Sunday, February 7, 2016

Explaining why I ride motorbikes to non-riders

Hello all,

I am about to attempt the hardest, most challenging and most complex written piece in my existence. Yes, it's going to be even harder than composing that intricate essay about the complexities of authoritarian versus facilitating approaches in the context of 21st century educational leadership. It's even going to be harder than writing that poem for my wedding speech. But I must do it. It has to be done. It will be done.

Quite a while ago I started riding motorcycles. I was in my mid 20s and up until that point in my life, I had never ridden. My mum, as beautiful and wonderful that she is, would never let me ride a bike while I was little (you know, seventeen-ish little) and if she had her way today, she'd stop me in a second. But she doesn't, because that's how awesome she is. Against the wishes of everyone around me, it would have appeared that one day I just decided to ride and that was that. But this is not so.

As I was growing up, sneakily and cruelly in some respects, I was surrounded by bikes. My grandad was my first bike hero. He pretty much only ever rode scooters as far as I know. Yes, he had a three-wheeled Eastern Block contraption probably made in the deep deep south west of Russia that kind of resembled a car, but almost every memory I have of him included that little scooter which he rode daily. It was a little step-through (where you can put your feet on a platform) if my memory serves me right, a kick start (no key, but an animated kick downwards on a lever) and probably two stroke (loud as f!@k). He pretty much rode it till his last day on this planet.
How I remember the red and white bike

At about this time in Budapest, where we lived in the mid 80s, my dad as I recall somehow got a hold of a red and white Marlboro colours racing bike. I have a vivid memory of this bike, all shiny and new, and it revved hard, hard enough to leave an impression on me. I think it was a two stroke too, a lot of bikes were back then. I remember seeing someone ride it in the street where we lived and it was a wonderful magical thing to see amongst the Trabants, Ladas, Wartburgs and Skodas of the time.

So that was the early memories. Unfortunately I do not remember ever riding on these two bikes. The next time I remember vividly having anything to do with bikes was when we moved to Australia and my dad and his mate got road/dirt bikes. Thomas and Dad would takes these bikes all over the place, he needed it for work while we cruised around in our green Kingswood, it was basically the only thing we could afford as a second vehicle. Now and again he would take us on this bike for a little spin up and down the street, no helmets, no safety gear, just a bit of a squirt to get my sister and I all excited to be on a bike. And excited we were rallying him to go faster and faster up the little hill, feeling the wind in our hair and the sound of the little 175 engine pushing along.

Then the bikes stopped. Dad and Thomas sold theirs, no one we knew had bikes and as school and life changed for a teenager like me, bikes were not part of the scene, until one day I saw a motorbike on the cover of a magazine in the newsagent. Before the days of the internet the only source of seeing motorbikes was either glimpses of bikes on the road or in magazines at newsagents. I desperately flicked through the pages of many a magazine with the discouraging eyes of the shop attendant, as I wasn't about to spend eight dollars on a mag every month or so; I hardly had any pocket money anyway. One day though, I had to have the magazine, no matter what.

On the cover was a bike I had never seen before. It was round and smooth, you could see the trellis frame and it was very very shinny, without having any fairings (plastic bits). It had an old-school round headlight, but it was new. You could see the whole engine, the twin cylinders proudly standing at attention and all the pipes and bits and pieces tucked in there nicely. It was love at first sight. The bike? The award-winning Italian-designed Ducati Monster M900.

Keeping in mind I knew nothing about bikes, I knew I liked this, so I bought the mag, the only bike mag I had ever bought. I took it home, read the article, drooled over the pictures and when all was said and done, there were three pictures of this Ducati on my bedroom wall next to my other dream machines, a Corvette Stingray and a Lamborghini Countach. My love affair began.

I even grew my hair long after seeing this movie.
Then for the next little while, again, nothing much happened with me and bikes, until 1996. At the time (and perhaps still), my favourite movie was The Crow and if you haven't seen it, it's not much of a movie now, but it was Brendon Lee's last where he was actually killed on set and the soundtrack featured Nine Inch Nails amongst other bands, so this goth-classic action flick stole my heart a few years earlier. In 1996, a sequel was to be released and lo and behold, The Crow - City of Angels was a must see for me. Not only was Vincent Perez my man-crush, but what bike do you think popped up in this movie? Yep, a dirty, black, dark-looking throaty Ducati Monster. It got a bit of airplay too and instantly my mind went back to those pictures in my room. Then and there, I knew I was going to have one one day.

