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l'enfer du North Island

  unspoilt by progress Thursday, 28 February 2008 link

I've been doing a lot of reading recently. A bad attack of RSI/OOS, not to mention a desire to spend some time in the same room as my wife, has put paid to my recent rediscovery of the various titles in the Age of Empires franchise. Instead I've been wading through a fair old bit of prose:

Hey, I don't do much literature (although next to read on my list is a re-read of the Gulag Archipelago), but at least I'm honest.

  paean Friday, 22 February 2008 link

I love this city.

Within 5k of home, I can take my children swimming, to the park, to the beach, on a bushwalk, or to a farm to say hello to sheep. I can easily commute to work by bike. My wife can play in a klezmer band. I can cook on a barbecue most of the year, and fly a kite pretty much anytime I want. From my workplace, I can see a world-class art gallery, an incredible museum, watch juvenile penguins having a bit of a swim in the harbour, knock off a 30k bike ride around sunny bays, ride a world-class mountain bike course, or just have a saunter by the waterside and peoplewatch. All of which I've done during my lunch hours in the last fortnight, by the way.

But can I get pork and stilton sausages?

Can I bollocks.

  anger management issues Thursday, 21 February 2008 link

Interesting commute home. At the lights down by the railway station, a "performance car enthusiast" took off very hard immediately on green, in a manner that I considered to be a bit too close to me for comfort (it was one of those 2-lanes-merge-into-1 bits that make life hilarious), plus I basically thought the guy was driving like a twat. So I made the traditional "wanker!" gesture. He must have seen it in his rear-view mirror, because about 200m down the road he came to an emergency stop (discommoding the car behind him), threw it into reverse, and reversed into a carpark. He then leapt out and proceeded to run into the road and berate me at volume. I rode past him at speed, physical confrontations with testostone beasts not being my thing. Frankly, if you can't take someone calling you a wanker without hopping out of the car and attempting to beat them up, you need to toughen the fuck up. I've been called much worse than that, and it's never particularly bothered me. Honestly. What a big baby.

I did, of course, take a shortcut pretty shortly after that involved going up a pedestrian accessway (the steps by Bodyworks). I may be insouciant, but I'm not dumb: anyone stupid enough to get out and berate might just be stupid enough to try and run me off the road - and any direct BMW vs bike interface is unlikely to end well for me.

Ahem. For those of you contemplating joining in with Bike to Work day next week (27th Feb, events worldwide, check your local listings - for Wellie, it's a free breakfast in Civic Square from 7-9am - I'll be there!), I should point out that this sort of thing hardly ever happens, and certainly wouldn't have happened here if I hadn't called the guy a wanker. But, you know, he was a wanker, so I hardly think I'm to blame here. Anyway - cycle commuting is fun, and comparably safe to driving or taking the bus. See you on the roads!

  too little sleep as usual Monday, 18 February 2008 link

My sister Charlotte's in town, helping run the conference on cluster munitions. As a result, Rebecca keeps talking about "Auntie Charlotte" constantly. Maggie just smiles at anyone who'll hug her, but Rebecca was delighted to have an auntie who can be persuaded to read her stories. There was a sleepover at the weekend: I thought Rebecca's head would explode with happiness.

Oh, and Maggie has her first tooth. Or rather, she has the first 1mm of her first tooth - we expect more later. My littlest girl is growing up.

Man. A year ago, I got my mum a 1GB MP3 player for her birthday. The exact same MP3 player is now on sale for $29.95 - that's a bit over £14. We paid a lot more than that for it, I'll tell you that. Talk about technology becoming disposable.

You can tell it's an election year: the labour party is going hard for the whole "tough on the things that annoy middle class people, tough on the causes of things that annoy middle class people" line.

The times they are a-changin' - one of my coworkers burst out with laughter today when I described a group of people as a "pack of lazy fuckers". She laughed because she'd never heard me swear before and thought it was quite unusual. Blimey 'eck.

  you should see the stuff i left out Wednesday, 13 February 2008 link

One good thing about cycling is that it inures you to embarrassment. I spend many of my mornings having serious technical work-related conversations with coworkers while wearing 200g of skintight lycra. I then walk down Featherston St to our other office still wearing the aforementioned lycra (no shower at my normal office), past everyone coming into the city to work. Occasionally I discuss the effects of different brands of chamois cream (I prefer straight-up Savlon myself) with other cyclists, with special reference to the effects on the perineum. You get used to a complete shamelessness. So I don't have too much of a problem discussing my embarrassing little pecadillos.

For instance, I use the word "pickle" as an affectionate diminutive to refer to children. "How's it going, pickle?", "Where's my little pickle gone?", "Oh, look at that cute little pickle!". Just doing this is pretty embarrassing in itself. What's worse - and I'm pretty sure that Heather hasn't realised this yet - is that I picked this up from Shaun of the Dead.

