Welcome to Scr*w August

I don't usually do this to myself, but tonight, July 31, 2010, I wish that I had known that July 31, 2004, would be the last time Nick and I went to bed together. It wouldn't change a thing. But I would have held him a little closer, kissed him a little more tenderly, breathed a little deeper.

August is here. I don't intend to spend this week moping in memory, but the memory is there. The memory will always be there.  My Faithful Four readers know what I'm talking about; and so do the Sporadic Seven. If you're new to my blog, you can click on the tab above, where it says "The Terrible Story," to read about our last day of happiness and all that came after.

Yellowstone: Part 4

Geysers, big and small

Waiting for Old Faithful

There she goes!

Rock says: This was totally worth the wait!

We got a second show after lunch ... against a more dramatic sky

A little tiny geyser ... always going just like this -- SO CUTE!

Fountain Geyser ... a series of geysers taking turns pretty much nonstop

(I hope the videos work okay; let me know if they are giving you problems.

"On Ya Bike Alan Jones"


...and it's moments like these when it's ridculously hard to remain contained & calm...but there's nothing quite like a bit of grass roots broadcasting to counter the outrageous claim that "virtually no cyclists use the cycleways"

Go Josh & Georgia & the Sydney Bike Festival!

Life goes on

Rock's birthday was great ... all three days of it.

I enrolled the boys in their new schools. School starts a week from Monday!

My favorite uncle died. He was 80 and had been in failing health for a while. My heart aches for my aunt who had the gift of being married to him for 55 years and now has to figure out how to live without him. But she's not there yet. First, she has to figure out how to breathe and how to get out of bed in the morning. I wish I could help her; I wish I could ease her pain just a little.  But I can't, and I know it.


Life interrupted this post; in the interim, I wrote a piece in my brain called "Things I Wish I Could Tell My Aunt."  Folks who have been on the WidowRoad for a while know the gist of it. It starts with genuine sympathy: An I know how hard this is from someone who really DOES know. This hypothetical post offers no words of comfort or consolation because there are none. Fifty-five years was not long enough. I offer the most basic advice of all, to be gentle with herself. And it ends with a few words of assurance that she will be fine, that all shall be well.

When I reflect on those first days, weeks, and months of grief, one phrase stands out for me as the most helpful among all the platitudes and suggestions and words of encouragement: You will not always feel the way you do right now.  Don't tell me that I'll be okay and will build a new life, because I don't believe you and I don't WANT a new life.  Don't tell me that I'm strong and will get through it, because that's horse-hockey; you have no idea how broken I am. You will not always feel the way you do right now.

I think that's what they train volunteers on suicide hotlines to say:  You will not always feel the way you do right now. It's a powerful statement, because it acknowledges the pain without minimizing it.  It doesn't put on a false cheer that things will "get better." But it promises that things will be DIFFERENT. And different -- whether you're teetering on the edge of suicide or drowning in an ocean of grief -- different is good.

There's so much I wish I could tell my aunt, but I can't -- because what was true for me may not be true for her. But I can say this to her in absolute confidence: You will not always feel the way you do right now.

Sydney, bicycles & life - so getting there!

All the cycle stuff in the news here (and in London too with their new Barclays Bike Scheme) is so exciting - & most particularly the negative stuff!!!!!! - the shock-jocks are scared!!!!

No kidding, we are beyond 'the-rattling-the-bars-on-our-cage' stage - we're capitalising on the gaps and we're heading off out of them!!! - there's no containing us now!

Voilà, vivre la vie avec des bicyclettes à Sydney!!!!

My Heroes (28): Isaac Abeniz

Isaac Albeniz 1860 -1909

Isaac Albeniz was a child prodigy having been taught to play the piano by his sister at age of one year! If we are to believe the stories he ran away and travelled extensively in South and North America from Buenes Aries to Uruguay and as far as San Francisco. He was a gifted pianist and composer and his most famous legacy is probably the Iberia Suite, which musically describes many provinces of Spain, from which the beatiful 'Granada' comes. Listen to it here.

Much of Albeniz's work has been very successfully transcribed for the guitar. If you want to hear the guitar version it's here.

Finally, one piece of music that I listen to over and again through the years is his 'Tango in D' opus 165, from the Espanola Suite. It, too, works well for the guitar.

Look at that fabulous photograph - don't try to tell me that Albeniz was not a romantic!

Incidentally there are much better recordings available but they're not on YouTube.

Climate justice & cycling

Catastrophic climate change has expanded the question of survival, the notion of climate justice, and our global responsibilities.

Climate justice can no longer be ignored.

We must change the fundamental manner in which we inhabit this planet.

This is why I cycle.

...and because of my reasonable belief in the perils of helmets (based on expert opinion), I believe that the act of me riding a bicycle without a helmet underpins the notion of my survival.

