Colonial Diaspora


Friday, January 22, 2010 2:02:33 AM Categories: maintenance stupidity
Yesterday I made a huge advance in Science and they're going to give me the Nobel Prize. I have discovered the smallest particle in the universe.

Physicists have built this huge circular thing in Geneva to see if they can make a quark but in vain because, quite independently, I have discovered an even smaller particle. It is the brain of the motorist who throws beer bottles onto the cycle path across Motueka Bridge. I swept up nine with my broom. (Beer bottles, not brains.)

The best broom is made of broom and no doubt that's why it's called broom, unlike quarks. What goes through the mind of a physicist when he calls a small particle after a soft cheese?

Conveniently broom (Planta genista) grows right next to the bridge, and the way you make brooms is with secateurs, a strip of inner tube, and a manuka trunk. Manuka grows abundantly here, a small tree of very hard, very dense, strong wood, relatively straight, 1,828.8 mm to 2,438.4 mm long and up to 25.4 mm in diameter. (We Nobel prize-winners only use metric.)

What you do is steal a manuka tree, cut three stems of broom 914.4 mm long, and with the strip of inner tube lash the thick ends to the manuka stick. Behold! a broom.

A broom, yesterday

And with this broom you can remove glass from any pavement with a single dazzling swish, and if there happen to be motorists a-passing at the time you can usually spray their paintwork with a hailstorm of road grit at the same time, two birds with quite a lot of small stones. The broom improves with age as it hardens but when it wears out you unlash and replace. The manuka handle lasts forever. For sweeping it's about a thousand times better than conventional nylon-bristled yard brooms, which are hard work and don't do anything like as good a job. Don't trust me. Make one and you'll see.

Right, I must now compose my Acceptance Speech in Swedish and see if I can borrow the Large Hadron Collider to try to make curd cheese out of drunken motorists' brains.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010 9:54:42 AM Categories: advertising
We need further Rob English remarks while I can still find the envelopes where I made notes. (You don't make notes after conversations? Whyever not?)
Misha: 'Would you like some yoghurt, Honey?'
Rob English: 'No, I'm full.'
This exchange requires so much discussion I can only deal with it in note form.

1. Fancy anyone calling Rob English 'Honey'. Amazing.
2. Actually that sentence is easily reversible.
'Would you like some honey, Yoghurt?'
I shall try it next time he calls. What d'you suppose are the chances he'll ever drop in again if he suspects I'm about to call him Yoghurt? Lucky he doesn't read this blog.
3. 'Vegan' versus 'yoghurt'. It was soy or coconut milk yoghurt - I didn't check - didn't have time to check - the appetite of Rob English is famously voracious.
4. Rob English + food = petrol for ordinary people, or something. The man eats like he propels people along the road on the back of his tandem at 25 mph.
5. Rob English full?  It happened (for the record) on Wednesday 6th January 2010 at 8.17 a.m. Innocent children will be compelled to learn the date in history classes yet to come.
6. He looked longingly at our Toblerone. We all had to check the box to see if it was suitable for vegans. (It wasn't.) Did you know that Toblerone has a Careline? If perplexed by prismatic chocolate you can Freephone 0808 1000757. Thoughtful, aren't they?
7. Terry's Chocolate Orange has a Careline too; it's 0808 1000878.
8. They're both owned by Kraft these days so I expect when the 757 lady puts down the phone she picks up the 878 one. I shall try it to see. I shall first ask her why her huge chocolate bars are triangular, and when she has satisfied me in that regard I shall promptly dial the 878 one and ask why her huge chocolate bars are spherical and we'll see how dextrously she deals with the discrepancy.
9. They both have GDAs. This stands for Guideline Daily Amounts. The Toblerone one says 'GDAs are average values. Individual requirements may vary.' You bet they may. Blimey. Ever seen Dr Dayah get into his Ferrari? Like squeezing a jelly into a condom. His daily requirements must be planetary. Unless he's recently burst.
10. The Terry's Chocolate Orange only gives the GDA for Adults (UK). Maybe the Careline's for Adults (foreign) and they have a list as to what Bulgarians and Spaniards require. And in case you don't think people really are that obsessive, my brother's wife fixed a card to her handlebars with all the different gear ratios of her new Dawes Galaxy written on it, and she used to crash into milk floats trying to work out whether she was in third (rear) and second (front) and whether she was therefore supposed to fiddle with the left or the right lever. It was wonderful riding with her. She'd read Richard Ballantine too (I gave her a copy) and religiously held to his command to keep to low gears, so her legs were like bees' wings when she pedalled. I loved going for a ride with her. Pedestrians would stop what they were doing and watch as she went past, knees fairly humming and her big thick spectacles fixed on the gear levers at a furious five miles an hour.
Right, I sh'll'av't' see if I can find all the other envelopes with things that Rob English said, apart that is from 'We're doomed' which I learnt by heart and didn't need to write down, though actually it's what everyone I know is saying at the moment. Must see if that book Overshoot by William Catton is all it's said to be.

