Quiz Question (11): Mother Goose

(I have recycled this question from my previous blog in 2006, because it created a lot of interest at the time. It would therefore be easy to cheat by looking at that blog and it would be easy to find the answer by Googling these lines anyway. But you wouldn't do that, would you?)

Can you complete this children's rhyme with the 'literary' last line?

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,

Apple seed and apple thorn;

Wire, briar, limber lock,

Three geese in a flock.

One flew east,

And one flew west,

And .......?

In the unlikely event of no-one getting the correct answer I will post it in the comments in a few days!

Wot! - no helmets!!!

(Photos: Elenor Tedenborg, Inner West Courier, 11 November 2010)

We, the Australian people, believe in helmets and helmet laws...


...we need a good picture for a story & then it's 'whoopsie! - way too daggie!'

...ha! ha!...love it!!!

Off with their helmets!!!!

The racket formerly known as Prince

When I play competitive tennis, I normally bring a spare racket just in case. So last night I turned up with two Princes, a 2005 model (my weapon of choice) and a 2000 version which I expected to remain firmly in its bag. When I arrived at Forrest Hill last night – an oppressively muggy evening for tennis – I wasn’t too bothered about winning or losing; I just wanted the damn thing over with. And then I found out who my opponent was. We’d met twice previously. The first time was five seasons ago, back when I still knew how to play, and I won in two sets. Our other encounter was pure torture for me – a memorable match for all the wrong reasons. My fragile mental state, a tenacious opponent and inhuman playing conditions culminated in a complete meltdown – for all the gory details click here. So just when I thought emotionally-charged tennis matches were a thing of the past, if there was ever a time I would lose the plot again, last night had all the ingredients for it.

I win the toss, serve first, go 40-15 up and … that’s as close as I get to winning my serve in the entire first set. I couldn’t get anything going on my serve at all. At 5-2 down, I realised the importance of the next game. If I could break his serve, then even if I lost my own serve I’d have the advantage of serving second (!) in the next set. That’s exactly what happened. I dropped the first set (which featured eight service breaks!) 6-3, but I felt myself coming into the match towards the end of that set, and from then on made a conscious effort to hit deep groundstrokes. Anything short and he gained the upper hand, so getting depth on my shots was vital. It worked, and after a succession of long rallies, I was 4-0 up in the second set. I wasn’t enjoying it though; I was sweating like a pig. After every rally I had to wipe my sweaty palms on my shirt so I could grip the handle of my racket. My shirt soon became a greyish-brown smudgy mess – I must have looked more like a potter than a tennis player. The rallies became longer, my legs got heavier, and at 4-2 I was really struggling. For want of a better word, I was shagged. In contrast my older opponent looked as fresh as a daisy. How can you not be perspiring out here? It was after the first point of game seven that everything kicked off. I missed a seemingly easy shot at the end of another interminable rally and for the first time I can remember, I smashed my racket against the ground in frustration. “That sounded expensive,” said someone on the next court. Well it’s a five-year-old racket and isn’t worth much, but I felt embarrassed and ashamed. It’s only a game after all, and now I was going to lose due to my own stupidity. My racket looked usable, but when I hardly got a ball in play in the rest of that game, there was only one thing for it.

Out came the Emergency Millennium Edition Prince. I had to come out straight away and serve. Switching to a different racket mid-match is hard enough, but serving with a new racket is another thing entirely. To my surprise, my first serve landed smack on the line. The baseline. I was quickly love-40 down and I hadn’t won a point in ages. Somehow I scrambled back into the game, which morphed into a 15-minute monster and had me gasping for air. I clung on to my serve at what might have been the tenth attempt and eventually took out the set 6-4. On to the decider, and it started badly. Down 2-0 and a point for 3-0, I was being outplayed; the end didn’t seem far away. I levelled at 2-2 but fell two games behind once more. Again I came back, and at 5-4 I had my nose in front for the first time in the match. When I stepped up to serve for victory, what little power I had in my serving arm had vanished. My second serves became lollipops, and at 30-30 I double-faulted to give my opponent break point. Realising I might not survive two more games, I went for a winner on the next point and thankfully it was good. After yet another bruising rally, and an exchange that saw him err with a volley, I had won. There was no celebration: after two hours and 20 minutes I was exhausted.

I tried my best in the doubles, but I’d have been up against it even if I was fresh. My partner had played a very long singles match too; that probably didn’t help. I made a lot of mistakes and we lost 6-3 6-4. At least I could go home. The bad news is that I’m playing again tonight, though in a less competitive situation. Now which racket should I use?

Figuring out my next move

I played tennis yesterday and will be playing again tonight. And tomorrow. I’m very much looking forward to Wednesday, my next tennis-free day. I don’t enjoy the game anything like I used to, and when I play at night I take ages to get to sleep and need gallons of coffee to get through the next day. Four or five years ago, tennis was the highlight of my week. Now I really only do it for the exercise.

