Sunday, 18 October 2009

Soccer, Hall of Fame, Racing and League Inconsistency

If you follow the news even sparingly, you would have been hard pushed to have avoided the debate the last 8 days focused on Frank Farina and the Brisbane Roar Football (soccer) franchise. Farina has been the Coach of the Brisbane Roar for the last three years.

On Saturday 10 October at approximately 9.30 am, Frank Farina allegedly recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.09 at a random breath testing road block while driving to a Roar training session. It is the second time Farina has been caught driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of the 0.05 limit.

The Brisbane Roar management immediately stood him aside from his coaching duties and the subsequent speculation about his future with the Roar proceeded to dominate sports news, talk back radio and general news until a decision was announced that he would not continue with the Club in any capacity on the basis he had brought the game and club into disrepute and had failed in his capacity as a role model. Then the media discussion really went through the roof.

Frank Farina broke the law, allegedly. Remember, he has not yet been found guilty.

Driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit is a serious offence. People die as a result of drink driving and all too often, innocent people die. Drinking and driving should not be tolerated. There is no less danger to the offender or the community whether a 0.09 recording is at 9.30 am or 9.30 pm. Frank Farina has however paid a high price for his alleged mistake and perhaps a price that is out of synergy with others in the sporting world.

Take the case of high profile jockey, Chris Munce who was jailed for 18 months in March 2007 having been found guilty in Hongkong of involvement in a tipping scandal.
He served his time in jail in Hongkong and later Sydney and was released in late October 2008. Within hours of being released from jail, Chris Munce was at Randwick racetrack conducting a press conference and making himself available for photo opportunities all with the full blessing and cooperation of the Australian Jockey Club. He was welcome to return to racing and did return as soon as he was fit to do so.

He was found guilty of the crime and did the time, but surely his situation was far worse than Frank Farina’s. Munce however received an enthusiastic second chance – and quite rightly too.

Let’s look at another case.

In August this year, the ceremony inducting the latest inductees into Australia’s Sporting Hall of Fame took place.

All inductees had recorded outstanding achievements in their chosen sport. One however had also been found guilty and fined for receiving money from an illegal Indian based bookmaking ring.

The same person had also been banned from his chosen sport for 12 months after testing positive to taking a banned substance.

Any one of these offences would be considered to have brought his sport into a level of disrepute far more seriously than Frank Farina’s currently alleged drink driving offence. However, put these two offences together and surely induction into the Hall of Fame to some extent legitimises what he has done.

The sportsperson I refer to is one of our greatest sporting icons and a role model with a much higher profile than Farina. I refer of course to Shane Warne.

And I won’t go into the detail of high profile sports stars and front men for Channel Nine Rugby league broadcasts Andrew Johns and Wendell Sailor. Johns has admitted being a long term user of illegal substances including cocaine. Sailor was caught in a post game blood test for having cocaine in his system and was suspended for two years by the Australian Rugby Union. Cocaine is an illegal substance, not in sport but in the community at large yet no charges have been brought down and they both continue to be role models for their sports. In fact, they both have become educators of young people about the idiocy of using drugs.

Surely Frank Farina could use his profile to educate young people about the dangers of excessive drinking and driving while under the influence of alcohol. Surely his profile could be maintained by way of a second chance with the Roar and used publicly to help people, and particularly young people. I am sure many 18 year olds would pay more attention to the warnings of Frank Farina about alcohol abuse than to the ranting of our Political leaders, just as Sailors words hold greater resonance than teachers and parents with young people.

What Frank Farina is alleged to have done is wrong. But let’s use his profile for good and let’s have some consistency across our sporting codes in the treatment and recognition of our so called sporting heroes.

Sunday, 11 October 2009


It is nearly eight weeks since I did my impersonation of a pinball by bouncing between two cars and busting up a bunch of bones and puncturing a lung.

I first rode again after four weeks but it was more of a token gesture ride and perhaps a need to get back on the bike sooner rather than later in case I decided not to get back on the bike at all.

My riding efforts have largely been restricted to the 1.2 kilometre cycling circuit in northern Brisbane suburb of Nundah coupled with a few ventures out to Nudgee beach and the path to Boondall entertainment centre. The Doctor has forbidden me to ride on the road, not that I have been particularly keen to ride on roads anyway.

Given my bike was damaged and any repairs were waiting on an insurance assessment and claim payment, I spent most of the following 4 weeks riding the old Steel frame, super heavy, 7 speed down tube shifter bike circa 1985. It was perfect for what I was doing. It also perhaps kept my ambitions under control.

As my lung recovered, so did my aerobic fitness and I discovered that I have really lost little if any fitness, at least on the flat anyway. It may be different when the road turns upward.

Last Thursday I decided to meet the participants in Brisbane’s famous Thursday morning friendship ride for post ride coffee at the Garage. I should add, that occasionally, but only very occasionally, the friendship ride becomes the 'F You' ride.

I parked over near Garage and rode across the Goodwill Bridge and out the Coronation Drive bike path before continuing to the University of Queensland via the domiciled bike route. After a few loops of the University, I headed back the way I had come.

On reaching Southbank I had one of those “lets get it out of the way now” moments. I rode along the path to the big wheel, turned left and left again on to Grey street and along the bike lane where I was hit by the car.

I was nervous and uncomfortable and my heart rate jumped 20 beats for no physical reason. There was a car parked precisely where the car that ‘doored’ me was parked and as I was approaching it, another car came along the road to my right.

I successfully negotiated the piece of road where the crash occurred and while I doubt I will ever ride that road without thinking about the accident, I have now got it at least a little bit out of my system. It had to be done.

As for my future cycling plans, I just don’t know. I expect I will return to the routine I used to have but I do need the Doctors clearance first. I also think it will be a gradual thing.

It is a pity the club is in a racing halt at the moment as we pass from the winter to the summer season because although the accident was not race related, I feel I need to get used to riding in a race situation as soon as possible. I could race at another venue I guess but feel waiting for a Hamilton event at either Nundah or Lakeside would be the better option.

I expect to be given the all clear tomorrow by my Doctor including a return to full time work and I also expect I will only have a few more weeks of Physiotherapy to endure.

Next will then have a professional bike fit and measure up before I set about choosing my new bike. This will be fun.

I have experienced unbelievable support from cyclists – some who I know well, many who I know in passing and many more I have never met before via whose support has come via Road Grime.

All the support and best wishes have been much appreciated.

See you soon - on the bike.

Taking a Look at Life

There are key events that take place in the course of a person’s life that can result in them taking a step back and having a look at their goals and aspirations and just what is important to them.

The first such event in someones life may well be the beginning of the transition period from secondary school to work or tertiary studies. This is then followed by many things including marriage, children, divorce, and illness, loss of loved ones, successes and disappointments and situations that may challenge your own mortality.

I guess I have had the benefit of two events in the last 18 months that have prompted me to have a look at just what it is I want to do, how I want to do it and what is important.

The first event was of course open heart surgery which occurred on the 3rd March last year.

Looking back, this was to some extent an almost surreal experience. It was also one of those times in life when you are excused for being totally selfish and self absorbed. Internally, you become totally and utterly focused on yourself and your own preparation for surgery and then recovery and rehabilitation after surgery. And what’s more, virtually everyone in your family and friends circle is totally supportive of your selfishness.

Thanks to a fabulous and talented medical team before during and after surgery and an obsessive desire to do what needed to be done, I recovered quickly and completely. Perhaps a degree of determination assisted also.

However, I almost felt obliged to re-asses my life, what was important and what I wanted from it.

In very many ways my life is blessed. I have two wonderful sons and have good relationships with both of them. We enjoy each others’ company and communicate easily, happily and consistently. All of which is often rare between a Father and sons aged 17 and 19.

In 2008 I had a good job working with a good group of people and was reasonably well paid.

I have a small but close circle of friends who I value greatly and I laugh and smile for the greater percentage of each and every day.

But I felt obliged to review things and this is about all I came up with:-
• I would limit my alcohol intake
• I would not drink soft drink again
• I would only eat what was good for me
• I would adopt a weekly exercise regime that is not negotiable
• I enjoy corporate life
• Having deliberately withdrawn from Executive life, I would now seek to
return to an Executive Management role
• Business and work would not dominate my life
• There is little to be gained from being impatient, so don’t be
• Re-establish relationships and friendships that have deteriorated due to
laziness of petty issues.

I have to say, this is not a very impressive list. There is nothing very substantial or philosophical here at all.

However, at no time before, during or after the heart surgery and rehabilitation process did I really consider I was in danger of doing anything other than surviving and fully recoverinbg from surgery. I never really felt as if my mortality was threatened. It was a process I was undertaking and in my mind a positive outcome was assured.

Nothing was really going to change in my world and life pretty much went on as normal. I have however implemented and maintained all the items listed above.

The second significant event occurred on 19th August, 2009 when I bounced off one car, into the path of another while riding my bike in a bike lane in Grey Street at Brisbane’s Southbank precinct.

I cannot recall too many details of the actual event. I was the victim of a senseless act of stupidity by a lady possessing insufficient care and intelligence to be allowed out in public.

The outcome however is that I suffered 6 breaks across 4 ribs, a broken scapular (shoulder blade), a punctured lung, a deep wound to my left chest and I endured a day in emergency and several days (and nights) in hospital. I faced the prospect of losing movement in my right arm however this now appears unlikely.

