Archives for the month of: May, 2014

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Metal. There are so many metal objects that I photograph on my travels that this was difficult to trim down to a select group of 10. So my criteria was cool, unique and very metal.

My first photo is from my home country, but not my home city. This is the Opera House in Melbourne which always gets overlooked by the Sydney Opera House (and rightly so!). Its metal spire is fantastic and tall. I love its geometry.


Going to North America, I remember my trip to visit my brother in Toronto where I took my son for a walk in his pram to the Distillery District where I found this rusting hulk of a truck. I love the character.


Still in North America, but across the Southern border is the fabulous New York City where there is metal everywhere. This sculpture in front of the UN Building says a lot as to what the true purpose of the UN is. Maybe the Security Council should have this sculpture placed right in its centre. I love its message.


Washington DC is the home of the Smithsonian Institute and in my humble opinion the best museum in the world is the Air and Space Museum. My jaw dropped when I entered the foyer and looked up. The Bell X-1, SpaceShipOne, and the magnificent North American X-15. I love its speed… anyone say Mach 6.7!


In Asia, on one of my numerous trips to Singapore I spied my dream car parked out the front of my hotel. I wanted to take it for a spin, but the owner took the keys. The McLaren MP4-12C is a magnificent beast made of exotic metals (and some carbon fibre no doubt). I love McLaren orange.


I have posted this photo from Tokyo, Japan before. I don’t know the name of the building other than the writing that is on the front of its metal cladding… the NOA building. I love its architecture.


Over to Europe, and on a dinner night out with work colleagues I took this photo in Paris, France. I am not going to tell you where this is – you can try and guess. I love the lines.


Over to the UK and in London, I took this photo of the gates out front of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. A place that was the equivalent of the Pentagon in its days. I love the detail.


Up to the university town of Cambridge was this motley collection of student transport. There were definitely no carbon-fibre steeds in this bunch. Apparently at the end of every graduating class the town council has to go and cut a whole heap of dumped bikes from their moorings. I love two wheels.


And finally the geek in me had to come out. Everybody knows that the real galactic hero of the Star Wars saga is this little chrome dome. This was taken in Sydney at the Powerhouse Museum when they had the travelling roadshow of the costumes and props from the movies. I love R2-D2!



My MTB construction project continued with the installation of the second of three sets of contact points – the bar and grips. I had already got the frame (part 1), the forks and stem (part 2) and the seatpost and saddle (part 3) assembled. I had an idea that the additions of bling could be continued, but not at a ridiculous cost. Now the Velominati Rules also state in Rule #8 that saddles, bars, and tires should be matched. One must adhere to the rules 🙂

On my new MTB dualie steed (my BMC Fourstroke FS02) I have carbon 3T Xida bars, and the comfort is seriously noticeable in the difference between a set of standard alloy bars. The other main thing about these bars is that they are not very wide, 640mm in width. I like the gloss black look.


For the grips, I have tried many types and landed on a set from an American company called Oury who are famous for making BMX bar grips and also for motocross. They are clamped grips and have these big cushy patterns on them which leave funny marks without gloves but with them on are super comfortable and responsive.


This bike was going to have bar ends on the ends on the outermost position against the grips. Bar ends are fantastic for climbing and give me that same sensation to grabbing the hoods on my road steed. The basic ones are big, ugly, and oversized. These ones from PRO are slightly smaller in size, but big enough to grip and angled in slightly. They also have an oval cross-section – a little more aero.


So I started with installing the bar within the stem. The 3T Xida has micro measurement marks for accurate placement and the white paint is all for the logo of the stem faceplate. My wife took this photo.


Installing the faceplates and the bolts, it is critical to apply even tightening against the bar so it maintains its position. So diagonally opposite bolts tightened first. My Park Tool torque wrench came into use as there is a maximum torque setting of 5NM on the faceplate bolts.


Next was attaching the clamp ends to the Oury grips. On my other bike I had to pull out the mallet on these, but for whatever reason I just had to apply some muscle and they popped in.


My son, AKA ‘The Pok’, wanted in on the action and was begging me to allow him to help. So I told him that he could install the grips on bar. He loved it, but got an icky sensation when he felt the carbon alloy assembly compound that I placed on the bar for the clamps to grip.


