Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's got 14 arms, 14 legs and 7 heads and is UNBEATABLE?

The SGE Injectors Basketball team that's what!

4 wins in a row now and looking like not stopping. Again we beat a team above us in the ladder into submission. We rocked as a collective. I got a bit peeved at no fouls getting called against the people pushing, hitting and jumping into me every time I went for a shot! But hey, I got 14 points so suck it other team :P

SGE 24 - 17 Lah-Who-Sa-Hers

Monday, January 26, 2009

Australia Day 2009

Hope everyone had a good Australia day today. Mine was eventful and ended up on an awesome high.

I started out the day by going to the "Community Breakfast" here in good old Ringwood. The "Breakfast" started at 11am due to the Maroondah Council not wanting their event to clash with the "Official Melbourne Australia Day Breakfast" that was in Federation square in the CBD ..... 40KM away. The Maroondah version was ok, not a lot of people but enough to make it worthwhile I think.

There was a bush band playing for the whole 3 hrs and free cordial and sausages for everyone. The sausages where a bit hard to come by as the waiting line for service was a kin to what post-war east Germany was probably like. HUNDREDS of people in a line waiting for hours just to get something to eat. See.

Bush Band

Waiting in line for some breakfast

The highlight of the event was, of course, the singing of the national anthem. Now I had been lucky enough to have Sophie Feuerherdt (3) sing me the whole National anthem last year and while that was extremely impressive, today they sang a verse I hadn't even heard before...I tried to get a video of it but I missed. I think all in all they sung 4 verses!!

After the event was over I walked back home and did house chores for a few hours because it was quite hot and I wanted it to cool down a bit before embarking on my other planned event for the day. That event was the Lysterfield Mountain Bike Trail. Lysterfield is about a 1/2 hr drive south east of Ringwood near the start of the Dandenong ranges. Now I had heard from people at work that are pretty keen mountain bikers that Lysterfield was "good", "Ok", "Better Than Nothing" and various other non-exciting adjectives. Well let me preempt this blog entry and just say that these people are not correct.
Lysterfield was the most AWESOME place I have ever ridden a bike!!!

If people rate this as merely "OK", they obviously have ridden on some absolutely orgasmic trails somewhere else!

Let me explain. This trail is a purpose built mountain bike course, it actually consists of several interconnecting trails, one of which was actually the Commonwealth games mountain biking track. The trails are HARDCORE. I wasn't expecting them to be as challenging as they were and it was obvious that there had been a LOT of thought put into the design of every trail. To be honest, the trails go up some pretty steep hills and you just don't notice because such attention has been paid to making the trails fast or at worst a steady easy/moderate climb. Here's a graphic to show you what the whole park looks like. If you go around the circumference of the park in that picture...that's pretty much what I rode.

As visible there are 9 different "trails" but they all intersect and you can do one or all of them (provided you know WHERE you are....which I didn't...I had no idea where I was most of the time).

The scenery was...well I am sure it was nice but I really didn't look at it much because I was concentrating on the trail. Partly because the trail had "obstacles" that were built into it and as this was the first time I had ridden this trail I didn't know where they were and thus how fast I could go. Mostly I was concentrating on the trail because some complete F*&$%wads had booby trapped some parts of the track. I really don't understand the logic behind this as some of the stuff they had done was really dangerous and could easily kill someone. They had placed big logs across the trail on berns and in places where it was almost impossible to see them and then stop in time. They had dug "pungee spikes" into the trail like what you would errect to stop charging cavalry. I had to clear 4 or 5 different "traps" on my travels. Idiots. Look at this:

Booby Trap: Logs placed across the trail
by dickheads trying to kill someone.
These logs are directly after a very large jump
on a very steep downhill section.

The trail had enough "planned" obstacles to kill your self on as it was, they really didn't need unplanned ones too :). Here are some of the "planned" obstacles I encountered, thankfully there was always a "wuss" option on most of these where you could simply go around it.

