20 November, 2010

That's What Friends are For....

The weather held for our coffee ride this morning. The forecast had been somewhere between catastrophic and abysmal with predictions of heavy rain and possible flash flooding along the tropical coast. The sound of rain on the roof and gutters starting to run around 2:30 this morning had me thinking that the ride just might not happen.

When I got up at 4:30, the skies had cleared (I actually saw stars) and things looked promising. A quick check of the weather radar showed that the system had cleared the coast (albeit temporarily) and we were the hole in the doughnut as it were- clouds to the north, south and east but we were free and clear.

Off we went on our regular circuit- crossing the river to pick up some other members of the group and heading to our main gathering point. I was a bit surprised at the number who turned up given the weather and alternate rides scheduled for today.

We completed the main portion of the ride with a bit of a 10km blast out along the shore to Pallarenda and back and it felt good to have a bit of a "lung-buster". 38-40km/hr and getting up to 45km/hr in spots made for a good bit of a break.

On to coffee at Juliette's and we welcomed back the owner Gary who had been overseas for a few weeks- New York in particular where he participated in and completed the NYC Marathon. Dee and I did a bit of work (actually Dee did most of the work) before he came back to Australia and created a poster with pictures of Gary in various stages of the marathon, crossing the line and with his medal for completing the event. When I delivered the poster to the cafe on Thursday, some of his staff didn't even know that he had gone to NYC to take part in the marathon and were gobsmacked that their boss had completed a marathon.

Gary was effusive in his thanks and humbled that we would do something like this. But these are momentous occasions- often things from a "bucket list", and all too often we don't stop to celebrate or even appreciate the accomplishments of those around us.

That's what friends are for.......

Cheers- ride safe


14 November, 2010

29'er- and we're not talking bikes here either....

It's been twenty-nine years today for Dee and I and it doesn't seem like it's been nine, let alone twenty-nine. We had a quiet morning- no early ride. The rain overnight had only just ended and neither of us really felt the need to head out on wet roads and deal with the grit and toad guts that inevitably spray off your tyres and onto you and your bike and the person following your wheel......Yuck!!!

So we had a couple cups of coffee and read the online news, caught up on blogs and then I made some jalapeno/cheese/bacon cornbread for breakfast. Not a bad nosh and I can't believe there's still some left over for tomorrow.

The rain held off so it was out into the yard for some serious weeding and garden bed edging. The rain over the last week or so has left the ground very soft and just right for removing those deep-rooted weeds in the garden (and lawn). The backs of my legs are complaining that I don't do this often enough and were sending out little messages of "hurt" as I was bending over to tie my shoes this afternoon to head out and collect our mangoes.

Some good friends have a mango orchard just south of the city and had brought trays of mangoes in for a bunch of us who had expressed a desire for some of these lovely fruit. We had a mango tree in the backyard at one time but it ceased to produce much fruit and what fruit there was, formed toward the top of the tree and was pretty much inaccessible unless you are a flying fox so we had it removed a few years ago.

There are two varieties in the tray, Kensington Pride- also known as Bowen or Bowen Specials and the R2E2 which is a variety produced for the export market. They are "ginormous" as per the photo. The mango in my right hand is a Bowen and the other is the R2E2. It must weigh at least 1.5 kg. You will also note to my left is a collection of ripening pawpaw (or papaya for the North Americans) of varying sizes. The majority of these are from a tree in the backyard but the largest fruit immediately to my left is from our neighbour.

The mangoes still have a way to go before they will be ripe enough to eat but we just came across a new mango cheesecake recipe today....can't wait to try it.

So a few glasses of bubbly and a lovely meal of Thai fish (which we cycled out and purchased this afternoon- the fish that is) on turmeric rice made for a delicious close on the day. I look forward to the next 29/39/49.......

Cheers- ride safe


10 November, 2010

It's Alive!!!

I steeled myself for combat this morning. The rain had done enough to thwart me from heading out at the usual 5:00am so I settled back, had a cup of coffee, read all of my favourite cycling blogs and caught up on the news and waited for 8:00 to roll around. That's the magic hour at which the "Insert certain mobile telephone company name here" Billing Services area is available to handle enquiries.

I thought I was in with a chance being so early in the business day- I just might not have to spend an inordinate amount of time on hold listening to the same 8 songs on a repetitive cycle- oh and all of the inane interjections from Miss Bubbles on how they're working to answer my call as soon as possible.

