Blog

What’s that embedded in my toast?

I’m so lucky.

In fact, it could all be summed up in this very moment. Let me describe it for you… in detail.

Right now I’m eating two slices of toast.

One has homemade marmalade spread thick on it.

This marmalade was given to me this morning by my loving grandmother who is lucky enough to have learned her skills in the kitchen, have the appliances and electricity to make tasty foods, and lucky enough to have close friends and family to make things for, knowing that it will be appreciated.

I was lucky enough to visit my grandparents this morning because I’m lucky enough to have Sundays off, I am lucky enough to own a bike (that’s older than I am!), fit and healthy enough to ride said bike, live in a place with quality roads that I can ride it on and where it’s generally very safe to ride.

I was able to visit my grandparents because I’m lucky enough to still have them around in good health, I was able to have a wonderfully interesting conversation with them because they’re both still sharp and spent their lives caring enough to think deeply about the world so that their thoughts and ideas are still captivating.

The other slice is spread thick with homemade peanut butter.

The peanuts were only four dollars at Coles and my beautiful wife was lucky enough to pick up a second-hand NutriBullet cheap from someone who was lucky enough that they could afford to buy it fully price. We could pay for both because we’re lucky gainfully employed in jobs that we enjoy.

I was lucky enough to be able to make the peanut butter in less than a minute because of the energy, engineering, science, economics, investment and physical labour that was all embedded into the process of getting me peanuts, a blender and electricity. I was lucky enough to get this all at such a low cost of my time, money and effort.

Oh, and to add icing to the cake a beautiful day.

I could go on to talk about the $3 sourdough bread, the toaster, the roof over my head and all of the luck right back to my lucky draw in the ovarian lottery but I’ll stop with one final point.

It is undeniable that there are a lot of things in the world that could be better and that fact gives me a healthy dissatisfaction and a desire to share my luck in life. However, in this very moment I’m acutely aware of how lucky I am and hope that I am lucky enough to remain mindful of that fact in as many of the moments left during my short time on earth.

So what is embedded in my toast? A whole lot of luck.

Don’t simply dismiss as bigotry, dig a little deeper

This video by Junkee about Pauline Hanson is very much worth watching.

It talks about the global “they took our jobs” trend in messages around the world that if dismissed as simply racism and bigotry could actually lead to more racists and bigots getting into dangerously powerful positions.

Many people feel left behind by economic globalism. Whether they truely are or not is secondary (many are, many actually aren’t). People look for others to blame for their lot in life and will listen to whoever they feel is hearing them.

I don’t agree with almost anything that Pauline Hanson, Donald J. Trump or Nigel Farage say but you need to empathise and have compassion for their supporters if you’re to stop them from tearing down the world and burning it to shreds.

This is about feelings not about reality. Understanding how people feel (regardless of whether you think it’s rational or justified) is the only way of having a productive conversation.

Otherwise we’re headed in the same direction as depression era radicalisation circa pre-WWII. We’re all humans with our own wants, desires, feelings and opinions we need to learn to empathise with each other. If you dismiss people who feel disenfranchised it’s hardly going to help to convince them of your point of view.

For more on this I recommend this my list of interesting perspectives following the Brexit referendum, ‘Scared, F**ked off, and “Not racist but”: Lessons from talking to residents of Notamajorcity‘ by Dan Ilic and watch #Twitchike on ABC iview.

Brexit: Some Interesting Perspectives

It’s an amazing time to be alive and I’m humbled and made painfully aware of how little I understand the world and how hard it is to get inside the minds of other people… but it’s always worthwhile trying to understand things better.

Here’s my roundup so far of the most interesting perspectives on Brexit I’ve read. Please let me know if you find some more.

2016 Commemorative Edition NSW “Revvy” Bicycle

Introducing the 2016 Commemorative Edition NSW “Revvy” Bicycle¹ – brought to you in collaboration with the NSW State Government and the NSW Police.

We’ve taken all the things that you love about riding a bike and made it better!

We know you love riding along without wasting time finding your ID when stopped by the authorities so the Revvy comes with our License Plate™. The Licence Plate™ is an externally mounted government issued identification so that when our authorities have nothing better to do and randomly stop you they can quickly assess whether to fine you for not displaying your identification.

We know you love riding at the early hours of the morning to avoid traffic on Sydney’s dangerous roads so instead of wasting your voice alerting a jaywalking jogger to your presence with a “good morning” you can instead blast our Mandatory Mounted Alerting Device™ to wake up the neighbourhood and save your larynx for the post-ride coffee.