I was not really aware of the role the second vehicle at the time however I need to clarify right now, the second vehicle was not in any at fault or doing the wrong thing.

To put it bluntly, I know understand I was very, very close to suffering injuries that may well have seen me dead or severely disabled. The front wheel of the second car ran over the top of my helmet. If it had been different by no more than 2 centimetres, instead of popping my head out from under the wheel, my head would have been crushed.

It is only from talking after the event to the people riding with me that I fully understood just how close I was to something far more serious happening.

Unlike the heart surgery, I do see this event as being a brush with mortality and as well as resulting in me having a sense of discomfort, I am certainly motivated to examine my world and what is important.

So what is important in my world (outside of my family) and what needs examining? What do I do or involve myself in that is un-necessary, negative or non-positive? What do I spend time and energy on that is basically not important or is petty and/or irrelevant?

I returned to work a few weeks ago (be it part time) and interestingly, a colleague told me she half expected I would come back and announce I had looked at my life, where it was at and where it is going and was severing ties with financial services and was off to pursue my radio dreams. At the time, I avoided answering her directly.

However, I enjoy my job and more importantly, enjoy the people I work with and in particular those I work most closely with. They are intelligent and entertaining. Patsy is a fine wine, fine food loving, travel addicted socialist with an extraordinary work ethic. Henry is a highly entertaining raconteur capable of finding the negative in most things (be it in a fun way) who misses nothing and has an incredible client care and service quality and family commitment.

Why would I want to change that?

I don’t get paid a huge salary but I am reasonably remunerated so there is nothing to complain about really and there are enough challenges to keep things interesting.

My recreational activities are satisfying however I will travel more once secondary school commitments are cleared at the end of the year.

So what if anything needs changing or review? What do I do that is essentially senseless, wasteful of emotion or makes no positive contribution to my world?

And one thing sticks out more than anything.

A constant thought since the crash is what new bike I will buy. There is a strong image factor associated with bikes. European is the best for credibility and “oh, arh” value while American/Canadian are perhaps the best product but lack Euro credibility. I was leaning towards European for no reason other than image.

Many years ago I abandoned the option of having a company car. Since then, I have bought European cars. I have recently been looking for a new car (and procrastinating about a purchase). I have been looking at BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, SAAB and Peugeot. But I know that Holden Calais is built and engineered as well as any BMW, is better suited to Australian conditions and costs less to buy and maintain.

I also know what I need and what makes sense but until now, have not really considered such options due to the image they portray. I may even keep what I have even though I have had it for five years.

There are sporting events I would like to attend but don’t. I generally refuse to go unless I am invited to a corporate box. The outer terraces are not good for the image.

My “life” review post major traumatic event is to stop making decisions based on image.

I will buy the car that makes sense and suits me best and if that is a Holden or a Mitsubishi, so be it.

I will buy the bike that makes sense irrespective of its “show” value.

I spend far too much time and effort on the image I portray or try to portray. I have no idea if it is a successful portrayal.
It simply does not make sense, causes anguish and is perhaps even a touch dishonest

And as well as cars and bikes, I will apply this to all aspects of life.

I might even give camping a go - in a tent.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


It has been a very, very long week.

And it is feeling even longer as I sit here typing away using only the fingers on my left hand.

But I am here typing so that is huge.

Last Wednesday morning I had an accident courtesy of a lady opening her car door into the bike lane on Grey Street on Brisbane Southbank.

Why didn't I give the car more room so that the opening of a car door would have still missed me. Well, there was the not insignificant issue of a second car beside me in the normal car lane.

Doing 35 kph or so at the front of a group of 5 in single file, I hit the point of her door with my left shoulder resulting in a wound down to the muscle.

The impact of the collision catapulted me against the front fender and wheel of the car to my right and in turn onto the road.

An ambulance ride later had me at the emergency department of the Royal Brisbane Hospital and over the coarse of the next 12 hours in Emergency I was x-rayed, stitched, poked, prodded and x-rayed some more.

Result - 4 ribs broken in 6 places, broken shoulder blade and broken vertebrae. I also managed a punctured lung, be it a minor puncture as far as punctures go.

Several days in Hospital followed and I assure you, being a guest of Queensland Health is an interesting experience of fluctuating emotions. But more on that another time.

The major initial concern was the break in the vertebrae. It was some 24 hours before it was officially confirmed as a stable break and I was allowed to move from being flat on my back. In fact, I still had my cycling shorts on all this time (less the bibs which had been cut off along with the jersey and base layer). I say officially because I had been cleared 12 hours before it was deemed official it is just the necessary piece if paper signed by the specialist could not be located.

Let me assure you, much morphine is needed when you are confined to being flat on your back for over 24 hours while also having a break in your shoulder blade. And with nothing to eat and only a wet piece of paper towel allowed to moisten the lips.

The next concern was the threat of infection of the collapsed lung. There was fluid on the lung and it had to be cleared before I could be considered for discharge. They were suggesting this would take 5 or so days.

Fortunately, the exercises for clearing the lungs were similar to those required post heart surgery and with a concentrated effort, I managed to clear the lungs inside 24 hours and was allowed to go.

It is tough and the constant pain from the shoulder (in particular) and the ribs is very wearing. Sleep is close to impossible.

I am lucky as it could have been much worse. I am not lucky in that the incident should never have happened and the chances of the door opening half a metre in front of me when a car was beside me must be very high indeed.

Also, I must mention Laser Helmets. This helmet is exceptional and proves yet again that we should never economise on our protective gear. What I think separates the Laser from the pack is the fit system which really means it is always properly on your head.

The bike looks like being a write off so I have the fun of selecting a new bike to look forward too.

One thing that has indeed been moving is the support and contact from the cycling community, be it the calls from the Hamilton Wheelers Club Secretary or SMS messages from people I hardly know.

For now, focus is on mending the bones and hoping as each day passes the pain eases a little. It is also to hope that I don't lose all my fitness before I can again climb aboard a bike and go cycling.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Last Straw

I do not very often read something in the paper and get totally peeved about it.

Tonight I am peeved.

Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Australian Rugby League player Greg Inglis has been charged with assault.

Not assault of another professional athlete who also spends hours and hours a week building and maintaining physical power and strength.

Not assault of an athlete from an endurance sport.

Not assault of another male his age.

He is charged with recklessly causing injury and unlawful assault. And who is this alleged assault against? His girlfriend. She reportedly has a black eye (refer Herald Sun).

He is simply the last in a long line of high profile footballers from all codes to be charged with some form of assault of a women. Should we be thankful that in this case there is no allegation of a glass being involved?

I am the first to stick up for equality of the sexes and the rights of women in all walks of life - business, sport, home.

However, no women, no matter what they do to agitate a male should have an unwanted finger laid on them. Never.

Violence against women is a scourge of our society. Violence towards people in general is a scourge of our society.

All and any violence by a male towards a women is cowardly in the extreme. However a highly trained professional footballer who spends an inordinate amount of time building above average physical strength raising a finger in violence towards any female must be the ultimate act of cowardice by one adult towards another.

Professional sports people are role models in society.

I understand the argument that says they are just a cross section of the community who just happen to be good at their sport and they do not sign on to be role models.


It goes with the territory. Sports people get paid the huge money they do because of people like you and me who buy the products of their sponsors, contribute to the value of television rights by watching them on TV and stump up the cash to see them play live. We pay them and have a right to deserve more. We need to demand more.

If they sign the contract for the big dollars, they also sign up to be pillars of the community. Whether they like it or not, when they sign on for the cash, they sign on to be role models and sign over some of their rights as private citizens.

I also hear the argument that the professional athletes of today are no better or worse than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago, it is just that there is more scrutiny of their behaviour.

This may well be true. But it is absolutely true that the increased media coverage that is the scrutiny is also the vehicle that provides the riches they earn. You sign up for the big dollars and in doing so accept the scrutiny. If you don't want the scrutiny, say no to the cash

I have been involved in sport including coaching teenage boys at the elite level in their age group. To say the behaviour of elite, high profile athletes does not effect the behaviours of young people and the development of their values is absolute rubbish because it absolutely does.

Young people DO imitate high profile athletes in all they do - on and off the field.

So what can we do about it?

We can make a protest and demand better behaviour from our sports people. We can react in the way that ultimately effects them the most. We can do this by turning off the television when the football codes come on, by not attending the games and by not supporting the products they promote or the sponsors of them and their clubs.

And the sponsors can either demand action or withdraw their support too. Surely the multi billion dollar superannuation fund HostPlus who sponsor the Melbourne Storm must consider their ongoing involvement if Inglis is found guilty. I happen to know the HostPlus CEO and his values in no way correspond with those portrayed by some of our elite footballers.

I also know the argument that the vast majority of professional footballers are upstanding highly ethical people. And they are. However the likes of Black, Mortlock and Falou also need to take a stance and make it very clear they refuse to be associated as teammates or opponents with these cowards. They need to refuse to play with them at any level of the sports that also pay them so well.

We are not helpless, we can act and by doing so we can make a difference.

And the author is starting now. I will not be watching or listening to any AFL, Rugby Union or Rugby League commercial broadcasts for at least the rest of the season. I will not be attending any more AFL games this year or the Union test in Brisbane in September. And I certainly will not be attending any Rugby League games. I will also be avoiding any product associated with these sports at the professional level.