Fast forward quite a moons and as the planets aligned nicely about seven years later, after Uni finished and I had the finances, it was time to get my licence. By this stage, I was lusting after a Kawasaki ZR-7, a bike that was renowned for modifying, had Kawasaki reliability and were becoming rather cheap second hand by this stage. Having never ridden a bike before, after one private lesson and a weekend with QRIDE, I was ready to go.

I was adamant that a ZR-7 was mine. I found one, at the right price so I took it for a spin. Exactly as I had thought, beautiful smooth bike to ride. When I took it back to the shop, I thought I'd better ride a few more bikes, just to be sure. Off I went to the next dealer where I rode a Hyosung GT650, another naked that was new on the scene and a bargain to buy brand new. In fact, it would have been the same price as the ZR-7 second hand. This bike felt very different. It was clunky and much rougher and, perhaps because it was brand new and a "no name" bike from Korea, I gave it a miss.

I had one more bike to try that day. Yep, you guessed it, there was a Ducati dealership I have driven past hundreds of times and even though it was way out of my budget, I had to at least ride a Monster, just to compare. In I waltzed and the dealer very quickly spun me a story of one that they had out the back, but that if I ride it, I will love it so much that I will buy it. I distinctly remembering thinking what a bullshit sales pitch, I was never easily swayed by salesmen and it wasn't about to happen now. Anyway, out rolled a Ducati Monster 620ie. It had high slung carbon fibre exhausts and was canary yellow. The colour did nothing for me, but those exhausts definitely got my attention.

My first love (I mean bike)
The dude fired up the engine and pretty much as soon as I heard that deep distinct Ducati rumble, it was all over. I had to have it, even before I rode it. Don't tell me how much it is, I know you have finance, TAKE MY MONEY! TAKE IT NOW!!!! So in this moment, just consider what I have written so far. Consider that this is the bike I have lusted after, the pictures up on my wall, the bike in the movie, the thirst for a motorbike at this point in my life. As I test rode it I was so overwhelmed, I can't even describe it. I signed up (with 23% finance) and paid way too much for a second hand bike, but my care-factor was less than zero.    

My mates at the time also owned bikes and there was one year where we rode on the weekends along the twisty roads behind Brisbane with not a care in the world. More on this later. Since this time, I have owned a number of bikes. I sold my love, then bought a Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird, then back to a 620 monster, onto a scooter and currently I own three cheap Hyosungs.

Enough about history, the aim of this article is to explain why riding is an important, no, let's use a different word, a VITAL, part of my life.

I have three beautiful kids, a very understanding wife (who is also beautiful) and a family around me who I love very much. Every time I go out for a ride, I think about these things:

- I love them very much.
- I should be spending time with them.
- I need to be safe, but also enjoy the ride.
- QRIDE taught me many things.

Without fail, I think these things. But before I go riding, before I think about the above, I also think about these things:

- At work, I have to do A, B, C, D....
- At home, I have to work on A, B, C, D, E....
- I have certain stresses, not big stresses, but none the less, stuff I think about.
- I am getting older.
- What have I done with my life? Etc. etc.

Anyway, I think you get the idea. But here is the catch. When I get on my bike, I think about:

- Nothing. Except...
- OMG, this thing sounds awesome.
- If I shift my weight a little bit further and counter-steer, this corner will be a breeze.
- Looking for optimal gear to take corner, balancing front and rear brakes with engine break.
- Road conditions perfect right now. The road is smooth and cambered just right.
- No one can see me, no one can see me, no one can see me.
- I'm so cool right now.
- Don't twist too hard, second gear can land you in jail.
- Not a race track. Still not a race track. Crap, it started looking like a race track.
- OMG, this thing sounds awesome.

All of 'regular life thinking' vanishes. Any pressures, thoughts whatever I had buzzing through my head before I put on the helmet, disappears. In a way I imagine it's my own personal version of reaching what Buddhists call enlightenment. It's the off-switch to boredom and repetitive Groundhog days, and the on-switch to something different, something cool. There are moments when I'm in the zone; cruising by myself, the sun just peeking through the canopy, the road twisting ever so perfectly, the engine left in a slightly lower gear to hear the deeper rumble of the v-twin. I lean into the corner, shifting my head and body slightly towards the apex, the bike responds like a well trained dog asked to roll over and just a slight twist of the throttle to accelerate through the corner delivers the medicine I need. A smile under my helmet can not be seen by anyone, my heart relaxes just that little and I'm at peace with the world. Things go into slow motion. The engine picks up the revs, and I see a rider down the road a bit. I pick up pace, lean slightly more, a bit more aggressive on the gears, more throttle to aid the cause. Within a dozen or so corners I've caught up and settle into the pace. If it takes my fancy I'll dive past or just sit there focusing on my lines. We get to the cafe stop where a dozen riders who have gone through similar thought processes are sipping cappuccinos and as I dismount, even on my Hyosung, a rider comes up to me and makes my day by saying he could have sworn that my bike was a Ducati coming up the range.