Richard came over to Devonport on Saturday. We didn’t do all that much I suppose. The warm weather didn’t lend itself to vigorous activity, and we mainly just lay in the park and dozed. We also had an ice cream and talked about possible flatting arrangements. I’m still a bit apprehensive about sharing a four-person flat, especially when I’ve only briefly met two of my potential flatmates. Instinctively I feel it should work out fine, but we’ll only get a better idea of our compatibility (or otherwise) if we all meet up. Hopefully that can happen this weekend. It was good to see Richard, and there’s nothing wrong with just having a relaxing afternoon.

Work seems to be gradually drying up – at this stage my last day looks like being 10th December. Some months ago I registered with Edge, an employment agency for people who have had mental health issues. They had a long waiting list which I reached the top of a couple of weeks ago. Last Thursday I had a chat with one of the people from Edge – he came round to my flat – and we talked about what I should do once my current stint comes to an end. He was quite adamant that the mental health industry would be too stressful for me right now, and should therefore be avoided. However he pushed English teaching to the forefront of my mind once more, and came up with a new idea – working in medical statistics (clinical trials for new drugs, for instance). We also talked about my CV. For some reason, there is huge emphasis put on CVs these days. This chap gave a recent example of one of his clients who applied for what he called a “donkey job”. There were dozens of applicants for six places, and apparently CVs were the deciding factor in who was successful. I said it would have been better to have put everyone’s names in a hat and picked out six at random. Probably just as fair and less time-consuming for everyone involved. In fact, the Lotto method could also be used for some non-donkey jobs, and would in many cases be fairer (and would certainly be more easily understood) than the current selection criteria. At least people who are less connected (like me) wouldn’t be discriminated against. He also suggested I need to be socialising with different people three or four nights a week, but I’m less sure about that. It’s likely that would just make me more stressed. All in all though, our meeting was very useful.

I rang my grandmother yesterday. She has taken a definite step backwards in the last two weeks. She was confused, but worse than that, she sounded quite unhappy and for some reason she was itching to get off the phone. She might get moved to a different home, one that caters specifically for dementia patients. Somehow she had got wind of this possible move, although she didn’t know the reason for it. After some very positive phone conversations with my gran, this one was quite upsetting.

It is now seven years and one day since I arrived in New Zealand to live. I remember that day very clearly – it was a crystal clear Canterbury day; the brightness of the sun (far brighter than you ever get in the UK, even in the height of summer) was almost intoxicating.

'Nordic' Newtown

$$ Bicycle helmet laws are a classic case of scientific evidence being over-ruled & over-looked for political reasons.

$$ Bicycle helmet laws are delusional and way past their use-by date

$$ Bicycle helmet laws foster political inability to acknowledge what it would actually take for holistic cycling safety

$$ Bicycle helmet laws need revoking

$$...END OF STORY...

The Naming of Parts by Henry Reed

Henry Reed

This is one of my all-time favourite poems. It was written in 1942 during the War and it has various ways of being interpreted. I feel that there are two voices speaking. The first one is an army instructor, rather drily and somewhat sarcastically putting some new conscripts through their paces in learning about a particular weapon and the second voice is that of a young recruit (which I have italicised).

The recruit’s mind is wandering as he notices all the signs of spring-time around him. His mind is doing what a young man’s mind will do in spring-time and everything he is thinking has a secondary sexual connotation. The more you read it the more of these hints will be picked up. (‘Cocking bolt’, ‘we can rapidly slide it backwards and forwards’, ‘assaulting and fumbling’ and so on).

Henry Reed has not used punctuation to distinguish the two voices and make our job easier but it is clear what he intends. Rather clever don’t you think?

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,

We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,

We shall have what to do after firing. But today,

Today we have naming of parts. Japonica

Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,

     And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this

Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,

When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,

Which in your case you have not got. The branches

Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,

   Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released

With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy

If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms

Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see

   Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this

Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it

Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this

Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards

The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:

   They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy

If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,

And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance, Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom

Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards

and forwards,

   For today we have naming of parts.

"Ad Hominem" helmet article!

(These police have got better things to do...)

(...than worry about her...)

(...or him)

Sigh! I think I've been noticed in my town gauging from last week's local paper which quoted sentiments from local police inspector, supported by those from local bureaucratic 'Pooh-Bah', RTA, handful of ambos, and unsurprisingly 'now' eminent RPA ED researchers - in fact Uncle Tom Cobley & All!!!!


'all riders, amateur or experienced, are vulnerable when cycling on any road environment, making it very important to protect their head from damage'

- no kidding!

- get away!!!

But what I would like to know is why aren't motorists being urged to be involved in this great 'protection' initiative? They are by far the most important people in protecting cyclists' heads, and definitely the most effective.

