Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bonnie and Clyde

This pic is from a farm in south-eastern Australia where my much envied in laws live.

Their stock is occasionally troubled by foxes. (Yes, there are foxes in Australia - they were imported for hunting by early European settlers. Hardly surprisingly they bred up and ran riot. Both settlers and foxes that is).

The dog is a Maremma, which is a working dog with an interesting trait. They bond to whatever they're bought up with, often sheep in their native Italy, and are left outside to live with that adopted family. Usually quite gentle, they are big and brave, and will fight anything that threatens their "siblings". Most predators know better than to try.

In a reverse adoption - this dog, Bonnie, was adopted by a duck. As far as I know the duck has no name - but I would suggest Clyde is appropriate.

Sadly most of Clyde's flock had fallen victim to foxes - however she was smart enough to latch on to Bonnie - now sleeping beside the big dog at night. Occasionally she tests the relationship by plucking out bits of Maremma fur for her nest - so, not completely smart it seems.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


The past 2 months' Saturday morning mountain bike rides have been very autumnal. Clear skies, crispy cold to start and then warming as the hours pass.

This morning was the first proper winter ride - grey, relentlessly cold and loads of mud. Bursts of mud-traversing-horsepower pushed through summer softened bikes led to a large number of "mechanicals" including a major one after a fall (by luck rather than skill - this was not me).

For the cognoscenti a wrenched handlebar crushed the top of the fork steerer - this meant that the spacers had to be moved above the stem so that it was gripping lower down on what was left of round steerer tube. Getting the spacers off past the squished tube involved comedy application of nature's hammer - being a large lump of wood.


The derailleur hidden in the mud above is the last bit of XT equipment on my bike. It knows that there is an XTR replacement sitting waiting for it to fail - because of this it keeps on working - happily shuffling the chain side to side under the most dire of circumstances.

The boots, by the way, are Specialized Defrosters. Warm and dry - I recommend them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Last year the Office of Governemnt Commerce launched their new £14,000 logo. Happily no-one thought of what happened to the logo when it was turned 90 degrees clockwise as might easily happen when printed on a pen or a mousemat. Most excellent.

Order from chaos.

SpecialBike is a company that sells restored bikes. They seem to dredge up discarded bikes from dumps, canals, carboot sales and completely rebuild them into plain, elegant and rather lovely new ones.

If you want a rubbish bike to ride to the pub once or twice and then leave outside to rust then get a £100 bike from Halfords or the like. Priced somewhere between this and a more expensive proper bikeshop bike you may find a Special Bike.

Here are some.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saburo Sakai

Saburo Sakai was an extraordinary man.

Research into his life is left as an exercise for the reader. If you can get hold of his biography "Samurai!" you may find it moving. While the underlying activity of young men fighting to terrifying deaths in aeroplanes is awful, his bravery and talent make for a fine story.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bella Donna

This Ducati Pantah is one of my motorbikes from the 1980s. A far faster bike than I was a rider, quite pretty, a fantastic noise. By now it will either be rusting somewhere in a dump, or someone will have rescued it and it will sit glittering and pristine in a nice dry garage. The latter we hope.

For the terminally sad - here is what a Pantah sounds like. A purposeful growl I think.

My little garden

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Flight of the Bumble Bee

Metafilter is a slacker's timewasting internet site. Never look at it! It's too late for me - so allow me to watch for interesting things for you. I stumbled across a Metafilter link to a YouTube clip of someone playing a marimba. They were hammering out "Flight of the Bumblebee" with blinding speed. You remember what a marimba is - they're a big xylophone for grown ups - for a mysterious English reason they are usually played by swivel eyed mad women toward the end of the last night of the proms, god awful. A quick look through the related YouTube clips showed that Flight of the Bumblebee has an unholy appeal to marimba players. They seethe over the piece like iridescent green blowflies on a particularly fetid turd.

Bear with me now ...