Bike Friday tandem 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 8:31:03 AM Categories: tandem
Mr English of the parish of America has come to visit and I am very surreptitiously sneaking onto my blog, which I can do because I happen to know he doesn't read it.

Mr English visits me because
a) I'm très, très important and
b) through some oversight they didn't publish his banns of marriage in the parish of Motueka. Matter of fact last time I was in church there were no banns of marriage; it was the carol service which is essentially Motueka Brass Band versus the Congregation, and on the whole the brass band wins. Arsenal subdued West Ham, I heard on the radio (they actually broadcast English football results in New Zealand. Incredible but true.) so I suppose Motueka Bass Band subdued Ngatimoti which is where the carol service is held, a pretty wooden church with an improbable pair of Stokes mortars guarding the war memorial. One gets to inspect the Stokes mortars afterwards cos it's midsummer and they're outside. No shortage of armpits at Ngatimoti carol festival.

Mr English is dead famous. Well, famous to the 423,719 people who've thus far Youtubed his high-speed streamlined bicycle crash. In a moment's carelessness he married a vegan and as you may imagine as soon as I heard I got out my political incorrectitude notebook - no I didn't, silly. I'm the nicest person in the whole wide world. I'd never do such a thing. And as it happened Mrs English turns out to be a lawyer and an American one at that so I dursn't say a word lest she litigate for everything from toenail clippings to the last wispy hairs on my exceptionally handsome head. (I haven't encountered my bald patch; I only suspect it's there from the quiet remarks the children make as they politely disperse from the dinner table. I haven't encountered tofu before either: it's like fried bread without the mitigating smell of slices of dead pig's corpse.)

So Mr English turned up on a Bike Friday tandem and natch I had to have a go, and since Mr Knight was staying here last week and he and I rode my tandem up the valley and back (18.8 miles) in 53 minutes, which is two minutes faster than I can manage on my recumbent bike, I was curious as to how it would compare.

My tandem weighs 51 lbs;
the Bike Friday tandem weighs a meagre 27 lbs.

My tandem is hugely massively upright;
Rob English's Bike Friday tandem is svelte.

'so who goes on the front then?'

Unf. I happened to mention that I wanted some comparative figures so the wretched fellow put on the power as if it was a time trial and we managed it in 46 minutes. Though after about four miles I was almost retching with exertion so maybe the 'we' bit of that sentence is a conceit. Puking aside 'tis a springy joyous ride, just enough bendiness in the frame to absorb road shock; not enough to confuse it with a Bickerton.

However there was a suspiciously black mark on my inside right calf afterwards & I entertain a suspicion that Mr English uses inappropriate substances on his chains. I think he does not follow the One True Religion, that of the chain-waxers. The only reason he isn't being burnt at the stake even as I write is because he showed me a way to loop the cable safely on my Flymo. Shan't say how though, cos I like to hear about everyone else having eloctrocutory excitement while lawn mowing.

