Friday, June 23, 2017

Wilip-gin Birrarung murron

 Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Bill 2017.
 Moved 22nd June 2017

When thinking of the protection of our fresh water streams and rivers nothing expresses the connection some of us feel to these places quite like the words of the people whose ancestors lived in intimate connection with that place since the beginning. 

From the Parliament of Victoria facebook page:
"On an historic day in the Victorian Parliament, Aboriginal elders have addressed the Legislative Assembly in English and Woi-wurrung language to explain their connection with the Yarra River and the importance of protecting the river for generations to come. The elders’ statements were made prior to the introduction of the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Bill 2017."
Listening carefully to the Elder's Statement you can hear the painful story of colonization and disregard for the original people and the land. There is no escaping this fact, however maybe with the introduction of this bill in a way that acknowledges the Warunjeri people we might  be making a step in the right direction.

The longer I am away from it the stronger the need to be at Birrarung (Yarra River) and it's tributary creeks and streams. The Plenty River is a tributary of the Birrarung. This is Wurunjeri land, the people are regaining their Woiwurrung language, their connection to the land has endured despite all that has been done to them. 

Environmental Justice Australia Document 
One step closer to a Yarra River (Birrarung) Protection Act HERE

The Bill Can be found HERE!OpenDocument

Will insert Hansard when I have access

Monday, June 05, 2017

Get your filthy hands off our land

I've been dreaming about the logic of soulless minds
The rational coercion through manipulated reason
the wearing away of integrity over time
The power of money over love
The face of evil and the greed
The brutal simplicity of binary minds...

When it all boils down the equation is simple.

0$0$00$$ 0$$0$$$$ 0$$$0$0$ 0$$0$$00 0$$0$$00 0$$00$0$ 0$$$00$$ 0$$$00$$ 00$00000 0$00$$0$ 0$$0$$$$ 0$$0$$$0 0$$00$0$ 0$$$$00$ 00$00000 0$000$$$ 0$$$00$0 0$$$0$0$ 0$$000$0 0$$$00$$ 

God Bless what remains when the figures have been crunched! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sweet Spot

Rolling into the dry season of 2017 the drive train on my long bike is entering the twilight of it's life. It's an curious thing to reflect on. The chain and chainring are intimately linked. For a comfortable and efficient pedaling experience the chain must glide smoothly across the teeth of the chainring and then fit snugly into the cogs of the gears on the rear wheel. If these are not suitably matched there will be much grinding and jumping of the chain resulting in a most unsatisfactory pedaling experience. When changing gears the chain is also expected to move freely across the cogs at the rear and front of the drive train. When a bike is new and all components are suitably matched it is expected the bike will function this way. However with a bike like mine that has been dragged together from salvaged parts at the tip shop, coupled with new chains linked together to bridge the unusual distance between chainring and the cogs of the rear cassette harmony is not always achieved.

This most recent chainring/chain combination has been on my bike for the past three years. In that time my front gear shifter has seized and so the bike has only functioned on the middle chainring (most people's preferred option anyway). 

As I recall I had to replace the whole kit and caboodle about three years ago after a loose chain jumped off the rear cogs, tangled in my back wheel and tore off the rear deraileur. 

After replacing the rear wheel, deraileur, chain, front and rear cogs (FYI the chainring is the word they use for the front cog/s) it was like riding a new bike but there was a definite lumpiness rising through the peddles. 

Now, about three years and a few thousand km later the bike is feeling remarkably smooth to peddle! Like there's no resistance at all between the chain and the cogs. That's because friction has done it's work on both and they have now well and truly found their groove. It's all feeling wonderfully in sink, like I've found the bike's sweet spot... Ironically there is a very fine line between 'Worn in' and 'Worn OUT'. Realistically when the teeth on a chainring become as worn as mine are there comes quite a bit of free play between chain and the teeth of the cogs which drive it. Likewise the constant grinding of steel on steel with a paste of greasy grit rubbing between them has caused the chain to stretch and warp to the point where the combination of both can lead to the chain jumping off the cogs and causing a very inconvenient and inefficient malfunction in the forward motion of the bicycle. 
At this moment though, I am in that very pleasant in between place, where all I feel is the smooth effortless sensation of a temporary illusion of equilibrium. (A bit like my life when I think I've had a good day...)

I am calling this moment the sweet spot. Be it ever so transient there's no place like the illusion a finely tuned machine (similar to the car that purrs like a kitten just before it runs out of oil!) 
That beautiful time in the twilight of the life of a much used machine when it all seems to be working beautifully, powered by karma and hopeful vibes of the rider. I have no idea how long this will last, I'm guessing another 1/2 year, maybe a 1,000 or so more kms before I have to find a new set of running gear to keep my beloved long bike on the road.