Sorry- but like Maxwell Smart, it would seem that I "missed it by that much." Another hour plus on hold. I decided to look at their website to see if I could find another means of contact and there I noticed that South Australia and New South Wales were experiencing system issues.

As a result there would have been a greater number of users ringing to find out why they didn't have web access (or whatever) on their mobiles.

So I tried a different stream, to no avail and decided at that point to do some chores around the house- like install a new smoke detector- the old one had decided it didn't like being installed in our house- that it would much rather live at the rubbish tip. It voiced its displeasure at being stuck to the ceiling on a rather frequent basis. No amount of cleaning or fresh batteries would changes its disposition so we accommodated it and sent it on its merry way to the landfill.

Of course the new one has a smaller mounting base which resulted in the need for the electric drill, extension leads and in due course will see yours truly filling the hole in the ceiling from the previous mount and painting said patched area.

Anyhow, after this I called the Customer Service Centre again and almost suffered a myocardial infarction (that would be a heart attack) when I actually spoke with a real, living, breathing human in less than 60 seconds. After almost 4 hours in the last 2 days, I could hardly believe it.

Yes my phone had been connected and the SIM card had been activated- yesterday according to their records. "Have you turned the phone off and back on?"

I had done that so many times since last Thursday I thought I might wear the switch out but "No"- I had not touched the phone since yesterday when I tossed it back in its box and was waiting to ship it back other than to check it this morning when I got up and it still said "SIM not provisioned" and I put it back in the box. So I turned it off and then when I turned it back on, there was my little signal strength symbol beaming in the corner with the provider's network displaying on the screen.

And for all of the inconvenience, discomfort and waiting on hold, they have graciously cut my first month's payment by 50%- a total of $14.50.

Cheers- ride safe


09 November, 2010

Well now there's a few hours of my life I won't get back......

The mobile phone saga....will it ever end?

Good ride this morning- 54km with about 32km in the group at speed- headed out at 35-37km/hr and came back around 41-43. Pretty good effort and the group was pretty well behaved from what I could see.

Coffee and the ride home- a shower and a bit of breakfast and then it was time to look at the monster in the room.........the Crackberry still said, "SIM not provisioned" despite all of the advice from Melbourne/Hobart/Mumbai/ wherever in the world the support for "Modaphone" is located that I would have service by this morning. "So", says I to myself and any of the geckos on the wall in the lounge room at the time, "time to ring and see what's happening in the world of mobile telecommunications." (Or at least BoaB's world of telecomm.)

I had contacted the Customer Service Centre yesterday to try and explain the situation and advised that if I had not been connected by 8:00am this morning, I would be rescinding my contract on the grounds of failure by the provider to deliver the agreed product.

I spent almost 2.5 hours on hold and still did not speak with a human. In that time I could have cycled another 80 k or so and not been nearly so frustrated. As a matter of fact, it probably would have done me a world of good.

Looks like tomorrow may start off with a call to the telecommunications ombudsman....or at least after I get back from my ride. It's stressful enough doing this sort of crap, but I think it is much less stressful than if I didn't go for a ride.

Cheers- ride safe


07 November, 2010

Sunday Ride...

Headed out the door at 5:20 this morning for a group ride to Woodstock. Round trip (including into the city for coffee post-ride) should be about 90km. This was my first group ride, at speed and more than 35km, for probably 18 months.

The pace was reasonably steady heading out, a bit of surging from 30- 37km/hr but not too bad. Upon reaching Woodstock, a group immediately turned and headed for home while the remainder took a few minutes to refuel, rehydrate and I'm sure a few other re's.

The return leg is a bit of a free-for-all and given my absence from the pack scene and suspect endurance, I decided to turn and head back early- the only problem was I missed the first group which turned and could see them about 300 metres up the road as I swung around. So I had my own little individual sufferfest for about 20km of the return journey.

A group of about 7 or 8 caught up and overtook me after about 15km. Given that they were doing about 50km/hr when they went by, I didn't like my chances of hanging on so I just let the opportunity pass. Besides, I had been pushing a bigger gear than I probably should have for a bit too long and was feeling some discomfort around the hip. So I backed off a bit and spun for another 5 km until the next group caught up.

This time I was feeling considerably better and decided to have a crack at hanging on. I managed to hang with them all the way back into the city- even had a couple rolls through on the front and was holding pace at 44-46 km/hr. Must have been the muesli bar I ate on the way back in.