And if you think it is a waste of time taking individual action, just look at the impact consumer action has had on the Australian Idol TV program and Today FM breakfast program following the behaviour and actions of Kyle Sandilands.

You and I can make a difference. It simply depends on whether you think violence towards women is less important than watching some athletes ply there trade.

In our society today, it is NOT more important. Manners, respect and common decency towards each other is far more important.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Is it all about the bike

It seems to come in waves.

There is a lull for a month or two and then whamo, I get a rush of grief about my bike.

When are you upgrading?
Why are you still riding that old thing?
I see your riding your training bike today........
And from the bike shop, there are not many of these still going around.

However, I admit I am giving it some serious thought.

I have always said that I see no reason to upgrade until I get the impression or feeling that my current equipment is restricting me in some way - or it wears out.

Perhaps it is doing a little of both.

I booked a service with the bike shop last week. I was aware it was some time since my last chain change and felt my cassette might also have fulfilled its life. I also had an increasingly annoying "thump, thump, thump" going downhill under brakes.

Initial Outcome - new chain, new cassette, front wheel re-build and news that rear wheel has about 1000 k's before it also needs a re-build (or about a month)

Plus, 2 days later, new 39 chain ring.

This lead to discussion about the relative cost/benefit of re-building the wheels versus replacing the wheels.

I was surprised to learn what performance benefits I could obtain by purchasing new wheels rather than re-building the ones I have. And for a not much greater cost too. So I decided to do both. Re-build my wheels and keep them as a spare set and buy a new set that will be suitable also when I eventually upgrade the frame.

The wheel discussion then followed a logical progression and we were discussing frames.

My problem is that I simply do not like the aesthetics of sloping geometry and to the extent that I am not interested in hearing about any of the benefits such geometry has (or has not) to offer.

And right now, there are very, very few bikes available out there that do not have sloping geometry.

Yes, Pinnarello is an option but I don't like the look of their forks.

So, in the meantime I will stick with the frame I have, upgrade the wheels and wait for the fashion trend to change - and keep my eyes open for viable traditional frames in the market. And I do like the work of the Melbourne based Baum factory and the Colnago Master X-Light has always had a certain appeal. Shimano, Campag or SRAM to go with the frame. Lets wait and see.

In the meantime, I will continue working on improving the legs and the power to weight equation.

Getting Older - Getting Stronger

I have been counselling a 40 year old (and his partner) over the last 6 or 7 weeks.

He (Justin) under went Open Heart Surgery 5 weeks ago and before the event was very fearful, almost scared about the experience he was about to go through.

My conversations with Justin and his partner covered a range of things all based around the surgery process and what he would experience afterwards.

Put simply, he thought life as he knew it was about to end. Justin likes a beer on a hot day and was concerned he could never have a beer again. He enjoys restoring and riding old motor bikes and believed he would not be able to do any manual work again, let alone ride a motor bike again.

I spent a good deal of time outlining not only what happened pre and immediately post surgery, but also what he could expect during the first 6 weeks or so and what he could do to help himself.

It is common for people under going such an invasive procedure to believe their ability to perform physical activity will be lost forever when in fact nothing is further from the truth.

There is also a belief that as we get older, we lose the capacity for physical activity including athletic performance.

In one of my conversations with Justin I mentioned that despite my heart surgery, at 50 years of age I am fitter, stronger, more active, energetic and mentally alert than I was at 30 years of age.

I have felt this for some time but have never actually articulated it before, partly because society almost requires us to succumb to ageness.

I was therefore very interested to read this quote in an article on about the impact the Raleigh Cycling Team had on racing in the USA. The quote is from John Howard, one of the original team members who now runs a coaching business in San Diego. He had this to say:

"the body is capable of maintaining much more than we ever gave it credit for. Now we realise it is not so much about age, it is how you perceive that. (Back then) you heard athletes talking about their age as if it were a handicap. I choose not to accept it as a handicap. I look at it as a challenge. It is the only intelligent way to judge it"

John Howard (the Coach) comments resonated with me and one of my personal objectives that on each and every birthday, I can be fitter, stronger and healthier than I was on the previous birthday. (And this is my wish for everyone)

As a society we are almost conditioned to give into age. We use it as an excuse for not doing this or that and for that matter, as an excuse for justifying things we do.

It is time for us all to eliminate the excuses and get on with the journey.

(Here is the full article

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Information - Help or Hinder

Anyone I have communicated with who is remotely involved in cycling, and many people who are not would have been informed with not very much humility of my Mt Coot-tha climb on Tuesday morning.

It was dark, it was cold and I confess to asking myself just what the hell I was doing there.

I did the alternative approach to the start line by going up through Bardon and past Sommerville College. Yes, the soft way. At the right hand turn onto the mountain road, I stopped to adjust my headlight - it was very, very dark - and waited a moment deciding whether I would continue or not. But being there, it seemed silly to go back and I reconciled the situation by deciding on one only accent.

Just as I reached the start line, another cyclist came up beside me and said hello calling me by name. I had no idea who it was in the dark and must have looked puzzled until he said his name, Stephen.

Stephen is a very strong cyclist and was straight out of the saddle doing a strength exercise riding a 54/18 and continued to do so until he was out of my site some about 5 minutes later.

On crossing the start line, I hit the timer and just settled into my rhythm, aware that in the dark I was unable to read my bike computer or heart rate monitor therefore having no idea of speed, cadence, time elapsed or heart rate.

Having nothing to distract me, I simply concentrating on my pedal stroke and breathing.

My perception was of doing a reasonable climb but due to the recent hamstring injury restricting my training, I had no expectations of a great climb. I was thinking something around the 12 minute mark.

Up I went, pedal stroke and breathing. I overtook a few people and was aware of being overtaken (once). I was also aware I was not breathing anywhere near as heavily as the others on the mountain so I pushed a little harder.

This is a regular climb and I have several land marks I aim for. There is a part of the mountain that kicks a few percent for 300 or so metres. I have a tree at this part of the climb after which I allow myself to get out of the saddle but only until the armcor barrier starts again. (I usually count 100 pedal strokes). I was a little surprised to get to it seemingly quickly and in no distress so I clicked it up 2 gears, got off my butt and started counting to 100. And at 75, clicked it up another gear.

I settled back in the seat after 100 down thrusts and regained rhythm until the last 100 metres where I went for the line. Hitting the timer as I crossed the line I was thinking a time in the high 11 minutes. Stopping to get a look at the timer in the bike headlight, I was shocked and surprised to see 10 minutes 49 seconds. By far my best time.

So what does this tell me?

Perhaps it tells me that riding on feel and concentrating on doing the genuinelly important things really well is the key priority. After all, what is more important than breathing and pedalling when cycling.

Perhaps it also tells me that having speed and cadence data available means I actually hold myself back at some level of perceived (but not actual) maximum effort.

I do ride to some heart rate rules determined by my cardiologist. I therefore expected my monitor download to reveal that I had exceeded my required limits. But no, if anything, they were on the low side when compared to other Mt Coot-tha climbs.

The questions I have are:
  • Can all the on board data we have available actually result in us applying some form of mental hand break on our performances?
  • Is how we analyse and use our data in planning training and assessing race performances more important than having the information on hand during the ride or race?
I think the answers are to combine both - somehow.

By the way, does anyone have a spare power meter?

For the record, I completed the loop and then headed up the short side to the Cafe - just to cool down.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Spaced Out

There seems to be considerable interest in the 40th anniversary of Man walking on the moon

I was a young boy in the late 1960’s and an avid Space Junkie.

On the day of and the day after the moon walk, I convinced my parents to purchase each of the daily newspapers then published in Melbourne and still have them to this day. The Sun, The Age, and The Herald. And I kept the entire newspaper too rather than just the sections on the moon walk and they are today among of my prized possessions. Worthless to anyone else; priceless to me.

As a student in Grade 5 of Canterbury State School in Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs, the Space Missions of the year were followed with keen interest and passion. On the day of the moon walk, the class moved across the road to a fellow student's residence where we gathered around a black and white television and watched in amazement as Neil Armstrong descended the ladder of the Lunar Landing Module, took the final step and uttered one of the most well known phrases of the century.
Man walked on the moon. And I am sure I was one of many, many millions to gaze at the moon that evening wondering if it looked any different.

But the mission that most took my attention, and is remembered by me with even clearer recollection is the flight of Apollo 8.
The Apollo 8 flight took place between the 21st and 27th of December 1968 and was very, very special.

It was the first time a manned space craft had been powered by the Saturn 5 rockets that formed the cornerstone of the moon missions.

It was the first flight to have hot and cold water options for the astronauts. As a result, there was a far more expansive diet than ever before.

It represented the first time Man had entered the Moon’s orbit. It was also the first time Man had viewed the “dark side of the moon”.

And the photos of the moon rise were spectacular to say the least. And by all accounts, we were lucky to have them.

Apollo 8 only circumnavigated the moon 1o times and a key task of the time spent in lunar orbit was for the crew to take photographs of the surface of the moon. Photographic mapping you might say.

The objective was to try and locate suitable areas for the eventual landing on the surface of the moon.

They had been on the “dark side” and out of radio contact with Mission Control. To facilitate the photographic assignment, the craft was rotated in its orbit so that the windows were more directly facing the lunar surface. The rotating of the craft also meant the radio aerials were turned away from the Earth but as there was no contact possible on the dark side this obviously did not matter.