Big log jump 1

Big Log jump 2

The trails were also well defined while you were riding them but also very tight and thankfully I only saw one rider heading down the same trail I was on in the opposite direction when i was stopped. Here's some trail pics.

Warning: may contain language not suitable for children :P

After reaching the top of "Worlds most ridiculously steep hill" I had a pit stop and needed to effect some field repairs (hahaha .. geddit?) on my bike. I couldn't change the front gears as the derailleur just wouldn't move, I hadn't noticed because I had just ridden up the hill in 1-1. I flipped the bike over to inspect the gearing, somehow a tiny pebble had lodged itself in between the spring and the derailleur guider. One in a million that the pebble was precisely the right size to fit there too...luckily I pried it out and was good to go. Also while I was repairing the bike some other riders arrived at the pit stop point to watch me being totally MacGuyver with just a twig and a splash of water. I could tell by the way they rode off quickly that they were well impressed.

As with all good rides there was a few dramas. I managed to crash not once but 1.5 times. The first 0.5 of a crash would have looked awesome had anyone seen it but alas no one was around. I managed to ride along pretty much only on my front wheel with the back wheel up at about an 80ยบ angle for a few meters before somehow getting the back wheel back onto the ground. There was some minor non-erotic humping of a head-stock assembly during this event. I expect that to leave a mark. The second "Full one point zero" crash was a doozy. I saw the log coming up, I was all ready to bunny hop over it (yay for clipped pedals) and when I executed the "hop" the bike struck the log with the frame and stopped DEAD. I didn't. Thankfully my shoes de-clipped and I soared like a chicken in flight to land face first a few meters down the trail. Pics or it didn't happen you say?

Glasses covered in dirt after my
unceremonious dismount at
speed followed by my 9/10 face plant.

Bike in a heap after crash. I hit that log at about 25km/h
and the bike just stopped dead. I kept going :)

Luckily there was no serious damage past a cut on my leg about 20cm long (cool..because chicks dig scars) and a slightly sore left wrist. Luckily I am right handed ;) ;).

All in all the ride was simply awesome. I'll definitely be going back there more often and Rachel you HAVE to come back here so I can take you there for a ride I guarantee you will love it.

After I finally got back to the car I was pretty exhausted but manage to give this post ordeal interview.

Warning: may contain worse language than the last video which is still not suitable for children :P

Ride Stats:
Distance: 17.8km
Time: 2h 48m
Avg. Speed: 11 km/h
Top Speed: 44 km/h
Crashes: 1.5
Rating: *****

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekly Wrap.

Well another week has gone by and that makes 2 for the year back in Melbourne and 2 back at work. So far the excitement is almost ... well ... it's almost...non-existent. I think I have made a terrible, terrible mistake over the Christmas and New Years break, that being having more fun than some (i.e. me) would say was 'Humanly Possible' during my holidays. Upon returning to my Melbourne reality the mundane nature of my existence here is thrown into sharp contrast. Oh well, all steps are being taken to change that so no use dwelling on it...again...i'm sure everyone is sick of hearing about it by now.

This week I got my car serviced for the year. I do so little driving (relatively) during each year now that I barely make it to the scheduled "X0,000km" scheduled service in any 12 month period. This was the 70,000km service and after driving to Adelaide and back over Christmas plus a whole heap of driving while there I reached 68,000 km. That's a whopping 8,000km 's total for 2008. Anyway, I organised for a loan car while my car was getting serviced and I got a brand new 2009 model, Peugeot 308 Turbo. This car was awesome and I really might have to go and get one when I deciede to get rid of my current car (2003 Peugeot 307) in about 2010.
here's some pics:

On Wednesday I played basketball again (at the ungodly hour of 10:10pm) and for the third week in a row WE WON!! We played so well it was amazing, we looked like a completely different team to the one that played last year. We moved well, we passed well, we didn't make a lot of stupid errors and we managed to capitalise on the stupid errors the other team made. So at the end of the 50 mins we had a very respectable win of 39 - 30. I was awesome as always and got a swag of baskets. I also think I have managed to get my sore foot problem under control with a elastic pressure brace. Foot doesn't hurt much at all anymore, even after playing.