Then there are the other times, like riding through the city, revving our bikes and causing pseudo-mischief, or the mate who always does a wheelie from the lights or the one that turns my bike off via the kill switch when I'm not expecting. We ride, we eat, we laugh, we talk shit and put each others' bikes down, or talk them up, it's all a bit of fun; a kind of legal drug.

I hope you understand.

Friday, November 27, 2015

What music means to children of the 90s and why Gen Z will never understand

Just tonight in the throws of settling my four and five-year-old children to bed, I did what most responsible parents do. I put on a few dubstep songs. There's nothing quite like a Skrillex song to settle young kids I find. After defusing the disapproving looks and comments from my darling wife, I wanted to start calming the mood for real, so I changed the beat to a bit of Chemical Brothers. Soon enough it was way past bed time and I started to search for something a bit more soothing.
   I'm not too sure why the next thing happened. You see, my brain sometimes likes to take me to places I haven't been to for a while, just to jog the memories, to reach deep deep down into the bucket and pull something out that reinvigorates my life and reminds me how awesome it was to be young.  On this particular occasion we (my brain and I) went back to a time, in 1998, when I had some trouble getting to sleep for quite some time during my late adolescents. Nothing drastic, but it went on for quite some time. Luckily I found a solution that did the trick.
   In 1996, there was this little band called Pearl Jam who released their fourth album simply called No Code. For those of you unfamiliar with the band, Pearl Jam was born in the early 90s and along with the likes of Nirvana and Soundgarden, created the sounds and melodies of what was to become the golden age of grunge mainly out of Seattle. They ushered in a rock-based, heavy guitar and drum driven alternative to the mainstream pop music of the time. While the conforming majority of the world was listening intently to Ace of Base, Toni Braxton, Spice Girls and Savage Garden, a growing minority began reaching out for new alternative sounds and grunge provided. Ripped shorts and shirts, slurred lyrics, fast drums and guitar riffs akin to yelling, the sound was raw, edgy, new, and for me, heaven to my ears.
   Pearl Jam had released three albums prior to No Code. Ten was their first album which was followed up by Vitalogy and Vs, all exceptionally brilliant, critically acclaimed albums showcasing the band's talents and catering very nicely to the angst-driven teenagers craving something different. Around came 1996 and No Code was released mid way through the year.
   I know it's cliched, but I still remember the day like it was yesterday. We were in Year 11 Art and as luck would have it, we had an awesome art teacher who, while we were working on our masterpieces, always put the radio on for us to enjoy some tunes. Among the usual fare, I suddenly heard something unfamiliar to my ears. Now, I knew Pearl Jam was about to release a new album and as soon as I heard Eddie start singing, I just knew that this was it. But funnily, this song was not the Pearl Jam I knew. The song was Who You Are, the first of what was to become three songs released from the album as singles.
   Who You Are was a massive move away from the sound of the first two albums. While previously the music was mainly thrashy and pure rock, this song was mellow, almost tribal. A more 'sensible' Pearl Jam. Later I found out that there were a lot of disgruntled fans out there who did not approve. I however, loved every second of it.
   It's hard to explain the effect this had on a 17 year old boy in 1996. Music was very different back then and in particular the way we consumed music might as well have been from a different planet. My family watched 'Rage' religiously in those days, an Australian music program with a count down type of Top 50 vibe. I grew up with Rage as did many many Aussies. But there was an issue. Rage relied on music videos and Pearl Jam wasn't, and continue to not be, too fussed at making video clips to go with their awesome songs. As such, Pearl Jam remained the sole domain of radio and CDs. So that faithful afternoon when Pearl Jam came on in that art class, a new song, it was like winning the lottery. I'm not sure my peers took much notice, but I was smiling like a Cheshire cat, absorbing the sounds, the melody, the vibe of this new sound from my favourite band.
    Within a few days the album was released and I couldn't wait to get down to my local music shop. There was a HMV (music store) at a shopping center around half an hour's drive from my house and when my mum went shopping, I had a chance to sneak away for half an hour or so. Into HMV I went and asked for No Code to be put onto the listening post. Please. Back in those day, before you purchased a CD, you could ask for the store to put it into a player and you would stand next to the wall with a hard-mounted boxy contraption where you could fast forward, rewind, skip forward and back for the CD of your request. Countless hours were spent at these listening posts by my friends and I as we sampled the good and bad of music. This was the time when Discmans (which played CDs) were starting to replace walkmans (cassettes) and most CDs had to be taken home and played on massive boom boxes or stereo players. That half an hour was not enough of course to finish the album so I got out my wallet. Take my money.