We know that you love the feel of the wind in your hair while slowly pottering alongside the beach heading down to the shops so the Revvy comes equiped with our Super Strong Aircon™ to simulate that feeling while wearing your mandatory helmet. Our Super Strong Aircon™ can take you another step closer to hitting your CO2 emission targets and helping Australia proudly lead the world in CO2 emissions.

We know that you care about getting around safely so the Revvy comes equipped with a full-body Metal Safety Cage™ ² – it helps keep the air conditioned atmosphere inside, stops you from having to be connected to the outside world and removes the tediousness of chatting with other commuters as they pull up beside you in the congested traffic – plus the added tonne of metal helps you trigger all the green light sensors!

We know that the Metal Safety Cage™ decreases visibility around corners so we’ve installed a suite of Safety Mirrors™ and made sure to go that extra step further by having severe penalties to enforce stop signs – we’ve taken the temptation of high visibility away from you. You’re welcome.

We know that the added weight of the Metal Safety Cage™, Safety Mirrors™, Super Strong Aircon™ and Mandatory Mounted Alerting Device™ do increase the weight for the Revvy over that of “traditional bikes” but we’re letting you in on a secret, that’s what gives the Revvy it’s name! The Revvy comes equiped with a 200 horsepower engine to help you travel at a consistent 10km above the speed limit while carrying all the extra load. Not only will the Revvy enable you to Go Together™ with other road users at 10km above the speed limit but it will remove the need for us to shift 4 meters worth of Westconnex budget to build that 3% gradient offered by Harbourlink that the “traditional bike riders” will still yearn for. With the Revvy you won’t need Harbourlink. Go ahead and give Revvy’s 200 horsepower Safety Speed Engine™ a whirl as we removed the speed cameras because they don’t have any proven benefit (and in this case we care about proof).


We know that you’ve always wanted to travel along safely without having doors suddenly opening into your ribcage. That’s why the Revvy comes with a Beastly Bull Bar™ so that if someone opens their door in your path it’ll probably kill them and both you and the Revvy will survive without even a scratch.
We know that stability is important to you and this could be a problem with the addition of the our patented Metal Safety Cage™, Safety Mirrors™, Super Strong Aircon™, Mandatory Mounted Alerting Device™, Safety Speed Engine™ and Beastly Bull Bar™. That’s why the Revvy comes equipped with our innovative Stabilising Safety Wheels™. The two additional Stabilising Safety Wheels™ will help you cruise by at breakneck speed with the our Safety Speed Engine™ carrying all the additional weight you like and helping you to use your fair share of the dangerous roads.

Gone will be the days of illegally riding slowly on footpaths while lamenting the lack of decent bike infrastructure because with the Revvy you’ll feel comfortable on our dangerous roads thanks to our Metal Safety Cage™. Sure, you’ll be too wide to use the limited bike infrastructure but now you can while sit back on a cushioned seat while in congestion with the rest of us. You can pass the time in Sydney congestion using the Revvy’s built in Radical Radio™. Sit and enjoy the easy listening of AM talkback radio – you’ll be educated on why it’s totally normal to be bigoted and narrow-minded, it’s the NSW way and now you can be 100% part of the Groupthink Gang™. While listening to these fresh ideas you can sit texting with your mates about how right they are.
Don’t worry about now being forced onto the roads, we’ve got billions to spend on building new tollways, and while sitting in the induced congestion you’ll even get to experience the schadenfreude of watching those ghastly people on “traditional bikes” get what’s coming to them as they’re randomly stopped to produce their government issued identification.Now that you feel safe to ride on Sydney’s dangerous roads thanks to our Metal Safety Cage™ you may be worried about getting fines when you try to pass closely by those pesky people who dare to use the roads that are mandatory for them to use on “traditional bikes”. Don’t worry you can swipe as close as you like to teach them that they should also purchase a Revvy – we don’t really plan on enforcing that 1m passing rule when you travel using a 1 tonne Revvy. You can also rest assured that you don’t have to worry about fines for “riding furiously” because we guarantee that you won’t win the Strava M2 segment when sitting in traffic in the Revvy-sized lane on the M2.

If you’re worried about where to store the Revvy because you already have a car or you don’t have a garage then never fear – that’s why we invented Street Space™ so that you can take up a lane of road even while you’re not using the Revvy!