Racing Pigeon 

Friday, January 1, 2010 8:57:12 AM Categories: Olney
We have had visitors, a Mr and Mrs Charles & Elizabeth Knight of Olney in Buckinghamshire. For the benefit of those to whom English is a second language, the pronunciation of Knight is Nite and the pronunciation of Olney is Oh Knee and the pronunciation of Cowper is Cooper. - And while we're about it the pronunciation of pronunciation is pronunciation. My children have had a succession of primary school teachers who insist on teaching them, actively teaching them, to say 'pronounciation', but they resisted, referring the relevant teachers to oh, just about any English dictionary at all in support of their insubordination. - I mention Cowper because Mr Bob Knight of the parish of Rangiora, once lived in Cowper's house in Olney. He kept hares amid bouts of insanity. Cowper, not Bob Knight. Bob Knight only keeps penny farthings.
Since Mr Knight Snr. is an engineer he spent most of the time fiddling with a certain Wotan shaper which he found behind the sheds, freeing off the ram and elucidating the function of all the knobs and levers with which it is festooned. - I hired a HIAB in the end, at the cost of $250, and it made the moving a painless experience. Mr Macdonald, who is the KiwiHPV newsletter editor, had wanted me to lift it with planks and ropes and pulley blocks and tow it home on a robust bicycle trailer and write it all up for him as an Adventure, but I'd had enough adventures in workshops recently and had no wish to add a squashed toe to my munted eyeball by way of gratifying his machine-tool-relocation fantasies.
As all the Knights were leaving we boxed up our racing pigeon - we don't keep hares - and they took it over the mountains so it would go home to Auckland. We didn't have a racing pigeon till recently. We found it a fortnight ago. It wasn't a terribly successful one. It was on its way to Auckland from Timaru and thought our scullery was part of the route, which it wasn't. Our scullery proved to be a cul-de-sac. The Internet revealed the owner and the owner requested grain and water and a cardboard box till there was a southerly to help it o'er the Cook Straits, but when after a couple of days there was a southerly the pigeon disobliged and remained, somewhat hazardly I imagine, exactly below where my wife's new bantam hens roost. I expect it spent the nights dodging. It certainly spent the days dodging because we daily chased it into Kay's garden, but ten minutes later there it was again, blinking innocently in the middle of the workshop. Anyway yesterday we boxed it up and handed it to Bob, who was as you may have guessed in charge of his parents, and they drove off and according to his subsequent email
released it at Denniston, just outside of Waimangaroa, right on the coast at about 3.00pm. This is 125km as the crow or rather pigeon flies. The pigeon was a bit carsick, I think, but very much alive and tried to get back into the car or at least under it. It looked a bit miffed when we drove off. It was not there when we drove back down the hill after looking at the incline. There was a very strong southerly blowing at the time. - Bob
I found it sitting in our scullery at 10 pm.


Monday, December 21, 2009 9:03:00 AM Categories: Chain case engineering problems maintenance

Broken off seat clamps

Sam is my friend although he is Scottish. The Scots are faultless (Hamish told me) but Sam does have one fault which is that every time he goes near a recumbent it breaks. No - hold - he has another fault which is that he oils his chains. - And actually he has another fault, which is that the bearded Celtic kilt-wearing bagpipe-playing Gaelic-speaking midge-slapping baaaaarstard doesn't bloody well clean the black ucky sticky horrible oil off his machines before handing them to me to fix. So I get oily fingers and oily bench-edges and oily inside-of-vans and oily bench-press-handles and no doubt other oily bits that I won't find till later when my wife draws my attention to oily shirts. Amazing what you brush a machine against when you bring it into the workshop.

I am therefore very kindly going to offer two Useful Tips as a timely present to all Scottish Persons before the New Year reduces them to the usual insensate alcoholic stupor.

1. Prior to getting someone to weld something back onto your machine, clean it. Clean oil off the frame. Clean oil off the front chainrings. Clean oil off the rear cluster. Clean oil off the underside of the handlebar and clean oil off the rear mech and the front mech and the idler wheel and the rear rack and the oily, black, disgusting back wheel-spokes. And finally clean oil off the cable housings. And if you are Scottish keep the resultant black rag and you can sell it to Canada when the Athabasca sands run out.
2. Whatever possesses you to oil your chain anyway? It only makes you feel better, not the chain. The chain is a tension member and needs lubricating only when it snakes its way round the chainrings or idler wheels. Road dust+oil is a penetrative lapping compound and helps to wear it out. Chain maintenance is done by waxing. This is not a new idea: 'tis as old as the bicycle. Remove chain; place in saucepan of wax; deep fry; remove; cool; replace. About once a month works for me and I don't even clean the chain before waxing because there never seems to be any dust to clean off because road dust doesn't stick to dry wax. (Though I graciously permit the use of oil inside a fully enclosed chaincase to which road dust doesn't have access.)
3. If you are Young and Disputatious and feel that I am a pedantic old git, which view has some merit because it does in fact happen to be the case, and you persist in besmearing your exquisite machines with inappropriate lubricants then removal of oil from hands is best effected with soap and sawdust. This isn't a new trick either; everyone did it until Swarfega advertising executives persuaded us daily to daub unknown chemicals on our hands at five o'clock and leave a ghastly black residue in the tea-room basin. Wet the fingers, rub a little soap on, and dip generously in sawdust. Make hand motions like Lady Macbeth. Rinse off and lo! the oil is stuck to the sawdust and you can go inside and play your violin with impunity.
4. If you weld a flat plate to the middle of a flimsy bit of box-section it had better be for a low-stress joint. Seat bases are not low-stress. Pedalling a recumbent produces a slight swaying motion of the pelvic girdle. Not many metals particularly enjoy constant twisting strains.
5. I can't count to two.
How the seat base is clamped

As a matter of fact when I ground all the paint off the broken bits of Sam's bike I found that it had broken before at the same place and someone had brazed the plates back on. They are now beefed up with small triangles and my big ugly blobby welds and we shall see how long it takes Sam to bust them again, and then we shall further see if he reads this blog because if he does, the sporran-swinging claymore-waving peat-burning oat-eating baaaaarstard'll then kindly return the machine to me in absolutely pristine condition and the sawdust quotient of his bathroom waste-pipe will be high but there won't be any oil on the holes of his chanter.