   In effect, music stores to me were like going on an expedition into the unknown. It's difficult to explain the excitement for example when in a 'record store' in Brisbane's CBD I found an alternative American version to Nine Inch Nails's Down the Spiral, or listening to experimental jungle tunes almost popping the headphones with its deep bass. No MP3s, no iPhones, no downloads.
   I digress. No Code was also responsible for one other significant moment in my life which resulted in another song, the second one release from that album becoming my favourite song of all time. Hail Hail was released as a way to perhaps recoup some of the lost fans after Who You Are and saw a return to the much more rock style we came to expect from the band. In Australia however, this song saw very little radio time and only reached No.31 on the charts, but, again, because of the no video clip, we never really got to 'see' this song.
   One night at a party though, this was all about to change. It was about midnight and, as 16/17 year olds do, we were getting drunk and speaking shit. I had laid down in front of the tv, my head spinning from the Southern Comfort. David Letterman was on and lo and behold, Pearl Jam were the special guests! They belted out Hail Hail, Eddie at his usual weird self, the band rocking hard and making the live performance sound even better than the studio version. This is one of those memories that will stay with me forever. Midnight, drunk, watching my favourite band perform live on tv at a party, at a time when music from Pearl Jam on television was like stumbling across a four leaf clover. At Antarctica.
   So you could say that this album had a profound influence on me as a teenager growing up. As Pearl Jam changed their sound, so did I as a human being. We became a little bit older, wiser, more self-reflective and experiential. By the time Yield was released a few years later in 1998, I had become a uni student and again, that album became the soundtrack to that part of my life, although a new favourite also came along which suited my attitudes at the time, but that's another story.
   To this day I sometimes bump into other Pearl Jam fans, you know, people around my age who remember these years as fondly as I do. Every time, EVERY TIME, the obligatory question of which album is my favourite comes up. I always know their answer. If they're slightly older, they'll say Ten, but the most common answer is Vitalogy, closely followed by Vs. When I then tell them mine is No Code their jaw drops in amazement. I proceed to inform that my second is Yield and they almost spit at me in disbelief.  
   So back to tonight. No Code has a number of slower songs which helped me to get to sleep and I wanted to play some of these for my little darlings to settle them. What I used to do is put on my CD and program in Sometimes, Who You Are, Off He Goes, I'm Open and Around the Bend. I'd put these onto infinite loop but most of the time I would be asleep by I'm Open. Tonight, I flicked on the YouTube app on my smart television, typed in one of those songs and hit play. Times have changed. Needless to say, it had the desired effect.
  Although I'm trying, I think it's difficult to explain the effect music had on me and continues to have on all of us. It means so many different things to so many different people. In years from now, someone might be writing a similar piece on Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Will their experience be similar? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Music is now so accessible, so out there that it's hard to keep up with it all. There are too many songs, mixed in cross-genres and catering for so many diverse tastes that the mind boggles. If I want to listen to Tay Tay, I can get all her songs in a few key strokes. There is no searching in record stores, no moments of incidentally hearing a song for the first time on radio and waiting ages to hear it again. Unfortunately the main element that Gen Z will miss out on is the influence of a new clearly defined genre of their time. For me and those in their mid 30s, it was grunge if you so chose, but what is it for these youngens? I would like to stay dubstep, but I have met so many who are opposed that it can't be it. Pop and rap is not new. So in some sense, I feel really sad for the current generation of teenagers, the ones who will not have the chance to taste the introduction of a new genre of music to attach these great memories.
   One thing is for sure, music is a great way to reminisce. We will all have those great songs which we turn to for fond memories of youth.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Well well well....

It's been approximately two months since I posted my video and wrote a quick post to indicate to you,that I'm going to follow the fortunes of this video.