Oh another important element in the drive train is the peddles and crank.
I mostly ride in thongs so have maintained a rather old set of nylon peddles that don't have any teeth for gripping into the hard sole of a shoe. They have been very comfortable but finally split down the middle while I was on my last trip around the harbor. So I actually went to the bike shop and purchased a set of really lovely alloy flat decked peddles to replace them.

The bike was creaking a fair bit recently so I installed my new peddles, diligently tightened the crank (3/4s of a turn, that's a lot of play in a crank bolt!) and adjusted and tightened the saddle for good measure. 

The result was a smooth silent and sturdy ride that made the bike feel almost new again! 
Of course as my major transportation I know I will have to do this all again when time and wear take their toll, and somewhere in the middle I will be enjoying that magical space hovering in two wheeled bliss before everything is bust!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Blog as life journaling…

(Excessive word warning. Over 1300 words proceed at your own discretion)

Oh what a day. 
Wednesday began thus: woke at 5am with a gut ache; sleep deprived as usual. Probably don’t need to write this but for the sake of transparent reporting, a combination of back pain and a terrible case of gas has interrupted my sleep terribly over the past three days. I was already quite tired but resolved to go kayaking if I happen to wake early enough. Well I did... so I did.

It was a tranquil morning, the water was still and silent, I paddled slowly in the direction of the boats moored in Fanny Bay as the sun rose and day greeted me with a gentleness that comforted me into a state of semi wakened calm. As I paddled with my companions across to Cullen Bay on water that was smooth as a bowl of jelly, a pair of dolphins surfaced about 50 meters in front of our boats. They rose one behind the other, dorsal fins barely breaching the surface of the water before us, then silently submerged as quietly as they had appeared and disappeared completely from our view,  the water resumed an almost mirror-like state.

At high tide I like to explore the rocky edge of the Cullen bay cliff, just out from the Casino, at this time of year the water is clear and it feels like you’re floating on air just above the rocks. I watched the birds for a while, Drongos, Bee Eaters, White bellied Cuckoo Shrikes and some others which I couldn’t ID because my eyesight is crappy! The birds seem to thrive in the secluded safely of the Cliffside vegetation. Not really paying attention to the water around me, until a splash and a set of bubbles appeared on either side of the bow of my kayak startled me back into some kind of diligence. (Pretty sure it was a small croc!) Time had gotten away from me again so I let the others know it was time for me to return to shore… and to my job. I paddled back to the boat ramp solo as usual. I’m the only one in this group who actually has to go to work. They’re all well past retirement age, but seem to have more life in them than the average punter.

 Spent the day at work…. Got through quite well considering the level of tiredness… Was buoyed by the fact that I’d be going out after work!

AFTER WORK (The Good Stuff)

Was really looking forward to this night! Last week my wife booked for me to go to attend a seminar titled “Death, Rebirth & Karma”, a Budhist seminar lead by a fella by the name of Gen Kelsang Dornying. Then at very late notice I realized that Colin James Hay and Deborah Conway would be playing at the Entertainment Centre! (along with the Black Sorrows and the Mentals) Impulsively I used all my saved spending money to book a ticket! I don’t know why I did that, I think having watched Colin Hay’s doco 'Colin Hay: Waiting for my real life.' and hearing him on the radio I felt I just had to go and see the man!

The night flowed like a dream! The seminar was awesome! It's weird, I don’t think I’ve ever actually attended a Buddhists talk lead by a Zen monk before, I've always kept that whole circus at an arm's length for fear of disappointment or disgust. Even though this is where my personal spiritual leaning takes me, I've been very careful not to get any deeper than the most basic of exposure to other people's idea of what it is. 

When I arrived at the seminar I strode into the hall, showed my ticket, grabbed my complementary coffee and biscuit and headed into the closed conference with all the other deluded pilgrims. I quite liked the experience, Gen Kelsang Dornying seemed a nice guy, the image of Buddha on the screen behind him was soothing, the meditation was quite helpful in centering me for the night and the teacher was funny too. The lesson (Or intro... or whatever it was we were involved in) was pretty fun and I chuckled to myself as I could see this guy talking to a room full of deluded zombies about samsara, while they all clutched their cups of coffee like stoned addicts listening to soothing stories of sobriety. LOL I do not put myself above any of them, as the master revealed the nature of delusional grasping I sat wondering if I should have left the coffee bag in the water a bit longer to get more kick out of my beverage. At 8pm on the dot, exactly half way through the spiritual teaching, (on entry we were advised that we should remain seated until the master had left the room) I made my move and hightailed it to the car park to make my quick dash across town, hoping I wouldn't miss any of the good acts at APIA GOOD TIMES TOUR Concert. 