Saturday, December 12, 2009 9:40:07 AM Categories: engineering problems New Zealand
Hurrah! I have solved the mystery of what happened to Sir Frank Whittle's Hero steam engine, and I have been mowing my lawn.

I like mowing my lawn: it makes me feel like a grown-up. You have to mow lawns in New Zealand. It is a national obsession. (Once walking deep in the bush I found five neatly mown bits of lawn, each fenced with chicken wire and laced with slug pellets. I called my companion over and he told me what the large leafy plant growing in the middle of each enclosure was.) I mostly mow my lawn with electricity, only straying onto the ride-on when it gets too long. We inherited the ride-on. It came with the house. It is a White Outdoor Product and if the global financial crisis has any silver linings, it will be the extinction of White Outdoor Products because they're crap. South Bend lathe? Excellent bit of American engineering. White Outdoor Product? Absolute shite. When each week she hears me maintaining my White Outdoor Product with a two-pound claw hammer my wife suggests I buy a new ride-on, but what does a ride-on accomplish? Short grass. Which you can more profitably obtain with a sheep. All the male New Zealanders I know talk longingly of Peak Oil so they can have a sheep instead of a lawn, but all their wives demur.

A Wotan shaper, this afternoon

Anyway, today I showed my wife a photograph of my shaper. She was very surprised. She said '*uck me, you've not gone and bought that.'
I said proudly 'Yes!'
She said 'Where are you going to put it? I never want to see that. Ever. You can keep it in Maud's Back Passage.'
Maud Lodge is one of the sheds, and it has a roofed passage between it and one of the other sheds, and it has a second passage behind it which, for want of a better term, we call Maud's Back - well anyway you've gathered that.

My wife was aware that I was purchasing a shaper. She was aware that Nigel had saved it from being sold as scrap iron to China. She was not fully aware of what a shaper is, nor how big it is, but by means of the above photograph she has been introduced to these concepts and now I have to win her round by assuring her that I can use it to repair the White Outdoor Product, which will be a lie. It can't. *Nothing* can repair a White Outdoor Product.

The shaper is mine, technically, because I now own it, but it is displaced 25 miles to the right, there being a geographical discrepancy between my shed and Nigel's back yard. How I get it here is going to be the difficult bit. It is, as you see, balanced on a pallet and wedged with a piece of marble. I do not like to ask whence the marble. It looks like it was stolen from a cemetery.

And from among his junk on a shelf this afternoon, Nigel plucked a small Hero steam engine and handed it to me.
'Know what that is?' he asked.
Sir Frank Whittle's Hero steam engine

You will remember, of course, that Frank Whittle used to take a little model of a Hero steam engine that he'd built, to all his lectures by way of demonstrating the jet principle, and that it subsequently disappeared and has never been seen since. About forty years ago Nigel's retired neighbour leaned over the fence and said 'Care to have this, boy?'
The neighbour had been a friend of Whittle. You would have thought being given a jet engine hand-made by him was pretty exciting but the neighbour happened to be an Army major, unusual in achieving retirement age because he was a bomb disposal officer, and for him excitement was probably the fact that he got home for tea each day. Anyway he handed this to Nigel and so if you've been wondering where Sir Frank's demonstration Hero steam engine went, it's in a shed in the Nelson region of New Zealand.

And if, instead, you were looking for the Red Baron's flying boots, they're in Blenheim, just over the ranges. The air museum advertised that they possessed only the one boot, and that not properly provenanced, and presently got a parcel in the post from a lady in Australia who said her father had brought it back as a trophy after the first world war. It was an exact match to the one the museum already had.

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 4:17:51 AM Categories: New Zealand solar drier stupidity
Our oil drum. And some roses. And our home-made solar drier. [Idea nicked from]

Actually it turns out there is a God, and He's German, and He happens to read this blog, and He's fat.

This morning I was wondering, as one does, how to occupy the valuable half hour immediately after breakfast and went and pondered John's current solar drier experiments and realised that with the summer sun more directly overhead modifications are required to capture the strong rays and dry out his thinly-sliced pieces of apple. We built a solar drier as our contribution to saving the world. It is not a particularly big contribution, but this region has more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in New Zealand and we have to make up somehow for our excess consumption of sunblock. - There's no ozone at all here. Well, four or five molecules, not many more.

