Friday, August 31, 2007

lest we forget

it's important to understand our past, so that we can define our future. it is in this light that we consider our solidarity with our siblings east and west of the pacific.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rock and Roll

My position is looking a bit ugly at the moment!

Time for an intervention.

Images care of fyxomatosis!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting there... slowly

Second place!

look out world here i come.

Couldn't get around the track cvnt who's riding like a man possessed at the moment!

It all becomes clearer...

Bracksy quit to spend more time with his family. And, um, his lawyers...

Tatt's me out of here!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mary Kostakidis

I have come to the somewhat rapid conclusion that the only good thing that can come from Mary Kostakidis pulling the plug at SBS is an all singing, all dancing, all male news desk featuring Stan Grant and Anton Enus.

It will be gayer than an all male qantas cabin crew.

It's what Australia has been waiting for, man news.

Stan will pull the blokey-blokes, Anton will pull the not-so-blokey-blokes.

Bloke news. Just think of the advertising potential- SBS could advertise for gillete razor blades, V8's, very cumfy undies, the lynx effect and all manner of blokey products non-stop during their 20 scheduled ad breaks.

I can't wait.

SBS selling out, lowering it's standards- no way!

full moon

my eyesight's shite, so i was underwhelmed by the lunar eclipse. that is, until the internet clarified the view for me.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

i met a man in... deutschland?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Snapshots of California II

If you squint hard and hope for better things, it is easy to imagine that the Bay Area's persistent haze is a peculiar manifestation of the city's famous fog. Particulate matter forms a dullish grey veneer over the Bay, altering the light so that everything seems simultaneously hyperreal and distant, like a scene from a film. The unique geography of the hills and water create an inversion layer, which, in layman's terms, means that the crap you breathed in yesterday is the same crap you will breathe in today. The nine million people who live and work in the Bay - apparently exclusively in their cars - don't help things. Respite comes only in mid to late fall when conditions change and the inversion layer goes on vacation for a month or two. Better suck in deep and hold your breath, because it doesn't last.

Environmental degradation and pollution is constant and pernicious in American cities. Whereas Australia is saved by our inability to sustain dense populations in our inland regions, the US suffers from the good fortune of having sufficient water and arable land to populate the center. Were it not so, the fumes and funk of the cities might have a chance to dissipate.

Still, it isn't as if the Americans aren't pushing the process along with their lifestyle choices. The reputed left-wing, enviro-friendly views of Bay Area locals appear to be a myth the moment you step out of the airport. That is until you realise that, unlike in LA or Chicago, the ubiquitous Sports Utility Vehicles are plastered with brightly colored stickers warning of civilization's downfall if global warming goes unheeded. Is that Nero I hear playing fiddle in the background?

Automobiles seem now to be a symbol of social and cultural status in almost every society on earth. Nowhere is this more true than in the good ol' US of A. As with most things in America, bigger is is better when it comes to cars (exceptions to this rule - cell phones, PDAs, cheerleaders, absolutely nothing else). Driving a car that doesn't require the wholesale excavation of a middle eastern country every time you fill up is a definite sign that you are athletically incompetent, socially awkward and impotent. And it is even worse if you are male. As with most culturally compelled irrational behaviours, there are a couple of coherent sounding justifications that get trotted out when you bring up the monstrous size of the average vehicle over here. First up, they are definitely and unquestionably safer. I looked into this. It's true. In multi-car collisions. For the driver of the larger vehicle and definitely not the other guy or gal you hit. So the justification for driving a big car is essentially that US drivers are involved in a selfish arms race to survive. Noone mentions that the probability of being involved in an accident in the first place increases with these larger vehicles. Despite all this, the social meaning of driving a car smaller than an Abrams tank seems to be "I don't care about myself, my family or any other passengers I might have. I want to injure myself. I am a kind of crazed suicidal, homicidal maniac." It's any wonder that Ford Fiesta drivers aren't given a bunch more space on the road.

The other justification that gets brought up is the occasional off-road foray. Let's put to one side that these forays seem to be largely fictional. What really beggars belief is that people think that reasonable size hatchbacks, when confronted with unpaved road or exposed to minute quantities of dust, immediately begin disintegrating before spinning out of control into a ditch/tree/expectant mother and bursting into flames, consigning the occupants to premature cremation. Having driven US cars, I would posit that this is a real risk, but not one that is averted by buying an SUV, whether or not its poorly designed drivetrain is 4X4 or it includes seventeen feet of clearance from the chassis to the ground.