I had a feeling it was going to do OK. The Tab A had only just been released and hadn't received a lot of media coverage for some unknown reason. Here in Australia at least, it was however filling up the brick and mortar shelves and hence my review came probably at the right time for this budget, yet kind of awesome device. This video is by far my most successful one. The views are climbing steadily and I've even had a little bit of dialogue to go with it in the comments. Now the question is, how long wil the views continue to rise? I've done a couple of "support videos" with back links, so we'll see how it progresses.

Views: 1962

Friday, July 10, 2015

The pain of riding the MS Brissie to Bay 2015

It was a beautiful Sunday morning when I woke up for my first Brissie to Bay 100km ride. In fact it wasn't beautiful at all as at 4am it was still pitch black outside, it was hard to see and I couldn't tell what sort of a day it was going to be. It felt good anyway.

I had been a good boy. I went to bed early. 'It will help' I said to myself; a rested body is a fit body. And being the positive peppy person that I am, I filled my brain with a lot of positive get-me-through-the-day thoughts. Like "It's going to be eeeeasy" and "It's going to be awesome fun" and "The weather forecast was for a very nice day". At least that last one turned out to be absolutely spot on, as the 2015 edition of the race was held in near perfect conditions, the sort of day Brisbane is famous for.

Preparations were good, except for the training.
Anyway, the alarm bell had gone off and I was up and going. Kissed my wife goodbye, she said some semi-reassuring thing that I can not quite remember now but was along the lines of "...take it easy it will be fine honey, he he he, you're going to die..." I hopped into my car, checked I had everything and, since this was the forth time I had done this check, left with the feeling that today was indeed going to be fun and, quite possibly, an easy weekend ride. Little did I know the pain, torture and humiliation that lay ahead on the bitumen.

So how did you get into this predicament I hear you ask? In January, I had started riding. I went for a short hilly ride with some friends and after being left puffing like an old chimney half way through after the first massive hill, I knew I had to do something to get in shape, so I upgraded to a cheap racer and started riding. I was going well and within three to four weeks, I was feeling great, had dropped a few kilos and even did a 30km ride quite comfortably. Then one day a Facebook friend dropped the ad for the MS Brissie to Bay and having another friend who had ridden it the previous year, I was signed up so quickly, I didn't exactly think through the consequences. 'Extra motivation' might have been my line of thinking. I was riding well, I could knock over 100km no worries, I could do anything. Tour de France, look out!!!

The 'raising money' part was, to be honest, a bit painful. I had planned to just donate a 50 or something. Then the emails started. A phone call even from a lovely young lass at MS QLD. I felt pressured; kind of a bummer really. But anyway, the guilt got to me and I did the only thing I could think of and reached out to Facebook. I started spamming my friends and I'm sure that I have now been unfollowed by half of the planet. Spam, spam and more spam. I tried to be creative with my spam and took the line of "If you want to support my suffering...." which I think did the trick somewhat. I ended up raising $310 and a massive thank you to my Facebook peeps for donating.

When I arrived at dawn at Musgrave Park at West End, I knew parking would be at a premium so I did the secure parking thing to avoid a time delay. They said to be there at least 30 minutes early, but I needn't had bothered since there was no check-in, or regulations, or bike checks, or anything really if you pre-registered. I walked around a bit, tried to get in touch with the only other rider I knew would be there (hello Vicki) but to no avail and duly joined the thousands lining up for the 100km event. Being the social person I am, I struck up conversation with John and Jarred, both of whom were seasoned riders. This reduced my nerves from the very little that I had, down to zero. I distinctly remember Jared saying that this will be "three 30km rides" for him, meaning he will take a break at both of the designated stops along the way, roughly splitting the track into three. This sounded like a splendid idea and that thought should have stayed in my mind a little longer.

At the start.
 And we're off! After about 30 minutes of waiting for the first few waves of corporate sponsored riders to depart, we rolled down the hill with no incidents, the sound of cleats clicking in by the hundreds music to the ears. The first few kms riding out through Wooloongabba heading west gave me the feeling that this was going to be a long day. I was on a good pace, but also puffing a little and feeling a touch stiff. By the time we got out to Bulimba, a few small hills reminded me that this wasn't a race and to just take it easy, take it REAL easy. But at the same time, the warm-blooded ex-athelte in me wanted to do well. I had initially planned to average 25km/hour, finish in 4 hours. On my training rides I had been averaging 27km/h. From Bulimba, I was on a high until the 55km mark. In fact, I was feeling so good, I missed the first and the second break stops. The legs were going good and I feared stopping might mean the start of "THE PAIN".