Neglecting eye protection just this once, as one sometimes does, I cut some blocks of wood and buzzed them on the sander prior to gluing. God was very kind and didn't lash a twelve-inch adjustable spanner to the second block, but in retribution for yesterday's post, He did allow it to shoot up and whack me in the face. Eyeball, specifically. I reared back in shock and immediately danced round the shed. I really did. I hopped about as if trying to backpedal time and since I was hopping at the speed of light this wasn't entirely unfeasible. If there'd been an audience they would have passed round a cap and put coins in it. In fact if I'd known in advance what was about to happen I would have strapped bells to my shins and turned it into a Morris dance. Anyway it bled inside itself, a haemsomethingorother, and got several doctors all alarmed and now I have to waste the day going to see an ophthalmologist in Nelson.

I felt the best thing would be to ride over there but all the doctors disagreed, saying an eyeball jiggled on top of a bicycle isn't what you want if it's full of blood. Which is a pity, because I always feel energy-consumption guilt driving (in this case, being driven) to Nelson. It costs us ten litres of diesel oil getting to Nelson, which doesn't sound like much until you figure out that it's ten litres of high-grade energy and then you recall from your physics lessons that the energy concerned is the same amount of energy you'd have to use if the engine broke down and you were to have to get out and push it to Nelson. All of which puts transport into true context and makes bicycling rather sensible, because pushing a bicycle to Nelson is conceivable whereas pushing a car isn't.

What I didn't know till the other day was that New Zealand is an oil producer. On the 19th November (one makes a note of these things) I was amazed to learn from Gerry Brownlee, the New Zealand government minister in charge of energy, that oil is New Zealand's third biggest export commodity.

Our consumption of oil is 183,000 barrels a day, which means that 22 of us, combined, use up a barrel of oil daily. This is quite an interesting figure because it too takes oil consumption out of the abstract. You can imagine 22 people - about five households - having a barrel of oil delivered to their doorsteps each morning like the milkman used to do. (Well okay, milk, and pints, but you get the drift.) And using it all up. And expecting another barrel tomorrow. It's a collective thing, not just the business of what we put in our cars, so when you enter New World, our local supermarket, you shiver even in the heat of early summer because just inside the electrically operated sliding doors are huge fridges with no front whatever to them so all the cooled air cascades into the shopping area. I don't suppose this electricity comes from oil, but it certainly comes from somewhere and one does have to ponder the fact that our ancestors managed without electric sliding doors and chilled beer, and it looks like our descendants might just have to too. And do we really need wide-screen plasma TVs? They use five times as much electricity as or'nery ones, I read.

Anyway, God is obviously German because He took exception to my Wandervögel post and punished me accordingly. And He's fat because equally obviously He doesn't take exception to Germans saying Fat God to one other instead of Hello. (They do. Honestly. Everyone in Bavaria does. There are all these old German ladies hanging up their washing calling 'Grüss Gott' all the time. And He doesn't, to my knowledge, whack 'em in the eye.)
Gerry Brownlee is pretty fat too, come to think of it. He's a sort of human planet. Maybe having a fat energy minister is a good plan because when Peak Oil finally arrives, we can boil him down to two or three hundred kilograms of useful lard.

Somewhere here you might just be able to see Gerry Brownlee among the crowd.
[Pinched from]

And Peak Oil's likely to come to New Zealand sooner rather than later because Gerry Brownlee has decided to open up all the oilfields and gas fields that can be found off the New Zealand coast to commercial exploration. After all, why bother preserving a scarce resource? - Anyway I'd better discontinue this line of discussion. Comparing Gerry Brownlee with God could easily get me imaginatively punished again, and by a raft of disparate opinion.