My much-deserved coffee was great and after an easy ride back home, I now feel ready for a nap......I may have to have a rest day tomorrow.

p.s. local rider Ruth Corset was last night named as Cycling Queensland's Cyclist of the Year for 2010.

p.p.s. Still no phone service (I know you're surprised)

Cheers- ride safe

06 November, 2010

Life in the Modern World....(sigh)....Phone Dramas Pt II

When last we looked, the author was speculating on what might befall him today as he tried to get his new mobile phone to connect with the network.

Arising at 4:30, he checked the phone only to confirm what he had been dreading- "SIM not provisioned". Turn it back off and leave it on the kitchen bench- definitely too early to go back to the store and deal with it so we went for our regular Saturday ride and coffee(s). And a beautiful morning it was too.....clear skies, light breezes, relatively light traffic and good company. The ride out to Pallarenda and back along the Strand was great- if my new phone was working, I would have taken a picture and posted it for you.

A couple of coffees and some friendly conversation with our cycling mates and it was time to head home and the answer is "No". If you had been playing Jeopardy with Alex Trebec, your response would be, "Alex, the question is, Is BoaB's new phone working?"

So, off I go to the dealer, which up until now I have not named. Let's just say the name is one word of three syllables, the first two rhyme with moda and the last rhymes with phone- actually it is phone but spelled in a different manner. The young sales assistant with whom I have been dealing looked somewhat crestfallen when I walked in. She was dealing with another customer but as soon as she saw me, she knew I wasn't there for a social visit.

One of the other employees came to assist me and started the enquiry process with their internal phone contact to the customer service/operations centre. After a few minutes of waiting on hold (it even happens within their own company) he asked if I wanted to wait in the food court area in the shopping mall. I advised I would just wait patiently at the counter- by the main service area, where other customers could see and perhaps vicariously experience my frustration- while he attempted to resolve my issue. And if anybody asked, I was going to be more than happy to share my experience with their service.

My best estimate would be 40 minutes. In that time, the young bloke assisting me didn't really accomplish much and ended up passing the phone back to the original sales assistant- let's call her Lauren- if for no other reason than that is her name.

Lauren speaks with someone somewhere who can't do anything to assist and may as well have been trying to get a request through NASA to get the Hubble telescope to take a picture of Uranus which is where I was considering asking them to put the phone. I could tell by the exasperated look that this was not going to be good news- funny that...

The "Incident" as it shall now be called, has been escalated yet again from Level 1 (which I think is a group of simians with keyboards) to Level 2- which I guess is a good thing- not the simian keyboardists but the fact it has been escalated to Level 2. Now I guessed that this was not necessarily a desirable outcome as I was advised that the Level 2 support group doesn't work weekends and my phone will definitely be connected by Monday (or Tuesday).

I don't think I said anything for a few moments, at which point I must have looked like I was going to set fire to the phone and the contract paperwork because Lauren asked, "Do you want to cancel your contract? Because if you do, I would understand but I am unable to do that. You need to contact our customer service centre and stay on hold until both batteries in your cordless phones are dead and you still haven't spoken to a real human." She didn't actually say the italicised thingy but gave me all of the information on what I needed to say to the robovoice to get in touch with the right people.

And I think what convinced her that I was serious was when I mentioned the telecommunications ombudsman and service levels for connections of service within reasonable timeframes upon entering into a contract.

So I came home and rang the number and said all of the right things to Robovoice who advised she was connecting me to the correct area only to find out that they work the same shift as the Level 2 group and nobody would be available to answer my questions until Monday morning.

Anyhow, tomorrow morning there is another nice 90km ride. Too bad I won't be able to take any pictures for you.

Cheers- ride safe


05 November, 2010

It wasn't so bad after all, nor was the next day....

The forecast from the last post looked pretty grim (that seems a bit strong- how about inclement?) and so it was with a bit of trepidation that I hauled my butt ot of bed on Thursday morning and fired up the laptop to see what weather was in store for the ride.

There were a few spicks and specks on the radar but nothing of any significance, so I got kitted up and headed out. I probably hadn't gone 300 metres when the first rain fell but it was thankfully short-lived. There must have been a fair number who made their decisions based on the downpour we were having on Wednesday night as numbers were well down.

Never mind- any ride is a good ride (well almost any ride).

Today (Friday) dawned clear and very cool and humid (remember we are talking the tropics here, so anything below 20C is cool). There had been a few light showers overnight but that had all cleared by the time I got up at 4:30. So a nice 30km ride into the city and a coffee before another 15km back home made for a great start to the day.