So...anyone fancy a spot of 'letter-writing' to the "Scone Advocate" just to add some new spice to the mix? (I think they already have the 'heads-up' on what I'm going to say!!)

Your on-line comments and/or emails (editor.sconeadvocate@ruralpress.com) could lend some weight to the discourse in 'Our Town'!!!!

Thanks in anticipation...& good night & good luck!


There seems to be little point in blogging at the moment - there is hardly anything happening in my life that is worth blogging about.

There's plenty happening in other people's lives however. The mining disaster on the West Coast has taken up a lot of air time in the last few days, and rightly so. Things aren't looking good there to say the least. Yesterday's developments were described as "two steps forward and three back", but even that seemed to be putting a positive spin on things. It's a very close-knit community down there; I just hope we can find out something in the next 24 hours. It must be hell for the friends and families of those who are trapped. As for what the miners themselves have been through, that doesn't bear thinking about.

On Saturday I attended the monthly autism group which was interesting as always. The topic of discussion this time was adverts; people had to vote on their best and worst. I like to think I'm immune to advertising. Although it probably influences me more than I imagine, I'm pretty sure I'm less susceptible than most. I can see that a lot of ads (car ads being a prime example) are trying to press some kind of emotional buttons, but they're wasted on me I'm afraid. I'm particularly unimpressed with ads for banks, who are all trying to out-Kiwify each other, even if most of them are Australian-owned. ASB (owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia) have ditched Goldstein and jumped on the Kiwi bandwagon. TSB (who really are a Kiwi bank) used to run an amusing series of ads, one of which featured someone let loose on a solo plane flight with no training; they've since gone down the "real Kiwis only" route too. On a similar theme is Resene's "Colours of New Zealand" paint advert which, if I'd thought about it, would have got my vote on Saturday for the worst ad. Lake Wakatipu blue, it's so much bluer than bog-standard blue. How can you get away with such crap?

Worst of all must be ads that use sportsmen and other "great" New Zealanders to endorse medical and financial products. These ads aren't just crap, they're downright dangerous. Being a great rugby player or cricketer or golfer doesn't give you the authority to promote products that, should they go wrong, can wreck people's lives. One example was Colin Meads' endorsement of Provincial Finance. "South Island based. Solid as, I reckon," he said. Yes, solid as a house of cards during the South Island earthquake. Provincial was one of the first of New Zealand's many finance companies to go under.

This weekend I hope to meet up with Richard and two female members of the autism group to talk about flatting. I'm a bit unsure about sharing a four-person flat. It might be fine but I'll need to give it some thought. There will be plenty to discuss at the weekend.

An hour after I posted this, it was confirmed that there had been a second explosion (much bigger than the first), ending all hope of finding any of the 29 miners alive. Devastating news. I found yesterday's extended news bulletin quite moving.

Roll up! Roll up! Xmas Bargains in Melbourne

(Popular Melbourne landmark)

(Popular Melbourne vending-machine)

(Zero helmets!)

(...but bikes galore)

(One version of 'where-to-get-helmet' map)

(Alternative version of same 'where-to-get-helmet' map)

(Popular Melbourne headgear)

(Popular Newtown headgear)

Helmets are going like hotcakes at discount 'vending' places in Melbourne!

Are they the latest 'must-have-Chrissie-pressie'?

Of course it would stand to reason given today's bargain prices!!!!!

Only $5 a pop - and can be later returned to friendly vendor for a $3 reimbursement - even if worn!

Who is ever going to spend up big again for a helmet? ...and you know what? There's an even more tickety-boo plus: the Melbourne ones meet the new commercial standard!!!! - although interestingly there's a differing of opinion in the SMH article where it's claimed these helmets have stretchy straps designed...

"to allow the helmet to come off a rider's head"

...as opposed to the 'owner's manual' (attached to the helmets) which declares...

"it should not be possible to remove the helmet without unfastening the buckle"

...hmmmmn who to believe?

Anyway enough of this idle excessive consumerist chit-chat!

I tried the whole 'bikey-hirey' thing in Melbourne today, and loved it:

* sunny day

* comfy bike

* pretty dress

* wafty breeze in hair, &

* friendly U-turning police in Elizabeth Street who after some deliberation diverted their paddy wagon & left me to revel in my 'freedom of choice'!! xx

...ahhhhh! How lovely! - how super!

"Eureka" Airport Cycling Moment

"Love miles" to Melbourne yesterday, and usual angst spent night before fretting about taxi turning-up (i) on-time or (ii) at-all...

EUREKA! - it suddenly dawned on me I should cycle!!!!!!

So I did! - 6kms from Newtown to Kingsford Smith - effortless and easy.

Googled airport beforehand to find out if there were bicycle parks...

...THERE WERE!!!! - & off I toodled!!!


Way to go, Sydney!!!

Faith and grief ... part two?