Installing the bar ends was next. This bit was tricky because you have to get the angle of the ends right, on both sides. No doubt I will be adjusting the angle after I take it for a spin. The bolt that you see on the bottom tightens the ends in place.


The bolt that tightens the bar end again required the use of a torque wrench to tighten. The torque tightness required for these bolts was 5.5NM.


The Oury grip clamps also needed to be tightened into place, with smaller 2.5mm hex bolts. The torque tightness on these ones was 5NM. I was worried about snapping the bolt heads.


The final bit of the installation was plugging the bar with the caps that came with the grips. This required a bit of cutting as they were slightly over sized on the plug inserts. But once in these babies were not coming out again any time soon. Here is the finished installation. The cockpit looks quite clean, but it will quickly get cluttered when I installed the shifters, brake levers, light, and computer mount.


Here is how it looks blinged up against the saddle. Remember – red stripes make you ride faster.


Next part is the rubber and wheels. I have an interesting choice up my sleeve. The project continues!


I haven’t posted anything cycling related for a while, and I think we could all use some inspiration. I hope to be riding in another 40 years time too.


Something for all of us to look forward too.  What will our grandkids think of our carbon bikes then?

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This is a strange post that may seem like a lesson in geography and politics, but bare with me.

Our son, AKA “The Pok” has become interested in all things maps. His thirst for geography is unquenchable. This is not really a surprise given he has family in the UK, Canada, and New Zealand in addition to the numerous stamps in his passport. So when my wife said let’s get him a map of the world for his bedroom I was keen to get it up on the wall.

What my wife found on eBay was not a map on a poster but a map in wall decals. I was not too pleased with this as my concern was with not getting the space right between land masses (call me picky). But it was a good idea and my better half convinced me that it would be fun for him to have the power over plate tectonics on his wall.

This “map” arrived late last week and when I was out running errands over the weekend my wife enlisted the help of my parents to install it. When I got back I was briefed on the arguments between the three adults and the fun that the three year old had. But I had to inspect their handiwork. Here is the finished result:


On first glance not bad. My initial point of objection was only in their Southwesterly placement of Australia relative to Papua New Guinea (the narrow Torres Strait). But on closer inspection there were more disturbing “errors”. Here is a zoom in of Asia / Oceania:


The first horrific error is the name of the country North of China (and the raison d’etre for the Great Wall of China). Mongolia is not Mongoloid! The second error, which has to be driven out of geopolitical hatred between China (and Korea) and Japan is the completely disproportionate size of Japan to both China and South Korea – its tiny!  Never mind the reality that the land mass of Japan is over 3 times that of South Korea and its marine geographic reach goes as far North as the Russian region of the Kamchatka peninsula. Another horrific error is the diminution of the Indochinese countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) and the ignoring of Myanmar – and these are all replaced with one country, Thailand. This might have something to do with the continuing territorial disputes that China has with pretty much every one of these countries. BTW – Myanmar is bigger than Thailand as well. What also is funny with this map is where they choose to put the mountains in Northern Russia, particularly given that Asia is the continent that hosts Earth’s tallest mountain range, the Himalayas. I could continue with other points of bizarreness like what made the “cartographer” choose certain cultural icons to represent countries, like yoga for Indians and ballet and babushka dolls for Russians – surely there is something more culturally significant than some of these things.

If I zoom into the European / Middle Eastern / African third of the map, the bizarreness continues:


The “map” uses what appears to be a Mercator projection which means the size of the land masses nearing the poles are disproportionately larger to their actual size. Africa is the largest continent by land area in the world and its cultural significance is far beyond savanna animals and pyramids. Africa is so big as a land mass that it could swallow up 6 of the G8 countries (or 6 of the G7 countries if the crisis in the Ukraine continues to play out). This image gives a much clearer idea of the scale of land mass, an inconvenient truth perhaps (the image is courtesy of the site Live Learn Evolve and uses a Peters projection).