That's just about where the goodness of the day ended. Yesterday I signed up for a new mobile phone contract. Nice new BlackBerry (or as Bluenoser calls them- "Crackberry) Curve 9300 with lots of bells and whistles, web and email capability, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah......when I walked away from the dealer with my new phone, I was assured that my SIM card would be activated within a couple of hours.

"No worries", says I- "that will be fine." When I still did not have any access as of 7:00pm last night, I became, shall we say, concerned. Checked when I got up for this morning's ride- nada, rien, nichts, zilch, zip.... So I'm at the dealer's door at 9:00am when they open with a few queries, as it were. A check on the computer says the request to activate the SIM failed- "good work Sherlock!!" but no explanation why.

"We'll just resend this and it will all be good." I think most of you can probably write the rest of the script here. It is now 8:00pm and still nothing. I think tomorrow's chapter could be very interesting.....but whatever transpires, it will have to happen after tomorrow morning's ride...

Cheers- ride safe


03 November, 2010

Hmmmm- this looks like it could be damp...

Like the lyrics from Supertramp- "It's Raining Again", this snapshot of the local radar tells the story:

In the middle of the picture is a red dot- that dot is the radar location on Mt Stuart- about 8 km as the crow flies, due south of our place. This weather has been building in all day with just some light drizzle from late morning and then getting a little heavier as the day progressed. Judging from what is feeding in from the Coral Sea, we might have this overnight and well into tomorrow as well.

It might also have a bit of an impact on my ride tomorrow morning. As I have said before, I don't mind getting caught out in the rain but I have a hard time pushing myself out the gate into the rain...(See Rule V at Velominati). That's not to say I won't- I mean it's not like there's any risk of it turning to freezing rain or snow.

One of the other things that becomes noticeable as the seasonal rains arrive is the sudden appearance of the "hairy-backed, knuckle-dragging bogan". As soon as there is a bit of rain on the roads, out they come in great numbers, revving their engines and spinning their tyres on a road surface with considerably less grip than in dry times. I'm not sure if they are of the same species as the rest of humanity but they seem to use these displays of petrol-derived power as either a mating call (like frog in a drainpipe) or a challenge to others who might invade their turf (like a Maori performing a haka).

And they never completely disappear like other migratory animals. You can find signs of their presence all year round in the form of "Bogan Dust". Also known as broken glass, this is found in great amounts along the city's roads- with particular attention apparently given to the designated bike lanes and is found in the greatest amounts on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Quelle surprise!!

Anyhow, I will make an attempt to get out there in the morning- rain or not.

Ride safe


02 November, 2010

The Race That Stops a Nation

It never ceases to amaze me- the first Tuesday in November is Melbourne Cup Day and while it is a holiday in Victoria, the whole of Australia comes to a halt for the running of "The Cup". There is a plethora of betting advice available from all and sundry- form guides and trainers' records, colours of the jockeys' silks, weather forecasts, track conditions, on and on it goes. And I guess that's all part of what makes this an event that everyone feels they're involved in.

Businesses hold lavish Cup lunches with prizes for best dressed and worst tie- funnily enough at our office, men never won the first and women never even got a look in for the second. Sweepstakes are run with all of the newspapers printing sweepstakes forms in today's editions. A good number of turf clubs around the nation will hold local meetings in conjunction with the cup with big screens displaying all of the action from Flemington.

I think this is our 16th cup and in true annual tradition, I trundled off to the TAB to place my annual bet. I think aside from the Melbourne Cup, I may have placed about 3 bets at the local track and my winning percentage from those is 0.0%, nada, zilch, nichts, rien.

The Cup has always been good to me. Of the 16 Cups, I have missed placing bets at the TAB on 2 occasions- once in 2002 when I could not get away from work to place my bet and the while I was in Canada in 2004. Turned out in '02 I won two office sweeps and a bet with one of the employees who decided to run his own little book on the day.

In the years in which I have placed a bet, it would probably be running at about 80% in my favour. And with that, I present my ticket for the 2010 Melbourne Cup:

A straight $5.00 on the nose for Americain. I think it pays out at 12:1- so my 5 bucks gets me $60. I will never get rich, but gee, I love the Melbourne Cup.

I have also included a new blog link to Ruth Corset's Olympic journey. Ruth is a local racer, mother of two great girls, Australia's 2009 Women's Road Racer of the Year, rider with Team Tibco, Commonwealth Games rider and amongst other accomplishments in the last 12 months, a podium finish in the Tour Feminin en Limousin 2010. Oh, and I forgot to mention she is coached by her husband Jason- what a great team!!!!!

Cheers- ride safe