Bicycle helmet laws & the debate

(Clipping from Saturday's SMH)

The discussion develops as mainstream media continue to provide a much needed platform for the bicycle helmet laws debate.

After 19 years of draconian legislation, the wider community is now considering the proposition that if helmet laws had been successful there ought to have been a decrease in injuries - yet only cycling has decreased.

Surely the evident 'sedentary trending' of Australians delineates a far greater risk than the supposed risk of riding a bicycle without a helmet?

At the risk of sounding repetetive, cycling is NOT dangerous:

* driving is!
* obesity is!
* smoking is!

...but cycling is not!!!

Helmet laws are unnecessary - let's repeal them!

Saucy British Seaside Postcards

Donald McGill 1875-1962

There is a vein of humour within British comedy which, in the tradition of old-time Music Hall, trades upon the use of 'cheeky' or risque laughs. In the same way that people like the late Benny Hill would raise a laugh without quite being outrageous. One of the most enduring features of this is the seaside post card and it's most famous exponent was Donald McGill. He worked in the industry from 1904 until his death in 1962. He had already prepared the next seasons postcards for 1963. In 1953 thousands of cards were seized in police raids on shops on the Isle of Wight and elsewhere and he was prosecuted and fined £50.

Another prolific artist was Sunny Pedro

A typical post-war saucy British seaside postcard

And to finish here's a French saucy postcard. Much higher on 'ooh la la sauciness' than it's British counterpart but not containing any humour!

It's all your fault

Last weekend wasn't an easy one for me. The Lifeline training took up two full days and when I got back home on Sunday I was so mentally drained that I headed straight for the wine and the badugi tables to relax. Yes I know, online gambling as relaxation. Over the weekend we had to share a lot of personal information amongst our group; this made me feel quite uncomfortable. I was perhaps a bit naive when I applied for the course. I think I'll take Richard's advice and attend this Friday's session before deciding whether or not to continue. It's not just that the course takes me well outside my comfort zone (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), it's also a big commitment. While there are so many aspects of my life that need sorting out, I'm not sure I'm ready to commit. If I did somehow see the course out to its conclusion, I think I'd do fine on the phones (I'm much, much better in a one-on-one situation than in a group).

I found out yesterday that I'm competing against an internal candidate for that job. He or she is being interviewed about now, and I'll know the outcome later in the week. The internal applicant would logically be the favourite here; it's even possible that by interviewing me they're simply going through the motions to make it look like the process was open and above board, when in fact this person had been earmarked for the job from the start. Assuming it's just a two-horse race, I'd put my chances at 25% (the other person at 60%, with a 15% chance that they don't take either of us).

Over the last two weeks I've been giving out maths tuition and have made some useful cash. I'm not sure how helpful I've really been. I'm rusty to say the least; I haven't had to solve a quadratic equation since some time last century. Both the girls I've "helped" so far are already at a reasonable standard. I'm not sure they need a maths tutor. But their parents can afford one (their Remuera properties must be worth a fortune) so they get one. There's a clear "overclass" here. Sometimes you hear talk of a classless or egalitarian society, but the inequalities are as great as they've ever been. In fact I think this pseudo-equality is largely to blame for the increased prevalence of depression. A century ago people knew their place; for most people their upbringing precluded the possibility of fortune and fame. Now, according to this myth of equality, anybody can achieve anything, and if you're not achieving, guess what? It's all your fault. It's no use blaming your upbringing because having the right parents or going to the right school doesn't matter any more. Yeah right. There's this constant pressure on us all to achieve, win, succeed, but by definition not all of us can; since underachievement is now officially all your fault, it's no wonder so many of us are depressed.

More rocks, Part 2

From Zion, we went to Bryce Canyon, which isn't really a canyon per se. It's a large plateau whose bluffs have eroded over time into vast mazes of mysterious columns and spires, called hoodoos.

Because Mother was with us, we couldn't take any of the long hikes necessary to get down into the maze. I have to take the boys back to go explore this mysterious place, because looking from above, I simply was not able to comprehend it ... and so did not really enjoy it. Well, I enjoyed it, of course -- but not as much as I wanted to.

I loved this "cathedral."

This view shows some of the texture of the bluffs

This view shows the scope of the park: Miles and miles of intricately carved bluffs

One absurd part of that day was our picnic lunch.  We were in an expansive place with breathtaking vistas, but the only picnic tables we found were in the middle of an area that had been burned out by a forest fire.

Next up: The Grand Canyon!

Humble-pie & chips, please!

