Sunday, 26 July 2009

Tour de France 2009 - THE END

The penultimate stage - the climb to the finish at Mont Ventoux - was, as expected, awesome. Grunt, guts, gasping, grabbing and getting blown around.

The visual appeal is absolutely spectacular. This moonscape area above verdant green lower slopes, and yesterday, a monstrous wind of somewhere between 30 - 90kms per hour [depending on the time and area] made for tricky cycling and VERY tough.
As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and yes, the race leaders were very much at the pointy end of the peloton. Some great tactics and some grunty cycling by the top five or six of the cyclists.

It is one hell of a tough climb.

In about an hour, I shall sit and watch the final stage into Paris. A bit of a laissez- faire event until they reach the Champs Eleysee, when the serious racing begins as this is where there is what is effectively a criterium up and down the Champs. A race for the sprinters today.

But yesterday effectively decided the outcome of the GC [ general Classification, or overall winner]. Alberto Contader retained the Yellow Jersey and second was Andy Schleck with Lance Armstrong third.

The 3rd place by Armstrong is absolutely outstanding. To be away for three years at the absolute top level of a sport and then return to a third place in what is one of the toughest of the tough sporting events is awesome. Sure he does not have the climbing power of a Contador or Schleck, but he is a master tactician plus a lot of grunt and guts and that was seen to great advantage on yesterday's stage. However, they do all need to finish today to get a podium finish!!

Contador - who already had won in 2007 - is a great climber. A few people have questioned whether he is "drug free", and there have been issues around that, leading to his team being not invited to compete last year, although he had tested clean. Neither I or you can answer that.

The French have zeroed in on Armstrong AGAIN this year for drug testing, but it seems as if there might be a touch of spite, methinks.

Lets wait ands see on both issues.

But the tour is a fantastic visual spectacle -over all the various stages, which ran live on TV here in Australia each night for the past three weeks. Yesterday, there were estimates of 600 - 700 THOUSAND spectators who were actually on Mont Ventoux for the final ascent. That is some crowd! There was a vast crowd - definitely.

Normal sleeping patterns recommence tomorrow evening.

[photos from two sources wikipedia for Mt Ventoux; google images for the mountain grades]

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Have You Flown Lately??

Flying is a smart way to travel long distances...........or is it? As a long term resident of a reasonably remote region of Australia, flying is about the only option to go anywhere, unless you are prepared for the multi-day long distance road or rail journey. And as for international travel, well, Australia is an island, so it is aircraft or ship, if you leave Australia.

But time is important to one flys. But is it a pleasant experience? Lots of blogs pontificate on the traveller perspective and how terrible the experience was [funny though, not too many positive comments, which seems a little unbalanced], and how obnoxious the fellow traveller can be. Sure, like most people travelling in Business Class or equivalent on long haul flights I find that it is much more pleasant and a real step up from Economy.......but you sure pay for it. I cannot recall it being awful. On short haul flights [ 0.5 - 2.0hrs] economy is ok, but does one need a lot of liquids or food of dubious character anyway? The old adage of liquid in equals liquid out still applies. Just a seat and settle down to read or quietly entain yourself.......or take a train, increasingly common in Europe or Asia now. Point to point times are usually comparable.

This article and the comments are a reasoned set of thoughts on the crappiness of airline travel, and through that, the unthoughtful, inconsiderate and down right rude behaviour of people. Are we all that inadequate that the ability to smile, say please and thank you and generally behave tolerantly and reasonably to one's neighbours, on a aircraft or almost anywhere else has just evaporated in favour of a mindset that screams "me me me me me" at all times, in all circumstances? That behaviour code is called good manners.

Maybe some people should NEVER travel, on any mode, or at any time.

I have always found you get more from people by being pleasant than you ever do by being awful towards them - pleasantness begets the same in response. Do not forget that. This is well written and the comments are worth a read as well.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

1994 WAS a GOOD Year

Australia has a reasonable reputation as a producer of fine wine. Some areas are definitely very good and the SW of Western Australia has an excellent reputation for a distinct style of good, big, long lasting red wines among others.

Cape Mentelle is among the better producers.

I enjoy a good red and recently we indulged in an excellent drop from my own cellar. One that had been around for a while.
With a cool dry season evening [been quite a few recently] and a great steak a decent red wine sure adds to the enjoyment. And it is supposedly good for you too.

It was a great year - 1994!!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Too Close to the Truth??

Cartoon copyright 2009 - Sherman's Lagoon - Jim Toomey.

This is a bit too close to the truth................

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Food Calorie Labels MIGHT Be Wrong!!

Oh dear...........what do I choose?? A nice muffin or a muesli bar, both with the same calories on the label.