Yesterday, I took the initiative and went round to my friend Dave's place in an attempt to spice up my saturday with the company of someone else in a non-work environment. I see Dave everyday at work and we both spend a large amount of the week determining how we can inject some excitement into the "Ringwood Weekends". Dave also lives in Ringwood like me and most weeks comes up with these grand plans about "Going to look at things he might want to buy". This week (on Monday at least) Dave was contemplating "A road bike", on Tuesday he was contemplating "Getting a car", Wednesday had him mulling over "ADSL and a new PC"..etc etc. You see how the pattern goes? Dave however has one flaw, he doesn't like spending money...on anything...ever. When he dies, he'll be buried in a big pile of his money because he'll still have it all. Accordingly, none of his contemplatory purchases ever progress past the "thnking about it" stage. Therefor whenever *I* go out to purchase stuff I drag him along so as (1) to get him out of his hermit hut and into the general population and (2) to show him that buying things can be fun. I arrived at his house and knocked on the door...he wasn't home. Hahaha I just find that so funny ... Dave is ALWAYS home and the one time I deciede to go there on a whim he's gone out. Anyway, a quick phone call and I discovered he was only 200m away at the shopping center near his house. Adventuring in baby steps :)

During the last few days at work there had been some full on discussions about biking and bikes in general due to about 100 different bike sale catalogs appearing in most peoples mailboxes. I got into a discussion with one of the bigger bikeheads at work about clip pedals on mountain bikes. Ever since my huge crash in Germany I have not been a fan of clipped pedals and shoes on mountain bikes because during my crash, my clips didn't release and consequently I got pulverised by the cocktail of steep hill, bike, speed and falling off. Ever since then I have been using standard BMX type pedals on my bikes because they are easier to save yourself from a nasty accident if you need to get your foot down. I've already had 1 near miss recently where the bike slipped on gravel during a turn and I was able to get my foot down to correct the skid and not crash. If that happened in clipped pedals I would have been nursing some new injuries because there was no way I could have unclipped my foot and got it down in time. Having said that, the BIG advantage of clipped pedals is that if you ever leave terra firma, say when you bunny hop a horse jump or launch yourself over a fallen tree etc you stay "Attached" to the bike (which is always a good thing when hurtling through the air) and can land safely on your wheels. Anyway, I was sort of convinced by the resident mountain bike expert at work (He "Races" most weekends on cliff faces) that clipped pedals are good and I should at least try them again. He suggested "Hybrid Pedals" which have a clip on one face of the pedal, and a normal face on the other side for when you want to ride in sneakers/runners etc.

With this in mind Dave and I headed off to look at various bike stuff at various stores. I was now keen to get some hybrid pedals and as a consequence some cleated shoes with which to use with them. Also if not cost prohibitive, a Fox Flux helmet (turn out it WAS cost prohibitive). We went to a few stores to find nothing that interested us really (Except Dave is now "Contemplating" buying a Bianchi carbon road bike worth about $4000..hahaha). One thing that did strike me (well, Us) is that the 2009 Giant mountain bikes are uuUuUuugly!! I found some really nice looking pedals at one of the stores we visited and I bought them. This store also had some Fox clothing on sale too so I also managed to get 2 biking tops for less than the price of 1!! woot. The bike store lady also gave me $10 off the total cost too :)

After getting the pedals out of the way I also had to get shoes. Having been present at some one elses bike shoe purchase recently and seeing what was available from Specialized (who made my bike) they were on top of the list for me. Unfortunately only one store in the area sells Specialized bikes (and "stuff") so if they were too expensive there I wouldn't be getting them today and would get them off the internet later. We went to the Specialized store and loked at the prices they were OK, but I had seen them cheaper on the internet. At a previous store I had tried on about 20 different pairs of shoes and rapidly come to the conclusion that sizes across brands were not conforming to any known standard. a 45 in one brand was a 43 in another and a 47 in a third brand??? This would make buying shoes over the interwebs impossible because the "correct" size would be anyones guess and brand dependant. So I tried on the Specialized shoes and found the right size. The shoes were SoOoo pretty and felt so good on. It was very apparent, very quickly that my current addidas mountain bike shoes were the wrong size for my feet now (as they HURT to wear after about 30mins of riding). With this purchase TOTALLY justified I bought them... $150 for such awesome shoes really was a no-brainer.