One thing that did put a slight dampener on proceedings was getting past by riders; many many riders. Even now, when I still felt quite good, there was nothing more demoralising that being passed by a group of riders on bikes worth more than my car, having a chat about their favourite restaurant or how their last business meeting went on Thursday. But that was nothing to what happened later when I was passed by a dude on a mountain bike. Yep a mountain bike. Any confidence I had until that point; gone.  

Roughly half way I ran out of legs. Fatigue started setting in, but I could control the intensity and dropped it back a touch until I recovered and then upped it again. This was working great until about 3km after I stopped to say hello to my cheer squad. I was feeling great when I stopped, this was going to be easy. About 3km later, the first of many (and sometimes continuous) cramps hit me, going up a small climb. The left quads, right at the medial insertion at the knee. I still recall seeing the bulge where it tightened up enough for it to be visual. This first one dissipated rather quickly but I knew that little warning lay the road for the rest of the ride.

At the cheer-squad stop: happy times. 
These little cramps continued for quite some time up until we were well on the way back near Capalaba. It was around here that things got more serious, as a motorway somewhere near here was to be my body's final undoing. This section of the track was an up and down and up and down torture test (more on torture later). Both my quads and my right gastrocnemius decided to say enough is enough. In fact, I think my gastroc actually might have had a little tear, I still felt tightness here for about a week and a half afterwards. I struggled through this section, on the highest gear I could possibly find. It was here that humiliating experience number thirty three occurred, as I was passed by waves and waves of riders who had in fact had stopped at the rest stops and were fresh enough to wizz by. In retrospect, this not being a race and all, the rest stops might have been a clever idea. Hind-sigh: wonderful.

I was determined to not stop again if I didn't have to and when my cheer squad greeted me again at Chandler, I told them I don't want to stop. Really I could have, because after this point, I still stopped at least another 10 times (and at what felt like hundreds of lights heading back into the city), but at that point it seemed like the right thing to do. Sorry cheer squad. Just after this section I stopped for the first time since my one stop so far to stretch out the cramps and it worked to some extent which lifted my spirit a little. The course looked nice and flat on the map on the website, but reality hit when you see that a 10 metre rise in elevation is enough to blow the legs out when you're fatigued. So I struggled through the last 40km, stopping when I felt I needed to, I even had a riding buddy, William whoapart from also sharing my paing with his own cramps, kept me company for about 20km. He was a champ to keep my spirits up and we chatted casually to pass the kms, all the while being passed by hordes of riders with slight grins on their faces. But eventually even he had to leave me at the side after too many breaks and that was the experience of speaking to a total stranger, sharing a small life-experience together, never to meet again no doubt.

Towards the end of the course the organisers decided that a bit of sadistic torturing was in order and they made us ride up a coupe of massive hills at Highgate Hill. I know this area well as I lived here for a short time when I was at Uni, but the optimist in me kept saying, no they won't make you do that, they'll bypass it for a nice flat West End finish, but alas, no. No indeed. By this point, I was on struggle street, I needed to finish, I needed this to be over. The fatigue in the legs were severe, my lungs were fine because the legs wouldn't go, but the cramps kept on coming, sometimes holding me prisoner for minutes on end. If I tried to stop spinning with one leg extended, BAM, cramp. So I had to try to have both legs bent as I was rolling which was kind of awkward but was the only way and when possible, had to keep spinning. When we hit the Highgate Hill hills, I had had enough. I got off, pushed it up. Rode a bit to the next hill, got off, pushed it up. By this stage the shorter route riders were on the same course and the comments I heard from them about the ascends, while being explicit laden and broadly negative, gave me a boost somehow. I had done 95 while they were only onto 45 or 15. He he superior (kind of). Not quite sure how to explain. Anyway, I struggled through, and when I saw Musgrave Park, a smile came over my face; it's almost finished. I'm there! The end is here! I rode through the finish line, people clapping and cheering, my name was announced out load over the speakers, I had done it, I survived. I had a little emotional moment at the end and I now know why people who finish marathons and ironmans sometimes break down and cry at the end. For me this was a massive achievement, I felt something, perhaps the feeling that comes with accomplishment in the face of pain and suffering that can only come when you ride 100km without any training.
Finished. OMG

I had ridden the course in just under 5 hours, which is a testament to how fast I must have been going at the start to then have all those breaks and still finish in what I think was a reasonable time. My cheer squad eventually made it to the park and I knew they were proud of me. And the next day, I could walk and by Wednesday I was running around lightly on the courts at school. It was a great experience, learning experience, an experience of pain like I had never felt before but also an experience to know that I had achieved something I set out to do. Maybe I'll try again next year, who knows.        