Inter alia, our diminishing coastlines, dust storms and dying rivers demand that I cycle whenever and wherever I can in a bid to curtail carbon emissions and to relieve the environment of the destructive elements of my car.

There are no alternatives for me in my transport options. ‘Shank’s Pony’ is not a viable or even possible alternative given that I live some 8km to the west of Scone and routinely transport groceries, luggage & other stuff, all of which would be impossible on foot...and public transport from my place to Scone is non-existent.

The current global zeitgeist clearly demonstrates that not only is utility cycling an achievable start to tackling this issue but it comes with unexpected benefits in terms of health, traffic de-congestion, and tourism.

Therefore I conclude:

* that my unhelmeted conduct is a question of my survival & the planet's survival;

* that I need to cycle in order to reduce carbon emissions & unnecessary car-dependency tendencies;

* that to cycle with a helmet would put me at grave risk.

I respectfully submit, given that the law is fragmented, uncertain and inconsistent, the law ought to be repealed.

I also respectfully submit that I wish someone would listen to me.

Ma vie et la bicyclette

Not only do I live and breathe bicycles, I even drink bicycles!!!!


Mike Rubbo & the Coup de Bixi

(Photos: Paul Martin)

Cycling news out of Melbourne for the past few days has been so exciting, and has simultaneously enlivened the debate on helmet laws!!

With the much anticipated arrival of Mikael Colville-Andersen (bicycle advocate & blogger) as a feature event for utility cyclists , our very own Mike Rubbo organised a fearless 'bicycle protest' on the bikes themselves from Melbourne's bike share program.

At last, here was the 'public drama' the helmet debate has been crying out for!

There were 'heaps of television cameras & journalists', and of course 'heaps of bicycle-cops' backed up by 'heaps of car-cops'! In fact 'witness-reports' state that the 'bicycle-ones', clad in classic Australian bicycle regalia, were 'lying in wait a full hour' before bicycle protesters commenced the '10am' pedal-off!!


...but for a better more detailed account, let's now cross to 'our man on the ground', Dr Paul Martin, who filed this report yesterday:


"I did not require Her Majesty's accommodation this evening. Phew!

A lot of great support at the bicycle forum at Federation Square in the afternoon. The feeling in the forum after Mikael spoke was electric. 99% of the audience thought that the mandatory law should go. The panel of 'experts' all were talking nonsense...

$$ Australians value life...(therefore helmets are important);

$$ Have to take all stakeholders into consideration with road funding.

The next person that says the word stakeholder I think I'll thump! I hate that word. She meant 'car drivers'....

Mikael was being very careful what he said - his hosts were breathing down his neck and the Danish embassy was there keeping an eye on what he was saying I think. He still did point out that:

1) the law is counterproductive and not a good idea, and

2) fining cyclists is only going to discourage them.

Veronika and I handed out hundreds of your postcards and I put them on every bike hire bike we could find. When we came back out of the talk most of the postcards in the bike hire bikes had been removed (but were not lying around) and none of the bikes budged... We also put a big pile of the postcards on the table inside the venue for the speeches - they were gone in about 10 minutes!"





We're really happening!!!!

The helmet debate is well & truly on the map!!

Well done Mike Rubbo & all the protesters - you little rippers!!!!!!

Untitled poem by Paul Smith

I enjoy the tanka and haiku poetry of Paul Smith at Paper Moon. This form of verse is deceptive; it looks easy to write but is, in fact, very difficult. There is great skill in capturing a moment with a limited number of words:


as if it was
the only flower
that ever bloomed
she stoops to touch
a daisy

If you enjoy this there is a lot more at Paper Moon. You might also enjoy the photographs and words of Joanne Rose.

The days of dread are here

[We interrupt this travel blog ...]

Today was Rock's birthday. He got a few presents in the morning; we went out to dinner; he got another present. Tomorrow eight 8-year-olds will descend upon my newly cleaned house for a few hours of madness, mayhem, and chocolate cake. We'll have the extended-family party on Sunday. So Rock gets a great 3-day celebration. Lucky kid.

And here I sit late at night with tears streaking down my face, because his birthday 6 years ago was our last family celebration. And because of that, Rock's birthday is forever linked in my mind with the beginning of the end. I can see it all so clearly.  He was just a chubby 2-year-old with chocolate on his face and an orange balloon firmly in his grasp. HardPlace was on the floor, examining Rock's new toys. Nick was sitting in the big chair in the living room telling our dearest friends about the headaches he'd been having, how awful they were. Our friends were on the sofa, concern written across their faces.

A week later, I took Nick to the ER; a week after that, he died. He died. How is that possible? He really died.

I actually thought I might escape these days of dread; July hasn't bothered me as much as it has in years past. We've had a wonderful summer; school starts in just a few weeks; life goes on. All is well.

