Monday, 19 October 2009

Common misconceptions

Billions of us live in a world of instant mass communication where news and new ideas, new technologies and ideologies flow faster than could ever have been imagined just a few short years ago.

I am sure that one of the reasons the world fell into recession so quickly in the last couple of years and why we appear to be coming out of it equally rapidly compared to the Great Depression of the late 20's and 30's is the speed that the bad and now the good news has flowed around the globe. One of the other reasons is surely that global economic power is shifting from the western hemisphere to Asia. India and China in particular have emerged relatively unscathed from the recent economic meltdown caused by American Corporate greed and ignorance.

This communication revolution has good and bad points. The development of news and I use that term loosely has generated a need for instant gratification. If something happens in the world we want to know about it now. As perception is reality then those first images, those first comments and ill informed analysis are the ones that stick-even though in the longer term they are proven to be nothing but bull#$it.

Combined with the ability for all of us to transmit all that we know or imagine to be the truth at the press of a button and beam our random thoughts in living colour to the rest of the world no matter how ill informed the world is being dumbed down by a deluge of half truths, fantasy and misinformation.

Not only has the web and all its offshoots, blogs, tweets, and every organisation that has the nohow to build their own 21st century soap box made all the news that is fit to print available to all it has also made all the news that isn't fit to print available to everyone.

Traditional media organisations that have had the resources to actually investigate what is going on in the world seem to be a dieing breed. Cut off at the knees by falling advertising revenue and falling subscriptions. The web is the way of the future but the traditional print media don't seem to be able to make this work for them yet. Maybe subscriptions are the way to go. People will always pay for quality product even in a world that expects to get most things for free. But the technology to deliver the product electronically to the kitchen table doesn't exist yet.

Papers (of the news type) like books won't die completely until there is an electronic medium that is as convenient and portable as they are. Something that can deal with the rigours of spilt milk and being shoved into a pocket to be read later.

But I'm getting off the track. This blog was supposed to be about popular misconceptions and misdirections in part perpetuated by the modern media. So here we go.

NZ's ACC and motorcycle registration costs
In the last few days the ACC (New Zealand's no fault accident insurance scheme which is funded by things like vehicle registration costs) has announced an increase in registration costs for large motorcycles as the owners of big bikes are over represented in accident statistics. There can be no argument about this as it is true-just as it there can be no argument that most accidents involving motorcycles are caused by four wheeled vehicles. However, people on bicycles are equally as vulnerable and probably as equally represented in accident statistics. A broken cyclist is going to cost the same to put back together as a broken motorcyclist. The difference is motorcycle has to be registered, it's rider licensed and he pays various user charges. A push bike however is green and gets away with anything. But in a user pays world shouldn't they be paying their fair share?

Global warming
The world is warming up based on recent history. But then the world has also been through a recent cooling period. I read recently that the French Revolution was in part caused by famine that was related to a series of wet and cold winters. The world was apparently cooler in medieval times than at the height of the Roman Empire.

I believe that we should do all we can to protect our environment and reduce the impact on mother nature of our activities. We should look for cleaner greener ways of doing things but I don't believe that the activities of mankind are solely to blame for global warming. If we can't predict the weather accurately suggestions that we are the cause of global warming are supposition.

Oil is running out
Oil is the driving force of our economies. It allows people like me to live in the suburbs and drive to work, enjoy motorsport and indirectly provides me with a living. Of course oil is running out -it is a non re-new able resource. But I can't image that it will run out and be priced out of reach for most of us in my life time. (Hopefully I am not wrong). Look at a map of the world or a globe and have a think about where most of today's supplies come from and then see how big the rest of the world is. We just haven't found it all yet. I am sure that not too far down the track someone is bound to come up with some new form of energy that will make the need for oil redundant.

Electric cars, fuel economy and sustainability
I am not sure that the replacement for the internal combustion engine is going to be the hybrid or electric cars being developed today. What is sustainable about building vehicles that need batteries to run? They are more expensive to build and well we're going to need more power stations to generate the electricity to power the batteries.What are they going to run on? Then what do you do about disposing of the batteries when they are exhausted?
And as somebody pointed out to me the other day what is sustainable or green about ditching the older vehicle and buying a new fuel efficient model? Sure it might use less fuel and spit out slightly less CO2 into the air -but what about all the cost of actually producing that new vehicle in comparison to keeping the old one on the road until it is no longer economic to repair?

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

One for the Volunteers

The final round of the Kawasaki Sandpit 2 Man series was held in the northern end of Woodhill Forest on Sunday the 27th of September. The series was organised by the team from the Kawasaki Sandpit

Round three ran over slightly different terrain to the first two rounds. Less windy single track and more open energy sapping return roads and fire breaks and for those riders who rode the first lap and the faster second leg riders-a nice big killer bog.

The faster open tracks were for those of us that to put it mildly are age and fitness challenged; pretty tough going.