Monday, December 7, 2009 2:29:17 AM Categories: New Zealand
Gerhardt is his name, a chuckling smiling happy German mountain biker who my wife inadvertently gave our address to at Auckland airport. (Okay, to whom. Shut up. Pedant.) This was a Mistake: we live in the remotest corner of the world where the only visitors now are slightly bemused iceberg-stranded Emperor Penguins on their way to the Copenhagen summit. The Antarctic ice shelves are breaking up, to which the local businessmen remain wilfully indifferent. There are 120 floating towards us at present. - Icebergs that is, not businessmen. -
But anyway when you're this far from civilization everyone hands your address out to all their friends -  'Oh, New Zealand? I know somebody in New Zealand!' and presently two smoking German students pole up in a battered camper van, annoying you by playing ping-pong late into the night in the sheds. Amazing how penetrating a noise is a ping when you're trying to sleep. (The second day we defeated them by stealing the balls.)
So what with my wife and these two and now Gerhardt the place has been heaving with Germans. It's as if we lost the war. The students were furniture restorers or welders or something and came to our notice by inverse invitation from a wife's cousin (sic.) who was at school with Kirsten. They telephoned in that questioning manner the young have:
'Helo, here iss Kirsten from Berlin? Iss Heidi there?'
which always makes me want to ask
'Here iss Richard?'
but I never think of it in time.
They used our address as a mail forwarding address so we can look forward to future visits, and maybe Kirsten will restore some of our furniture or Jens will weld a few recumbents for me in gratitude, which is as far-fetched an idea as their obtaining antique restoration work as paid employment. I fear they will discover ere long that the New Zealand farmer does not want his furniture restoring by young German students. He wants his apples picking. However that should still allow time for plenty of sex, which is the only thing I can think of that draws them together since it doesn't seem to be conversation or cycling, Jens being a keen Rennrad and Kirsten a keen and gasping smoker. I liked the idea that Jens was a Rennrad. The German does not separate the two concepts racing bicycle and racing bicyclist. He had a go on the penny farthing, and very soon separated the two concepts penny farthing and uninjured survivor because he didn't want another go. When they come back I shall be interested to see if his brain has calculated why I am a gunbag-owner, because he looked with alarm at the gunbag that he saw me carry out, and asked what it was, and looked even more alarmed when I said it was a gunbag, and mopped his brow with exaggerated relief when I showed him that it was empty. Later he didn't get to see me load the gunbag into the van, more's the pity, because by then it had a deceptively terrifying-looking Olympic target air rifle inside it which I was taking up to the range to test. Perhaps he thinks I just aberrantly collect gunbags. He borrowed two of my books which I doubt he will voluntarily return, and then maybe it will be time to reveal why I do keep a gunbag.
Now they've gone there's only Gerhardt the smiling happy mountain biker who laughed all the way to the kitchen table ('Oh I shall sit here! Ha ha ha ha ha!') and spent the afternoon distracting Susie from her revision. He smiles a great deal and laughs happily whenever he says anything regardless of whether he deems it witty ('Will you pass me a small spoon! Ha ha ha ha ha!') and he smiles and laughs so prettily and so much that I actually want to whack him in the face with a short piece of wood to which I've lashed a 12" adjustable spanner with a strip of innertube, just as an experiment, just to see if he can do anything other than laugh. I think I actively hate him, he's so agreeable. Like the students he doesn't get up till noon. Maybe it's endemic. You remember those Simon King documentaries that always began 'Dawn start' and there he is fiddling with a camera the size of Mons Meg while mist rises up over the Winchester countryside? Your German student has one that goes 'Noon start'.
I am going to be very kind and give him Mr Knight's address. I can't think of a valid reason for Mr & Mrs Knight being exempt from the pleasure of his company. He's so cheerful that after a while you want to whack him in the face with the adjustable and never mind the experiment. I'm hiding from him right now. Even Jens and Kirsten hid from him, he was so cheerful. Yesterday I had to go to the bog to hide from him because Jens and Kirsten were hiding from him in the kitchen, and now I've come out here and he's gone off to his room, I think, because the light's on and the door's open and anyway if it wasn't I'd make sure it was just so some mosquitoes will go in and bite him all night. I'll go and put my Jean-Paul Sartre novel by his bedside in the hope that it will stop him being so pleased with himself. I only have one Jean-Paul Sartre novel. Nobody ever has more than one Jean-Paul Sartre novel because when they finish reading it they're so depressed they commit suicide. Heidi saved my life in 1991 by putting it back on the shelf when I'd got to chapter 4, and (obv.) I haven't touched it since.
Tomorrow I shall harden a reamer I'm making out of a file that warped when I annealed it, so we will see if it warps again when I harden it in the drill press. You besmear it with liquid hand-soap to prevent scaling, pop it in the chuck, switch on, heat to orange-red, and raise a pot of water up round it while it's rotating and then it's supposed to harden dead straight. Even if it fails I'll do it just for the opportunity to give Gerhardt a sudden unexpected blast of propane to see if it makes him stop laughing so happily.