Hurry now and get your 2016 Commemorative Edition NSW “Revvy” Bicycle – we’ll only be producing 60 million this year and every minute without a Revvy you could be spending a fortune on fines, falling behind on your CO2 emission targets, breathing too much fresh air and wasting the opportunity to use your fair share of Medicare.

Get in quick and you’ll get the Revvy for the low low price of $39,990 ride away, no more to pay (except yearly rego, insurance, quarterly servicing, weekly refuelling BUT no extra costs for the roads because that’s already been paid for by a combination of stamp duty, council rates, GST and income tax).

If that sounds pricey then don’t worry we also have financing with extra tax breaks to make it affordable to own a Revvy at the cost of everyone else in society and increasing your already high debt load. We want you to be safe.
Stay tuned… Next year we’re introducing the Pedestian Face Tatto™ and Road Roller Motorshoes™ with our trademark Metal Safety Cage™ technology to improve the safety of all our free³ citizens.


Disclaimers:

  1. This is a satirical piece and not intended to be nuanced (that’s what I spend the rest of my time doing).
  2. The Metal Safety Cage™ and other safety features of the Revvy do not aid the safety of other road users⁴.
  3. Actual freedom not included.
  4. Who cares? It’s everyone for themselves right?

 

Get Australia moving

December 5th is the North Sydney by-Election and my name will be on the ballot for the Australian Cyclists Party. If you’d like to support me please check out my Pozible campaign, make a pledge or volunteer to help… but first, read why.

I believe that Australia is a place where we should all have the freedom to live happy and healthy lives. However, we are trapped with infrastructure that limits our mobility and costs us our health, our money, and stresses us out. My goal is to enable Australia to be healthier, happier, and safer by making our cities more walkable, rideable, and liveable.

Continue reading Get Australia moving

Which headphones are best? My 2015 Round Up

Audio is a huge part of my life – whether I’m listening to Andy Weir’s “The Martian” audiobook while cleaning the house, getting turn-by-turn directions using Co-rider while cycling around rural Australia, joining in on a Sendle team Hangout in the office, blocking out ambient noise so I can concentrate, or falling asleep to Dan Carlin’s Horrible History – it’s everywhere!

Getting the right pair of headphones for the job is essential. Here’s what’s currently in my rotation.

Jabra SPORT Wireless+

This bluetooth headset is my current favourite headphone and the iPhone accessory I carry (I don’t even carry a wallet). It’s elegant design and durability are fantastic.

Jabra SPORT Wireless+
Jabra SPORT Wireless+

Pros

  • Great for running/cycling because you can hear what’s going on around you
  • Includes an FM radio for when you run out of audio content
  • Stays comfortably in the ears – doesn’t fall out easily at all
  • Packs away nice and small
  • Micro-usb charging
  • Easy to use controls
  • Best quality microphone of the bunch
  • Very durable so far – it even survived going through the wash!

Cons

  • On the expensive side (A$150)
  • Range: if it’s in my left pocket it struggles – but that’s the case with all my bluetooth headsets so far.

Plantronics Backbeat Go 2

These headphones are the slimmest of the bunch but I struggled to get a good fit.

ProsScreen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.05.11 PM

  • Almost half the price of the Jabra (A$85)
  • Fits so snug that it blocks out noise
  • Packs away incredibly small
  • Micro-usb charging

Cons

  • Blocks out too much noise for cycling/running to be safe
  • Falls out far too easily, I tried many of the different sizes with no luck
  • Range: if it’s in my left pocket it struggles – but that’s the case with all my bluetooth headsets so far.

Avantree Jogger

These headphones are the slimmest of the bunch but I struggled to get a good fit.

ProsScreen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.05.01 PM

  • Cheapest set (A$52)
  • Fits very comfortably and doesn’t get tangled!
  • Great for running/cycling because you can hear what’s going on around you
  • Great customer support

Cons

  • Not as durable (had to get it replaced a couple of times but the customer support were great). That was the old discontinued model so 4.0 may be better.
  • Range: if it’s in my left pocket it struggles – but that’s the case with all my bluetooth headsets so far.

Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic

This standard set is fantastic to get free from Apple but I can never bring myself to shell out the $45 once they invariable get broken or lost. The lack of bluetooth seems to make it hard to justify the expense but having a wired pair of headphones always helps.