Also, despite my generally right-on hippy anti-materialist stance, I'm a total luggage tart. Yes. I really, really like luggage. Specifically, I have a mild obsession with backpacks and messenger bags. If I had my way - and an unlimited budget - I'd own at least a dozen messenger bags and a similar number of backpacks. I know I only need one. I know that obsessive consumerism is annoying and wasteful. But they're all so groovy!

And on a similar kick: despite my general staunch cyclist credentials, and overall loathing of car culture, I occasionally watch car customisation programs on TV. There's a certain horrified fascination with watching Pimp My Ride, Trick It Out, Bolt Some Bling On, or any of their derivatives, as people take a fairly standard car and turn it into a flashing, clashing abomination.

And it's that last point that I'd like to visit now. Car culture very much annoys me. The assumption that everyone has to have a car (and the repercussions of that assumption on town planning and functional disenfranchisement of those without a car, whether voluntarily or not) is particularly annoying, but I'm really not a fan of car culture per se. So it's with considerable embarrassment that I have to confess that - due to circumstances entirely beyond my control - we are currently driving what I would consider to be a large SUV. And I'm really enjoying it.

Specifically, we've been given a 2007 Toyota RAV4 5-door 2.4ltr SUV. This is because our car is at the panelbeaters, and our insurance is covering a rental. And the RAV4 is the only thing the rental company had that had a bolt for an infant car seat. So I've been zooming around in a pumped up Chelsea Tractor. Actually, I've not been hooning it too much, as my essential guilt at driving such a vehicle wars with the fact that I am rather enjoying it. It's certainly not the sort of thing I'd want to drive day to day - a bit too big and graunchy, not to mention pretty thirsty as a result of all the excess mass you're lugging around. But as far as guilty pleasures go, it's a good laugh to have one for a week. It's like food: I really rather like eating hamburgers, but you wouldn't want to have constantly.

Anyway, if I was getting a new car I'd buy a Jag^H^H^HPrius.

  the bloody . is stuck on the numeric keypad Tuesday, 12 February 2008 link

As I see I've now been listed on Kiwiology, I suppose I'd better have some more NZ-specific content. So - that Electoral Finance Act, eh? Crazy times, crazy times. Them Flight of the Conchords? Outta sight, man, funny guys. That imminent drought, eh? Total bummer.

Slightly more seriously, it's worth reading the Observer article on the Conchords linked above, as it reveals an interesting side to their fanbase: the obsessional drooling lust-crazed women. No, really. Particularly notable is the comment on them having sexy accents. Yes, really. Stand up and be proud, New Zealand! The long-derided flat Kiwi drawl is now sexy! The passionless people are the new sex bombs!

Not that I'm going to change my accent, of course. My patented combination NZ/UK pretension-fest ain't going nowhere.

  seismic shock Friday, 8 February 2008 link

Yet more linkage about Sheldon. It's hard to overstate how important Sheldon Brown was to the internet cycling community. Important enough that On One just had an article entitled Sheldon's Dead - article text is simply, "Bugger."

Look, he got an obit in The Guardian. Sheldon Brown was, to all intents and purposes, The Man. We are all poorer for his loss.

  built to last the pace Thursday, 7 February 2008 link

Goals, various productivity experts tell us, are important. Five year plans, grand strategies, "Where I want to be in ten years" - these are the ways to Move Forward in Life. You may be asked about them in job interviews. I have no particular Big Picture for my professional career, but I tend to vaguely keep a list of personal stuff to do. Even if you don't do all of them - and jesus, imagine the sense of satisfaction followed by desolation as you ticked off the final entry on your "Lifetime goals" list - they're useful as a way of helping you figure out where you're going. When we decided to leave the UK we had a list of about twenty things to do in our final year, and knocked just over half of them off. So we've still got a few things left to do in the UK, and thus a reason to get back there at some point.

So yeah, I do have a vague list of things to do before I die. Get my arms fully tattooed. Bicycle the length of NZ (Cape Reinga to Bluff), and across Canada. Ride Paris-Brest-Paris. Watch my grandchildren graduate from university. A couple of things I'm not going to list, in case my children (or, for one item, wife) ever read this. Ride in a submarine. Build my own house. That sort of thing. I might not do all of them. But, as a great philosopher once wrote, you've got to have a dream. Because if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?

On the headphones: Patchwork Guilt, by Paul Hartnoll, from the rather nice album The Ideal Condition.

And Heather's pointed out a particularly funny item on Stuff: A Cycling Widow's Survival Guide. I laughed like a drain at the entry for 'J'. In my defence, I only do most of the stuff she talks about, not all of it. I haven't shaved my legs yet, for example.

The Bike Snob NYC has a good paean to Sheldon Brown on his blog today. Worth reading even if you've never heard of him, as an exmaple of how people separated by geography, by time, by age, inclination and political opinion, can come together and help each other via this wonderful enabler that we call the internet. It's people like Sheldon - who was always willing and usually able to help people with gnarly, odd questions - that make this whole electronic communications thing worthwhile.