Two days of cycling at the Gold Coast and I must retract and eat some 'humble-pie' re GC cycling infrastructure (still wedded to 'folly concept' of total area though!!)

Through hiring a bike I reached the conclusion that GC cycle lanes were considerably more than just stencils! Moreover I was particularly impressed with designated left-hand lanes that guided us around roundabouts (see above pics) and that not only did GC motorists automatically check on their left for us (impressive), they noted our signals and gave us the room to manoeuvre accordingly.

...but wait there's more, lack of helmet-compliance was significantly apparent everywhere!!! - heartening stuff for a conscientious objector! - I'm won over!

...and all through the magical liberating properties of a bicycle - released from suffocation of cars & consumerism!!!! - free to enjoy the environs!!!

Congrats all round for the evident 'in-roads' into GC cycling - I'm glad I got the chance to peel back the layers of the seemingly car-dependent suburbia & to see the potentially vibrant cycling culture already bursting out of the bottle like a genie no longer prepared to wait!!

I'm glad I got the chance to eat 'humble-pie'!!!

- thank you, Ride2Wk & Paul from Get On Your Bike & everyone else who clearly have been effective and instrumental in a liberating pardigm for the Gold Coast!...funtimes!!!!

Queensland bicycle karma

Today karma was restored.

Armed with my fabulous hire-bike from Get On Your Bike, I caught the Gold Coast train to South Brisbane to meet Dr Paul Martin (pictured above on floating cycleway in front of Story Bridge).

Paul has provided much needed support for those of us in the 'helmets-should-be-a-choice' camp as well as the wider community, by expertly disseminating the many issues and 'furphys' that have arisen in the bicycle helmet law debate - his generous input is invaluable.

The day couldn't have been more glorious - & Brisbane twinkled in all its glory as Paul showed me around 'en bicyclettes':

* markets
* river hugging cycleways
* quirky art installations
* trendy cafes
* the very best of balmy winter sun

...oh! Brisbane has it all - even pedi-cabs!!! - hmmmn!

Fascinatingly, the pedi-cab anomaly is prevalent in Queensland too.

Similarly to New South Wales, cyclists' rights in Queensland are trivial compared with the "bottom line" factor which underpins the legal provision for unhelmeted paying passengers.

Notwithstanding the political spin regarding the stability of pedi-cabs & subsequent helmet exemption for pedi-cab passengers, politicians face a hurdle in their 'stability' argument when faced with the question 'why do pedicab-drivers have to be helmeted'. To date they have failed to provide an explanation!

But jeez! - it's glaringly obvious - it's a large dose of 'commercial bull-dust' which we're expected to swallow whole with a teaspoon of political sugar...


...but bact to Paul & Brisbane...loved! loved! loved the day! - thanks! thanks! thanks!

More rocks, Part 1

On the way north to Yellowstone, we saw lots of rocks at Natural Bridges National Park in southeastern Utah. Lots of rocks at Arches National Park and still more rocks at Canyonlands National Park.  Coming home we went back to red rock country, this time in southwestern Utah.  Red. The rocks are really red.

So red that when you grind them up to make a road surface, the road is red too!

This is Kolob Canyon, on the west side of Zion National Park.

I loved that little valley halfway up the cliff face, utterly inaccessible.

I see the hand of God.

We climbed partway up the side of this cliff to a cleft in the rocks.  Rainwater that falls on the top of the cliff seeps through the rocks until it makes a curtain of droplets across the front of the cleft. 

Basing their estimates on the density and porousness of the rock, scientists think that water falling from the rock today was falling from the sky 1200 years ago ... It was a mind-boggling concept.

One that Rock loved!

Being in the cleft was magical

The east side of Zion has a totally different set of rock formations.

I was fascinated by the texture of the rock and wondered how anything could grow out of it.

"Checkerboard Mountain" -- Look at the cross-hatch scoring of the cliff face

Still to come: More rocks!

Time to move on

I don't normally write my blog at four in the morning but the people upstairs are having a rather noisy party and sleep is out of the question. This is a bugger for me because I've got my Lifeline training all weekend so I have to, you know, do stuff. Some new people moved in while I was on holiday, and it's like this pretty much every weekend and sometimes during the week too.