I wrote part one three weeks ago. But part two has been hard to write because what I really want to do is say what faith DOESN'T do for grieving people. One of my high school friends buried his 21YO daughter three weeks ago. Another friend went to a funeral for a still-born, full-term baby girl. Another friend just learned that one of her friends was shot three times by her angry soon-to-be ex-husband.  The woman will survive, but but but.

I've been reading the Facebook comments on my high school friend's wall. "She's dancing with Jesus." "Give your tears to God." "How wonderful your reunion will be." "God's will is perfect, even when we don't understand it."

Really? I won't write part two. Because it would be so full of disgust and thinly veiled fury. All I can say is, "Not for me."

Maybe some people find comfort in a faith that believes it's God's will for a tumor to insinuate it itself in the spinal column of a beautiful teen-age dancer, to spread to her liver and kidneys, to destroy her from the inside out.  Maybe some people find comfort from believing that's God's will.  I don't.

"Faint heart never won fair lady"

...my 'mantra' which reminds me daily that a prolonged huge effort is constantly required to eventually achieve the 'To-helmet-or-not' choice

But this week I'm in a different mind-space and it's been a pleasure chilling out at the Bicycle Film Festival, soaking up all the friendly karma emanating from all around - bliss!

There was plenty of colour and energy on display at "Ride: life in the bike lane", District 01, Oxford Street, and I couldn't help hoping that maybe tonight's exhibition-goers were George Monbiot's 'progressive campaigners' setting out 'to explain & champion our values'.

Diverse & talented, fun & energetic - they were everywhere and there were lots of them...

...that's got to be a good thing!


...& now completely off topic, I find it troubling that obituaries are so often written by people who've pre-deceased the deceased!!

I know it's standard newspaper practice (I've had discussions with the Guardian about this matter before) but I was completely distracted reading 'La Stupenda's OB' with the knowledge that the OB writer had been dead for 3 years!!


Van Morrison: Sweet Thing

Sweet Thing

(Click on the above to listen. Open another window if you want to listen and follow the lyrics!))

And I will stroll the merry way

And jump the hedges first

And I will drink the clear

Clean water for to quench my thirst

And I shall watch the ferry-boats

And they'll get high

On a bluer ocean

Against tomorrow's sky

And I will never grow so old again

And I will walk and talk

In gardens all wet with rain

Oh sweet thing, sweet thing

My, my, my, my, my sweet thing

And I shall drive my chariot

Down your streets and cry

'Hey, it's me, I'm dynamite

And I don't know why'

And you shall take me strongly

In your arms again

And I will not remember

That I ever felt the pain.

We shall walk and talk

In gardens all misty and wet with rain

And I will never, never, never

Grow so old again.

Oh sweet thing, sweet thing

My, my, my, my, my sweet thing

And I will raise my hand up

Into the night time sky

And count the stars

That's shining in your eye

Just to dig it all an' not to wonder

That's just fine

And I'll be satisfied

Not to read in between the lines

And we will walk and talk

In gardens all wet with rain

And I will never, ever, ever, ever

Grow so old again.

Oh sweet thing, sweet thing

Sugar-baby with your champagne eyes

And your saint-like smile....

Van Morrison has a reputation as a grumpy old curmudgeon but with a body of work like he has nobody could seriously doubt his commitment to his art. Ever the contrary one, he say's 'it's just a job'! If you still doubt my word listen to 'Into The Mystic'.

Not much to report

It's been light on the news front in the last ten days. I haven't given much thought as to what I'll do when this job finishes, nor have I looked at flats. My landladies are selling the place I'm living in; I don't know whether I'll be able to stay there and for how long.

I played tennis on Monday night. In Superman's absence I had to play at number one in our team and I was up against it from the start. After losing the first set 6-1 I needed to change the game but lacked the necessary weapons, so I chose to slow the game down, a tactic that brought me three games in the second set. The doubles was a bit closer - 6-3 6-4 - and if we'd decided to stay back from the first point, rather than play "proper" doubles at the net (where we couldn't compete), we might have had a chance. As a team we were well beaten, five matches to one. I've now lost seven of my last eight matches in all competitions. As is usually the case, it was a struggle to get to sleep after tennis, and just as big a struggle to stay awake the next day.

I've given my last maths lessons of the year - my two 16-year-old students had their exams on Monday. I rang them up to see how it all went. Contrary to what I might have expected, the boy was quite happy with his performance while the girl was a bit disappointed with hers. I've noticed girls have a tendency to play down their efforts in exams, so that might have something to do with it. But also this NCEA system can put too much emphasis on a single question, to the point where a student can know with certainty that they won't get Excellence or Merit just because of what happened on one question. It sounds like this is what happened to her.