As they began to emerge from the dark side, the Commander commenced the process to rotate the craft back to its usual position so that radio contact could be resumed. It was when this began to happen that the Astronauts effectively looked over their shoulders and witnessed the amazing spectacle of the Earth rising above the horizon of the moon. With camera’s still in hand, they snapped the scene unfolding in front of them and in doing so, captured what perhaps rank among the most famous and most viewed photographs of all time. (other than photos including people)

I recall a discussion at school about these photos. The teacher was talking about the Christopher Columbus voyage to prove the world was round however, it is only as a result of photos such as those taken by Apollo 8 that we really do know the world is round. The thought that it has taken the Apollo 8 mission to prove the “round earth” theory certainly captivated my young adventurers imagination.

Looking back now, even though the Apollo Spacecraft possessed less computer power than a simple calculator, the technology must have been mind blowing.

We have certainly lived through an incredible revolution in electronic communications technology.

But in this era, over a relatively short lifetime, the revolution in human transportation (or human personal communications) was nothing short of remarkable.

My Grandfather was born in 1896. His life started in an era when the internal combustion engine was in its infancy and the four wheel motor car were being invented. By the end of his life, international jet aircraft travel was an everyday event and man had not only walked on the moon, but was basically "over it". It must almost have been beyond belief to his generation.

And, this evolution must surely rank with, if not surpass the change from transmitting morse code by wire to the world of mobile technology we enjoy today. In fact, if it was not for the space program, the communications revolution would not have occurred.

So, next week on the 21st July (Australian Time) spare a thought for the pioneers of the 1960's who conquered the moon. But also, spare a thought for the ground breaking Apollo 8 team that in many ways, made it all possible.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

A Weekend that Was

A rather 'large' weekend is coming to a close.

The schedule:

1. Bike Race Saturday Morning

2. Watching Bryce (youngest son) play Division 2 hockey game at Colmslie

3. AFL Game at Gold Coast - Richmond v Adelaide (Bryce is a Richmond supporter)

4. Tour de France commences (a must see from Monaco)

5. Gold Coast Half Marathon.

I wont bore you again with comment about the bike race - the report is on titled "If you are a Goose - Stay on the farm"

I wont even bore you with the hockey game - which is code for we lost.

In fact, I missed the first 20 minutes. There had been a fatality on the motorway so all traffic had to divert through the city. A 20 minute trip became a 65 minute trip and I actually missed the first 20 minutes of the game.

Fortunately, Bryce had gone with his Mother much earlier and was there on time.

The trip to the Gold Coast was uneventful. Before going to the game, I needed to call in at the Gold Coast Convention Centre and collect race kit for the next day. I had also decided to change from the half marathon to the 10 kilometre event. I figured that one run of about 6 kilometres every 3 weeks over the last 12 weeks may not really be quite the right preparation for a 21 kilometre event. Besides, doing something as sensible as the 10 k event may be a long overdue sign of maturity and common sense. Who knows?

However, changing events meant lining up and standing in a slow moving line for 70 minutes is not my idea of a relaxing time.

On to the game. It was cold, very cold and because of the earlier delay changing events, all seats were sold. Standing room only for nearly 3 hours. It was a pretty ordinary game and Richmond lost.

Now it would have been easier to stay on the Gold Coast - and that was the intention however Bryce had made (late) plans for Sunday that only a 16 year old can make. (not as if I needed to know)

He did enjoy the game despite the Richmond loss. It is actually the first time he has seen them play live. Mind you, the fact that a group of about thirty girls aged 15 to 17 arrived just after we did and took up residence just in front of us perhaps added to his enjoyment. (Although he did tell me they were too young)

Game done at 10 pm and the drive back to Brisbane was uneventful and concluded with enough time to make a cup of tea before the Tour de France coverage commenced.

Being very disciplined, I decided that common sense dictate I only watch a few riders in the Time Trial - perhaps until Lance goes through. So I see Lance go through and he sets fastest time to date. I better wait and see how long that holds up. It doesn't hold for long but Levi is on a fast time so better wait and see if he takes the lead. He does. I wonder how Kloden will go? Better wait and see. Well it is now 2 am and I head off for a couple of hours sleep before the trip back to the Gold Coast.

The good thing is the start of the 10 k race is 25 minutes later than the half marathon - bonus.

Alarm set for 4.10 am and I am awake almost before I am asleep. Up, dressed, wetbix x 6, cup of tea (and one for the car), water bottles, Gu's and jelly beans - all set.

I then collect "the colleague" and off we go. I should explain "the colleague". The colleague offered to come along and be my support crew and if need be, relief driver. However, I am under threat of punishment "worse than death" if I make any reference at all the the colleague's name, sex, occupation, hair colour, eye colour or dress etiquette. Hence "The Colleague".

A quick trip back to the Coast and a car park is found in a side street a short walk from the start area. Easy. The half marathon runners have just got underway and we are called to marshall. Off with the tracksuit, stretch, jog, stretch again, jog again etc etc and all ready on the start area, taking my place with the group who nominated a time per kilometre of between 4 and 5 minutes.

I was looking around at my fellow competitors in this category and wondering what the hell all these elite athletes were doing starting with my group. And why are they all about 30 years old?

While waiting, my mind wonders. It occurs to me that my preparation for the race over the last 24 hours might be unique and I am wondering if this is an advantage. I mean, there is no point being unique unless you get an advantage is there?

I wonder who else has drained themselves in a bike race the day before, stood up watching a hockey game, driven to the Gold Coast, stood up in the cold for 3 hours at an AFL game, driven to Brisbane, had a touch over 2 hours sleep and driven to the Gold Coast again. I am thinking I must have a competitive advantage hear.

I then wonder if my pre race diet this last 24 hours will be equally beneficial. After some thought I tick off a 24 diet of a weet bix breakfast pre bike race, 3 fruit muffins, one cup of pumpkin soup, 2 plain multi grain rolls, about 10 cups of tea, a grape fruit, 3 apples, another weetbix breakfast and a vanilla bean Gu. This did not seem good at the time - and looks even worse when I see it in words now.

In the meantime, the Colleague is trying to take some photos.

Remarkably, the race begins and I am feeling good. Rhythm is great and I am certainly overtaking more people than are overtaking me.

I start to pick out a person 50 or so metres in front and concentrate on stride pattern consistency until I overtake them before repeating the process, again, and again.

On checking my heart rate, I realise that 165 is probably too high but I am coasting so I ignore it and concentrate on beathing patterns which brings it down to around 150 without costing pace.

Inevitably, these events form an almost "bell curve" shape. They thin out at the front and the rear and bunch up in the middle.

We are coming into the 5 k sign and I realise I am at the back of the strung out line at the front and am ticking over 4 minute k's - easily. Hell, time to up the pace and effort.

Keep the rhythm I tell myself, this fun.

Coming into 7 k's and still feeling good. Heart Rate around the 155 mark but not long to go. Right hamstring is a little tight, but it usually is - after all, it has literally been pulled or strained 20 or more times.

At 7k's there is a drink station and I grab one slowing down to drink it before ditching the cup and getting back to my pace and stride.

Onwards, 100 metres, 200 metres 300 metres and the runner behind sticks a screw driver in the back of my leg about 10 cm above the knee. Or that is what it felt like.

Of course, it wasn't a screw driver but it was a feeling akin to something pinching my hamstring every time I took a stride. I try taking shorter steps to relief the discomfort but that doesn't work so I try longer steps which also doesn't work. I try various strike methods - outside of foot, different heel pattern etc etc all to little effect so I try limping and this doesn't work either.

All the time I refuse to walk - to walk is to lose.

I am going slowly now.

I try to take my mind elsewhere to take my mind off the pain and this sort of works for small periods of time. I imagine I am looking out across the waters of the Whitsundays to Bali Hi, I am reciting the words of Man from Snowy River,and do I know all the words from Smoke on the Water?

And where is that blasted 8 k sign. I must have reached it by now. I have it appears as there is a 9 k sign up in front. Thank God.

Looking down the road and what do I see. The last kilometre is mainly up hill. Great, however running an incline actually seems to be easier on the hamstring.

We turn right and enter the last 400 or so metres through a barricaded area lined 4 and 5 deep on both sides with spectators cheering. It was electric.

I have played a fair bit of sport and coached too. I have also played at a reasonable level. Unfortunately, the sport I have played most, does not attract crowds very often. I have perhaps only played in front of significant crowds on 3 occasions and recall it being a thrill.

Running these last 400 metres through the crowd was awesome. The noise raised the adrenalin level and I hardly felt the leg at all. It was amazing.

My last 2 kilometres took forever and really destroyed my time. I finished in a touch over 50 minutes. If I had been offered this time at the start I would have gladly taken it but given where I was through 7 k's, it was ultimately disappointing.

I will be back next year for the half marathon and I will prepare properly.

This weekends events on the Gold Coast are sensational and I want to be part of it again, and again and again.

In the meantime, I will be reacquainting myself with physio staff at Queensland Sports Medicine Centre this week.

As an aside, when the Colleague and I headed back to the car, we couldn't find it. Well we did, but only after wasting 90 minutes looking. Amazingly, it was where we had parked it. I blame the Colleague.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Failed Relationship - Its not me - you have changed

An almost logical progression after taking up cycling a little over five years ago was the development of an interest in the Professional Cycling scene.