Yet here I sit, aching, remembering, weeping. Aching in the depths of my soul. Remembering with every fiber of my being. Weeping tears that do not cleanse. Aching. Just aching.

Yellowstone: Part 3

Springs and pools

The pools of burbling mud may not have been pretty to look at, but the springs were. Most are hot, some are not, and no -- I didn't touch to see which were which!

So still, so blue

Bubbling hot

The air was cold, so there was a lot of steam around the springs

A lot of steam!

At first glance the orange looks like chemical sludge;
but it is living bacteria that thrive on heat and minerals


This little spring is only about an inch wide, in a pool that you almost walk right by. 

Mammoth Hot Springs was a huge disappointment for me. My childhood memories of it (40+ years ago!) are of terraces of water, bubbling and steaming. But the springs have dried up and most of the area is a wasteland, a dread scene from some post-holocaust sci-fi movie.

And yet so beautiful

In truth, the rangers say that the water is not gone but has simply moved. These springs have closed, and others have opened; the actual volume of water flowing from the springs in the area has remained relatively constant.

The boys were tired; they were NOT following Grandma up those stairs

Yellowstone: Part 2

Mud pools and paint pots

I know that the first thing most people think of when they hear "Yellowstone" is "geysers" -- Old Faithful in particular. Yellowstone sits atop an ancient, vast (and I mean about 1500 square miles of VAST) supervolcano, and mother earth is still roiling and boiling. Sometimes the ground water gets so hot it has to break through the surface and erupt in a geyser of steam and hot water. But water isn't the only thing that gets hot in Yellowstone!

Mud pools and their smaller siblings, paint pots, occur when not a lot of hot pressurized water can make it to the surface, and that which does goes through the fine particulate soil created by the addition of volcanic ash. They aren't exactly "pretty," but they are fascinating to look at!

I like this shot because the barren mud basin in seen in context: lush meadows all around

The mud is bubbling


Constantly bubbling

4 court appearances thanks to helmet laws

2 mentions + 1 Local Court defended hearing + 1 District Court appeal = 4 court appearances for me because of Australian helmet laws! sigh

Notwithstanding this curial tally, the courts truly don't want to waste either their time or their precious resources over my matter. In fact they have even gone as far as to ponder on record why unhelmeted cycling is a crime.

However until such time as unhelmeted cycling is removed from the criminal law, I will continue to defend my civil liberties.

When will this national madness cease?


92.5% of the world's population...

...are not on Facebook. That's a pretty overwhelming majority and they can't all be wrong; the remaining half a billion people who insist on all that social networking bollocks really need to get with the program.

To me Facebook sounds like one giant pain in the arse. Until someone can convince me that I should join up, I'm staying right out of it. You have to tell everyone what you've been doing every five minutes (or is that Twitter?) and upload photos constantly, presumably photos with people in them. And then there's this business of accumulating friends as if they were football stickers or baseball cards. If I was on Facebook I know I'd only have four friends, or something pathetic, while the bloke in the upstairs flat has 382. I feel inferior enough as it is, thanks. And what if you decide someone isn't your friend any more? You have to "unfriend" or "defriend" them, and that sounds rather messy. Best to avoid it altogether.

Last week the job search was really starting to get me down. Maybe I am unemployable after all, I began to think. Who would ever want me in their company? I've got plenty of skills and qualifications, but none of the ones that really matter, i.e. people skills. Next Wednesday I'll be meeting one of the recruitment agents and for that reason I decided to get a haircut yesterday. This was a shame; my hair hadn't been cut since that job interview and it was the longest I'd had it in eight years. Sure, I was beginning to look a bit like a caveman, but why shouldn't I look like the person I really am? I had my hair done in the city where it was quick and painless. I also bought two CDs in Real Groovy costing $6 between them, one by the French group Matmatah (unfortunately I didn't like this one nearly as much as an earlier album of theirs) and the Cranberries' To The Faithful Departed. I really must stop listening to such depressing music. I heard the George Thorogood song "Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job" on the radio today; if only the second part of that equation was as simple as the first. I have some good news at least: that publishing company want some more puzzles from me. Only ten, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Last Wednesday Richard invited me round to his place; he lives in a boarding house in Remuera, built in 1855 (by New Zealand standards that's seriously old). Upwards of fifteen people live there and I can understand why he's thinking of moving out. Still, it was great to see him in his own habitat, so to speak. He cooked a very good meal and gave me the excellent news that he's now got a job on the phones at BNZ. He starts on Monday so they're not hanging around. To be honest I never expected him to get something as mainstream as that (and I hope I'm not being prejudiced against people with Asperger's by saying that) but good luck to him. I hope it all works out.