Pross-l1000

  • Never need to charge it as it plugs right in!
  • Great quality for phone calls
  • Comes free with your (albeit almost thousand dollar) iPhone

Cons

  • Pricey (but I find all decent wired headphones to be pricey considering the little technology inside)
  • The cable seems bound to get caught with me!

Sony MDR-NC31EM Digital Noise Cancelling Headset

This is the newest addition to my collection and so far they’re going great.

Pros$_35

  • These were great for my flight back from Canada as they blocked out the loud engine and air conditioning sounds of the plane
  • Fits in so snug that it blocks out lots of other noise
  • Comfortable enough to wear all day in the office so I can concentrate (listening to Lovers in Japan on repeat, yes, yes I do)

Cons

  • The noise cancelling controls are half way down the cable which makes it a bit awkward
  • Another wired set and less portable than the iPhone ones so they stay at my desk
  • They’re only mildly noise cancelling (doesn’t block out voices etc) but that’s to be expected with earbuds at this price range.

And now for some pillow talk

iMusic Pillow
iMusic Pillow

I’ve been known to fall asleep listening to audiobooks and podcasts so I recently acquired an iMusic Bluetooth Pillow out of intrigue to see if it would make it the whole situation a little better. I was a bit skeptical that it would work as described without being too uncomfortable but I’m always up for trying something new.

How it works

You have the option of pairing with a bluetooth phone dongle or plugging the pillow in directly into your phone/audio player. From there it’s fairly straightforward. Put your head on the pillow and listen instead of using a loud speaker or struggling with headphones.

The upside

The bluetooth option made it a lot easier than plugging it in via the headphone socket. This meant that the phone could sit beside my bed and I wouldn’t worry about pulling it off overnight. Relatively deep in the centre of the pillow a small speaker lies, it isn’t too noticeable there, but you don’t forget it’s there. It is kind of nice to be able to find the speaker and move it around a bit so that it is easier to listen without the pillow being up to loud. Having this setup means that I don’t have to worry about keeping my wife awake while I’m listening to my audio content.

The downside

It isn’t exactly as quiet as I was hoping. However, if you get the pillow “just right” you can hear the volume quite loudly without it being noticeable to others in the room. This does mean that it’s only really ideal if you’re fairly still in bed. I normally sleep with a very high quality pillow because of my back problems. After two nights on this I couldn’t get very comfortable. Finally, the bluetooth receiver doesn’t automatically turn off when there’s no signal. This means that it needs to be turned off once you’re finished or charged every day.

The middle ground

It is probably an unnecessary gadget for me to use a lot because of my back problems and seeing as I am normally in bed on my own for at least half an hour (I’m the early riser) and already use a sleep timer on Audible/iTunes. It’s now my spare pillow for the odd occasion that I need to be quiet but still want to sleep and on the big plus side I’ve really taken to using the bluetooth receiver for connecting our phones to the sound system in the living room (it’s independent of the pillow itself).

The right headphones for the right job – cycling and the office

When you use headphones for a variety of different things it can be hard to find one pair that does all the jobs. I recently acquired a Plantronics Backbeat Go 2 bluetooth headset in the hope that they would fill in the gaps and replace my Avantree Jogger headphones.

The dedicated headphones who compete for my veracious favour were both from of an elite store of mobile accessories known as MobileZap.

These are their stories.

Plantronics: The Upside

Plantronics really do make a nice headset that has a good audio quality and nice microphone. The interface is intuitive and nice to use.IMG_4739

I chose them because I am having trouble with the quality of voice calls on the Avantree headset. On that front they’ve done a superb job, I use my phone a lot for work and this makes it much easier.

Another bonus was the fact that they are much better at syncing with multiple devices. I walk into the office and open my computer up and pretty quickly I’m using the headset for my Macbook Pro also.

They come with a range of earbuds sizes and it has taken a while for me to figure out the right for my ear but they stay in reasonably well. Once they’re in they block out a lot of outside noise which is nice if you’re trying to concentrate with lots of noise around you.

These babies are tiny, they wrap up to the size of a regular set of headphones and most people don’t even notice that they’re a bluetooth headset until they see that they’re not connected to anything.

When I’m trying to nap with these, I can lean comfortably on them as they’re just tiny earbuds that are connected by a wire.

Plantronics: The Downside

Battery life is key for me with riding and due to the tiny size of the Backbeat earbuds they don’t have much room for a big battery. That means I probably only get 3 hours of use compared to the 5-6 hours I’ll normally get with my Avantree Joggers.