Africa is where humankind first started walking and has the largest desert in the world in the Sahara. You would think that an absence of trees (and not every tree in Africa is a palm) in the Sahara would also be relevant. But maybe this is a reflection of general Chinese cultural perceptions of Africa. The choice of countries they denoted is strange too. Economically, Nigeria is the largest in Africa, but omitted – and the minor fact that there are over 170 million people in the country with over 20 million living in Lagos alone.

If I go onto the Middle East, Turkey (which is obviously culturally significant because of camels) must be happy with its conquest of Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. Saudi Arabia now appears to be the home of the Burj-al-Arab and not Mecca (sorry Dubai). Looks like the Persians finally conquered Iraq (whose significance to all of us is not Saddam Hussein but in being the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia).

Europe is just totally weird – fishermen in Ireland, Santa in Lapland, Finland. Again the Mercator projection causes havoc with the size of the land masses. Based on this view Russia is HUGE and Europe is comparable in size to Africa. It would also appear that many of Europe’s cultural icons are from the Victorian era.

Here is the zoom into the Americas.


Again the choices (or more the omissions) of which is interesting, namely the absence of Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela. While I recognise that Brazil is famous for its footballing prowess, perhaps its bigger global significance is that it is the home of the Amazon, along with its neighbours.

North America is reduced in its significance as well. Mexico is the home to pyramid building cultures of the same historic importance as well, namely the Maya and the Aztecs, yet what is deemed more important is the cowboy lifestyle. It would also appear that Mexico is also swallowing up most of Latin America as well (sorry to Panama, Belize, et al). Hollywood is culturally significant for the USA but I would say that San Francisco with its proximity to Silicon Valley is more important globally. The USA is also the home of the bald eagle and brown bears. There is a funny icon image that I am assuming is the Grand Canyon. And Alaska is not the home of parachuting… bizarre. Canada is a huge land with again very important forests and the home of the Inuit. And where they chose to locate the city icon (I think that looks like the Toronto skyline) there are no great cities. The Great Lakes are missing as well. What is missing from both of the Americas are their very important mountain ranges – the Andes and the Rockies (the longest and the second longest).

All up this map is strange and I am not sure this is what I want my son absorbing. It gives culturally misleading messages and does not portray the real size of the world in anyway. My son’s brain is a sponge and if I feed him complexity he will absorb it and remember it for life. I just have to find a better way to present that.

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Rivers. Really late to the party this week. Work has been busy and a quiet Friday night in at home is allowing me to finally post.

I am going to start in the USA first with the river that defines the Big Apple – The Hudson River. They even land jumbo jets on it… This was taken from the top of the Empire State Building about 5 minutes after the viewing deck had opened, and we were blessed with a phenomenally clear day.


One of the many work trips that I took was to Pittsburgh, and I had the fortune of going on a sunset dining cruise with my American work colleagues on the Monongahela River in the city of steel.


Over in China, and we went to Shanghai for our honeymoon a few years back. It is a crazy, bustling city, which has created its own version of New York in Pudong on the banks of the great Yangtze River. The river is naturally brown with sediment, but that brown haze in the air is pollution.


One of the other stops on our honeymoon trip was to the town of Porvoo in Finland, located on the Provoonjoki River. The red painted houses are famous for the honour that was paid to the visiting Swedish King over a century ago.


Zurich in Switzerland was a city that I briefly visited. Located on the Limmat River, it is the home of Swiss banking, but not really all that interesting a city for tourists.


Paris in France is so popular for tourism, particularly along the banks of the Seine River. But this photo is one that most tourists are unlikely to ever have the opportunity to shoot. It is taken from the top of the offices of the Mairie de Paris (Mayor). I had the opportunity to attend a work meeting on the top floor to which our meeting hosts ensured that we took photos from the unique balcony position. Too bad about the grey sky, but you can’t have everything.


My last trip to the UK was also the first opportunity that I had to visit the venerable university town of Cambridge, located on the River Cam. The students gladly made some money by driving the gondolas for visitors.


Finally back home in Australia and the iconic river of the city of Brisbane – the Brisbane River. This river flooded to catastrophic consequences a couple of years back. The boardwalk that I shot this photo from was ripped away from its position among all the other flotsam.