Let's follow this video

So I've recently decided to continue my reviewing things again on YouTube, as well as some other random videos that takes my fancy. I'm aiming for one video per day, but I doubt I will be able to keep it up. Anyway, I'm giving it a go. So my second video back is about my Samsung Galaxy Tab A, the 9.7 inch one with the S Pen. Here it is:


I uploaded it last night, put it on Facebook. Woke up this morning and KAPOOW! No views. Yep, not one single view. So I'm going to just track what happens, change a few things perhaps, play with tags etc. and see if I can learn a thing or two. 

So a few points:
- It's just a basic video, no editing, second take. Decided not to 'waste time' editing out the gaps, waffle and"uuum's" but I think it turned out OK. 
- The thumbnail is basically what you see on the video, totally relevant but not 'eye-grabbingly delicious'.
- I's a bit lengthy.
- The focus was off for quite a bit of the video at the start.

Will try to keep you updated as I go. 

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Monday, January 13, 2014


So recently I started reviewing items that I have purchased from eBay; you know, simple things like smartphone screen covers and cheap watches and a bunch of other stuff that I have needed and have been able to wait patiently for sometimes over a month to receive. I am going to start posting those things which I think are worthy of your dollars and I'm going to start with this oxymeter/oximeter (depending on how you prefer to spell it). Here is the review:

I paid $25.95 on eBay, but I see that they are actually available at Amazon for under $25 (and free shipping if you buy something else and the total is over $35).

If you've ever needed one of these and can wait a little while for delivery, Amazon might be the way to go.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Monday, August 12, 2013

Andy's Mobile Phone History

I was reminiscing this afternoon about how far we have come in the technology world and so I reflected on a piece of technology close to my heart; my mobile phones.

I've gone back, way back, and have tried to find every single model I've ever owned. It was quite difficult actually; who knew there were so many variations, but alas, I think I have nailed it.

Here they are:

Circa 1994: Ericsson GA628
Very early on, Mum wanted my sister and I to have mobiles for security, so we ended up with these relative bricks. I still remember having a belt pocket holder, it was so cool to have a mobile hanging off your belt, but this brick was a little bit too heavy for that and it pulled half my pants down as it dangled freely. Regardless, this particular model got the ball rolling. I distinctly remember that it was so awesome to have an interchangeable plate behind the numbers. Individuality plus!

Death: Replaced after battery pack ended it's life and didn't hold charge, became unusable.

Circa 1999: Ericsson T28s
This little Ericsson was my first and last "flip phone". It was so much smaller and thinner than the GA628 and it was very much a 'current' phone for the time. The voice clarity was superb.  The shark fin antenna was a much better option over the flimsy antennas on many phones at the time. The flip did eventually stop closing properly and very soon it broke off. From memory, my mate and I bought these as a "2 for 1" deal from Brisbane Car Sound, who used to advertise everywhere with their cheap Telstra deals (although you had to go through their own call centre, which was kind of really annoying). 

Death: Flip part broke in drop.

2003: Nokia 3595
This replaced the broken Ericsson. It was the first phone that I researched on the internet and it was my stable friend for a long time. The buttons, both the top section and the bottom, were one piece silicon like items which made tapping the numbers annoying. BUT, notably, this was my first phone with a  COLOUR SCREEN! It was simply amazing! Also, to be able to choose colours and replace the whole front plate with a different colour made this a very cool Nokia. It was as solid as a rock, great battery life and quite affordable.

Death: Replaced, was in storage for a while (could perhaps still be).

2007: Motorola F3
For a very short time, I owed this poor excuse for a phone. A friend of mine had one, I thought it was cool, it was very cheap ($90 brand new) and I was attracted to the simplicity. At the time, people around me were starting to get cool Nokias so I actually went back to my Nokia 3595 after a few months of using this. It had the worst interface of any phone I've ever used, BUT, was so thin that the novelty of that alone made me get one. 

Death: Not quite sure what happened to this. Had it in storage for a while. Almost new condition. 