Like most Australian’s, I was aware of the Tour de France and a few local races. I also knew a few Australian’s had led the Tour on different occasions and the name Anderson was quite well known.

Most sports followers knew the names of Armstrong, Merckx, Le Monde and we knew Kathy Watt had done something pretty special at the Olympic Games.

As awareness in the pro scene grew, familiarity with the Race to the Sun, and the Spring Classics also developed and it was discovered there were three Grand Tours a year.

Some of the history of the sport came to light. Such things as the Hell of the North, Pantani’s great climbing feats and the tragedy of Tom Simpson were discovered with great enthusiasm.
Information about race tactics, equipment advances, training knowledge and nutrition advice was absorbed with an enthusiastic and unquenchable hunger.

Like many, the consistent source of information was

It was the first site many went to in the morning and the last site visited each evening.

The site provided race and team news, rider information, technical and equipment updates, product reviews and individual rider news, interviews and analysis.

Via new aspects of the sport came to light including cyclocross and MTB.
The website was easy to use and clearly laid out.

I will not be going there anymore.

Two weeks ago, the website was re-launched with a new design and new navigation. I am sure it still contains all the same information. But I don’t really know.

I immediately found it difficult to use but persevered for 2 weeks believing the problem was probably mine. I mean, these people are clever and run a successful website. It must be an improvement on the old site.

Well it is not. It has a complex appearance and it is “not straight forward” in its use and application.

I for one have moved on. I am thankful for the education has given me and the passion for the sport of cycling that it has contributed to me now having. However, like many relationships, it is now over and it is time to move on.

Thank you for all you have done. Who knows, we may well meet again.

Monday, 1 June 2009

On The Road

You all think you are just so clever. Well let me tell you, right now you are at the top of the school but next year you start at the bottom again and this is a cycle that repeats throughout life. Then after secondary school, it is university and then it is the workforce. You might think you are all very clever now but remember, it does not last for long.

The above is a close approximation of a lecture an angry teacher gave my final year primary class many, many years ago after we had developed the habit of being a little uncontrollable. And it is a lecture I have never forgotten, partly because it continually proves to be true and in many walks of life.

And as recently as Saturday, this wise teacher’s words came into my consciousness.

I have been racing consistently for about 8 months and gradually improving both fitness and race craft. I even thought (naively) I was doing ok and getting to understand a little about this business of bike racing. At least in low grade club events anyway.

However, my racing activities have been restricted to Criterions at Nundah, Lakeside and Murarrie.

On Saturday I completed my first road race out of Elimbah.

Criterions are conducted on nice smooth surfaces free of potholes where at worst, you only push into the wind for a relatively short distance each lap.

The roads we raced on at Elimbah were very rough, contained many pothole hazards including some big enough to break a wheel if you hit them and sections into the wind that went for kilometers not meters.

There were races conducted in two divisions and I was pleased to be allocated the second division race – and I expected to be too.

However I wasn’t really expecting the handicapper to call my name out along with 5 others to start from scratch.

I asked a few other competitors how a handicap road race worked. The best answer I received came from one of my fellow scratch who simply advised “When the starter says go, we go like hell for as long as we can and when we are spent we hang on for dear life and keep going like hell”. Sounds like fun I thought to myself.

The first group of racers left the start line a full 14 minutes before we did, with other groups leaving 11, 8, 6 and 4 minutes before we were waived away.

I was advised we would operate a pace line along the flats and gradual rises and falls and do “your best on the hills and if you get dropped on a hill go hard to get back on because we wont be waiting for you”.

And go like hell we did, on bar jarring pot holed roads into seemingly endless head winds on up hills that seemed like mountains and down hills that seemed so short.

After about 5 kilometers we lost one of our group and it took some 25 kilometers before we caught anyone at all. At about 30 kilometers we had reeled in everyone else and the race was on.

Having a sprint capacity roughly equal to a broken billy cart uphill and knowing my only hope for a win was to break away I stepped on the gas with around 3 kilometers to go and achieved a gap of about 200 meters.

Looking at my heart rate monitor, I decided to ignore a heart rate in a range that would not please my cardiologist.

A kilometer to go and I still had a lead but with pain in the legs and bursting lungs my strength was waning. The chasers caught me with about a hundred meters to go and I finished 5th with a comfortable lead over the next placed cyclist.

Totally spent, aching back and neck, and legs not keen to keep rotating I rolled to a halt before turning and heading back to the finish line where other competitors were gathering. The big thrill came from my scratch partners. These guys are experienced cyclist and experienced road racers. To receive their comments such as “well ridden”, “great ride” and “you made the race and would have deserved a win” was extremely satisfying.

Road racing is tough and very different to criterions. It is fast and furious and you are more reliant on each rider in your start group. You work in cooperation with the people you aim to defeat because to not do so ensures you have no chance of victory.

I knew nothing at the start and now know a tiny little bit about road racing. The words of my primary school teacher came to mind as a racked up my bike and drove home. Her wise words repeatedly are proven to be true as they were again on Saturday. But it is good to be at the bottom again and I look forward eagerly to the next chance to race on the road and rising from the bottom of the heap.

Now for a Time Trial

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Intellectual Politicians - Success or Failure

In the last 30 years, we have perhaps had 2 political leaders in Australia possessed with intelligence somewhat higher than that of a normally intelligent person. They are John Hewson and Kevin Rudd.

John Hewson was a leader of outstanding intellect. While his economic credentials were without peer in the Parliament at the time, his intelligence was best illustrated by his ability to be across the detail of a range of other topics and he became a most capable orator particularly on issues of Foreign Affairs.

Kevin Rudd on the other hand has a head start on Foreign Affairs, Health and Education but has managed to turn himself into a competent analyst of matters economic.

Both Men have reputations as work alcoholics and both drive colleagues and staff to distraction with the demands they place upon them, and themselves.

There are some fundamental differences though including that when as Opposition Leaders, Rudd won the un-losable election while Hewson lost the un-losable election.

Hewson was the academic who became an economics policy adviser to John Howard before himself moving into Parliament.

Rudd was the career diplomat who became Chief of Staff to Queensland Premier Wayne Goss before standing for Federal Parliament.

In a politically brave move, Hewson took a detailed radical policy platform to the electorate in March 1993. The policy was a Goods and Services Tax. Then Prime Minister Paul Keating destroyed him and in doing so, ensured it would be a long time before another Prime Ministerial challenger would take detailed policy to an election.

In November 2007, Rudd took a largely “me too” policy along with a great deal of rhetoric to the electorate and achieved a comfortable victory.

John Hewson ignored political reality in a world where politics is unfortunately of equal or sometimes greater significance than policy. He believed he had the weight of “right” on his side and that he could convince the electorate of the “correctness” of his belief of a GST being good for voters personally, and the country as a whole.

Rudd primarily took the concept of the need for change to the election together with creating significant doubt about work choices.

Hewson was all policy and little politics; Rudd was all politics and little policy.

Our three most recent Prime Ministers prior to Kevin Rudd appear to have understood the need to combine both Policy and Politics. Whether or not you agree with their politics, they were all part of major reforms in Australia, be it Keating primarily as the key Minister in the Hawke Government.

The Hawke/Keating years included the de-regulation of the Australian Dollar, massive manufacturing reform, introduction of a retirement savings system envied by much of the rest of the world and a consistent approach to achieving a balance between income growth and productivity improvements.

The achievements of the Howard Prime Ministerial years included firearm reform, an overhaul of the tax system, consistent approach to revenue distribution to the States and work place reform (be it ultimately un-successful).

Hawke, Keating and Howard understood that in addition to the politics, they had a responsibility to lead and govern and in doing so, regularly made un-popular decisions. They all generally respected the Parliament and accepted the reality of traditions such as question time.

My concern is that Kevin Rudd has decision reluctance and lacks the ability or willingness to drive a reform agenda for fear of the impact such reforms may have on short term popularity. He also seems overly sensitive.

Last week during question time he labored for 25 minutes answering a “Dorothy Dix” question .
The Government has initiated Community Cabinet meetings in rural areas where the public attend and participate in the forum. Inevitability only Mr Rudd gets to say much at all and rarely is it about the subject raised.

I don’t know if the following is factual but it does serve to illustrate the problem:

On a recent trip to North America Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was invited to address a major gathering of the American Indian Nations in Kitimat BC due to his experience in handling the indigenous situation in Australia.

He spoke for almost an hour on his ideas for increasing every First Nation's present standard of living.

At the conclusion of his speech, the tribes presented the Prime Minister with a plaque inscribed with his new Indian name Walking Eagle. The proud Rudd then departed with his entourage, waving to the crowd as he left.

A news reporter later asked the chiefs how they came to select the new name given to Rudd.

They explained that Walking Eagle is the name given to a bird so full of shit it can no longer fly.

With a little courage, self belief and leadership, Prime Minister Rudd can be a long term successful Prime Minister who retires from office with a track record of achievement to be proud of and in doing so, leave Australia in a better position than he found it.

Or, he can focus on simply winning the next election, racking up debt and taking us to the brink.

Perhaps he could do worse than study the legacy of the Fraser years. Malcolm Fraser was a Prime Minister seemingly intent on the next election and who achieved very little in real or any other terms. He has arguably achieved more since he left Government than he ever did as Prime Minister.