Tennis fans would be familiar with the Yarra River in the city of Melbourne. It is the traditional bath for the winner of the Australian Open. There are cycling paths along the river for many kilometres and rowers ply their trade up and down on most mornings.


Finally, one of the best things I have ever done as a traveler was to take an open door helicopter ride over Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. Running North to South is the East Alligator River, which is full of… crocodiles. This was one of the most fantastic experiences that I have ever had as a tourist and the camera didn’t stop shooting while we were flying.


Nothing to say, just the photo from the mobile


Nothing to say, just the photo from the mobile


Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, has started to say some really funny things with the reasoning of a 3-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.

Of late ‘The Pok’ has been getting quite stubborn in his morning routine. It has become quite a struggle getting him to the breakfast table, dressed, teeth brushed, and out the door. This exchange went down a couple of days ago.

Father of The Pok: “[Pok] come down stairs please and eat your breakfast.”

The Pok: “I am playing with my Lego”

… 5 minutes later

Father of The Pok: “Come downstairs now, we are going to be late!”

… 10 minutes later

Father of The Pok: “Hurry up and finish your breakfast, we are going to be late.”

The Pok: “I don’t want to finish” – [insert The Pok angry face]

… 5 minutes later

Father of The Pok: “Wash your hands please and come upstairs to get dressed.”

The Pok: [insert tumbleweeds, and The Pok running off to play with more Lego downstairs]

Father of The Pok: [insert great frustration] “If you don’t start listening to Daddy then I am going to put you on eBay”

The Pok: [instant attention directed to his father] “Awww, I don’t want to go on eBay”, an upset look on his face, but he proceeded to listen and get dressed.

10 minutes later we finally got out the door.


P.S. Yes I am a bad parent, but he is a child of the internet and he doesn’t understand what putting him up for adoption means.

P.P.S. He uses his cute looks, and smiles, to try and mentally manipulate us. We are trying hard to resist.

P.P.P.S. eBay’s terms and conditions don’t allow me to post him for auction. I explored ‘buy it now’ but it would seem that these same conditions extend to direct item sales too.

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog ‘Where’s my backpack?’ is Close-Up. I love photographing big landscapes and big buildings, but the thing I get very close up on quite often are animals. After all living in an dense urban environment doesn’t offer too many wild critters to photograph other than birds. What I realised about this collection of photos from my travels is that all the photos are from or near seaside locations.

First photo is from our night dive with manta rays off the Big Island of Hawai’i. The rays were huge, and they got so close to us. Those patterns that you can see underneath the ray on its “belly” are unique for each ray and are used to identify the different fish. I posted a video of our dive a few months back, you can find it here.


Across the Pacific Ocean, and all the way to Thailand. We went on a cruise run by locals in the Andaman Sea among the small islands. I was surprised to see these monkeys on outcrops of rock. Apparently these guys eat sea crabs. They were so close that I could have reached out and patted him (but I didn’t after having visions of ebola being transferred via the bite of a monkey).


Back at home in Australia, one of the most amazing places that we have ever visited is the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland. We stayed on Hamilton Island when we went there and it is a good base to travel to the other islands in the Whitsunday chain or the outer reef. Hamilton Island itself is amazing and it is very easy to get away from the accommodation zone into wild bushland. Here are a couple of possums up to no good when we went on a trek at night in the wooded area on the Southern side of the island.


Out on the reef itself, it was surreal swimming among the fishes in what was an amazing wonderland of colour and shapes. I struggle with snorkeling and scuba diving (it’s the breathing) even though I enjoy them both immensely. But I absolutely cr@pped myself when my wife pulled my fin and pointed to barracudas. As I turned back around, these fish were directly in my face. Surreal.


Closer to home, we used to go down to Jervis Bay in NSW quite often. Fishing down there is amazing, but one particular trip to Currarong the best thing that I caught was a photo of this little critter – an echidna 🙂


Finally in Calalla Bay in Jervis Bay, this little crab outstretched was not even close to being bigger than my hand. He was straining with all his might to resist the water with every tidal lunge.


Love the theme this week.