I need to move out of this flat. Richard and I have talked about sharing a flat; this week he sounded pretty keen. It might help matters if we can find work. Right now I'm closer to getting a steady job than I've been all year, which still isn't that close but hey. My interview on Thursday went well I thought. I was a lot more on the ball than the first time (it helps not being depressed). I prepared well and put a lot more thought into the answers I gave. I faced a panel of three; the bloke who I guess was the main interviewer had an eyebrow ring and two earrings; I found this strangely reassuring. There's a chance they'll want me back a third time, and that could well be my undoing. They might test me out on various computer systems such as SQL which I mentioned on my CV. I know practically nothing about SQL. I can barely spell it. Of course there's also a chance that they won't want to see me again.

The good news is that I'm feeling a lot better than I did a week ago, and if it wasn't for those inconsiderate bastards upstairs I'd be feeling better still.

Heading south

It was so hard to leave Yellowstone! We certainly didn't have enough time there, and I would have liked to stay at least two or three more days.  Of course, when this was our view from the breakfast table every day, who would want to leave?

But leaving Yellowstone was made a little easier by seeing the Grand Teton Mountain Range.

Our first view of the Tetons

What a spectacular drive it was!

Of course, when we got to famed Jackson Hole -- winter playground of the rich and famous -- things got a little silly.
Arch made of elk antlers
The town square had four of these arches!

The Gold Coast - a monumental folly

"They hang the man & flog the woman
That steals the goose from off the common
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from off the goose"
(17th Century English aphorism)

The 'Gold Coast' is the quintessential, soulless example of why we should never underestimate the ability of politicians and developers to do get urban planning so monumentally wrong.

Moreover, whilst Sydney cyclists are becoming the new transport power brokers as they progressively re-configure urban transport, it is almost impossible to imagine that the 'Gold Coast' will ever embrace such a paradigm shift. Notwithstanding token cycleway stencils, I've yet to note any cyclists.

Isn't it evident by now that the 'gold' standard on transport ought not to be the sole domain of motorcars and politicians?

Aaaaaahhh!...let me out of here!!!!!!

Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes by Harry Graham

Harry Graham  (Picture courtesy of BBC)
Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes was published under a pseudonym in 1898 in England. It was ahead of it's time in some ways but can be seen as a a part of the tradition of Lewis Carol, Edward Lear and W S Gilbert (the wordsmith half of Gilbert & Sullivan).

Here's a couple of examples of his work:


A window-cleaner in our street

Who fell (five storeys) at my feet

Impaled himself on my umbrella.

I said: "Come, come, you careless fella!

If my umbrella had been shut

You might have landed on my nut!"

Quite Fun

My son Augustus, in the street, one day,

Was feeling quite exceptionally merry.

A stranger asked him: "Can you show me, pray,

The quickest way to Brompton Cemetery?"

"The quickest way? You bet I can!" said Gus,

And pushed the fellow underneath a bus.

Whatever people say about my son,

He does enjoy his little bit of fun.

He was by all accounts a very affable and amiable chap so his poems were certainly intended to be humorous rather than offensive. OK, they don't scan very well and have unsophisticated rhyming schemes (to say the least) but I think they're fun.

Here's another one:


When Grandmamma fell off the boat,

And couldn’t swim, and wouldn’t float,

Maria just sat by and smiled -

I almost could have slapped the child!

Apparently the 1901 New York edition is quite collectable.

Class Action Hurdle flattened

(Photos: Querida David, Paris)

Well! after all the 'hoop-la' & threats of class action & raving radio rants & everything else, it would appear that many of the would-be litigants had no idea they were part of the would-be litigious plan.

Notwithstanding that many of those on the class-action list had "not been contacted", the lawyer involved remained confident that he had "good reason to believe" they were willing participants in his cause.

Oh dear! a cause without rebels - not very convincing!

Meanwhile back in 'Insurance-land', it would appear that the NRMA's home contents policy provides 'public liability cover of up to $20 million' but not if the damage or injury is the result of 'a professional sporting activity that's paid or competitive'.

WOW! Actuarial Proof that my type of cycling activity (you know with skirts & baskets & shopping & picinics) is nowhere near as risky as that of the industry- led activity (you know with lycra & water bottles & cut off gloves & vented helmets!!!)... incredibly convincing!

Yellowstone: Part 6

The River and The Canyon

I'd never thought much about the name Yellowstone. It simply was the name of the park, which, it turns out, was named after the river.  But when I saw the canyon carved by the river, I understood the name.

But the canyon walls are not just yellow ...

It is breathtaking.

And dizzying.

And wonderful.

There's a lot of water going over those falls.

A lot of water.

See the people standing at the edge of the falls? They're standing right ...

-- did I tell you there's a lot of water going over the falls? --

... here!