The Rocky Horror Show is currently on in Auckland. I'd quite like to go, but as it's only on for another week or so, I doubt I will. I did ask Julie - it seemed her kind of thing - but she isn't able to go. Richard O'Brien wrote the musical. In the early nineties he presented The Crystal Maze which I used to watch religiously every Thursday night. The show was very cleverly designed; O'Brien's wit and intelligence (and the fact that the was totally barking) helped make it very popular back in the day.

Bicycle Film Festival pushes off!

Take 1 'Bicycle Film Festival' and add 1 'me'...

Mix together, et voilà...


Last night, it was @Home Digital Eskimo, for interesting 'Brainstrust Presentation...cycling culture - do we need one?

Tonight, it was @Home Beresford Hotel, for fab start to the Sydney Bicycle Film Festival...opening night parties - do we need them (hell yes!!!)

So what have we got so far - any developing trends ? - hmmmn...let me see:

* chilled champagne

* oodles of bicycles

* cool-dude films

* cool-dude BFF 'goers'

Funtimes! Funtimes! Funtimes!

...moreover it's happening all week!!! Get your tickets and come on down!!!!

EDs add to danger-mongering of cycling

OMG! here we go again - nothing in this letter published in today's MJA (Medical Journal of Australia), should convince politicians NOT to repeal bicycle helmet laws.

After all if "bakers" were to tell us that people buy bread everyday and that some of "bakers" actually sell out of bread everyday, it wouldn't necessarily mean that everybody is buying bread everyday, and that everybody is eating masses of it too everyday!

The collection of figures and stats always contains many variables and invariably is 'cherry-picked' to bolster the finder's fixed beliefs. It's common knowledge that we seek information to prove categorically our 'point-of-view'.

ED doctors are no exception - they believe in helmets...

...trust me, I'm (married to) a doctor!

Joking aside, given the current academic debate on the issue of mandatory helmet laws within our community, it is a great shame that the RPA survey adds nothing of any substance to it.

Oh the drama & the spin! - but what I want to know is:

..."apart from Big Helma, who stands to gain?"...

Certainly not the Australian public.

Due to a tricky little issue called ethics, testing for helmets remains loose and sieve-like - always will.

As Dr Ian Walker, the eminent British scientist and researcher, explains in Tom Vanderbuilt's 'How We Drive' blog, no-one in the world knows whether bicycle helmets save lives or not for certain because:

"...only one method exists for us to get a definitive answer: the experiment. If we took a large number of bicyclists and randomly made one-third ride with helmets, one-third ride with fake helmets (the placebo) and one-third ride with no helmets (the control), then after a couple of years we could count the dead and get the answer we are hoping for. Sadly, however, there are some fairly obvious ethical difficulties with this."

Dr Walker goes on to succinctly point out, that the only evidence that will ever be available is indirect:

"...casualty figures, surveys and observational studies, all of which are riddled with biases...and for every piece of evidence we can find in one direction, there is another telling us the opposite..."

...hence the RPA study and it's findings, so opposite to the most recent peer-reviewed academic study. How does a government ever choose which study it will use to influence policy?...1 potato, 2 potato, 3 potato, 4...?!

In fact I would like to ask Dr Dinh to explain why, if helmets have done all they were cracked up to do over the past 20 years, this has proved so difficult to actually see here in Australia and why other countries around the world use us as the example for not introducing mandatory helmet laws?

But I digress - let's get back to Dr Walker who has more to say (do read his complete 'guest appearance' in Tom's blog):

"...in countries where helmets have been made mandatory, and where usage went from low to high levels almost overnight, there is just no real evidence of a concomitant drop in injuries. Indeed, what we see instead is a big drop in the number of people cycling, which is a disaster – far worse for public health than the few head injuries the helmet laws tried to prevent. Whenever a person gives up cycling, they get far less day-to-day exercise. This means they trade a very small risk of dying from a head injury (almost certainly smaller than you think – I can almost guarantee it won’t be a bicycling head injury that sees you off) for a greatly increased risk of dying early from heart disease or cancer (almost certainly larger than you think – I’d lay good odds that one of these two will get you)."

When will Australia cease vilifying 'road-users-who-use-bicycles', and attribute blame to the actual injury perpetrators - 'road-users-who-use-motor-vehicles'?

By refusing to relinquish our faith in helmets & helmet laws, we exhibit wilful blindness in our duty of care to vulnerable road users - what a pity we are such a negligent nation!


Quick little PS:

For the record, Sydney Morning Herald, in para 11 it's 'diffuse axonal injury' NOT 'diffuse external injury' which you persist in (mis)quoting!

...and also, I didn't think I'd ever be saying this, but I agree (!) with Minister Borger's insightful labelling of NSW Labour's 'dead & lifeless'...'urban failures' - WOW! what an admission on his part! way to go, Minister!

Notwithstanding, I'm somewhat confused where he was going with this admission though - was it an indirect attack on Clover's wonderful plans for George Street which are anything but 'urban failures'? - surely not!!!!