2008: HTC Touch Diamond 
I had spoken to a friend of mine who continually raved on and on about his new Nokia in 2007, especially the fact that it has a camera (that's you AB). This was of course awesome. At that time, I distinctly remember saying to him that the day they release a mobile, with a camera, emailing and a GPS, I'd buy one. Along came the Touch Diamond, which was basically one of the first 'smartphones' to hit the market. Since I said I'd buy one of these super expensive devices, I did (as my govy school phone...he he he).

This phone was a quantum leap in terms of technology. It was, and probably continues to be, the most stylish mobile device I have ever owned (the back had this diamond-angled like edgy finish). It had a famously laggy interface, which meant a lot of waiting and waiting and stuttery functionality, but it did an awesome amount of things which phones up to that point had rarely done before. It had a shocking battery and it was the first phone that needed charging daily, rather than the once weekly I was used to prior; took a while to get used to this continual plugging in. First phone with email, but I did not have data activated on it. I had to use WiFi or plug it in to get some of this functionality.  

Death: Accidental toilet swim rendered it almost unusable. Left it at the school for the next principal.
Buy one: You can still buy one of these baby's brand new here!

Late 2010: HTC Desire G7
My first foray into expensive smartphones came via this 2010 award winning HTC. I was initially hesitant to buy a HTC again after the disastrous battery life of the Touch Diamond, but the "best phone" award sealed the deal over the iPhone for me (plus I had an iPhone simultaneously as my work mobile). 

This phone introduced me to the wonderful world of Android. Much much better than the Touch Diamond, it did all the things that phone did, but much better and with a better battery life. So as an example I could use the GPS for more than 5 minutes and still have decent charge. It also made using mobile data a reality to browse etc. The camera too was much improvement and useable.

Death: Still going strong; hand me down to my wife.  
Buy one: Still for sale via Amazon

Early 2011: iPhone 4
I have been very fortunate to compare an Android phone to an iPhone throughout 2011 and 2012. This was, and continues to be, my work phone. It has a beautiful glass-like backing, which unfortunately cracked while it was getting inscribed for work, and then totally shattered when one of my students dropped it while we were at camp. Alas, it still works fine. This phone had the famous 'grip of death' issue, which is noticeable with virtually any cover on the phone and it continues to be very finicky with reception where I work.

In all honesty, it's an Apple iPhone; great product, wonderful clean apps, great battery management and simple to use.

Buy one: Surprisingly great value at under $200 now!

May 2013: Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Which brings us to my current baby. Everything the HTC Desire was, but again, just so much better. I had a moral dilemma of choosing between an iPhone 5 and this; I'm glad I went with the Note 2. It's large screen is great, although I had been wishing to get a 7 inch tablet device for a phone, but I jumped the gun about 4 months early as I see they are finally here in Australia. Nonetheless, I am in love with this phone. Android is even better, a much better camera (again) and the inbuilt stylus with SWYPE just blows my mind (why iPhone users persist with continual tapping is beyond me). The large screen is 'just right' and the awesome new generation hardware keeps everything ticking along nicely. Just this week, my wife introduced me to NFC tags; the future is here my friends.

It's on a two year contract with Telstra, so I'll have this as my bff for a while. What will the future bring? I dare say the trend for phablets will continue and I will end up with a 7 inch device with voice, but who knows, maybe voice will die a slow death soon and we'll all be exclusively Skype-ing and FaceTime-ing on our devices. Also, Google Glass has a lot of potential in my eyes; two years is a long time in tech land.

Buy One: Prices are dropping slowly for a brilliant smartphone.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Monday, October 26, 2009

Pearl Jam - Eddie is a legend! Don't ever forget it!!!!!

How can you not like this???? If you don't, perhaps it's time you moved into a retirement village!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sarah Blasko - Cool Aussie chick...No turning back!

I like this song...and as you are probably aware by now, I like repetitive, mundane style songs...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No one is laughing at God....

Regina..simple, elegant, arty and alternative...AND, this puts an end to the sausage fest that is my taste in music...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grand Designs - THE BEST TV ON EARTH!

Grand Designs is my favourite TV show. Actually, I can pretty safely say it's my favourite TV show of all time. Kevin is such an interesting host, no mucking around, great insights and very entertaining. The houses are unique, so are the people and I can't get enough of it...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Congratulations to Nirvana!!!

Triple J Hottest 100 of all time!!! I grew up with this song, as did many of you....enjoy my favourite version. And if you're interested in the other 99, here it is.