bicycles


Whoever uses an air conditioner is a wimp. As the real heat-waves of summer are upon us, many people in these parts flee indoors and turn on the air conditioner. At home, at work, in a car – wherever you happen to be, an air conditioner is available.

But then you miss the glorious feel of summer. The sting of the sun at noon, the smell of air that has been baked, the sweat that cleans out your pores, the indescribable feel of lying in bed naked at night, floating on the heat and drifting off to sleep. Nothing beats the sensation of going for a run or a ride on a 40 degree day. And if you spend all day blasted by an air conditioner, how can you appreciate the sea on a hot evening?

What happens if the air conditioner breaks down, or if the button gets stuck on hot? Having lost the ability to enjoy the heat, let alone tolerate it, you’re stuffed.

I am more keen than ever to get to North Korea in the next year, especially after reading Robert Myles’s account of his travels there. The question is what I should do, for there are many options.

I may want to cycle through different parts:

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Or go hiking and camping:

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Or take a glorious rail journey:

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All part of my project on Embalming Our Leaders …

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology has come up with an easy way to measure what they call your fitness age – without having to exhaust yourself on a treadmill (with the same result). They have put the calculator here.

For me, the vital statistics are:

Male

How often do you exercise? Almost every day.

How long is your workout each time? 30 minutes or more.

How hard do your train? I go all out

Age: 52

What does your waistline measure in cm? 80

What is your resting pulse (per minute)? 46

Estimated fitness age: under 20!

Since the itchy-fingered DG challenged me to substantiate my claim that I live on no more than $50 a week in the very expensive Land of Oz, here is a standard weekly budget:

$2.25  - 1.5 bags of rolled oats

$3.00 – half a bag of powdered milk, used for both breakfast (oats) and home-made yoghurt

$2.20 – two home-made loaves of bread.

$2.80 – 500 g of cottage cheese

$1.00 – usage of jars of honey, peanut butter and vegemite

$2.00 – 750 g of brown rice

$1.15 – a kilogram bag of pasta, if I don’t make my own.

$3.60 – assorted fresh beans (red kidney, chickpeas etc) and cans of beans

$10.00 – fresh fruit and vegetables – in season and on special

$1.50 – toilet paper

$3.00 – my indulgence: coffee beans (decaf)

$5.50 – occasional items, such as soap, detergent, toothpaste etc.

$12.00 – Meal out, transport, bicycle maintenance, etc.

$50.00 total

As you can see, there’s considerable room for luxuries, such as coffee, eating out, etc.

Note that this does not include accommodation, utilities, and internet costs: $180 per week. That’s a total of $230 per week for a very comfortable life.

All this comprises one reason why I argue that most people working at universities are grossly overpaid.

Now that I have my Berlin bike back on the road, after a little maintenance, I’ve been riding along the Anti-Fascist Security Rampart, as it properly called, although it was dubbed the ‘Berlin Wall’ in the West. It was built as a response to the enthusiastic enlistment of ‘former’ Nazis by the American, English and French occupation forces after the Second World War. The policy was then followed by the Adenauer regime in West Germany in the 1950s, which by means of ‘article 31‘ gave preference to ‘former’ Nazis for public service positions. Meanwhile, the same regime systematically prevented large groups and organisations of young people from visiting the east – blocking the border, detaining them, etc. Hence, the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall.

So I set out to try on my bike to try and gain some sense of what the thing was about. Some bits – more than you imagine – are still standing:

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Especially in the city parts:

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These are of course the parts that became associated with the wall, which in the fevered imagination of Western propaganda  attained vast proportions – Churchill’s ‘iron curtain’ or Willi Brandt’s ‘wall of shame’, cutting Europe and thereby the world in two .

But most of the rampart actually ran through countryside – 155 km around all of West Berlin:

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And there’s a bicycle route that follows it all the way:

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The clear sky and nice sign may be a little deceptive, for it is actually winter:

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And as is the way with German cycle routes, they can vary in quality:

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But after you get past the annoying crowds in town, hanging around Brandenburger Tor or the Reichstag, most of it is through some wonderfully quiet countryside. No one else is idiot enough to cycle the icy route in winter.

Ever wondered why Lance Armstrong called his Tour de France team the ‘US Postal Service’? As many of you know, this peerless doper constructed the US Postal Service as his own tool for winning yet more Tour victories. They helped him secure up to his seventh ‘win’. But the USPS was one of the most sophisticated sports doping organisations yet seen, all based on evading detection and passing clean urine samples. But why ‘US Postal Service’?

It was obviously modelled on the Persian Postal Service. Why? The horses of this postal service – aka, secret police network – were known for their speed and endurance. And they attained that prowess through the consumption of significant amounts of beer and wine, as the Persepolis Tablets make clear. In other words, these equids thundering along the Persian roads were doped to eyeballs. Just like our Lance really.