The truth might be they are not the same.

Food harder to digest, nominally with the same calories as softer food that is easier to digest, might actually have lower available calories to you, the eater of the food.

Sounds sensible......sometimes.

And it might also explain why you are actually consuming more calories than you think.

The link to a recent article in New Scientist magazine puts it all in perspective

As the pundits are already saying, eat less processed food for better health - but it might also be better for the waistline.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Toto's Africa - Like Never Before!!

Monsoon frogs love rain...........lots of heavy monsoonal rain, storms or a steady tropical shower.

And there is a song to match this figurative metaphor............Toto's Africa, a hit from a few years ago. It has a great beat and evokes Africa very well. really add some topical flavour a recent adaptation is just fabulous. Use the link to have a look yourself. And turn up the volume, while you watch the youtube video. It is an absolutely FANTASTIC 6 minutes of sheer fun!!

Toto's Africa by Perpetuum Jazzile, performed live at Vokal Xtravaganzza 2008 (October 2008) at Lubijana

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

America - from a South East Asian Perspective

Americans think they are loved world wide. This could not be further from the truth. While many might admire the USA and aspire to be in America, many also do not admire or condone things American.

A reasonably recent article - roughly November 2008- lays out a fairly clear agenda of the view from south East Asia.

It is worth a read.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

NT Open Garden Scheme

The Northern Territory has an open garden scheme, which functions during the Dry Season.

The scheme operates with local gardens open to the public - and these gardens are very varied in size, style [or lack of] and tend to represent what may be achieved in local conditions. Garden size is "pocket hankerchief" to several hectares. Most are far removed from the classic stylish gardens of Europe or even temperate Australia. Classic regular form - think of the gardens of Versailles or St Petersburg - is usually absent.

Some gardens have been excellent in 2009...........and some I think ........well, this is a public blog, so enough said.

I was dragged against my choice all of 70kms out of Darwin today to visit an extensive 4 ha garden. Some interesting ideas, and over 4ha the garden was a bit variable, but covered most of the main points of shade, curves and a lead through to something different. Tropical gardens NEED shade......lots of it, to moderate heat and harsh light with mulch to conserve moisture.

They did have about 500 roses.....ONCE......but they are dying off slowly, now down to around 300 and still declining. This is not rose country, you are always struggling, so why try when failure is almost assured - disease seems to get you every time.

But it was not all that awful........a good veggie garden, cool nooks among the trees and it seems, lots of irrigation, obviously from their own bore- so much so in places that the lawn was all sedges from overwatering.

Not one of the top few, even for large extensive gardens, but ok.

Still, I think I could have used my time better. Although the other half insisted I go......oh well.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Creative Commons Licenses

Are you worried about your blog work getting used elsewhere? And getting no credit for it? Someone else pinching a photo or three off Flickr, Picasa, Google images or Webshots? Have you done that yourself when desperate for a suitable photo?

It sure happens. Have a look at : as this system is applied in Australia. Similar systems operate elsewhere around the world too.

This is a system which tries to fairly sustain ownership of creative work - written, scientific, visual, audio and so on to the creator of the work through a lowered level of copyright. If you like, allowing use under certain conditions and purposes provided they give attribution to the original creator of the work, for mostly non-commercial use.

You can join and claim ownership of your work. As easy as putting a license on your blog or website.

It is a sensible and useful option where you can assert ownership of the creative work, without getting all tied up in copyright disputes. Something that has happened recently over a photo that seems to have been used almost everywhere this person's photo appeared, in both commercial and non-commercial uses. Was getting a bit crazy.......yet this system would have overcome almost all of the issues raised by the purported original copyright owner [they never really established that either].

We all seem to use a variety of sources in what is written or created, and this option can offer a degree of fairness to all - creators and users.

Have you any experience with the system? Do you attribute any sources used in your blog or website? Please share your ideas.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Vive Le Tour

Long evenings are now the norm............the Tour de France is in progress and with full live cover on both TV and streaming on the net in Australia, it is providing for some interesting viewing each evening. Some wags say watching a bike race is like watching paint dry - absolutely rivetingly boring! Not so..........tactics, tactics and tactics - plus action.

So far all stages have seen some great racing - a plus for cycling fans.

And as usual, the tv coverage is one of the greatest tourist pluses that France has going for the country. Some fantastic scenery, and superb outside broadcast coverage. THAT is worth a lot to France I am sure.

Australia's "hope" Cadel Evans has been let down by his team - again - so far. Sure, another 2+ weeks to go, but Silence - Lotto need a miracle to achieve any better than they have so far. Tip of the day for Cadel Evans - change to a team that will support YOU, because they sure do not now!