Here is a thought: The US has been struggling to supply appropriate armoured personnel carriers to its troops in Iraq. Why not buy up the domestic stock of ridiculously big and over-engineered cars? (This would restrict them to mainly Japanese models, but whatever). Now, bolt steel plates onto the exterior panels, put bench seats in the back and voila. Instant troop carrier and much tougher than what they have now. Even better, keep the tinted windows - the Iraqi's will be reticent to shoot at a car that might contain their favourite rap singer. Why doesn't hatred of America ever seem to extend to P Diddy?

Meanwhile, patriotic citizens who have done the right and noble thing, selling their oversized lard wagons to the men in uniform can spend the windfall they receive on bikes and offsetting their carbon emissions for the past quarter century.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Clinchers vs Tubulars (vs Rim Weight)

Click on the graphic to read the formula.

I'm bored of fighting. I'm a lover, not a fighter. Run the numbers for yourselves people...

Some good resources for finding out about rolling resistance and getting numbers for coefficient of rolling resistance (Crr):

highway to inefficiency

i know i rate people by their efficiency*, and it's about time someone resolved debates in this way.this paper by robert oxoby finds that brian johnson was a better singer than bon scott.

the conclusion was drawn from an experiment which found that in the ultimatum game**, more transactions occurred whilst listening to brian johnson.

*lie, i'm trying to improve my introductions
** there's two players, one is given a sum of money and told to offer some to the second player, who can accept the deal or reject, in which case both get nothing.

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Vale Tony Wilson

About a week ago, Tony Wilson founder of Factory Records, the home of Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, amongst others passed away.

Worst sentence ever, but I push on undaunted.

His funeral was yesterday, and the guardian produced a lovely hommage here.

They also published a eulogy from Steve Coogan, who played Tony in the movie 24 Hour Party People.

I loved this line from Coogan:

'Peter Hook said at the time with robust affection: "The biggest cvnt in Manchester being played by the second biggest cvnt in Manchester." It was the biggest compliment I ever received.'


Bike Pron 5: Pro-Winner

This bike was ridden by a 45 year old pot belge addict we bumped into at a few races. I remember the day this picture was taken well because it was the only day where it just rained non-stop. Absolutely shocking day. I got 27th, and only 10 or so guys finished. It was a stinker of a course too- narrow roads, with about 15 corners every lap. not my cup of tea.

This was one of the smaller bikes I bumped into overseas. A lot of the Dutch blokes are really tall, but Belgies can be quite short as well. Despite being small this bike weighed an absolute tonne. My bike was lighter than it- my bike is a 56.5cm top tube, this would have been a 52-53cm top tube. That's despite being full carbon, with carbon clincher wheels.

Other notable features of this bike include the 4ZA (forza) wheels, which are Ridley's wheel brand made in Taiwan. New Campagnolo Chorus, looking very smart indeed. check out the website at

Monday, August 20, 2007

Snapshots of California

"I'll have an extra hot, no-fat latte". The woman, skinny like her beverage, is just a little smug about her highly specific drink order. She holds her head high and speaks just loud enough to be overheard.

Almost every grocery store in California has a sign declaring that inside there lurk "chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer in laboratory animals". It makes me think of Bill Hicks: "what the f*ck is this guy selling?" As it turns out, they aren't selling much of note. In sufficient quantities, almost any substance will cause cancer in lab rats. The little guys are durable, but inject them with seven grams of a compound that is meant to stop shampoo from becoming a solid and they don't hold up so well. Californians, especially Northern Californians, pride themselves on their organic, hand-picked, cold-pressed, chemical free food and beauty products. You can't move three feet without bumping into someones freshly harvested, organic, edible, essence of nasturtium soap. Meanwhile, in the park today, almost everyone was sunbathing, shirtless. The State of California may not yet know that an enormous nuclear reactor in the sky causes cancer - and not just in lab rats. Moreover, most of the young adults are smoking. I guess they reason that if you are going to have cancer, it is best to have it internally and externally. The full package. These same kids ride around on fixed gear bikes with no brakes, often without helmets, protected only by a thin cloth cap. Lab rats rarely die of head injuries after being cut off in traffic by a Chevy Suburban.

earlimart - happy alone

one of the best things about shifting from full time study to full time work is the guilt free skyscrapers of cds that invariably comes with paydays. unfortunately for this introduction i'm not going to talk about cds that i've recently purchased, rather i'm going to link to something i may have to order in from the states, unless someone in melbourne can look at missing link for me...

earlimart's happy alone is a delightful way to spend three minutes. It's off the album mental tormentor and i'll keep an eye out at the capital's godsend, landspeed records

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Belgian Bike Porn 4: Sportivo

Here's a bike you won't see floating around Beach Road. i have no idea where these bicycles are made, but there were a few pro and amateur teams riding these over in Belgium. they had a few different models. One being that pictured, with a compact frame and onda style forks. There was also another more traditional style frame (that I will feature later). I bet they have are made in the same factory that manufactures Pinarello- or maybe they are just a direct rip off.

