycle and it seems I'd underestimated. A LOT!

I'd thought I must have done about 6,000 km in about 4 years but actually it's a lot more.
Here's my conservative estimate:
80 Km per week - (20 km commute per day x 4 days per week. If I count other trips it would be 100 Km)
40 weeks - (52 weeks per year less 6 weeks leave. Yes that's right 6 weeks! less another 6 weeks just to adjust for sick days or those dreadful days when I drive the bosses car!)
4 years - (It's actually less than 4 years but the I think the time I've deducted from weeks is enough to cover)

So 80 Km per week x 40 weeks is 3200 Km
3200 Km x 4 years = 12800 Km

I've probably done more like 15000 but either way it's a lot of miles, a lot more than I'd thought! That's a lot of wear and tear on the bike! No wonder she's starting to groan! 

Friday, June 01, 2012

In the balance between 0 and 1

Two delicious looking Kiwi Fruit are sitting on my desk at work… they’ve been there all week while I stuff some kind of sponge cake filled with hand whipped cream into my ungracious gob! Leftovers are always set aside for me in the fridge at work. Everyone knows never to throw food out when I’m around. My budget’s tight and to waste food seems criminal so I eat it!

It’s the dry season and people are beginning to roll into town. Old friends have turned up out of the blue so on Wednesday I stole some personal time, went and ate lunch with them at the Casino. All you can eat stuff yer guts, there’s half price vouchers at the back of one of their dry season pamphlets. Personally I hate casinos but have no qualms about taking advantage of the misery subsidised meals they serve in their restaurant. I walk past stricken gamblers joyfully anticipating a full lunch… (Usually all I tend to eat is stale peanut butter and jam sandwiches… I don’t really like them.) What a weird sensation to be sitting down to eat lunch with friends… I couldn’t avoid the guilty feelings as I thought of Sam at home looking after our youngest and recovering from a terrible episode of Shingles (Or so the medical report has finally diagnosed and the centre for disease control confirmed when they called later the same day). Guilt passes over me… I think about her for a moment and then head back to the food bar for some Chicken Korma with rice!
Early last week we had a terrible episode. After a week of considerable neck pain Sam collapsed in the shower, (Overdose on painkillers) and had to be taken by ambulance to hospital. She was a mess, with sores all over her right shoulder, neck and chest. Dr’s thought it was a chemical burn from Tiger balm but swabbed her anyway and called just this week to say it was actually shingles. Shingles, apparently come from having had Chicken pox and usually affect elderly people. The condition can be brought on by stress and I’d have to say that stress is definitely the culprit! STRESS!
We don’t have many real causes for stress in our lives but the mind can be a dangerous thing… sometimes the greatest enemy of all! An obsessive mind can fixate on a problem and before you know it you’re stressed out!  
So the problem appears to be Stress or Tension and what is the opposite to this? Well obviously it must be relaxation. Now this got my brain going on an idea that I can’t put down. We’ve been discussing matters of religion, God the universe and everything and several experiences just seemed to fall into place… (These may be obvious to everyone else but an authentic realisation should not be sneezed at no matter how many people may already know the same thing already. Here is the basic concept I’ve been contemplating.
Tension vs Relaxation – Ego vs God consciousness – 1 vs 0

Tension & relaxation
-          There’s a basic principal in the martial arts which utilizes the energy created between alternating Tension and Relaxation, conservation and concentration of energy combined with good timing can produce a powerful result.
-          Significance of the play between sound and the absence of sound in music. Tension the finger strikes the key producing sound, relaxation the tension or pressure is released the hand rests and is then able to be reapplied to the next action. Sound…. No Sound…
-          All actions require a period of no action in order that the body can rest, rejuvenate and be ready to be applied again to a new action.  

God & Ego
-          This may press some buttons if you have a concept of God that is not compatible… I haven’t checked this with God so can’t be 100% sure if it is correct but when I think of myself or at least who I think I am… or basically Ego… I am reminded of the Will. We exert Will, it is an agent of action, driven by basic instincts but subject to our intellect to some degree. In this physical world we simply must, ‘get shit done’ and without Ego we wouldn’t get much done at all, what would motivate us to act. By my reckoning Ego = Tension. To seek to become closer to God it is necessary to deflate Ego… For most of us (Well for me at least) There isn’t enough room for Ego and God to be in charge at the same time so one must give way to the other. When we want to allow God to take charge we say things like ‘Hand it over’, ‘Surrender’, ‘Submit’, ‘Let Go’. I have to clarify that this theory won’t work too well if you think of God as a Super Ego in the sky who can Make Shit Happen. The idea I guess I’m working on is that as opposed to the Ego which is Tension, God is without Ego and therefore to all intents equal to no-thing or no action and therefore Relaxation (Well in terms of physical transference of energy) 

0 & 1
-          OK so because we’re in the computer age and I’ve been told that computers work on Binary Code (I don’t know how it works but apparently that’s what it’s called). All the information we view is basically transmitted in a combinations of Zeros (0) and Ones (1) on and off. Now this is easily translated as Tension - Relaxation. Or Ego – God. OK I know it’s all really obvious but it’s the kind of thought process I have to go through before I understand anything that can be explained to a 4 year old and accepted on face value.

So where is this theory leading me? Nowhere really. It is obvious that if Shingles are brought on by stress then the solution to reducing the chances of getting shingles is to avoid stress.
But to learn to walk the middle road you’ve sometimes got to ponder… ;) 

Oh and Sam is slowly recovering now... this illness really knocked her out and she's trying to de-stress as much as possible.