Cable housing connector 

Saturday, November 28, 2009 10:14:52 AM Categories: brass cartridges

Are you vain and stupid or is it just me? I am so vain that in spite of my munted neck (ha! Munted again. New Zealand's best word) I want to put drop handlebars back on my trike so I can pretend to be young and fit, and to match its skinny racing tyres. I am also stupid because I'm doing it myself in spite of knowing for a Very Big Fact that the cheapest and best way of changing handlebars is to nip to the bike shop and pay Josh, which offers the marked bonus that it doesn't involve my gashing the second finger of my left hand and stomping off to the first aid cabinet wondering - again - how to cut a plaster off the strip with one hand incapacitated. And while we're about it, why do wives keep the first aid box in the bathroom? Do they anticipate our gashing knuckles while taking the toothpaste cap off the tube or something?

Unf. my economic beliefs compel me to Not Buy a New Part when a similar part is to be found corroding quietly on some ditched piece of junk at the bottom of the Bike Heap. - I expect you have a Bike Heap too. All recumbent makers have a Bike Heap. As soon as people stop you at the whole food shop and get past the 'it looks awfully uncomfortable/ vulnerable/ d'you steer with your feet?' conversation, they remember they have an old bike festering in the back shed and before long a maroon estate car parks briefly outside your fence and you find yourself the owner of yet another Elswick 10-speed with a chain made out of rust. So you chuck it next to the greenhouse and before too long presto! a Bike Heap.

And the rotten thing is my economic beliefs compel me to undertake the work myself even though Josh's compensation package is affordably less than the $3,250,000 he'd get if he wore a suit and wrecked the planet for a living. (So why don't bankers get a salary? Why is it 'compensation'? Compensation for what? For making 6,999,999,999 people hate you or something?)

Which handlebar change involves cabling.

Oh god. I hate cabling.

I hate cabling because somewhere in the Bike Heap is (probably) a cable housing the right length and somewhere else is a cable the right length and every single one has to be checked for breaks and corrosion and fraying and if, absolutely the worst case scenario, I have to buy a new cable, I know I shall cut it an inch too short. I know it. I just know it. I would cut it an inch too short even if my economic beliefs permitted those Nokon ball thingies that Rob Hague espouses that you can't actually cut too short. I know it without trying because I'm stupider than the Nokon engineers ever anticipated.

However, because I happen to be a really clever stupid person, which I apprise you of sufficiently often for you almost to believe it, I have thought up a Cunning Scheme using .22 cartridges nicked from John's trench art supplies that he in turn nicked from the rifle range. - Swords into ploughshares. - You take two .22 cases and solder them back-to-back. - Well you don't, of course, because you live in Engerland where there isn't a deserted rifle range up the Rocky River Road and where you'd probably go to gaol for five years for possessing empty .22 cartridges and anyway where you're not allowed solder any more. But in New Zealand empty rifle shells are to be found everywhere, and the recumbent builder amasses a collection because it's in the nature of recumbent builders to pick up discarded brass cartridges just in case you can braze with them. (You can.) And in the middle of the joint, you drill a 3mm hole. Lo! a cable housing connector. It works, too.

Incidentally, is there a mandatory uniform for whole food shoppers that I haven't been told about? So why does everybody else have a ragged brown woolly cardigan and a stripy musette and long matted hair and ear-rings pinned through their eyebrows? Eyebrows? Strikes me you'd have to be pretty inept to mistake an ear lobe for an eyebrow. Also why can they never afford socks? And anyway why are they whole food shops? Are there also partial food shops? - Questions, so many questions, Grasshopper.