This was one of the better looking team bikes floating around. You may notice yet another Concor Light saddle. I don't know how anybody can find those saddles comfortable. If you have no penis, and incredibly narrow sit bones you might find them comfortable. Just looking at the rocker of the saddle is enough to make me cringe. But the Belgies love these saddles (which probably says something about the anatonomy of the average Belgian cyclist).

I'm not sure that the photo truly shows how much seatpost this guy had going. His riding position was pretty obscene. Other features of the bike include full campy record gruppo, pro pilot stem and seatpost, and Kysrium SL wheels.

The mechanic seems to have done a nice job with the cable routing which will please Cam no end. Altogether a very well presented bike, but it gives me a back ache just looking at it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

World stops spinning II: Bob Brown says something sensible

Senator Bob Brown said revelations about Mr Rudd's night in a New York gentlemen's club should be kept in perspective.

"Four years ago Kevin Rudd got drunk and took himself into a strip club," Senator Brown said.

"Four years ago John Howard, sober, took Australia into the Iraq war."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Domestique of Justice

Kyle is a Berkeley local and good friend. He rode for BMC when it was amateur and supposed to be a development program. That was right before they screwed all their promising development guys and hired two of the oldest pro's in the US peloton. Kyle's girlfriend is very funny. She made this picture.

take that IT dept.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bicycle Couriers have it easy these days

Just reading about Anzac soldiers on leave in Ireland during the 1916 Easter rebellion being pushed into active service against the locals.

'One group was ordered onto the roof of Dublin's Trinity College to snipe at Irish dispatch riders delivering messages to the the headquarters of the rebels, whose leaders included Michael Collins...

It was said later that "there can be no doubt that the accurate fire maintained from the college was an important factor in the salvation of the city".'

So there you go, todays bike courier have it easy!

World Stops Spinning

A University of Melbourne Law School Academic speaks out against the current government.

Well, you could knock me over with a feather.

A great op ed piece appeared in The Age today by Colin Fenwick rebutting the lies that appear in Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry IR advertisements.

The dire economic consequences that they atttribute to scrapping the current IR laws actually relate to scrapping all of the reforms since 1993 when the Keating government introduced enterprise bargaining.

The ads should be pulled from television immediately because they are by far the most misleading and inaccurate political advertisements ever shown on Australian television.

I will say that the last sentence is particularly poorly worded, but those who live in glass igloos should not hold ultimate frisbee contests I guess.

Bravo Colin Fenwick, shame on you ACCI.

Belgian Bike Pron 3: My Ridley Scandium

The timboy mothership in all it's glory resting up against the spiritual home of Belgian cycling, the Muur of Gerardsbergen (or Grammont as the Frogs call it). 2007 Ridley Scandium frame, 2006 Chorus and Zonda wheels. The local R.I.P.A team rode these frames as well in sloping as well as traditional varieties.

The frame itself was spot on for Belgian racing. As smooth as you could possibly want for riding the cobbles, and bumpy roads. The extra bit of wheelbase over my previous bike made all the difference in the comfort department.

By the end of my stay the thing was barely holding together however. I replaced brake pads twice, needed new cables at one stage after getting a new set just before I left. The right shifter went to the shitter. I broke my chain. Needed new jockey wheels and cassette etc etc. But the frame itself was marvellous.

The only change I'm making is replacing the Arione with an old rolls. The Arione just bugged me for the entire trip. It was abrasive in all the wrong places, and didn't really have enough padding for the really rough roads. The Arione is fine for beach road cruising in Melbourne, but for the country roads that we race over most of the time it just isn't comfortable enough. The thing that caused me a lot of trouble was the square shape of the nose of the saddle. In the cobbled races this rather sharp edge could really hack you up. so it's back to the rolls.

I've raved about them before, but the Zonda wheels were fantastic. They are going on two years old now and I still haven't broken a spoke. After being thrashed for six weeks the only thing that needed to be done to them was a slight truing of the front wheel. Campy wheels also proved very popular with the locals- who seemed to be especially fond of the cheaper offerings Zondas, Siroccos, Khamsins and the like.

All in all, I would highly recommend getting a Ridley Scandium frame because they're cheap, light, comfortable and bomb proof. They also come in sloping and traditional sizes, so whatever you're preference, they have a style for you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's a sport and a science (Clinchers vs Tubulars)

I just spent the evening using publicly available data from drum tests (verified somewhat under real world conditions by Lennard Zinn) to calculate whether LEW wheels offered superior performance in clincher or tubular configuration. The lessons are surprising and applicable to more than just LEW wheels.