“ITS TIME” is a famous ALP slogan from the 1972 election and it is now time for Mr Rudd to use his intellect for the good of the country by getting the political balance right. Ultimately, this will guarantee his success and his legacy.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Magical Mushroom, Two Phase Power and Other Memories

Today has been the culmination of several days of built up expectation. The build up has also resulted in an amount of internal reflection and reminiscences, which are not something I often do. I am more an “enjoy the event in its own time, learn and prosper from it, move forward to the next challenge and above all, have no regrets as a result of decisions or actions” sort of person.

My era really took the live music scene in Melbourne in the 1970’s in our stride. We participated, we enjoyed and as far as we knew that was the way it was and would always be.

It is only looking back that we were really living in a period of a live music feast and we would never dine on such ease of access of quality band and performer again.

It was the era the phenomenon of Mushroom Records was established in South Melbourne. The phenomenon that spurned the re-birth of Australian Rock and popular music and brought it access to the commercial radio waves. Mushroom perhaps also established the ground work that led to the establishment of a wonderfully successful broadcaster.

The bands and artists I refer to include:

The early 1970’s:

Daddy Cool
Russell Morris
Captain Matchbox
Spectrum (and Mercepts)

Daddy Cool eventually rolled into the enormously successful and internationally acclaimed Mondo Rock.

Mushroom was established in 1972 and signed and launched such acts as:

Renee Geyer
John-Paul Young
Split Enz
OL 55

And many more.

Other acts of the era include Jon English, Australian Crawl, Men at Work, Kush, Hush, Richard Clapton, Jo Jo Zep, Little River Band (LRB) and Sherbet while the end of the 70’s saw the emergence of local Punk with The Saints and the iconic Nick Cave.

Intertwined in all of this were some wonderful musical experiences via the Rock Opera.

We enjoyed the wonderful and simple Godspell, the controversial Hair, the commercialization of religion via Jesus Christ Superstar and the magical, mysterious, challenging and naughty Rocky Horror Show. I will always remember my 18th birthday and be thankful to a girlfriend of only 3 weeks who saw fit to take me to see Rocky Horror. What a night and thank you Heather.

Colour television also came to Australia and there was nothing more colourful than Rock.

The motivating factor behind the drive to establish Mushroom to get Australian music on the airwaves eventually forced alternative or less commercial music off the airwaves. Popular Rock sold and rated on the radio. And the power of TV and Countdown was such that if a Band or Artist did not appear on Countdown, they could not get airplay and could not sell product.

The ABC established Double J as an alternative music outlet and launched many a band on the road to success and mainstream acceptance. It is a little known fact that Midnight Oil never appeared on Countdown. They got their break on Double J and when they took off, refused requests to appear on the ABC TV Countdown programme. Of course, Double J became Triple J with the advent of FM radio in Australia.

Melbourne of the 1970’s had two primary venues for major concerts.

The first was the magical and totally unsuitable Festival Hall. Built in 1915 by the “Colourful” Business identity John Wren, it was known as the House of Stoush being built for and continuing to be a boxing venue. It’s largely corrugated iron construction meant it was hellishly hot in Summer and freezing cold in Winter. It also had the worst acoustic qualities you can imagine. However a night out seeing an act perform at the “tin shed” was always a night to remember.

Deep Purple is one act that is front of mind and not only for the music experience. That night also was the first time I had ever been asked to “leave a licenced premise”.

A group of us arranged Deep Purple tickets. To get to Festival Hall meant a train trip to Spencer Street Station and a rather long walk up Spencer Street to the Hall. We arrived at Spencer Street with lots of time spare and in very good spirits as it had been the final day of year 11 exams.

It was a warm clear November Melbourne evening and daylight saving meant the sun was still shining. The Spencer Hotel was across the road and we decided a beer was in order.

At the time, Australia was in the grips of a bitter election campaign following a constitutional crisis and the sacking of the Government by the Governor General.

Being a group of (theoretically) intelligent, aware and politically interested 16 and 17 year olds, a political debate soon got underway to go with the beers and wines we were enjoying. UNTIL, Ian stood up and announced seemingly for the entire lounge to hear “What are we all talking about this for. We are all too young to vote anyway”. It was very, very soon after we were all asked to leave the pub.

The evening was also memorable for another reason. I broke my hand but that is another story.(I hastily add, it was not in a fight)

Deep Purple was magnificent; however the night was musically significant for another reason. Little River Band was signed as the support act and it was the first time I saw them live. I subsequently became a long term fan

The second concert venue was the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. An outdoor amphitheatre, it was situated in the wonderful green belt that connects the City of Melbourne to the suburb of St Kilda and includes what to me is the very spiritual Shrine of Remembrance.

In March 1967, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl set a world record for the largest crowd to attend a concert by a single band when over 200,000 people witnessed a performance by The Seekers. This record stood for decades.

As poor students, we liked big concerts at “The Bowl” because we could get a seat in “Scabs Alley” where you could hear but not see and best of all, tickets were free. I heard many an act from “Scabs Alley” but was never all that comfortable asking a girl out to a concert only to go to Scabs Alley. It was a cheap date though and usually acceptable.

However I did often purchase tickets or more correctly acquire tickets and had many wonderful musical experiences at the Bowl including Rick Wakeman (Journey to the Centre of the Earth Tour), Rod Stewart and ABBA.

Acquire Tickets? Well, my Father worked for Ansett Airlines and if they were the airline flying an act in Australia, tickets would often materialize.

Not only would I have never paid for ABBA tickets, I actually kept my attendance at the concert a secret from many friends. In fact, it was only when attending a 50th birthday party in February this year that I revealed to many friends I had attended ABBA. They were not a cool band for people my age at the time. However, along with David Bowie’s Glass Onion Tour, this would be the best international act I have witnessed.

There were also many great Australian acts in concert at the Bowl.

While Festival Hall and the Myer Music Bowl were the major venues for live music, it was the Pub Rock scene that gave us easy access to great acts. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday night were when the big music pubs fired up. Venues such as the Notting Hill, Village Green and The Station Hotel were where us teens fed our rock live music appetites and often free of a cover charge.

Notable Pub Rock Bands and artists included the likes of The Aztecs, Kush, Hush, Stevie Wright, Sherbet, Australian Crawl, Midnight Oil and AC/DC. In fact almost every band or artist honed their performance skills in the Melbourne Live Music Scene. We all have stories of seeing Bands for free playing to small audiences before they became famous. Mine involves Men at Work.

I cannot say for sure in what year one of my most memorable quintessentially Melbourne live music experiences took place. I am reasonably certain it was 1975 and I think it was on the night before Good Friday that year.

With my then Girlfriend, I caught the tram into the Myer Music Bowl where a number of Australian acts were performing. The plan was to enjoy the benefits of Scabs Alley and appreciate some fine local music. The Band that blew me away that night was not the key attraction for me and if it had only been them on the bill, I perhaps would not have spent the tram fare getting there. But I cannot now recall just what the main motivation for me was. As a typically horny 17 year old male, the main attraction may have simply been a degree of optimism about what might “eventuate” later.

Walking to take our “seats” took us past one of the entrance gates to the enclosure. In a split second we noticed it was temporarily unattended and we slipped in. Being an outdoor amphitheatre, the Bowl doesn’t have seating as such so we took up a reasonably elevated position a little to the side of the stage with a great view of the action.

And then they came on. Loud, electric, aggressive, cheeky, fun and harmless. The crowd exploded as they went through the songs in their set and reached a crescendo when the lead singer slipped on a set a bag pipes and let rip with the now well known pipe chords of “It’s a Long Way to the Top if you want to Rock and Roll”. Of course, I am talking about AC/DC.

While we always admired the guitar work of Angus Young, he always looked a bit of a goose on TV. But live, he was Mr. Personality. Bon Scott was the ultimate performer and the band was sensational.

And at the end of the concert on the walk back through the gardens, my optimism was also“rewarded”.

I wonder if my then girlfriend (Zoe) remembers the night AC/DC rocked our world.

Australian Band AC/DC have caused my build-up of expectation this last week and also the motivation for this retrospective and it is AC/DC concert tickets I secured today for their Brisbane performance on 27 February 2010. It cannot come quickly enough.

Lets Rock – One more time at least

Monday, 13 April 2009

Tribulations and Travels

I have given much thought to whether I should write this article and am in fact a little uncomfortable putting fingers’ to the keyboard.

The Ghan has left Station and is travelling through the suburbs and then outer suburbs of Adelaide. One thing that strikes me is the basic make up of suburbs in Australia’s major cities is pretty much the same. And yes, for the exercise I am classing Adelaide as a major city. The fact they host a UCI category 1 cycling race gives them that status as far as I’m concerned.

Australian backyards are also all pretty much the same and I wonder if this is the case in other countries.

On we roll and signs of suburbia disappear and there, not 50 metres from the train track is a kangaroo. Surprisingly and disappointingly, this is the only kangaroo I see for the entire journey and it was not one of the ‘big red’ variety I expected and wanted to see through the outback.

About 5 or so hours out of Adelaide we arrive at Port Augusta for a scheduled one hour stop and an opportunity to get out and walk around.