"...anyhoo! 'policy-advice-from-me' concerning emergency resuscitation of 'failed-urban-bits':

* prepare a little bicycle-love x x

* by making sure you IGNORE the RPA ED spin x x

* & drafting REPEAL provisions for mandatory helmet laws today (ok tomorrow, it's late I know!) x x"

Newtown Festival & High Court Decisions - great Aussie moments

Good! good! good-stuff happening 'down under' this week - truly tops!

At last the full bench of the High Court made it plain to 'one & all' that if you're planning on removing someone's liberty it has to be done 'lawfully'. Dodgy 'non-solutions' involving dodgy non-ministers & dodgy non-laws are no longer going to cut it in 'our place' anymore - YAY!...about time!

Another validating 'thumbs up' emanating from that highest court in our land, determined that a former university student's "youth allowance payments as a student were assessable and expenses incurred in gaining that income were deductible" - YAY!...whoop-di-doo for students!

...and today it was the Newtown Festival - brilliant! brilliant! brilliant! - in fact I'm told it's been 29 years of brilliance!

* warm sun

* quirky shopping

* fabulous music

* chilled wine

* spicy food

* sensational siestas

...oh, why are fun-days always so short?...sigh....

But hang-on, me, there's more...I need not 'fear-not'!!!

...tomorrow the Bicycle Film Festival 'kicks-off- (or 'pushes-off' or 'whatever-off' bicycle film festivals do) with their 'Pre-Stuff' stuff at the Beresford Hotel, Surrey Hills - can't wait!!

No escaping bureaucracy - cradle to grave

A revealing exposé of manufactured schooling (sent by our Cairo-based Baby No. 2).

You've 'gotta' hand it to bureaucracy - no matter where they unpack their tote bag, 'just a spoonful of them' and creativity & funtimes are instantly extinguished...!!

...bring back the Arts & Humanities, and let them be brimming with aesthetics when they return!!

(apologies in advance for the ad at the end of the clip - least it wasn't for a bicycle helmet!!!)

Spotlight on a Website (2): wolframalpha.com

Wolframalpha is a brilliant site for nerdy lovers of trivia. So obviously not me then. However if you pop over to take a look you will end up being fascinated. Possibly.

The link I have made is to the 'examples' page where you can see lots of the kind of thing at which this site excels.

For example you can enter the date of your birth to learn lots about that day (sunrise, sunset, phase of the moon, day of the week, famous anniversaries etc) but that's just a small part of what you could find out.

Here are some examples of what other stuff is there:

If you click on 'Food and Nutrition' you can enter any amount and type of food and you will get a comprehensive breakdown of it's nutritional value; and when I say comprehensive I mean really comprehensive.

If you click on 'Colors' (sorry, fellow-Brits, it's US spellings there) you could enter any colour and get a complete analysis of it's properties including it's complimentaries, it's wavelength(!), how it's mixed and it's HTML values.

Other topics include Health & Medicine, Weather, Money & Finance, Places & Geography, Music, Education, Physics and loads of other nerdy stuff.

Have fun and report back here!

Freedom from scientific experimentation - NOW

Our fundamental right to freedom from medical or scientific experimentation established by Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is continuously being eroded by the application of the Road Rules 2008 (NSW) Regulation 256.

This blatant over-reach of governmental power is inconsistent with our treaty obligations as a signatory to the ICCPR. In fact, our 'delicatessen' approach to our international treaty obligations lends itself to being labelled wilful & arrogant.

Why is 'political will' so sorely lacking in Australia that we appear to shy away from proven invaluable road-sharing tips emanating from unquestionably successful cycling nations (namely The Netherlands and Denmark)?

What will it take, apart from 'already-happening' civil disobedience?

Strict Liability - we need it NOW!

(Photos: Flickr, Amsterdamize, "Freedom")

"It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding"
Upton Sinclair

Bicycle Helmet laws favour:

* Australian Politicians

* Australian Rich

* Australian Car-culture

* Big Oil

Bicycle Helmet laws are:

* discriminatory

* contradictory

* largely unenforced

Yet, we could turn this around in an instant by insisting upon the repeal of bicycle helmet laws - simple as that!

But wait there's even more useful stuff we could do! Along with the long-overdue repeal of bicycle helmet laws, we could also introduce "Strict liability" in order to finally shift the onus of responsibility onto the actual road users who inflict the most catastrophic damage of all

...(now read Carlton Reid's post on this issue - including his thoughts on separate cycleways)...

Anyhoo, back to our unfair restrictive head-gear protocols - our draconian laws are forcing cyclists to wear helmets even though 'eminent academics' cannot agree on the 'outdated-blanket claims' that 'helmets save lives'!

In fact all that can be reasonably claimed, 20 years down the track, is that:

- data is confusing & confused,

- 'eminent academics' are confusing & confused

Why then are we denied the right to opt in or out?

"Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary! - just refer back to Mr Sinclair's opening remarks!!!"




Extreme pétanque

It was a good weekend, dominated by various competitive pursuits: tennis, pétanque, online poker and extreme ironing. I got a fair bit of sun.

Tennis on Saturday was up at Whangaparaoa (well Manly actually) and to be honest it wasn’t much fun. I was well out of my league. Playing number two in our team, when I was clearly the weakest player, it seemed I was the sacrificial lamb. Our team did win overall, so I guess it was an astute tactical decision by our team captain. In the men’s match, both our opponents were excellent net players (my partner was pretty handy in that department too), but when I get to the net I’m suddenly playing at 15,000 feet. We lost that match 6-2 6-3 and the mixed 6-2 6-2. It was a nice sunny afternoon for tennis but to be honest I just wanted to get home.

At the other end of the enjoyment scale was yesterday’s pétanque on Waiheke. This time I teamed up with Phil (we’d had a practice on Friday night) and Sylvain. As always Patrick, the dreadlocked hippie Frenchman, was in attendance. He’s been on the championship-winning side several times in the past and takes his pétanque pretty seriously; the only hope for the rest of us was that he might be stoned. Unfortunately the only weed we could see was an unusual formation of seaweed. We breezed through our first three matches, easily qualifying for the semi-finals from the nine teams who started. We were playing jolly well, mainly going for long jacks because we felt our opponents would struggle to match our accuracy from that range. We had a 13-2 win in the semis and inevitably came up against Patrick’s team (who had also had four big wins) in the final. His wife was on their team; she’s even better than Patrick – less dynamic perhaps but deadly accurate from any distance. The other bloke on their team was very handy too. The match started off nip-and-tuck – we were 3-2 down after five ends – but that soon became 10-2 and we had a mountain to climb. Short jacks and they could take our boules out; long jacks and they would get within inches. They were just too good. We scored two singles and a shock four to move to within two, and suddenly we had a real chance, but that was snuffed out when they cashed in on the very next end for a 13-8 win.

The pétanque was a lot of fun. It always is, even if you get thrashed. Everyone was really friendly. Next time I’ll make more of an occasion of it; a couple of beers or a bottle of wine (or even some Pastis) wouldn’t have gone amiss.

As for extreme ironing, no I didn’t actually iron my shirts in the sea at Waiheke yesterday, but the sheer quantity of ironing I did last night sure made it feel extreme. The closest I’ve ever come to extreme ironing by the way was during my map-making job in the UK. They wanted all their maps hung in a vertical file, and because they’d all been rolled up, I had to flatten out several hundred of the buggers (all A0 or A1 size) with my own iron.

Australian bicycle policy - set up to fail

(Photos: Flickr, Amsterdamize, "Freedom")

When I look at the beautiful Amsterdamize photo above, I experience waves of exhausted despair. I am so tired of the uninformed, ignorant Australian baloney pertaining to mandatory helmet laws (!!) evidenced by persistent political cowardice.

Someone please tell me: why are our politicians so scared of the 'first-cycling-death-après-bicycle-helmet-laws'? Cyclists die now - with helmets on!!

Helmet laws are not preventing cycling deaths or injuries - that's a fact! - and we know it - or at the very least we must be suspicious!

Notwithstanding, given the fierce & divided academic debate on the issue, it ought to be glaringly obvious that this matter is vexed and contradictory, and therefore a question of civil liberties. Unquestionably, helmets ought to be a matter for choice.

Now before I get bombarded with invitations to pay for my own medical bills, please remember that our health system does not work on a 'personal liability' basis, hence our willingness to care for people with needs who maybe smoke, over-eat, over drink, sustain injury whilst assaulting others, and/or even ride bicycles with helmets on!

Long may this modus operandi last!!!

It must be clear to all that Australian bicycle policy was set up to fail from the outset - & it almost did too! Cycling all but died except for the 'extremists' who drove their bikes around in cars 'somewhere-eminently-suitable' for the odd lap or 2...

...but that is no longer the case...

* 'People-Using-Bicycles' are back with a vengeance - yes indeedy!

* 'People-Using-Bicycles' know the road is theirs for sharing - we sure do!

* 'People-Using-Bicycles' know the road is theirs for the taking - you betcha!!

* 'People-Using-Bicycles' are taking it! - too bloody right!!!

Nothing is going to deter us - even the recently-opened & somewhat-regrettable College Street cycle-lane...

("...shame on you, RTA, for your blinkered refusal in refusing to give the City of Sydney permission to halt motorists turning left into Park Street for a further measly 8 seconds - the cycle-lane is consequently confusing, and strands cyclists on the pavement amongst pedestrians to minimal 'traffic-light' flow options - wasteful & pointless!!...")