Well, them and i can has cheezburger.

  a great loss Tuesday, 5 February 2008 link

RIP Sheldon Brown - the internet in general, and cycling in particular, has lost one of its most passionate, articulate, helpful and informed people. Much respect, and thoughts to his family.

  i want one of those Monday, 4 February 2008 link

There are times it's not good to be on the other side of the globe from your mates. It's hard to give someone a hug and a pint from 10,000 miles. All you can do is let them know you're thinking of them and offer any help you can.

As per the site redesign - I've just fixed the slight typo that was causing IE to ignore the CSS file. Whoops! But rest assured, it's your own fault for using IE rather than a sensible browser.

Having had a few months of increasingly dodgy performance, I spent a happy half hour yesterday morning fettling my front shifter. After replacing the cable, adjusting the angle of the mech, oiling everything, tightening various bolts, and then finally hand-cleaning each link in the chain then re-lubricating, she's now running smoother than a nun's conscience. It's gratifying to do a mucky job that then works properly.

Except that I'm still getting bad chainsuck if I try to shift to the inner ring, but that's a replacement job anyway.

In Borders today, I was amused to see a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Koi. This is not a book I was expecting to see on sale in New Zealand as Koi are classified as an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act, making it illegal to possess, rear, sell, release or breed them. Penalties are a maximum fine of $100,000 or five years' prison. So the term "complete idiot" would appear justified for once. Pity, mind - I'd love to have a few pet koi (any fish that you can handfeed is a good fish).

Having been drafted by one of these on the flat on the way home - and then conclusively passed by it going up the Wakely Gully track - I've realised what I want for Christmas. Very, very nice.

  a few minor changes Sunday, 3 February 2008 link

OK, so you may notice that a lot of stuff has dropped off the front page. I've had a minor spring-clean on the site - removed a fair bit of cruft, made a few minor look & feel changes (like, really minor - I'd be surprised if you noticed most of them). All old blog content (plus many of the old static pages) is available on the archives page. The feeds may take a day or two to work out - but if you're subscribed via the atom.xml feed, that should still be kosher. Drop me a line if you have any problems getting the updates.

No, I've checked and it should still work. If anyone's interested, the main reasons for the change were to include a handy-dandy hyperlink to each post (saving you the tedious bother of sorting through the page source code to find out the hyperlink), and so that I can preserve the old pages without any new tweaks cascading back through six years of using Blogger. I was vaguely considering using post labels to allow people to sift out certain obsessions that they may not want to read. But I like having expansive posts that touch on the eight different things that have been concerning me on any given day, and I don't want to give that up. So any posts would end up having a dozen tags appended, and I can guarantee that it'd be a rare post that didn't include the tag "cycling". Though of course this one doesn't. Anyway, it turns out that Blogger's implementation of post labels is pretty shite (minimal config options available) unless you're actually hosting your blog on their servers and using their pretty WYSIWYG editor. Stuff that. Anyway, I like the lo-fi look, and chances are you're reading this via RSS of some sort anyway, so why worry?

Actually, fuck it. I will write about cycling. Took Rebecca off to the Trust House Cycle Classic today - good lord. That Travis Meyer is a fucking rocket and a half and no mistake. It was astonishing: on a 750m crit circuit, he was 30 seconds up on the main bunch after 25 mins. At 35 minutes he caught and lapped the main bunch of riders. It was the best racing cycling I've ever seen. Of course, I did have to break off for a few minutes halfway through to buy Rebecca a snack, and then five minutes before the end to hastily take her to the toilet, but it was still an incredible ride. If he's not riding the Tour within five years I'll be astonished. It's like watching the tour back in 1995, when it was won by a little bloke from Oz by the name of Robbie McEwen.

  weather permitting Friday, 1 February 2008 link

Last night, I was fussing Maggie when I got home. "You're mine - all mine!" I cackled as I tickled her tummy. "Daddy!" Rebecca interjected, "You have to share babies!"

So this weekend I'm off to watch one of Wellington's premiere sporting events. No, not the Sevens; the Trust House Cycle Classic. I'll be interested to see if Haydon Raulston can take the triple. Final crit is around the bottom end of Lambton Quay, starting at 2:30 on Sunday - Midland Park to Kirkcaldies should be a good place to watch. Or sit outside the Dog and Bone and have a pint while spectating. Should be a good field and an excellent crit, and it's only an hour long. Come down and have a look, and if you hate it you can pop into town and do a bit of shopping. Try it - you might like it.

And a tip of the keyboard to Blair, who sent through this link about Cambridge drinking societies. The important thing to remember is that although this is what a lot of people's stereotypes about Cambridge are all about, and this stuff does actually exist, it's not the be-all and end-all of the uni. It's really no more prevalent than the equivalent drunken fraternity shite in the US. And certainly, despite their posh-boy bravado, not that different to what you'd get at the average rugby club.

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unspoilt by progress

calm, peaceful, sweary

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