Equinox digitabulorum

People mark the changing of the seasons in different ways. Some say that March 1st is when summer passes to autumn, a botanist may mark it by the chlorophyll exodus in deciduous foliage, an astronomer may mark it by the autumnal equinox when the sun crosses the plane of the equator.

But me, I mark it with the “Equinox digitabulorum” – the equinox of the gloves, the day that I have to start wearing gloves while cycling to work. Today was that day.


Neologisms required

As rich as the English language is, sometimes there are moments where there is no English word available to adequately describe that experience. I had two such moments on my cycle to work this morning.

Firstly, that moment, when you’re out on a foggy morning, when the mist disperses sufficiently for you to feel the warmth of the sun on your face for the first time. A subtle, but truly delicious moment that deserves its own word in the English lexicon.


Secondly, only moments before I took the photograph above, an elderly gentleman walking along saw some litter on the path (an empty beer can), and in a ‘civic minded’ gesture dealt with it by picking it up and … throwing it in the Styx Creek drain, the satisfied look on his face betraying his obvious belief that in throwing the can there he had somehow magically made it disappear! Surely the English language has space for one more word to describe this particular kind of insanity?

Any suggestions?

Just call me “Rocky”

rocklandNot by my choice, yesterday I found myself for the first (and hopefully last) time in a Starbucks cafe, where it was crowded, noisy, a little bit grotty, and where the beverage I consumed fully lived up to my expectations of overpriced ordinariness.  The only upside to the visit was a moment of comic relief in discovering that the service staff had noted my name down as “Rockland”.

Just call me “Rocky” for short.

Cycleway balance

As a counterbalance to my ‘grumpy old man’ post yesterday about cycleway construction, today I give kudos to the council for repairs to the cycle path along Turton Road near Hunter Stadium. This cycleway has been there for a while, and is much needed and much appreciated. However over the years the growing tree roots had made this stretch of path quite bumpy.

Cycleway. Turton Rd.

Cycleway. Turton Rd.

For the last couple of weeks workers have been repairing the path, and while it’s not exactly ice rink smooth now, it’s a lot less ‘Monster Truck Madness’.

Update 2nd May 2016

Last week the council completed the repairs on this section of cycleway by laying down a new tarmac surface, making for silky smooth riding.


Cycleway ambivalence

Newcastle Council is currently constructing a new section of cycleway on Jackson St Hamilton North, which is on my regular route of cycling to work. I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about it. On the one hand I’m pleased to see any money spent on cycleway infrastructure. But on the other hand this project continues a tradition of building cycleways where they are least needed, and by implication not building them where they are needed.


Jackson St, Hamilton North.

Jackson St in Hamilton North is effectively a hybrid one-way street/cul-de-sac, as you can’t turn into it from Griffiths Rd. Apart from school start/end times it is a very quiet street with virtually no traffic, and therefore little added benefit in having a cycleway separate to the road. (If you click on the photo and zoom in, you can actually see a person standing in the middle of the street, with absolutely no danger of being hit by a car!)

Its a similar scenario on Griffiths Road alongside Richardson Park, where last year the council constructed a cycleway along a section of road that already had a wide and rarely occupied verge/cycle lane.

Griffiths Rd, Hamilton North.

Griffiths Rd, Hamilton North.

And the same scenario on Hobart Rd New Lambton, a year or two ago when a new cycle path was constructed along a section of road with a rarely occupied parking/cycle lane.

Hobart Rd, New Lambton.

Hobart Rd, New Lambton.

I’m guessing that the reason why the cycle paths are being built where they’re not really needed is that council has only a limited budget for cycling infrastructure – the places where cycleways are needed are in congested areas, where construction would be difficult and expensive, and the budget isn’t big enough. So instead the only option is to spend the money on smaller, easier projects, which will tend to be in locations where a separate cycle path isn’t really needed.

So where is it needed? My regular cycling route from Lambton to Wickham is fairly cycle friendly, so I don’t have much to complain of. The most obvious spot for improvement is Chatham Rd, Clyde St, and the Clyde St railway crossing in Hamilton North. I’d love to see a  dedicated cycle path along this stretch.

A cycleway here, please.

A cycleway here, please.

Actually, if I dream big dreams like Mark MacLean, I’d love to see a cycleway built on the following route, after the former gasworks site is remediated and turned into a nature reserve.

A cycleway here, pretty please?

A cycleway here, pretty please?

And finally, there is one other thing that makes me less than excited about the new cycleway in Jackson St – and that’s the pace of construction.

Jackson Street shared pathway construction.

Jackson Street shared pathway construction.

The council’s sign says that constructing 375 metres of cyclist pathway is “expected to take four months”! That works out to an average rate of progress of 3.1 metres per day! That’s a rate that I was going to describe as “glacial”, but when in the interests of scientific accuracy I looked up how fast glaciers can travel, I found that back in 2014 the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland made a new world record when its pace was measured at more than 46 metres per day, which is 15 times faster than the Jackson Street cycleway. I am thus forced to invent a new adjective, and describe the pace of construction as “subinfraglacial”.

Jakobshavn Glacier. (WikiMedia)

Jakobshavn Glacier. (WikiMedia)

CNET Newsletter broken

For years I have been receiving a CNET Daily News e-mail newsletter . Despite it’s US-centric view of the world, and slight obsession with reporting on Apple stories, it has been occasionally useful in alerting me to relevant IT and tech stories I might not otherwise have seen.

Recently they updated their newsletter format to a less cluttered layout with more white space and larger images. But in my view the new layout is fundamentally broken, and this is exemplified by the image below where I’m viewing a newsletter in my e-mail client.

CNET's new and worthless newsletter layout.

CNET’s new and worthless newsletter layout.

Assuming that the intent of a newsletter is to convey new, how is CNET doing? My monitor resolution is 1920×1200, giving me 2304000 pixels. And what does CNET do with those 2.3 million pixels? They show masses of empty white space, two meaningless, generic and over-large images, and just six words of actual news content! (Or only five words if you count ‘once-unthinkable’ as a single compound word.)

And those six (five) words don’t even convey what the story is about!

There’s room for improvement here – approximately 2.3 million pixels worth of room.

Differences of grandeur

My latest article for the Lambton Local is out, this month on Council mergers, and in particular how 11 city and suburban councils merged together in 1938 to form the City of Greater Newcastle Council.

Researching the article got me thinking about the various town halls and council chambers left behind after the 1938 merger, where were they, what happened to them, are they still around today? I’m currently putting together some web pages to document the various municipal council buildings in the Newcastle area.

One thing that has struck me is the stark differences in style and expense in the buildings erected by the various councils. The extremes are best exemplified by the castellated fortress erected by Stockton Council in 1891 , and the simple weatherboard box that Merewether Council erected just three years later in 1894. What were the differences in budgetary restrictions and/or delusional aspirations of grandeur that led to such disparate buildings?  I don’t know the answer yet, but it will be interesting to find out.

Stockton Council Chambers. Newcastle City Council, Hunter Photobank.

Stockton Council Chambers. Erected 1891. Newcastle City Council, Hunter Photobank.

Merewether Council Chambers. Erected 1894. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Merewether Council Chambers. Erected 1894. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.


April Photos Day

Some photo’s from today …


Who is that shadowy person?

'Tis "The Sooty Retriever", rescuing birds trapped in the chimney.

‘Tis “The Sooty Retriever”, rescuing a bird trapped in the chimney.


A grainy image of the avian accident, taken by sticking my iPhone up the chimney to determine what was stuck where.

No joke. This really happened today.