 Wooo Hoooo! What an awesome night! I was pumped, a head full of Dharma, fully immersed in samsara The Doors on the radio as I made my way skillfully and swiftly within the speed limit to my next joy of life experience. I got to the box office at 8:20 and realized I had booked my ticket using my wife’s account… in HER Name! Spent an extra couple of minutes sorting it out with the girl at the counter and then… I was in! I caught the last three songs by Deborah Conway! And the show was on! She was awesome, beautiful and full of life! 

It was fantastic to be at this show and see performers who have continued to put so much spirit into their music! This is what I wanted to see! Joe Camilleri shone like a star! The Bull Sisters didn't get much of a showing, Vika Bull even seemed a bit tired; until she opened her mouth and pure soul came blasting out! Deborah Conway, who I should have seen years ago if I’d followed my heart seemed nearly as youthful physically (definitely in spirit) as she appeared in the 80s, I can’t wait to get hold of her recent work. And Colin Hay! The man! What a bloody inspiration! He is like an irreverent Bodhisattva  He has withstood so much and seems to have only been polished by the experience! Full of humor, Full of heart and more than anything REAL!
(please excuse my Buddhist word dropping.... feeling a deep connection to Kerouac at the moment!)

It was a bizarre night though, half the audience were pissed, people kept going out to get more grog or to take a leak. They wobbled back into the stalls leaning precariously against the thy high safety rail which could easily tip them over the edge if they fell against it. While Deborah was singing a new original song which had a bit of a domestic (disharmony) theme, some woman in the audience was going apeshit at someone. I was astounded by the number of obnoxious, drunken women in the audience! It seemed at every stage of the show some woman was talking loudly or aggressively or just making a general nuisance of herself. It was so weird and a bit off putting. Essentially the audience consisted predominantly of entitled, white baby boomers, who appeared to have come along to hear the ‘pop stars’ of their own vintage singing the anthems from their youth! FAAAAARK! (which is pretty much what I had gone to do I suppose but I am certain I am not such a dick!)

Despite the amount of creative talent in the room it seemed the audience expectation was solid! Just play those hits from the 80s so we can reminisce while we knock back a few more cold chardonnays. Colin Hay alluded to this a couple of times through the show, which I guess nobody took too seriously because everybody knew they’d get what they came for. And we did! The mentals were almost a carbon copy of the 80s and 90s pop band they were there to represent. 
A few times during the formulaic performance schedule I did wonder if these talented people were just being pimped.. I started to feel a bit dirty from the experience.

 Despite the madness and absurdity of the environment (Or maybe because of it) I had an incredibly entertaining and liberating night! I was captivated by the spirit of some of the performers and their capacity to create this magical illusion! Once my savings are back in shape I’ll be straight out to buy a copy of FIERCE MERCY Colin Hay's new album and searching for more of the awesome stuff Deborah Conway is doing.

After the show, as I exited the building through a throng of Grey Haired culture vultures (and true fans) I recalled the words of Neil Murray after being heckled to play some old favorites at the Groove several years ago.

 “I’m musician not a fucking duke box!”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Companions on the water

The over 70s kayak crew are paddling Fanny Bay again! 

What legends! 

Water report ----- Flat as a tack and clear as crystal.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Black Spots

I have lived in Darwin since 1997 and have always been astounded by the hazardous conditions on Bagot Rd. It shocked me when I first saw people attempting to cross the road to get to bus stops at night, poor street lighting, nowhere safe to cross, high speeds! I couldn’t believe it!

For the past 17 year I've been living in the Northern Suburbs and for 9 years I have commuted by bike to work in Parap. As a cyclist I am exposed to dangerous road conditions every morning so while at the Sea Breeze Festival last Saturday I took some time to chat with a few people to find out their opinions on those particular safety on Bagot Rd. 

Bagot Rd on a regular week day. (please ignore out of sequence vehicular movement)
Most of the people I spoke to would be considered responsible and respectable citizens but their responses were far from what I would expect, I was utterly shocked by the level of apathy I encountered toward matters of public safety. 

The two issues I raised for discussion were: 
  • Appropriate Cyclist infrastructure an planning
When describing my dilemma as a commuter and the complete absence of a bicycle lane or path for the extent of Bagot Rd I have been regularly reminded by sometimes irritated road users I have spoken to that Bicycles should NOT be on Bagot Rd! I do not necessarily agree with them on that point but would think that, given their opinion they would be supportive of the creation of bicycle infrastructure that would separate bicycles from the traffic. It astounded me that although they were annoyed by the presence of bicycles on Bagot Rd, they were not at all supportive of any kind of infrastructure or alterations to the road to facilitate bicycles! This made absolutely no sense to me, except that they held some kind of belligerent prejudice against cyclists. 