Saturday, November 21, 2009 8:57:23 AM Categories: maintenance
I have just been visited. By a Christian gentleman. I knew he was a gentleman because he was on a gentleman's mountain bicycle, and although I don't know for certain he was a Christian, he was ugly. He had a shrunken head as if he'd been recently mummified. Half the Christians you meet are ugly: it's why they're Christians in the first place. There were a heap of them in Nottingham when the university chaplain was the son of the Bishop of Durham and eager to assert the independence of his mind by giving fantastically thought-provoking lectures in the guise of sermons. The congregation overflowed with ugly people in dowdy dresses, along with those who were so old as to be almost dead of course. Whenever he got his father to come and preach the congregation was full of people universally in black with dog-collars on, and they all heckled at the end with polite hatred and he dealt with them swiftly and surely because before he was Bishop of Durham he was a professor of theology and knew more than all of them combined. But it made no difference. They were still half ugly.
My ugly Christian gentleman would have been better off as a museum specimen in the Pitt Rivers museum where they like to specialise in shrunken heads except their shrunken heads are all dead and he was still alive. Anyhow he didn't visit me on account of his unusual head dimensions and what he wanted wasn't to enter a museum. What he wanted was for me to do work for him. He was a businessman and - I'm guessing - ran a B&B.
'I heard about you, and was wondering if you could help. I've got some bikes I keep for my paying guests, and I need someone to do some maintenance on them.'
My heart sank when he said this because I knew what was coming next. What was coming next was that he was far too busy himself, and that the local bike shop had quoted far too much money, and that because they were only cheap bikes, maintenance should cost him next to nothing and that since I seemed a handy man with a spanner maybe I could do the work for him. For which I knew he would offer me sixpence by way of payment.
'Well I'm not quite sure - ' I started to say.
'It would be very easy work. They're only cheap ones, but there's nothing wrong with them. They just need routine servicing.'
'The cost of servicing - '
'I went to Coppins but they were way too expensive.'
Coppins is Motueka's only bike shop. They currently employ Josh who used to be the head boy at the high school. He's a good mechanic and he knows his stuff because he studies it with the extreme interest of youth. When I get stuck I go and consult Josh because he knows how to set up these new-fangled index shifting thingies so that they change gear and not so that they go clickety click all the time which is how I know how to set them up and which is why I don't use them at all.
'I think you'll find,' I said, 'that Coppins isn't expensive. On the whole people run bike shops because they love bikes, not because they're out to make a lot of money.'
'Oh what they quoted was much more than these cheap bikes are worth. They wanted a huge profit. I'd do the maintenance myself of course, but I haven't time - I'm running a business.' I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be impressed at his knowing how to maintain a bike, or impressed at his being a businessman. I said,
'Servicing a bike is very time-consuming. And it may make a difference whether or not it's a top-end bike because - '
'Oh it's not for servicing my bike. I've got a top end bike alright, but that's mine, not the ones I've got for my guests.'
'What did you pay for it?'
'Over a thousand dollars!'
It's funny how you can tell when people are trying to impress you with how much money they've spent. I thought for a moment what to say next. Last year when I enquired, a 23.5 lbs full suspension carbon mountain bike cost nine thousand dollars locally. I stepped outside: he had a perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle but I could see at a glance that a crowd of people immediately hadn't gathered round to admire it.
'And those for your paying guests?'
'Oh no, they were much cheaper.'
'Well there may be a problem. Cheap bikes are often badly set up and therefore hard to maintain, and the time spent working on them can be much greater. If you buy a very expensive bike, the shop will have set it up perfectly. They make virtually no profit on expensive bikes.'
This is a curious phenomenon about cycle shops. Cheapness and profits are inversely proportional. In the olden days when I lived in England and you could go to Halfords and buy a hundred quid mountain bike, I was told by one of their buyers it would have cost them twenty. But if you went to the local bike shop and spent a thousand quid then their profit would still be eighty quid because they knew that they couldn't break the thousand pound barrier or no-one would buy them at all.
I said,
'I'd be surprised if they made a huge profit on maintaining your bikes. Their mechanics charge a pittance compared with what you'll pay to have your car serviced. You see, I charge two hundred and eighty dollars an hour because I do experimental work and write it up for American magazines. You probably can't afford that.'
I was lying of course, and quite outrageously at that, but sometimes you have to lie when you bump into shrunken-headed Christian businessmen who aren't prepared to support other local businesses. I don't charge two hundred and eighty dollars an hour for anything at all because nothing I do is worth it. I plucked the figure out of the air. (And here's a useful tip: if you're going to lie, make the lie a really, really big one because then people will be more likely to believe you.) And I don't write for magazines any more because
a) magazines don't pay anything at all these days and
b) magazines aren't interested in 'experimental work'. (Home-made recumbents, to you and me.) They're interested in sycophantic reviews of expensive commercial stuff because that way they can collect advertising revenue, which is why if you read a detailed report in a magazine on Swarovski binoculars, you will (I guarantee it) find a glossy advertisement about Swarovski on the opposite page, and should you read the article carefully you will find not a single sentence that isn't full of praise and gush. (Not that I object to Swarovski optics. I have several. They're very good. 'Very good' is as far as I can manage in the sycophantic gush line, but even so I should be grateful if they will now send me sixpence for saying so. Thank you very much.)
So my ugly Christian gentleman got on his top-end thousand dollar (that's about ₤300) perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle and rode away a trifle disgruntled, and must now rely on the efficacy of prayer to find someone who will do the work for 0 dollars an hour. And I have to stop writing this blog entry for 0 dollars an hour because I must get on my not-top-end experimental (home-made) recumbent bicycle and go to the dentist who does charge two hundred and eighty dollars an hour, mostly to shrink my head by drilling holes in it, though probably not enough to warrant Pitt Rivers status. And who rides a $280 mountain bike. Which he bought at the Warehouse. Which I shall decline to maintain, should I be asked.


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