However, do not forget Australia has a few other likely contenders for a high place finish - with Michael Rogers among them.

As many others have already said while voicing their opinions, it is hard to look past Astana as the team to beat in the GC - with the interest being who among them is the superior rider - Armstrong, Kloden, Contador or Leiphimer. All have form as climbers too. But, still early days!! And that itself is part of the fascination about the Tour anyway- the next day. Remember, it is a team event, even though often the focus is on an individual.

Armstrong has shown himself as a very shrewd, wily, observant and clever tactitian in his bike riding. People forget that aspect of riding in a bike is not always about "go fast" - there is a need for all sorts of skills, not to mention that you have to get up each day and do it all again - so mental toughness is also very critical. It seems as if he has lost none of those skills, nor his bike handling, honed over many years in professional cycling. They count A LOT! Watch the team time trial to see how Astana performed - fantastic!

Definitely looking forward to the next 2+ weeks - viva le Tour!!!!!!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Bottled Water to Go - AWAY

New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees has ordered all State Government departments and agencies to stop buying bottled water, following swiftly on plans for a small-town ban.

Bundanoon, in the NSW Southern Highlands, is set to become the first community in Australia to ban the sale of bottled water. And Government agencies seem set to also ban its use, with a partial ban already operating in Ministers' offices.

"We're asking government departments to phase it out unless there is obvious and practical commonsense reasons not to in the event someone doesn't have cool water in a hot environment," said the Premier. He says the move will save taxpayer money and help reduce the impact on the environment of producing and throwing away plastic bottles. A public campaign to discourage the use of bottled water by the wider community is also planned.

Residents in Bundanoon are meanwhile preparing to vote on their town's plan to ban local shops from selling plastic bottles of water at a community meeting tonight. Local businesses in the town of 2,500 people are proposing to replace the bottles with reusables and then offer directions to filtered water fountains that will be installed on the main street, calling it 'Bundy on tap'. It is likely there will be widespread support for the plan.

In Bundanoon "... there is an overwhelming opposition to the marketing scam that is stilled bottled water," with other cities around the world taxing bottled water and putting in place measures similar to those of the NSW Government.

Environmentalist Jon Dee from activist group Do Something believes Bundanoon could be the first town in the world to ban bottled water entirely. "Huge amounts of resources are used to extract, bottle and transport that bottled water, and much of the package ends up as litter or landfill," he said. "Environmentally, it makes no sense and... what we are trying to do in Bundanoon is show that a community can live without single-use bottled water." "If Bundanoon can ban bottled water, many other towns and communities around Australia will also consider their usage of bottled water," he said.

"At the very least, if they don't ban it, then at least they will reduce their usage of it and in doing so, reduce the half-a-billion dollars a year that Australians are spending on bottled water."
I find that living in a hot environment makes drinking water during the day very necessary, especially if working outside, but with most of Australia having very reasonable water supplies produced by local utilities, the use of bottled water is crazy, and VERY expensive. It would be normal to take water from home, at most times, and keep it in a soft cooler, so it is cool to drink - not necessarily very cold. I even freeze it in 3L bottles for work use outside and to do double duty as a freezer brick in the esky. Great option and commonly used. Why buy water??

I have no issue with bottled water in Bali for example where local water supplies are commonly of poor quality for drinking. But in many parts of Asia today, tap water is just fine for drinking, with Singapore and Kuala Lumpur good examples.

Bottled water in Australia is both expensive and dubiously superior to tap water.

Reducing or banning the trendy use of purchased single use bottled water is a good idea!!!!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Crocodile is BACK

As noted a few times, the local newspaper is renowned for the outlandish front page........normally crocodiles, sometimes fishing and the odd "way out there" story of all sorts. The emu starred a few weeks back, for a short few days.

BUT.............crocodiles are back, and they are large. Over 4m long. The same croc was seen some months ago in the same place at Fogg Dam Nature Reserve just south of Darwin. After that it seems to have been absent for a while. A wet season holiday maybe.

This time it was sunning itself on the earthen dam wall. Seen last week, same spot and it is BIG. At least four metres. That is a serious sized crocodile. The photo was taken in March, the first time it appeared at Fogg Dam.

A front page story again............same crocodile!

Quite a few years ago, when living near Fogg Dam I used to exercise our dog by throwing sticks into the dam for the dog to jump in, swim and chase the stick. Was definitely very safe then with no crocodiles around much. NOT the thing to do now.

Parks and Wildlife are warning people not to walk across the dam wall at this time. Understandably. But is is a great walk, with plenty of native flora and fauna to see...............but you do not want to meet a croc, in or out of the water.

Image taken by Brian Hannand March 2009 at Fogg Dam