I've had my worst day ever of badugi today, losing $65. In my first session, on the 25c/50c tables, I dropped $17 in 124 hands. Worse was to follow as I dumped $39 in 114 hands on a 50c/$1 table, all laws of probability disappearing out the window. The whole lexicon of badugi nightmares came into play as I was monstered left, right and centre, normally by someone who called three bets pre-draw and drew three. My 5432 ran into number two in a massive pot in a display of rampant badugiflation. After a while I wondered whether it was all some sick joke and my opponents were drawing cards from some special deck stripped of all high cards and unhelpful suits. In my last session (at 20/50) I ran red hot in comparison, losing just nine bucks. The good news is that I'm still up $308 on the month and a lot more overall thanks to that big SCOOP result. It was funny cashing that cheque. "So where did it come from?" "Er, the internet," was all I felt I could say.

Australia believes in Holy Helmets - Amen

The idea that helmets provide a 'catch-all' protection for their wearers & believers is little more than an article of faith among honest scientists, and there are many reasons to believe that the methods of Class 1 evidence would be insufficient to prove it.

Yet we are forced by law to wilfully purchase & wear an unnecessary oil-based product:

$ All in the name of faith

$ All in a bid to protect us

...quick little caveat though - if you're a paying passenger in a bicycle taxi none of the above applies - according to government rationale, your $$$s will protect you - clearly??

"Money talks - capitalism rules"!

Bruay-La Buisierre, France

I spent last weekend at the home of friend who has owned a house in the north of France for around seven years. Nine of us have just spent several days there staying in the little house in Bruay. We had a non-stop three day barbecue and drank the town dry of champagne.

It's in the so-called 'poorer' part of France; the far North. The countryside is beautiful and the people are charming and very friendly, unlike Paris!

TOP: The Chateau d'Olhain near Bruay - not where we stayed!

ABOVE: The Hotel de Ville (Town Hall/City Hall)

Bicycle helmet exemption languishes in ministerial 'too-hard-basket'

(NSW Parliament House - 'he's in there somewhere')

Moi: "Good afternoon! Just wondering how my exemption application is going?"

Ministry of Roads: "Well if you'd like to give us your number we'll get someone to call you back."

Moi: (of course you will, darling!!!) "You have been telling me that line for months, and truth to tell I'm a little jaded of it now; namely because...no-one ever does!!"

Ministry of Roads: "Oh OK we will try & see to it that someone from the 'policy section' calls you then."

Moi: (whatever!!) "Thank you. But perhaps the minister will just meet me face-to-face as per my request in the first instance?"

Ministry of Roads: "Oh well, if you wish to meet the Minister you have to send a request in writing via email or letter."

Moi: (AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!) "I've done that hundreds of times as per all your department's numerous requests."

Ministry of Roads: ".............hhhmmmn OK we really will try and get someone from 'policy' to call you back."


...to put it simply, I am ill-equipped to deal with departmental logic & protocols...

...thoughts, anyone?

Yellowstone National Park: Part 1

Approaching Yellowstone from the West (Idaho)

I've been remiss about getting the rest of my travel photos up, largely because I haven't been sure how to organize all the Yellowstone pictures I took.  If I just posted them by what we did and where we went and what we saw each day, your head would spin. Subject matter seems to be the most reasonable approach.

The animals

Immediately upon entering the park, this fellow trotted right by our car!

It looks so ratty because it's shedding its winter coat

We rounded the bend and saw a great meadow with close to 50 buffalo; but those pictures really don't show much more than indistinguishable dots. So I'll spare you.  The same holds true for the herds of elk we saw. But if the window had been open, Mother would have been able to reach out and touch this one!

By the time we left Yellowstone, we were pretty blase about seeing buffalo and elk. I did have to stop the car to take a picture of this bull elk, the only one I saw with antlers.

The antlers are still velvety and new

The animals we actually got closest to were the horses!

HardPlace on Phil

Rock on Norman

My mom rode Rex -- we were all very sore after the ride

The horse trail took us into the hills ... it was beautiful

We did see a coyote on the ride, but not this particular one.  The northern coyotes are so different from what I see here in the desert -- their color is so much lighter -- that I thought it was a wolf at first.

I was about 20 feet from this fellow, which was hunting some small creature by the log

In addition to the buffalo and elk and coyotes and rabbits and birds, we all wanted to see bears. My memories of visiting Yellowstone as a child are of the bears coming right up to the car windows. However, since people are no longer allowed to feed the bears, that doesn't happen anymore. (I have to keep telling myself that's a good thing -- those close encounters made quite an impression on me!)  I was pretty sure that this was as close as we'd get to the bears:

But we actually did see a big grizzly. It had brought down an elk about 40 yards from the road. There was quite a traffic jam of cars stopping and people getting out with their cameras. A park ranger made everyone move along, and I didn't get to take a picture. But the image of the grizzly's huge haunches is indelibly etched in my mind. And where in the park were we when we saw this?


We saw a few more bears (all black bears) in the distance, but never close enough to make taking a picture worthwhile. Sigh. I really need to go back.