After dropping off Dave (who'd successfully held off and bought nothing...who'd have guessed?) I took all my loot home and proceeded to "modify" my bike to use the new pedals. A few frustrations ensued in trying to find "tools" (I knew I had some...somewhere...?) the deed was done and I eagerly awaited the morning to try the new stuff out.

So this morning I got up and got "biked up" and headed out on the bike. I decided to stick to the boring, flat, paved eastlink path for a while to get used to clipping in, clipping out and general riding with my feet stuck to the pedals. The biggest hurdle was getting "clipped in" quickly. When stopping at lights and stuff you invariably have to clip-out and when you can go again you want to be clipped in as quickly as possible because you need to pedal in order to move (der!). It was hard to gauge where the cleat actually was on the bottom of the shoe but eventually I was getting it right pretty much straight away. I felt I had re-mastered the "clip out" ankle flick pretty much straight away and wanted to try some "off road" action :)

I headed off eastlinks trail into the bushland and fire trails and tried my luck at getting some "air" between the ground and me on the bike on some of the parts of the trail that have jumps. All I can say is that clipped pedals now OFFICIALLY ROCK! I did some awesome jumps and landed them all perfect as my feet couldn't leave the pedals :)

Here's some random "out riding" shots from today:

Ride Stats -
Length: 23km
Time: 2h 34m
Avg Speed: 15.3km/hr
Max Speed: 51km/hr (Big fire trail hill)

Tomorrow I will go and ride on another trail that was the Commonwealth games mountain bike course. It's a bit of a drive away...but apparently well worth the trip. Stay tuned for that report :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nature 101 + Random Stuff

I went for a leisurely bike ride this morning because...well...I just wanted to ride my bike. So after waking up at about 8am and not being able to sleep anymore I decided to go get bike sweaty and headed off on the Stumpy for some Adrenalin action. There were quite a few other people riding (as usual) and a lot of walkers/joggers as well, which always makes for "fun" as the trails are not that wide. I heard about the "Off the normal route" trails from some of the bike-heads at work so decided to give some a try. It was good fun but FAR too many really steep climbs that seemed to lead to more steep climbs. The saving grace was that even though these climbs were an absolute bitch and I wished the bike actually had about 5 more granny gears, the reward for reaching the top is that on the way back it's all downhill blitzing, dodging wildlife and trying to get the speedo over 45km/h without swallowing a tree. Anyway I was out for about 3.5 hours and did the respectable distance of 52km, which consisted of a lot of little tracks in the bush and some paved eastlink connector trails.

Rest Spot on the way back. I'm being sun smart and standing in the shade.

End of the offroad downhill trail which connects to the Eastlink bike trail. I came down the gravely trail from above.

Pit Stop Serenity.

Nature and high Tech bike weaponry.

Pics or it didn't happen :)
51.4Km which is 52Km in my book :P

Some other snippets I found while uploading the biking pics reminded me of some events that transpired while on holidays. These were worthy of mentioning here because one is just amazing and the other is involves food and Rachel so it must be pretty good by first principles.

The first pic was this, on my last night in Adelaide over Christmas/new years before coming back to Melbourne I took Rachel out for dinner to say thanks for the accommodation/goodwill etc. We went to some Italian cafe/restaurant in Gawler who's name doesn't just escape me, but I think was completely wiped from my memory by this:

Bethany 2002 Vintage Shiraz Cabernet

Now, anyone that's ever talked to me about wine would know how little I know about the stuff and how I refer to all wine as 'tasting the dish water....or tofu...or tofu cooked in dishwater". I grew up in the Barossa Valley and just didn't "get" what all the wine fuss is about. I never understood why people got so obsessed with this liquid when all the wines I had ever tasted reminded me of bathwater. Safe to say I was not a passenger on the wine train. However, as both of us knew little about the subtleties of wine appreciation we decided that "more expensive = better" so went with a $35 bottle and that was it. The amazing thing was that even though I was saying to myself internally "This is going to taste crap and you won't enjoy it and you'd better get a beer as well!" the wine actually tasted nice. I couldn't stop drinking it in fact ... and neither could Rachel. By the end of the meal I think we were both fairly well plastered. Both of us reckon that the waiter had spiked the bottle with vodka when we weren't watching because that one bottle nearly had us professing undying love for complete strangers and contemplating karaoke. This was a new first for me though as prior to this wine was my drink of choice usually only at weddings ....when all the other forms of alcohol had run out..... and was used exclusively as my "Ok, Mikey you've obviously had far too much to drink as you're now drinking WINE!!!! ... and chatting up the bridesmaids." drunkenness barometer.

Well, because we ordered red wine at this dinner we ordered our food to compliment it in absolutely no way what so ever. We chose seafood ... to which our waiter scoffed as "apparently" red wine and seafood don't go together....Rachel and I are however prone to pushing ideals and boundaries into the "weird and unorthodox".

(crappy pic quality due to my phone in very low light)

Our chosen meal was an Italian Seafood Platter and was, in a word, AWESOME. In several words..It was the finest meal of seafood I think i've ever had. It consisted of Prosciutto wrapped awesome Scallops, Garlic steamed awesome Mussels, Awesome Salmon fillets in Awesome sauce, Garlic Prawns with some crunchy awesome bread topping . Smoked salmon with some sort of drizzled awesome sauce on it. The meal got the "Thumbs up" from Rachel as well and as that is the only truly accurate "scale" I know of ,and trust, it was obviously a great choice for food.

Another pic that was on my phone was this one:

42 - 30

That's right...after my team finishing 2008 off with a win against the top team to go 2 - 9 for the current season. We came out all guns blazing in the first game for 2009 to CRUSH our opponents (the 2nd place team) 42-30. So now we are 3 -9. We rock. Hard to believe that we are on the bottom of the ladder?!?!?!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Newest of Years.

After not posting for a very long time I suppose I should write something about what I've been doing.

Well I just finished a very tough 3 week holiday stretch over Christmas and New Years. It was basically the only time I had had off all year save for 3 days in September 2008. My "Terminally Single" lifestyle allows me to head back to South Australia to spend it all with my family and SA friends. I also really love Adelaide and SA in general and any excuse to go back there is a good one in my book.

I divided my time there completely unequally between family and Friends :) I really had an awesome, awesome time and when the 3 weeks were up I had done so many excellent things that I really thought I had been there for months and it felt great. I went mountain biking (on real mountains), to country markets, to country brothers houses, to the city, to about 500 different out-dinners, to Christmas parties and ate worlds best baked ham, to friends houses for dinners and catch ups, water slide extravaganza's, So much Wii I lost count, biking through the city, New years with Rachel and time with my Mum, Nana, brothers and sister and their respective other halves.

Last year started off so well with work but had seriously got tiring and unenjoyable by the end of the year. The ability to leave it all behind and not think about it for 21 days was very cathartic. This year has unfortunately started off the same way, with the fall out of last year still settling but there may be light at the end of the tunnel with some new directions being planned within the company that I would actually be interested in rather than what I currently work on which I really have no interest in. We'll see.

This year I made a few resolutions and generally, as a rule, I don't normally do that. I find that making goals is all well and dandy but you shouldn't need an "occasion" to try and better yourself and it should be a constant process. I live by the ethos that "I only get one chance at this life thing" and so my resolutions are pretty much all aimed at improving my enjoyment and experiences in life. I am financially well off and money has not been a problem since I got my current job and used last year to get completely out of debt. I payed off all my car loan (2 years early) and finally committed a vast amount of money ($8K) to getting rid of my HECS debt. So now I don't owe anybody anything. If only I could afford to buy a house on my single, full time employed wage as 25% of my wage every month is spent on rent. I'd love to change that, but the thought of putting roots down in Melbourne really doesn't appeal to me. I like the fact, and feel safe in knowing, that I can leave pretty much when ever I want should the opportunity arise.