In the past I have written about my love of Lego. Now as a parent I get to share that passion with my son (AKA The Pok). Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of visits that we used to have at the annual Lego show that would be hosted in one of the big department stores. For whatever reason (probably the Lego company nearly going bust with the advent of the games consoles) they stopped hosting these. But in Sydney the local AFOL (Adult Friends of Lego) club have decided to host a Sydney Brick Show. This year the venue was at the Sydney Town Hall and I grabbed a couple of tickets for my boy and myself, knowing that my wife would not want to come. I grabbed a few other tickets for our friends W and his two boys J & S. So the five boys descended onto the Town Hall for some brick craziness.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-01

This event has become so popular that the tickets were being issued by time over a 4 day long weekend. As we lined up to enter the boys were getting excited. There was a guitarist entertaining the queuing crowd and of course his instrument was clad in Lego.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-02

The entrance hall was lined with Lego portraits of all the James Bond actors – pretty cool. This image is only of the last four, sorry to all the Connery fans.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-03

The Town Hall exhibition space was manic and heaving with exhibitors and displays. We started with an artist who made images using Lego bricks. Here is his Joker (from Batman) portrait.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-04

He was creating another image with a stack of bricks and a computer tablet. I had a quick chat to him and asked him about how he pulls the images together. He explained that he designs the image in a spreadsheet and then uses the conditional formatting capability to determine how many bricks are required and where they go. His next image that he was creating in front of us was one of Boba Fett from Star Wars.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-05

Right next to him was a huge Lego diorama of The Simpsons town of Springfield. It was very accurate with characters and action happening everywhere.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-06

Not much further was a massive scale model of the Sydney Opera House. This is far more detailed that the current Lego set that is available.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-07

What surprised me was that on the reverse side was a fully detailed interior model of the Opera House with minifigures galore. There was all sorts of shenanigans going on in the model with Peter Allen playing the maracas on stage, Jabba the Hutt looking on from one of the booths, and even Buzz Lightyear and Emperor Zurg resolved their differences to watch the show. My son was enthralled with the detail. This was designed and built by the Brickman, Ryan McNaught, and here is the link to his website.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-08

One of the builders made a diorama of Back to the Future 3 complete with rail bound Delorean.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-09

Some of the exhibitors built creations on much smaller scales, but the ingenuity was there regardless. This creator invented his own Lego robots with inspiration from many other science fiction creations.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-10

He designed this ship to. I had a quick chat to him about where he pulled his inspiration from and what came next was a long list of science fiction films, tv shows, cartoons etc. The fact that I knew most of them is no doubt a homage to my own nerdiness.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-11

I watched in wonder as my son was enthralled at the different dioramas. This pirate island had him glued to the table as he examined all the detail. It was then I remembered childhood memories of Lego people in their little Lego worlds that I created for myself as a kid.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-12

One of the most impressive displays was a MASSIVE scale model of the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This measured easily over 10m long and not a single bit of glue had been used. Most impressive. That is the builder there in the photo (back to us) talking to a couple of Lego Fans.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-13

My boy was more impressed by the oversized Lego railway diorama that had many sets of trains running around simultaneously. As a child who has grown up with Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington, it was quite difficult for me to drag him away from this exhibit.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-14

My favourite exhibit was this mechanical contraption with descending balls on rails. I think I liked it the most because of the combination of Lego, computing, mechanics, physics, and all thrown in with a bit of play.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-15

It was my favourite because the builder had rigged the whole thing with Lego NXT computers to determine the path that the blue and yellow balls would take. The kids (and some adults) would take a coloured ticket and pick up their corresponding ball. Then they would release it down a ramp where the blue and yellow balls were sorted into different gutters.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-16

Then the balls would travel on their convoluted journey, dodging errant red balls, while returning to their original queue. Awesome.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-17

Sometimes the dioramas were repeated with varying detail to show what life would be like in a land of Lego. Here is a lake house in Summer and Autumn…

Sydney Brick Show 2014-18

And then in Winter and Spring…

Sydney Brick Show 2014-19

All in all it was a manic and crazy time with the boys and they loved it. I loved it too, and look forward to next years show. Hopefully they will find a bigger place as the venue was a little too crowded for my liking. But at lease I was able to be a big kid again, in public, and not feel ashamed about it.

Sydney Brick Show 2014-20


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