1. Even with a reasonable weight penalty (~130g for LEW), the best clincher is better than the best tubular due to reduced rolling resistance.

2. If you use a tub, use track glue or shellack (even on road wheels) and get someone good to do the gluing. Road glue experiences more hysteresis and hence loses more energy.

3. Tubs get better, due to lower weight, at steeper gradients. However (and I was shocked by this), we are talking beyond 20% before tubs are superior, at least if the weight penalty is kept within a couple of hundred grams.

4. On flats, a clincher with similar aerodynamic properties will almost always be better than a tub, even if the clincher is substantially heavier.

5. The penalty you pay for accelerating rotating mass isn't very high, generally <1W, whereas the penalty you pay for having higher rolling resistance from a tub is >5W if you are at reasonable speed.

Comparisons were done using coefficients of rolling resistance obtained from a clincher Vittoria Open Corsa CX with a normal tube and a Veloflex Carbon with road glue. I assumed a super-light tube when calculating weight penalties as this is for a race day only setup. The Vittoria will perform slightly better with a latex tube. The Veloflex will perform better with track glue or shellack.

Moral of the story: if you are considering shelling out for tubs as race wheels, think twice. You might be better off with a similar clincher wheelset and a really nice set of tires and tubes.

My dream build:

LEW Clinchers - <970g for the pair
Vittoria Open Corsa CX - ~225g each
Superlight latex tubes - ~50 g each

Monday, August 13, 2007

How to get fit...

1. Find warm weather
2. Find good buddies
3. Goof off in front of camera
4. Tempo climbing

Happy Valley Climbing

Ryan is a funny man

The boys tap out the tempo (while the girl sprints ahead to take photos)

I refuse to put on a pain face for Stef over the top of Happy Valley

Attacking on the wrong side of the road. Very Australian.

Jared is the most pro looking of us and consequently only rode half happy so he wouldn't break sweat. Happy Valley is not a long climb.


There are people in this world who walk cats on leashes.

Belgian Bike Porn Episode 2: Merckx Premium with SRAM

In this second instalment, again shot at Lokeren, we see a more quintessential belgian stead. An Aluminium Merckx Premium, with SRAM groupset. This is the bike of the team that Melbournian Dylan Newell is riding for this season.

Some points to note include the deda magic bar and stem, curvilinear seatstays, and sella italia flite saddle. This bike is team issue through and through with no individual flourishes from the rider. BORING.

An interesting aside is that the team have decided to run Dura-Ace cassettes and chains with the SRAM groupset because the innovative sram cassettes with missing cogs were prone to failure in the muddy early season races. (I shouldn't say early season, there were some muddy mid summer races that I took part in where it rained all bloody day). Another flaw with the SRAM groupset is that apparently when you have the chain in the 39-11 or 53-25, and peddle backwards the chain falls off. Weird. But anyway, the new SRAM chain and cassette are not popular with the locals at all.

The thing I love about this bike is that it doesn't even have a cycle computer. Every American I met in Belgium (OK so it was only two) had an SRM or a powertap. Pretty expensive (and unnecessary) kit methinks. That and the prevelence of aluminium- this is a stiff as buggery race bike. No cafe cruising please.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Belgian Bike Porn Episode 1: Predictor Lotto Continental Dynatek

This bike was ridden by a young pro riding for the Predictor Lotto continental team. I was speaking to him for a short time and learnt that he was a track endurance rider who raced the kermises for training purposes. Apparently I'm not the only person who finds kermise racing a bit of a headache, he told me he much prefers track racing, kermises qre too stressful. When I told him I was from Melbourne he said he had been there to the junior world championships which was pretty cool.

Anyway, Belgian, pro-cyclist and a really nice guy- somewhat of a rare combination.

This photo was taken at the Lokeren fest last Wednesday, my last and best race in Belgian. I only finished 30 somethingth, but it could have been 20-26th if I hadn't have hesitated when my team mate Darren Young went up the road. Ah well what could have been!

Some interesting features on the bike include the srm cranks, full carbon dynatek frame, ubiquitous concor light saddle, and full campy record groupset. The large amount of carbon in the finishing kit is pretty rare for Belgium where the locals seem to prefer aluminium bars, stems and even seat posts.