Joseph Goebbels was a Nazi minister - naturally this means he was a horrible horrible person. The remarkable thing about him was his exquisite hypocrisy. The man was Minister for Propaganda (Minister of Public Enlightenment was his title, I believe) and thus in no small way responsible for the persecution and murder of zillions of people partially because their appearance didn't conform to the Aryan ideal. So - was he 6'2" of broad shouldered, chisel featured, deep voiced military elan - pah! - he was a potato headed weedy club footed little intellectual. No bad thing in itself, but remarkable given his chosen path in life. For this reason he might be considered to be a very good Nazi.

The point is, that there are fields of endeavor that are evil, and sometimes certain people are very good at them. Talent worse than wasted.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I must confess to complaining about "enormity" out loud. I wish I hadn't now.

Here is an essay on language by Stephen Fry. It is a fucking belter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I was fortunate enough to spend a dreamy childhood in and around this wishy-washy watercolour river mouth - swimming with my dog, sailing my little boat, busy doing nothing.

I remember a perfect late summer's birthday (11th I think) largely spent floating around on a washed down tree trunk along with a gaggle of school friends. Days seemed endless and infinite in supply.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Killathrill viral?

I'm well past the age where one should grow up and stop thinking this way ... but deep down I still harbor a distrust of the right wing. Perhaps this is why:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba

You've never heard of her. Listen to this.

Do try to keep up.

My hovercraft is full of eels

I can never get french waiters to talk to me in their own language, they tend to be learning English and keen to practice. In addition to this, my french is at best teeth-grindingly bad - or more often - plain nonsensical.

Here is a kooky overview of a useful net delivered language resource, Yabla ...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Phaic Tăn

Google Books also has a preview.

This mock travel guide is a bit hard to find, but relentlessly funny.

The book was a gift from friends now too far away, you know who you are.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Two Favourite Climbs

Mont Ventoux

A long climb. Do not slack off in the red bits. You must stand and fight. (Well, I have to stand and fight - a stronger cyclist might breeze up, casually smoking a Gitane. Sadly in the 1967 Tour de France Tom Simpson breezed up, buzzing on amphetamines and alcohol, and conked out)

Alpe d'Huez

Shorter, more famous, and perhaps more picturesque than Ventoux. Apart from the first bend it's easy - unless, that is, you want to do it quickly.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Evolutionary deadends

... are often interesting. If for no other reason than that they are not entirely familiar.

Eurypterids, zeppelins, LINC, 50 failed industrial designs

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hi Sarah

Look! Someone is reading from Alaska this week - I'm guessing it's someone who has had a recent disappointment and is depressed enough to spend time reading blogs of people she doesn't know.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Small Wheel Bikes

Fed up with tripping over folding bikes on the train? It's only going to get worse you know.

Hotel Alicja

At first I thought that this was a cruel, but funny, photoshop fake. I.e. that someone had added in the cooling towers in the bottom pic.

But, some detective work correlating the hotel website:

with google maps:

View Larger Map

proves otherwise. Strangely the website makes no mention of the abundant and reliable electricity the hotel clearly enjoys.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Buller's Tale

Do you have a dog? Is it a much loved part of your family? In spite of this, does it annoy you by eating inappropriate things, clearing coffee tables with a careless swoosh of its tail, and bursting into ear splitting barking at things in the night that just aren't there?

When she was a girl, Beryl Markham had a dog - a feisty mutt called Buller. Buller woke her up in the night once, at the foot of her bed barking furiously - only, there was something there. A leopard had padded into her bedroom. The ensuing fight, cat and dog, tumbled out of her room into the Kenyan night. Markham was left to join dots of blood to try to find her pet the next day.

Markham's autobiography of life in colonial Africa is riveting.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Surf Pics

Here are some extraordinary surfing pics from Southern Tasmania.

The Jetski is used to tow the surfers up to speed in front of the front of the forming waves - it seems that you can't catch these monster waves by doing the flappy paddle thing that surfers usually do.

There are very large seal colonies around the tall rock. A surfer in a black wet suit looks a bit like a seal - this is not so great.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ne manquez pas

Belleville Rendezvous

A quirky animated film, largely done by old-school hand drawing.

The scene where the heroic grandmother uses a pedalo to determinedly pursue an ocean liner is just gorgeous.