I spot a gateway to a park that has a sign saying “Matthew Flinders Memorial”. I vividly remember being enthralled in Primary School with the exploits of Flinders and Bass so it is with much enthusiasm and anticipation that I head for the park to see and read the memorial expecting a plague and perhaps a statue. It was only after entering and exploring the park that it occurred to me that the gateway to the park and the sign itself is actually the memorial. A city boy expecting more from a small country town, proud of its history

The facilities at the Port Augusta Station however were disappointing. The Ghan is promoted as being one of the World’s Great Train Journey’s and rightfully so. There was a shop at the station however, the coffee machine was not operating, the magazine rack was empty, there was hardly a can of soft drink in the fridge and no fruit juice at all. While I did not want to buy anything, it occurred to me this is not a particularly good impression to give overseas tourists who have been attracted to Adelaide by the lure of one of “The World’s Great Train Journey’s”. I felt we could do better. Over to you Mr. Rann.

Back on the train and rolling and before you know it all Gold and Platinum Class passengers (sorry, guests) were gathering for the welcome cocktail party. Now I haven’t so much as had a glass of Champagne (sorry sparkling white wine made methode champagne) in 18 months and here I am having my second, third and fourth in the space of a few hours.

Dinner followed (Tasmanian Salmon) and in no time a very full night’s sleep was disturbed at 6.30am with the delivery of a hot cup of tea. Thank you Penny, and made just as I requested the night before.

The view out the window was of dry scrub with a few trees dead and alive for variety. A couple of hours later, there was excitement in the lounge car – a dingo was spotted.

In conversation with an American lady, she mentioned her reason for doing the trip was to see Koala’s in the wild. She was most disturbed to learn that there are no Koala up through the centre.

The view out the window continued to be of bushy scrub sprinkled with trees. I was expecting to be seeing wide open spaces of red by now; maybe closer to Alice Springs; hopefully closer to Alice Springs.

Alice Springs came and went with a marvelous tour of the Desert Park, but more on this another time.

There was a common theme in discussion over pre dinner drinks and then dinner. Everyone was commenting on how beautiful the country is and how wonderful the scenery is we are passing through.

I just don’t get it.

Maybe I lack imagination, maybe I am not sufficiently romantic, maybe I have lived and spent too much time in big cities or perhaps I am actually un-Australian. Sure, the land is perhaps interesting and fascinating. I find it incredible that organisms live, survive and prosper in such a harsh environment and the evolution over time to adapt to the changing conditions is certainly amazing, but beautiful? I just don’t see it and it must be my problem.

I have this theory about Champagne that perhaps particularly applies to the baby boomer and builder generations more than the X’s and Y’s. My theory is that we were brought up believing that champagne was a special and wonderful drink that we should all love and enjoy when we get the chance too. It was almost required that we enjoy it and in many cases, I suspect most people don’t know if what they are drinking is any good and don’t particularly like it more than say a moderate red, but it is wrong to say anything against champagne so they don’t. Haven’t we all gagged on cheap so called champagne at a wedding or 21st birthday party?

I think something similar applies to much of the outback. We are brought up being told how beautiful it is and how its beauty has to be scene to be believed. The promotional material for The Ghan says as much.

I can see beauty in a beach scene, a rain forest, a water fall, a mountain range, snow capped mountains and passes. I can see beauty in a rising sun over the Brisbane River or the silhouette of the skyline against a setting sun. I cannot see it out the train window.

And it is my inability to see the landscape we travelled through to be beautiful that has made me a little un-comfortable writing about it.

Admittedly, I was looking forward to seeing red soil as far as the eye can see and now know we were not in such territory but it does exist.

But don’t get me wrong, I still loved the trip – all of it.

And Katherine and the Gorge are yet to come.

Finally, I was expressing my confusion about the beauty of the scenery on the Ghan trip to a friend over coffee this afternoon. She asked me if the outback or the part I witnessed had personality. My response was a resounding yes, it sure has personality.

She then drew on a different analogy to that of champagne. She suggested that not all people are beautiful to the eye but they have wonderful personalities and are beautiful people just the same.

I have given this some thought and decided the Outback I traveled through last week is indeed beautiful. Maybe I am Australian after all.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Travels and Tribulations

Courtesy of Qantas, I am sitting at approximately 40,000 feet in row 1E about an hour out of Darwin heading for Brisbane and reflecting on the last 4 days. Firstly, it doesn’t feel like only 4 days; it feels like a lot, lot longer but not in a bad way. Time has not dragged and it has not been boring, quite the opposite actually.

My first observation therefore is that perhaps distance travelled and the means of transport contribute to the whole “getting away” experience. I am feeling far more refreshed and invigorated from this 4 day journey covering half the breath and the entire length of the country than I normally do from a drive for a stay of twice the length at either of the holiday coasts that lie to the North and South of Brisbane.

Also, if not driving a few hours to a holiday destination, I generally insist on flying there, flying back and doing whatever it is you do in between depending on the destination you have travelled to. Eg Sydney equals Blue Mountains + harbour bridge walk (not climb) + Ferry to Manly + lunch at Watson’s Bay, +++ and always a beer at the Fortunes of War Hotel in the Rocks (Australia’s oldest continually licenced hotel and my favourite pub).

This was an altogether different and an outcome leaving me totally refreshed and relaxed.

Departure for Adelaide from Brisbane was on the Virgin Blue 5.55 am flight. On arriving in Adelaide it was the shuttle bus to the interstate rail terminal about 10 or so minutes away. It was about two and half hours until the scheduled departure of the famous Ghan Train for what is billed as one of the World’s Great Rail Journey’s through to Darwin.

Given it was early, there were not many people at the Train station. However, the gentlemen checking tickets and arranging bags was charming, informative, happy and genuinely helpful. A long chat with him about the station, The Ghan itself and some of the tours that were available in Alice Springs and Katherine followed. And this guy was just the ticket and baggage man. He then provided an introduction to the lady who looks after the tours. A cup of tea later, an email or 2 with the office, a twitter entry or 3 and then another chat to the Tours lady allowed fully informed decisions to be made about what to do in Alice Springs and Katherine

A walk of the length of the train and a stop to admire what were two very different looking carriages followed. Making an enquiry of a rail employer about 20 meters away, led to the discovery they are the Prince of Wales cars built in the 1920’s for the Prince of Wales tour of Australia. He offered a look inside and before you knew it, the world of luxury train travel, circa 1928 opened up, but with the modern bits now added such as air conditioning. The wood work was exquisite as was the dinning table in the private dining car.

The rail employee advised the cars hold up to 10 people. He also said that it is not that expensive on the basis of 10 people – “only a bit more than the normal price. It was later revealed that booking the Prince of Wales cars from Adelaide through to Darwin (or the other way) came at a cost of $40,000. So for 10 people that is $4000 a head and only around $1000 a head more than our Platinum Class fare for the same trip.

In no time, nearly 3 hours in an out of the way rail station with only a small souvenir shop and café for entertainment had passed and it was all aboard and into Platinum Carriage P2, room 7/8.

All was feeling and looking good when the delightful Penny, the carriage steward for the trip appeared and explained the working of the cabin, the safety procedures and itinerary details before producing a glass each of South Australia’s finest vintage sparkling white wine (read champagne).

It was time to roll and roll we did.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Monarchy, Gender and Religion

Let’s get this out of the way straight away.

I am not a monarchist.

That does not mean I don’t support the fundamentals of a Westminster system of Government because I do and also believe it has served us well.

I just don’t think our Head of State should be the Queen.

In short, I believe the Governor General should be our Head of State and he or she should be elected for a term of 7 years by a two thirds majority of both houses of the Federal Government.

Further, I think the State Governments should be responsible for nominating not more than one candidate each 7 years and that each nomination should be endorsed by a two thirds majority of both Houses of the State Parliaments (except for Queensland which does not have an Upper House)

But this is not the issue here.

I was surprised in a conversation in the office today when a 28 year old male member of staff declared himself to be a staunch Monarchist. I simply don’t know of many young people who hold such a view.

But it got me thinking maybe I am out of touch with the 20 something’s in our community.

Why shouldn’t people in their 20’s be Monarchists? After all, the surge in patriotism around such traditional historical events such as ANZAC day has been huge in recent years, and Long Tan day is starting to gain traction and will hopefully continue to grow.

Maybe the young adults in our community are also returning to King and Queen and Mother England.

Maybe I should re-consider the relevance of the Monarchy and challenge my own views as I may be badly out of touch.

That was at least until I turned on the radio an hour or so ago and decided not to challenge my anti Monarchist views.

The radio story surrounded a private members bill introduced into the Chamber of Commons to commence the process to change the rules of Monarchial succession.

The 300 year old succession rules are such that the first born male child of the ruling King or Queen assumes the Throne when the ruler passes away or abdicates. If there are no male children, the oldest daughter takes over the crown. If there are no children at all, there is a process to determine the next in line however in all cases, the males take precedence over the females.

Oh, and by the way, Roman Catholics are excluded completely. Male or Female.

The Private Members Bill was to change the succession rules to give Males and Females equal status.

Now how radical is the thought that Males and Females are equals. After all, we even allow females to vote and own land now a days.

But horror of horrors, the Bill went further than that and proposed allowing Roman Catholics to become King or Queen. Now that would never do.

Ok, I know the argument that only a Muslim would be allowed to be King of Saudi Arabia and no Women would ever be allowed the throne so why cannot we have similar rules. But Saudi Arabia and other such cultures are hardly the barometer by which we set our standards in society. Are they?

