Farewell to the old bicycle


As has become a bit of a habit, I left behind one of my old bicycles in Canberra when I left on Monday. It is a ‘gent’s’ bike from the 1930s, 3-speed internal rear hub (Sturmey Archer), cotter pins in the crank arms, sprung seat and a flourishing set of dragster handlebars. I found it on an old rubbish pile about a year ago, replaced a few parts from another old bicycle I found, paid $12 for a tyre and had myself a bicycle. But since I keep doing this I have too many bicycles. So I took it to Canberra to use during my visiting fellowship, pedalled all around the city on it, to my camping spot and back again. On the last day I left it here, there and everywhere without a lock, hoping someone would take it. But no one did. Finally, outside the front of the interstate bus station I left this stately old gent with a sign in its spokes: ‘Free bicycle to a good home. 3-speed gent’s bike. Perfect working order’.

That makes four bicycles in three cities: Copenhagen has two of my old bikes, Amsterdam and Canberra one each. And I have two more to use in Newcastle. Time to start scouring for some more discarded and abandoned cycles.


Unpacking the boxes takes some time

Slowly this new blogsite is being unpacked, but now I need to go to Canberra via Sydney – travelling by trains for the next three days – so the boxes will be opened more slowly. Meanwhile, I want to write:

a) a reply to Colin Toffelmire on idolatry

b) an argument for an unethical and unmoral position, since ethos (Greek) and mos (Latin) mean custom, habit, what is assumed to be the proper way to do things in society. That is, leave the class structures alone, don’t ruffle the status quo, grease social relations so they run more smoothly, in short, be ‘ethical’. Not for me, since I want an unethical and unmoral politics – aethikos and praeter more.

The University of Utopia

As I am about to head off the Canberra, it feels like I am going to a different country. Here I swim everyday and the temperatures are pushing 30 degrees; there it still gets below zero every night, so I need to pull on all my thermals for nights in the tent.

So I thought I’d repost this one on my ideal university:

The University of Utopia is committed to research of the highest quality, a serious programme of reading, a willingness to discuss ideas with colleagues and work collectively. Unlike other universities, the University of Utopia does not overpay its staff in return for overwork. By contrast, a full professor receives AUD $30,000 per annum. The difference – AUD $ 120,000 – goes to paying adequate administrative staff, more teaching positions, multiple PhD scholarships, and a world-class library. Promotion involves a reduction in work hours and not an increase in pay.

The expected duties of any lecturer are:
– one course of no more than 10 students per semester
– a maximum of two postgraduate students
– adequate consultation with students
– a maximum of one committee
– a maximum of one hour per week for administrative tasks
– four days per week for reading, research, writing and discussion

The university’s buildings are neither pretentious nor prison-like. They have comfortable offices, enticing reading areas and grounds that encourage reflection and conversation. As a result of the university’s apparent innovation, visitors flock here from around the world. We have become an employer of choice and have become one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities.

Accommodation, Canberra Style, or, how to Understand Gaddafi

Since I wasn’t allowed to sleep in my office while in Canberra as research fellow at the ANU, I decided to sleep in my tent. The thing is, it’s still a bit crisp in Canberra, with temperatures below zero at night. Winter sleeping bag, thermals, beanie – great way to sleep. So I zip up early in my winter gear and wake at first light.

I must admit the view is a bit better than waking up on the floor of my office:

One morning I realised that I am probably in a much better position to understand our great Libyan leader, Gaddafi, who likes to stay in a tent when travelling on world business. OK, his tent is a bit more salubrious than mine, but we do have this close bond now. Think I’ll send him a postcard, point out the affinities between his bedouin roots and my own feral roots (I might mention my background too), and maybe invite him to Canberra to share the spot next to mine. Here’s his tent in France:

I also managed to scrounge an old bicycle, a seriously old bicycle, with a three-gear internal hub and sprung seat. It is worth about three hours of repair and one new tyre. Accommodation and wheels, tent and bicycle – what more could one want?

I even have a muddy track on which to ride to town. Makes me wonder if Gaddafi would like me to fix him a bike when he comes to Canberra.

You know, people pay top dollar for this sort of experience and I’m doing it for next to nothing.

On sleeping in one’s office

One of the many cultural boundaries I seem to cross: sleeping in my office. Unfortunately, I’ve recently been told I can’t do it anymore. Why? Why? Why? Been doing it for years and now I can’t.

The latest episode began with a visiting scholar stint at the Australian National University in Canberra. I turned up, airbed and sleeping bag in hand, ready to make myself comfy for a few nights. Shower downstairs, well-equipped kitchen – what more could you want?

I’m completely open about it, but people began to give me strange looks and eventually I was told that due to security issues I couldn’t do it anymore. Security? Did they think I was going to be attacked, that unsavoury types would make life difficult? Ah no, I am the security issue – partying away, stealing paper from the photocopier and what have you.

Now, what is the difference between dozing off while you work all night and and bringing some gear with you to make your snooze comfortable? Security? I have a key that gives me 24 hour access anyway. Some invisible line is crossed, it seems, when you deliberately set out to sleep in your office. Beats me why. What’s the point of having one place where you work and another where you sleep – it’s stupid and a waste of resources. Why not make offices with beds in them, perhaps in a small loft? After all, I’ve seen it at the IIRE in Amsterdam, the research arm of the Fourth International.

This time I’m bringing my tent!