The only indication Bagot Rd has a shared path is at the new bus stops where the path has been widened

After Bus stops there's a white line dividing the footpath into two very narrow lanes followed by footpath only
I proceeded to suggest that it may be possible to remove the risk to cyclists and hazard to vehicles if the Government were to approach the RAAF base and negotiate access to the vacant land under the power-lines which run paralleled to Bagot Rd but fall technically within Commonwealth RAAF boundary. I thought this suggestion made pretty good sense considering the proximity to Bagot Rd, the fact that it is not being used for another purpose and that the RAAF are currently in the process of completely re-designing their entire estate. Surely negotiations are already have taken place?! Wouldn't someone think it within their job description to argue the case for Darwin Residents? Sadly nobody I spoke to seemed at all interested in the idea of reducing the risk in any way other than insisting to Bicycles simply stay off the road! 

View from footbridge showing ample land behind RAAF fence.

There is quite a wide parcel of land between the new RAAF housing development and Bagot Rd which could serve as a safe bicycle path for Darwin residents, yet it seems even mentioning the use of that land is Taboo!
I had no luck trying to raise this issue via Bicycle NT but have recently raised it with Darwin's new bicycle advocacy group Bicycle Network. I hope at the very least they can understand that it is somewhat negligent to describe the Bagot Rd Footpath as a shared cycle path and mark it as such on Council and NT Government Maps. As a regular commuter on Bagot Rd I can say with confidence, any cyclist who expects to have right of way along that path is in for a nasty surprise.
At the Sea Breeze I had a chat with some folks from PLAN NT and was saddened by the response I got there, the New Minister for Infrastructure seemed not to be aware of the problems cyclists face along that road.
  •   Safe pedestrian crossings and infrastructure

Cross ahead if you can!

I found the answers to my questions about pedestrian crossings on Bagot Rd even more distressing. I won’t go into too much detail except to describe the road. It’s a couple of km long, it is 6 lanes wide (3 in either direction), there is a footpath on one side and the other side (inbound) has absolutely nowhere for people to walk or even stand except for the actual bus stops. The verge has a sloping garden bed which pushes people toward the road. To get to and from the bus stops public transport users must cross three lanes of traffic, then wait precariously in the island between inbound and outbound traffic for an opportunity to cross three lanes traveling in the opposite direction, with a 70 – 80km speed limit and absolutely no controlled crossings or additional lighting at night! 

There are no pedestrian lights, there isn’t even a zebra crossing! Women with children, old people, people with disabilities get off the buss and are left standing right on the edge of a very busy road with no safe place to cross! To make it worse, Bagot Community is right at the fastest section of the road! Bagot is an aboriginal community, it is very difficult to see a dark skinned person crossing an unregulated road at night! (Everyone I spoke to was quite happy to agree on this point!)
So when I suggested that something should be done to improve the crossings for pedestrians and to create a safer space on the inbound side of Bagot Rd I was met with snorts of contempt! I couldn’t fricking believe it! Basically, and thank you Darwinites for your honesty, people didn’t see the point in making any improvements to the road or infrastructure (especially if it affected the speed they could drive down Bagot Rd) because,( and I’m conveying the implied meaning of their combined answers, this is not a direct quote but it could have been!) it’s not our fault the people are black and can’t be seen!  

Ironically this road safety mural on one bus stop suggests people use a pedestrian crossing...

So from my limited interactions with the public during the Sea Breeze and other conversations I’ve had regarding this topic the people appear to be unanimous.
 Cyclists and pedestrians are the problem; cyclists are at fault because they shouldn’t be on the road at all and fucked if we’re going to build them a bike path.
Pedestrians are at fault because they are, poor, slow moving and predominantly black! If there is an accident at night it is there fault because no one can see them and any attempt to improve conditions so people can be seen and have time to cross the road safely would just be a waste of money because they would still be black and apparently that is the core of the problem!

All the people I spoke to were of Caucasoid appearance, all, from what I could tell, drove cars. Each was quite keen to elaborate on their basic opinion in an attempt to educate me about the facts of life and justify their appraisal of the worthiness of cyclist and human beings who need to cross busy roads. Both groups it appears are unworthy of any effort whatsoever to improve public amenity or infrastructure.

(If I’ve mentioned you in this article and you feel you’ve been misjudged or misrepresented I will gladly continue the conversation with you and am happy to see where I have been wrong)