So this year is all about "progression", onwards and upwards, a completely "me" year. I resolve to change some things in my life that I have put up-with for a very long time and decided it's time to change/fix them.

I have been blessed with very good health in my life and save for a few minor accidents and one incredibly large one have had a pretty good run. In the 5 years I have been in Melbourne now I have never had to visit a doctor. However, like most people I have certain aspects of my body that I am not happy about and this year I will endeavor to fix them all, regardless of cost because I am quite simply tired of being scared to do anything about it and having to explain to everyone I meet why I look the way I do.

So here we go with the list:

Resolution 1.

Organize elective surgery to remove an "imperfection" I have been carrying for the last 20+ years. I think it's quite an ugly eyesore but as it doesn't effect my day to day living I just learnt to accept it but always play it down when people notice it and comment. Today I put this resolution into action. Doctors appointment tomorrow, referral to hospital to follow.

Resolution 2.
Look into, and if not ridiculously expensive, get my teeth fixed. After another year of explaining to countless people why my teeth look like I have been on the receiving end of a kicking I have decided that I have had enough of seeing myself in photo's and realising that I don't ever smile and that when I do I look awful. I have to constantly explain to "everyone" I befriend or meet why my teeth are so bad and that I can't afford to fix them. I was crushed when years ago I waited on the public register to get them fixed because the price to do it was $36,000, only to be told that they wouldn't be fixed because I had gotten a Ph.D. scholarship 4 whole years later. It has been a burden i've carried for about 25 years now and I think that it has affected me in a way that is not good. I've never really felt handsome or even remotely "good looking" because of it and It has probably affected my self confidence and opinion of myself. This year something will be done about this.

Resolution 3
Get "Happy" again with my lifes position. This may sound like a daunting task to some and it actually does to me too. I have had only sporadic periods of time over the last 9 years where I have felt truly happy and content. I've had to learn to live much of my adult life alone and fend for myself with little help or encouragement or support. Of course I have had the support of my family whenever I've needed it and they are always only a phonecall away. I've spent much of my adult life wishing for things to happen and waiting for the day when they finally do, but never actually actively MADE them happen. This year marks my 5th year in Melbourne and that has got to change. When I am here I wish I was elsewhere, and when I am elsewhere I don't miss my life here at all. I am kept here by a job I don't particularly care about and nothing else. I mainly miss my family and my long term friends. Everything just feels wrong here and always has...I've tried to enjoy it and make the most of it and experience all it has to offer but I really find Melbourne experience lacking in every aspect. This year by December 2009 I *will* no longer be living in Melbourne and will be living and working in Adelaide and hang the consequences.

Resolution 4.
Like many people I am "moderately" active. I would like to be more active but age is now beginning to show me that I am no longer a teenager and won't bounce back from injuries as quickly or at all as before. I will endeavor to ride to work when the weather and commitments allow it and not see riding to work as a "secondary" option. Walk more places when I want to go "window shopping" (eastland, knox etc) they're really not that far away.

Resolution 5.
I also endeavor to eat a lot healthier food (this is already a work in progress). I have eaten "conveniently" for a long time but spending time with Rachel has shown me that I don't have to eat badly to eat tasty food. That girl can whip up some mighty fine food using very basic ingredients and I will continue to make an effort to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis.

Resolution 6.
Again, due to the influence of Rach, i'll try and increase my "Green Rating". I'm nowhere near as green as she is but during the last year I have incorporated things into my everyday life to reduce my impact on the environment. I've stopped buying certain things and started buying others in order to accomplish this. I have also managed to go completely "bagless" again when shopping and refusing unnecessary bags when offered. This year i'll keep all these practices current and endeavor to adopt more.

So there you have it, my forthcoming year in a nutshell. Fingers crossed that I can achieve it all.