The rider was telling me he loved how the bike rode, but didn't like the fluro euro trash colour scheme. Personally I thought the colour scheme was sweet, but it didn't really match the teams colours which were sunflower yellow and black.

oldie. goodie.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

v. nice

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Emo kids vs hardcore kids

Can you spot the difference?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Why the lack of comments on this blog lately?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fooled by Randomness

I am taking some time whilst overseas to put some more substantial tomes into my literary diet that normally consists of The Economist, The New Yorker and occasional Newspapers. Whilst browsing at readings I came across the title 'Fooled by Randomness', by a Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb develops a number of themes, all of which should be of interest to anyone engaged in public policy, economics, or any profession where randomness exists and rare events can sharply alter outcomes.

Taleb has been sharply critical of people who misunderstand the book and I hope I don't fall into the same traps in attempting to distill some of its wisdom. The overarching theme is that humans are easily fooled by randomness. Examples are brought forth from Taleb's 'day job' as on options trader, betting on rare events. People tend to, in his view, chronically underestimate the incidence of unforeseen catastrophic rare events when pricing securities and other financial instruments. Taleb also rejects the traditional distinction between risk and uncertainty (risk is where the probabilities are known not the outcomes, uncertainty where neither is known). The normal conception of risk may be applicable to casinos, but in the real world (markets, policy, etc) there is always a degree of epistemic doubt. The inductive method is not flawless yet people are prone to generalise from small samples and overestimate their ability to discern risk. Hence (almost) all real world situations should be thought of as involving action under uncertainty.

A further message is to be wary of the ubiquitous normal distribution. Whilst is has broad application and is instructive in certain areas, the assumption of normal distribution, in Taleb's view, led to several of the authors of the black-scholes options trading model (a Nobel prize winner) 'blowing up' when trading for their hedge fund. Taleb reminds us that power law distributions and others - 'fat tailed' distributions - dominate in many areas of life. Neglecting them leads to the danger of being caught off guard by the rare event.

Finally, Taleb guides us through the reasons for our failings in understanding risk. This discussion is multi-faceted. Taleb lambasts the arrogance of the academic, pseudo-mathematical elite in economics and finance with their over-certainty as to risk. Implicit is that part of the explanation for why we are so easily fooled is sociological - academic circles privilege those with a claim to know things. Consequently overconfident, arrogant type A's will rise to the top and reinforce the process. Taleb then incorporates insights and alternative theories from psycholody, neuro-biology, evolutionary neuro-science and behavioural economics. It is an enthralling read - for me it hit home for the first time how a deep understanding of the general pattern of human action is needed in order to understand the failings of economic theory. Market failures are not all interdependent oligopolies and natural monopoly...

The critique develops from anecdotes, philosophical musings and references to past writers and academics. It reads more as a personal essay than an academic work, and Taleb makes it clear that it is intended for broader application than a handbook of economics, statistics or finance (ironically, the book is sometimes criticised for failing to fulfill this purpose, when such purpose was never intended and would have limited the generality and applicability of the work). The recurring remarks on stoic philosophy and the noble life as a response to the risks and vagaries of life will not provide answers for everyone - Taleb is a unique character and his answers are his own. Still, the book is thought provoking and worthwhile and I recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the social sciences, risk management or just coming to terms with the vagaries of modern life.


Recently a journalist was shot in Oakland. The perpetrator was reported to be from a local bakery, run by parts of the black muslim movement that arose from the ideas of Malcolm X but was later disowned by more mainstream groups. The SF Chronicle reported the story with a degree of confusion about whether the central theme was crime or something more epicurean, stating that the bakery was known for its "scrumptious treats and history of violence".

-Foreign Correspondent CM

Saturday, August 04, 2007

new economic theories. i hope Karl Popper is reading.

thanks to some of the warming, full bodied reds that a capital winter necessitates, i've stumbled across the genesis of a new economic school of thought...

the embryo arose from the amount of effort spent by firms forecasting market movements, which is nothing better than a rolling a dice, so i've been thinking that there's got to be a better way.

first, inspired by early episodes of northern exposure and native american wisdom (which is clearly written by someone white, btw) is ZEN ECONOMICS, or ZenEc. the idea is that in order to catch salmon, you must think like a salmon, so it follows that in order to predict market movements, you must think like a market. Now, just exactly how a market thinks is beyond me, as i'm fairly vague, and markets don't stand for that type of thing. however, i warned you that this was the genesis of new schools of thought.

i then started a second bottle of red and eliminated the fledgling school of ZenEc through the establishment Post Colonial Economics, or PoCe. (that's a hard C btw). which rejects the notion that a white person can understand a market's culture, preconceptions and outlook. therefore it is impossible for us to predict market movements by applying our concepts of rationality to a market's. our bounded rationality is too narrow, to understand efficient allocation.

somebody transfer this to the economic thought wikipedia page for me, ta.