On two more rather important counts the Avantree Joggers still win out; background noise and fit.

When I’m cycling and running it’s important to hear what’s happening around me so the noise reduction of the Backbeat that I love in the office make them a no go for cycling.

Although the ear fit is nice on the Backbeat Go, they don’t stay in nearly as well as the firm Joggers. If I take one ear out or am doing vigorous exercise one will simply fall out and then quickly shake the other one out.

Horses For Courses

For now my “universal headphone” search continues, maybe with no end in sight. However, I’m happy with the Pantronics Backbeat Go 2 for making calls and using in the office and keeping my pair of Avantree Joggers for my more rigorous activities.

If you have any headphone recommendations please leave them in the comments below.

P.S. As mentioned on earlier posts. Don’t cycle with music. Headphones are useful for map directions or maybe an audiobook or a podcast. It’s important to hear traffic around you, and even then it’s best to limit to using when away from traffic or off-road.

How to wake up without disturbing your partner: the nerds solution

“But whether I retire to bed early or late, I rise with the sun.”
– Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Vine Utley, 21 March 1819

I dream that one day I’d love to live in a situation where my wife and I could both go to sleep and rise with the sun without the need for an alarm and disturbing each other. Alas my life right now simply doesn’t allow for that.

Manly Beach At Sunrise With Bikes
This is why I get up early. Can’t argue with that.

We have a bright light right outside of our apartment window so we try and keep the room as dark as possible and I like to get up early and exercise before work and my wife likes to stay up late and sleep in. This can cause a bit of problems when an alarm starts blasting as early as 3am sometimes. It’s a horrible way to wake up and not entirely fair to your partner that is still sleeping.

A few weeks back I started trying the Fitbit Flex wristband fitness tracker and while I love the “quantified self” capabilities of its activity tracking that can help you to stay active and meet your goals, the best feature I’ve found is its silent alarm.

You wake up slowly with three vibrations on your wrist that you can then turn off by tapping twice on the device.

The beauty of putting an alarm in a activity tracker is that it knows if you’ve got up and started moving about or not.

I have a fairly regular schedule so I set my recurring alarms for the week and “voi la!” I don’t have to think about it again. You can also use it for reminders throughout the day without having an obnoxious alarm go off in the office (I use it to remind me to stretch). It stays on my wrist all day, can be showered with and has only needed one charge in the last fortnight!

The idea is genius and (until I can just sleep at will or have screaming kids wake me up) I can’t imagine waking up another way.

Keeping the lights on over the long bike kilometers

I do a lot of long distance cycling. This can often mean 18 hours in the saddle between overnight checkpoints that requires battery life for my lights, phone and GPS.

I’ve been looking for solutions for this and currently I use a combination of Fibre Flares (80 hour AAA battery life), battery packs and a 11mAh USB charger. This all adds a lot of weight to the bike.

When I stumbled across the Tigra Sport BikeCharge Dynamo on MobileZap I thought it’d be the next on my list of things to try.

The Good

The idea of getting to dump a lot of batteries and chargers is incredibly appealing, it’s the reason that a lot of town bikes have them and a lot of Audax riders (ultra long distance) use dynamos. The downside with a lot of dynamos is that they generally are a pain to install, expensive or noisy with a lot of resistance.

The great thing about the BikeCharge is that it is incredibly easy to install. There’s no need to replace a hub or spend ages aligning the mount – it just pops on your existing axel.

I had the thing installed within minutes.

The BikeCharge also has a built in USB charger and front/back lights with a handy switch that you can mount to the handlebars.

The Bad

Unfortunately it was quite noisy because it didn’t seem to fit well to my wheels. It is also had more resistance than I was expecting.

The Ugly

While it looks small in the photos it is actually quite big and heavy.

Conclusion

I think this is perfect for a town bike or a run around bike because you’ll always have a light at night. However if you’re going to put in some decent kilometres I think that the battery packs or a high end dynamo will have to be the choice because of the noise, weight and resistance.

I think the BikeCharge is going to live on my hybrid that I lend out to people and use as my backup bike.

In my next phase of this journey to find a power solution I’d like to try the solar panels. They won’t work at night but they could help the phone and GPS get through a multi-day event – plus they’d also be great for camping.

Yours in trying to figure out the right bike setup,

Luke