...but back to current exciting grassroots behaviour, the 'ignorant baloney' will no longer wash; we want to cycle and we will; and quite a large number of us wish to do so 'sans' helmets...



Painting of the Month (11) November 2010: Pierre Bonnard


Pierre Bonard, Dining Room in the Country (1913)

I love the paintings of Pierre Bonnard. They radiate a sense of domestic bliss in sumptous colours. This is also the reason why some critics, while enjoying his work, place it only in the second rank of great paintings. But I don't care what critics think; these paintings make me feel good to contemplate them. He painted his wife many times in what has been described as a 'post-coital' situation. However I still see an innocent charm even in those pictures. (See below)

I think we should make our own minds up what we enjoy in works of art and not necessarily pay obesiance to high-minded critics!

Net importer of food (& no doubt bicycle helmets too)

(Photos: Amsterdamize, Flickr, "Freedom")

Oh to be back in Amsterdam! - sigh!

Alarmingly it has been reported this week that Australia has become a net importer of food - scary stuff - & so much for 'Free Trade Agreements'!!...

...which, as we explore them further, reveal that Australian legislative provisions enshrine that a percentage of 'Genetically Modified' ingredients can be part of our foodstuffs without being disclosed on food-labels. Apparently such disclosure would be terribly bad for business as currently we're none too keen to gobble-up willy nilly 'GM' goodies without being informed that we're gobbling them up!!

Who did we actually elect in August?...because it seems to me that behind the closed political doors all the major political (& geo-political) decisions are made by:






These "BIGS" are un-elected power-brokers, and 'pollies' of all political persuasion dance only too merrily to their tunes.

Of course we mustn't forget our Australian 'home-grown' "biggie" either:

*BIG HELMA (so refreshingly absent in Dutch politics!)

...who provide a further corporate trough for Australian politicians to snuffle in. With regard to the helmet equation, I think it's fairly safe to conclude that we've been a net importer of bicycle helmets for decades.

But back to "BIG FOOD" and their clutches on the global food market, thank 'whoever-we-all-individually-thank' for Dr Vandana Shiva, recipient of the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize, and her legendary seed activism - she is truly a 'human-rights-defending-giant' and we need more of her!!

...can't wait to hear her give the City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House tomorrow night!

The rest of my weekend (and last night's tennis)

After the maths tuition on Saturday I joined up with some of the Asperger’s group for a picnic in Cornwall Park. It was a very enjoyable afternoon (we were lucky with the weather) and the turnout was impressive. They were such a nice bunch of people; I had no problem relaxing. We even played a few ends of pétanque – perhaps useful practice for me before this weekend’s Waiheke tournament. Richard did a marvellous job of organising it all, especially as he sat an exam the previous morning. He has a knack of organising events; I have a hard enough time organising myself. We’ll have to do something similar again over the summer.

On Sunday (we were blessed with even better weather that day) I went to the monthly morning tea at the French club. I met up with Phil, who still doesn’t know when (or if) he’ll be returning to Denmark. We had a presentation from a bloke who speaks fluent French and Italian, giving us some entertaining tips on pronunciation. I played tennis in the afternoon – nothing serious, but just enough to get my eye in for the following evening’s interclub.

We played at Albany last night. First up was the doubles; I played with a young gun this time. His game oozed raw power but he didn’t quite have the accuracy to match. My play was a bit scratchy and we went down to a 6-4 6-2 loss. If we’d taken more of our chances it could have been closer, but really we were well beaten by a partnership who knew what they were doing on the doubles court. In contrast my singles opponent (half of the doubles team that beat us) was a good match-up for me. He was overweight and lacked mobility (forwards and backwards in particular), so I was able to work him around the court. The match started off close but I ran out a comfortable 6-3 6-0 winner. Overall our team won by four matches to two.

This is a busy week for me. I’ve got two lots of maths tuition as well as the men’s group on Wednesday. Then more tennis (at Whangaparaoa) on Saturday, followed by the pétanque on Waiheke Island on Sunday.

Some good news from a couple of weeks back that I neglected to mention: I did manage to get off that parking ticket. That's a relief.

Behind paternalism is political complicity

(young Berlin couple, free of bicycle helmet laws)

Australian governments have an inability to recognise that the dream of holistic cycling safety, currently veiled by mandatory helmet requirements, is an impossibility.

Consequently the inability to accept that they are wrong has resulted in continued adherence to flawed policy, and diminished civil rights.

Such blinkered political behaviour is gravely problematic, and reveals blatant injustice.

Maybe the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Chris Hedges is on the money with his comments on 'the power elite' in "Zero point of systemic collapse":

"...appealing to their better nature or seeking to influence the internal levels of power will no longer work"

...so until I come up with a better plan...

I defy injustice and,

I refuse to surrender to the vast commercial enterprise of bicycle helmet laws and,

I resist the wilful abuse of my civil liberties and,

I won't wear a helmet!!