I should add, the Bill was defeated when the Brown Government refused to add its support. This was despite comprehensive polling that over 70% of Great Britain supports the changes.

Extraordinary – it is 2009 isn’t it?
I make no apologies for reaffirming my anti Monarchist views. In fact, I am now of the belief the Monarchy is also inappropriate under current rules for Great Britain whereas previously, I didn’t really give a toss what they did

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Politician Disappointment

I sympathise with the lot of Politicians, or at least I try to.

I believe Politicians are under paid. In particular, I believe Ministers are severely under paid compared to senior executive roles in the commercial world, and a Minister is very much a Senior Executive.

In addition, every aspect of what they do publically and privately is under extreme public scrutiny and then every 3 years they have to re-apply for their job. And the working hours are excessive, by any measure.

Politicians do enjoy generous Superannuation benefits compared to the commercial world, or do they? The entitlements of Federal Politicians on leaving Parliament are nothing like the termination benefits paid to Senior Executives.

John Howard was a Federal Parliamentary Member for about the same number of years that Alan Moss was at Macquarie Bank. Only one of these gentlemen received a payout of between $50 and $80 million and it wasn’t the one with the most demanding job.

However, it is not compulsory to put yourself forward for Elected Office. You do it with full knowledge of what you will face.

Maybe an aspiring Politician is driven by an ideological desire to serve their community, to better the lives of others or to deliver outcomes they truly believe in.

A cynic may say that because the pay is so bad, they aspire for a Political career because they are not very good at what ever it is they thought they would be doing so Politics in relative terms is a lucrative option; the pay peanuts and get monkeys philosophy.

What ever the motive, I try to believe our Politicians do have the best interests of the Country at hand and within the confines of Political reality, are honest and credible.

But it is ever so hard when you the likes of Joel Fitzgibbon emerge.

Our Federal Minister for Defence could recall a free trip across the pond to New Zealand for a Politicians Rugby Team and a trip to the Gold Coast funded by the Australian Hotel Association for a Tourism Award Function.

He could not however recall two trips to China flying Business Class and staying at 5 star hotels. And for one of these trips, he apparently departed on Christmas day. (Not at all memorable when you have a young family)

If it was simply a failure to make the necessary entries on the Parliament’s Register of Interests it could perhaps be forgiven as being sloppy or lazy – at least it could be if their was only one trip. Being sloppy, lazy or even making and administrative error is almost excusable (even for the Minister responsible for the defence of the Nation, almost excusable).

However Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was asked a direct question at a news conference on Thursday:

"Have any of your trips to Beijing been paid for by Ms Liu or any of her companies?"

Mr. Fitzgibbon responded by saying he had only received small gifts from Ms Liu, birthdays etc etc etc.

There are two simple explanations. Joel Fitzgibbon is either being untruthful or is totally incompetent.

And this person oversees the Department with one of the biggest budgets and with the responsibility for this county’s defence and the execution of Government decisions involving overseas military activities such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Timor.

I for one would like to have more confidence in my Defence Minister. However, it seems the Prime Minister and Acting Prime Minister while expressing disappointment, are not taking any action against the Minister and by doing so, are effectively endorsing his behavior (or is it incompetence)

The lack of action defines the morals of the Government and does nothing to improve the perception of the profession of representative politics.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Is it all about the bike (Part II)

Some time ago I wrote about the pressure I always seem to be under to upgrade my bike.

In the blog post, I referred to my basic satisfaction with the current unit and the fact that I do not perceive it was preventing me achieving any cycling goals, well at least not yet.

Right now, my inclination is to remove the previous entry and deny I ever had such thoughts.

And what about the sequence of events that has led me to this thought process.

Up as usual at 4.10 am. Breakfast etc and into the car. As is the habit, suit etc were packed the night before.

All too often it is a rush to get to the Roma Street meeting place by 5.15 am for a bunch ride but this morning I was on schedule to make it without a mad rush and maybe even with a minute to spare.

Enter the car park and park the car, get the bike out and discover a flat rear tyre.

A quick calculation is all I need to realise if I replace the tube the time it takes means I will miss the bunch start, so not wanting to ride the 40 or so k’s solo without a spare tube (because I would have used the one I had) it is straight to the shower and I am in the office at 5.40am, and very determined to now get away early enough to ride in the afternoon. (Believe me, I would much rather be riding at 5.40 am than following the New York stock market)

There are a few club members who ride most afternoons at about 5.00 pm to either Nudgee or Shorncliffe so sendan SMS to confirm the ride is on today and decide to link with them. So at 4.00 pm I rush home, grab the old (and much loved) steel bike and head to the Nudgee Circuit. And that is where the problem begins.

One of the cyclists arrives on his brand new Time – I think it is a VXRS UL Team Worldstar model and with Fulcrum Zeros, it looks sensational.

I have always admired Time bikes. I think they just drip style and class. And now, for no particularly logical reason I want one. Or if not a Time, a new bike of another brand or model.

With a bit of luck, I will get over this urge – like you get over a headache. It may just be a bout of temporary insanity. It may be having some spare purchasing capacity having just decided not to buy a new car.

Or it maybe that deep down, I really do want a new bike to enjoy and show off and I have been simply resorting to rational thoughts to convince myself I don’t need or want a new bike.

However, I have many friends who think getting up 4 or more mornings a week at 4.10 am defies any concept of rationality so maybe cycling addiction and rational thoughts are an oxymoron anyway.

To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the dilemma.

But that Time sure looks good.

TV Debut

I will count you in. Look at the camera and start speaking after “one”. You have one take only so get it right.

Five, Four, Three, Two, One…..

“Welcome to the State Hockey Centre in the Brisbane suburb of Colmslie where on a cloudy overcast day we are hear for the opening game of the 2009 Hockey Brisbane season between Division one women’s teams Valleys and Saint Andrews.

My name is Colin Morley and with me today are co commentators Bernadette Poxxxxxx and George Clxxxx.

With both teams having players in Hobart with the Queensland Scorches Bernadette, what can we expect to see today?

Etc etc etc from Bernadette

And George, where do you think the decisive battles will be today.

Etc etc etc from George

Now we will cross to Nikki Taxxxx who is with the coaches.”

And so ended the opening take of our first hockey broadcast for QCTV.

Nerve racking? Absolutely.
Exciting? Yes
Adrenalin? Certainly.

We then had a 15 minute break before the game commenced and we were in to the commentary and special comments.

Being a women’s game, George and I new little about the players but Bernadette was great with her knowledge.

We settled down after half time and what was to be a test day has proved to be good enough to go to air next Saturday at noon.

Our downloads after the game proved very consistent. We were all aware of using similar words and phrases over and over again. We were also aware that when we try to think of something to say it is hard, but when we relax, it all comes pretty smoothly.

Not withstanding, we were probably rubbish, but perhaps with potential.

For all of us who sit at home and dream of being commentators, it is far more difficult than it looks.

Having said that, I can’t wait to have another crack on 4 April. So:-

On behalf of Bernadette and George, that’s all from the State Hockey Centre today and we look forward to having your company again on QCTV for the next round of Brisbane Hockey on 4 April.

Sigh of relief and huge buzz.

But I am not sure I want to watch it on Saturday.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Anna and Lawrence - It's about what you can influence

Our two State political leaders are sprouting their respective plans for relieving the impact of the global financial crisis on Queensland.

Realistically, how much can they really do?

The domain of local Government is sewerage, water distribution, garbage, sewerage, traffic control and local public transport.

The Federal Government deals with defence, tax and fiscal policy, foreign affairs, social security, border security, customs and excise and tertiary education.

And State Governments primarily deal with State transport infrastructure, power, water, primary and secondary education, health and law and order.

So why are our Queensland Political Leaders talking about relieving the impact of the global financial crisis when in reality, what ever they do will have limited if any impact.

Prime Minister Rudd and Treasurer Swann quite reasonably point out there is little if we in Australia can do about what is happening in financial markets overseas. Our economy is so small in the wider scheme of things that we are being taken and will continue to be taken along for the economic ride.

Sure, we have had several stimulus packages and while it is claimed these measure have had an effect, measuring the effect is virtually impossible.

Queensland, and all other States are a further rung down the global ladder, so why do our State political leaders think they can do what all other National Governments the world over are failing to do?

Both leaders are making promises around health; however our public health system is in such a mess, it will take a decade or more to really achieve anything. Besides neither party want to say too much about Health that they can be held accountable for at a future date.

There has been passing attention to education and infrastructure, and water is not as high on our awareness barometers since recent rains in the South East.

So what about Law and Order? I am not aware of any substantive reference to Law and Order during the campaign. Although I have not seen any outputs from today’s campaign launches.

I had a call from a close friend last Friday. His 70 year old uncle had been attacked and robbed just near his home in a major regional city. The attack like all attacks was cowardly. It was also cruel and vicious and involved what appears to be acid being thrown in his face. He is still unconscious and in intensive care having been transferred to Brisbane.

It is a sickening act in every way.

Law and Order is not just about policing and jails. It is also about education and reform programs for first time and juvenile offenders.

From what I have seen, there has been little if anything mentioned to do with law and order during the campaign. It obviously isn’t sexy, or is it a case of if it hasn’t effected me, it doesn’t matter, therefore there are few votes to be won.

Time for our State Leaders to get back to the issues they can genuinely and meaningfully influence and leave the global financial crisis to those who can do something about that too.