Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fire steering time

Ah Christmas. That special time on the Christian calender where the troll’s life in the real world gets crazy. Work becomes overloaded as people seek to redress their problems before the break. Add a smattering of late-night Christmas functions, and the daily consumption of Christmas cheer (ie chocolates, cake, finger food, alcohol +/- interesting but not necessarily coherent conversation) and life becomes somewhat messy for a preferentially solitary troll. Not that there is anything wrong with a little quiet time. Or a daily diet of microwaved broccoli. It’s just that the troll seems to need them more than the typical integrated human.

In the real world the troll employs a secretary to order him around from Monday to Friday. She’s from New Zealand. So, as a patriotic Australian, I employed her out of pity and, ultimately, to make fun of her. Just as it is my Australian duty to ridicule the Poms who still rue the bygone days of Australia as their convict colony. (irony is when a population living on a small, cold, dreary island banishes their thieves and vagabonds to a land of sand, surf and sunshine...)

Well, my secretary (let’s call her Kelly, because that’s her real name and she never visits this blogsite despite my pleas for her to increase the traffic by 100%) Well Kelly, has used the phrase “fire steering time” on a number of occasions. I never really understood this and what I can’t comprehend I simply ignore (which, according to Kelly, tends to be quite a lot). One day I made the mistake of responding - which went a little like “what the f-k? How can you steer a f-king fire?”. Returning a phrase after peppering it with expletives and combining it with a resolute lack of eye contact usually means “go away, I’m trying to ignore you” and is usually met by a caustic glare and a stomp back to her desk. But Kelly was having a good day. So she rolled her eyes (she rolls her eyes a lot), sighed (she sighs a lot) and sat down (exactly what I didn’t want, and it makes me very uncomfortable).

“I’ve told you this before but, as usual, you’ve forgotten. (did I mention she’s from New Zealand? Australians don’t need to listen to New Zealanders) Remember back in the caveman days when the man goes out all day to hunt and the cavewoman stays home all day cooking, cleaning, and looking after the baby? (yes, have things changed?) (rolls eyes) Well, anyway, she builds up all these things she needs to let out when her caveman husband returns. So when he comes back after a hard day hunting she bombards him with the trials of her day in the cave - the baby cried and was inconsolable, the seeds are spoilt, the neighbours are bitching again, your mother came round to tell me how to raise a family... To which the caveman responds by putting up his hand and says “fire steering time”. So he sits down on his rock and steers silently at the fire for about 20 minutes. After which he stands up, goes to his wife, and asks about her day. Fire steering time. That’s how me and Dan (Kelly’s partner) maintain our relationship.”

“Oh, you mean fire staring time”

“Yes, fire steering time”

Now it made sense. And surprisingly good advice. A little fire staring time to wind down after work so you can have a fresh outlook on the next series of challenges that daily life brings.

Christmas tree steering time

At this time every year, a group of cycling enthusiasts embrace the Christmas spirit with a ride to the big Christmas tree in the city. This is an inclusive group although you don’t get an invite if you are a pretentious bicycle snob. Having misplaced my invite this year (hey, Jim, you did send it didn’t you...) I present to you a photo of some great guys who have found yet another great reason to ride.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Campagnolo Record - the 1994 Spare Parts Catalogue

In 1994 Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. It was also the year of the Rwandan Genocide with the mass murder of 800,000 people, the year Major League baseball players went on strike resulting in cancellation of the World Series, and the year that John Bobbitt released a porn video (“John Wayne Bobbitt - Uncut” if you feel the need to check it out).

More significant for my sheltered life in a bicycle closet, 1994 was also the last hurrah of the Campagnolo Record C (C Record) aesthetic. More specifically it was the last time that the C Record crankarms, front derailleur, and hubset made their appearance. From 1995 onwards the top-of-the-line Record group had no lingering resemblance to the flamboyant groupset that debuted in 1985.

Over the 10 years of C Record, Campagnolo introduced a slant parallelogram rear derailleur into their top line groupset and incorporated a cassette into the rear hub (the combination of both made index shifting a pleasure rather than a nuisance for the staunch Italofile - yeah, so much for “the shifter of champions”...), developed cogs with profiled teeth for smoother shifting (exadrive which became hyperdrive and now, of course, we have “ultradrive”), introduced their Ergopower brifters (more “positive” than Shimano’s STI - ie clunky shifts until they were “run-in” at about 1500km), and brought out their dual-pivot brakes (whilst quietly dropping the delta calipers in 1992 - although they were still available for purchase if you were crazy and rich enough to do so). Beautiful as it was, C Record was in no way an innovative groupset. Every major development was essentially a copy of technology introduced by their Japanese competitor.

And from 1995 Campagnolo also copied a marketing strategy already entrenched amongst other component manufacturers. They labelled all their component groups to allow easy differentiation (you ain’t "pro" if you ain’t riding Record-labelled parts... because ones ability surely wouldn’t give that fact away).

Just as 1994 was the sad end of the C Record era, 1995 was arguably the start of a fresh new face for Campagnolo. They dropped their MTB/ off-road component arm and focussed on development of their road division. And they have contributed their share of useful innovations ever since.

So let's take a(nother) trip down memory lane... (might be helpful to those, like me, that open up stuff then can’t remember how to put them back together again)

Yes, I too wonder how many frustrated delta owners (having opened their calipers in an attempt to work out why they were so terrible to use) would have scratched their heads on referencing their 5-pivot deltas to the illustration of the 3-pivot version

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Total Awesomeness

Apparently some things can be made so ridiculous they become totally awesome. Currently on Australian ebay is this fabulous example:

I normally don’t like posting pictures of bicycles where the auction/ sale remains open (the troll hates to influence the sale of items - indeed he hates to do anything of consequence lest he be lumbered with some element of responsibility) but I figure it’s safe to do so on a low-traffic blogsite. And hey, it’s nearly Christmas.

If low-rider and chopper bicycles have only been at the very periphery of a marginal interest in bicycles then allow me to whet your appetite a little more.


There is so much I miss about being a child. Like prancing around in a batman suit or telling someone at a party that they are boring and that I don’t want to talk to them anymore.

For those adults amongst us, I appreciate your decorum and diplomacy. For those that don’t know what I am talking about, you, dear sir, have my silent admiration.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sweeping leaves on a windy day

Memories of India

Bicycle, Mumbai.

MASH-style theatres, Mahatma Gandhi Tribal Hospital.
3-4 beds crammed into an operating room with frequent power cuts, basic equipment
and where sterility is maintained by a strict code of practice and magic jungle juice.

My friend and colleague, Dilip G in action.

Anaesthetist: “You do this case?”
Me: “I’m sorry, but I’m not even sure I know what I am looking at...”
Post-burn contracture in 1 1/2 year old child - over to you Dilip (as with most of the cases)

Model village within the Melghat tribal region.

Community health worker.

Monkey, Chikhaldara.

I am humbled by those such as Ashish & Kavita S (who run the hospital as well as administer community medicine and agriculture programs) that devote their lives to helping others in need, by the enormous problem of poverty, and by how little impact our individual efforts seem to make.

But I would like to come back. Possibly more to satisfy my sense of place in this world and a need to believe that my efforts can make a small difference (yes, it's all about me).

As we are wont to say: “Thank you very much. Please come again”