Don't get me wrong we had a bloody great day. I missed the main bog as by the time I went through on my first leg it had been taped off. I did however have my own little melt down and got well and truly stuck in a drain

It took me a good ten minutes to manhandle my bike out of this drain and I was totally rooted by the time we were both back on dry land. And no I didn't feel guilty about not helping the guy who followed me into the hole and got well and truly bogged just as I had managed to get myself out.

I am not privy to the cost of these events and whether the guys made any money out of the series. I sure as hell hope they didn't have to dig into their own pockets to make sure that the series ran smoothly.

It must have been a huge logistical exercise to put this race on let alone the entire series and the team needs to be commended for their efforts. If they made some money well good on them.

Events like this series are organised by clubs all round the country and rely on a huge pool of volunteers who freely give up their time to help out so that people like me can go out and have a good time.

The team from the Sandpit and a team of volunteers have spent most weekends for the last three or four months setting up the tracks and pruning pine trees. Then there are all those others that turn up on the day to pull bikes out of bogs and tow back the breakdowns.

And when the race is over the course arrows and bunting have to be pulled down, the dead bikes recovered and any repairs put right.

And don't forget the good guys from St Johns who look after all the broken bodies.

It doesn't matter what the sport or event is. Most of the mass participation events in this country wouldn't go ahead without the support of dedicated organizers, administrators, and general dogs bodies who freely give up their time to make these events possible.

So the next time some seemingly over officious administrator or bungling ref at your kids Saturday morning sport gets up your nose remember that without them there wouldn't be a game. Instead of giving them a hard time a thank you wouldn't go amiss.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Obama's Healthcare Plan

I have been doing a bit of reading up on Obama's Health Care reform plan for a couple of reasons. One because I have become more or less addicted to reading the Drudge report and the report is dead against any health reform. Mind you the the Drudge Report seems to be against any kind of rational reform of the status quo.

The report is an unashamed champion of the lunatic conservative fringe, no unbiased reporting here. The report contains links to vociferous articles opposed not just to Health Reform but anything Obama. Some of the video taken at the so called town hall meetings is as sickening as it is interesting. Not just because you have some fat inbred loser screaming senselessly at a politician brave enough to show up. More because the tactics of opposition are reminiscent of the sort of strong arm thuggish actions that the Mullahs in Iran use against dissent. Or 1930's Germany.

The other reason I find this whole debate so interesting is that I find it difficult to comprehend that the US doesn't have some kind of universal health care for it's population. The most powerful country in the world has a dirty little secret. Well it's not a secret and they have more than one. America cannot ensure that all of it's population has access to decent health care.

An incredible 45 million people don't have health insurance, wastage possibly accounts for up to 30% of medical costs and more interesting still that despite all the money sloshing around in the medical economy doctors are not making enough money. So even if Obama waves his magic wand and there is a new affordable health care system there might not be enough doctors to go round.

If this is the result of a capitalist approach to medical care leave me with the socialist version that I am used to.

The US system appears to be unsustainable with the costs of health care insurance rising faster than wages growth and people simply being unable to afford cover and or being bankrupted after having to fork out for a major illness or accident.

Coming from a country where health care is a basic right for all and where the state run hospitals operate in an environment that also lets people purchase private health care I find it hard to understand that millions of Americans don't have this basic right. If I fall over and break my leg or get sick all is not lost I will taken off to hospital in an ambulance and treated no questions asked. If I have had an accident I will also receive 80% of my wages through a compulsory no fault insurance program that all working people pay into.

The opposition to reform makes a lot out of Obama's plan being anti Capitalist-read anti American and just another example of socialism taking over America by stealth.
But lets face it America doesn't have an economy that runs on pure capitalist principles anyway. Big business and the right wing just use this ideal to get their own way. If America was truly capitalist there would be a couple of big car makers and a few banks that should have gone down the gurgler over the last few months.

It seems to me looking in from afar that Health Reform is crucial for the American economy and the American people. Surely it makes good business sense to make people well as soon as possible and as cheaply as possible, and run health programs to improve the health of all those people with chronic (and to some extent preventable) diseases? And do all this at the best cost?

I guess all this would make sense but the Drug and Insurance companies and the large medical suppliers are more interested in their own profits not of the health of any one or group of individuals. That is free market capitalism.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

How to fix the All Blacks.

If you listen to the three wise men of NZ Rugby the national team has the right game plan but the players are not executing it correctly. Thus explained is one of the worst starts to an international calendar. 6 games and only 3 wins. Yeah right. So who's fault is that? The All Blacks are playing like the Auckland Blues played just before Henry pulled the pin on the team and toddled off to Wales in the late 90's.

A team chock full of talent but unable to turn that talent into consistent wins when it really mattered. The way that Blues team, Wales and now the All Blacks have stuttered and run out steam seems to indicate that the coaching team has run out out of ideas, or they have got stale and the players have got sick of being geed up the same way by the old headmaster and his senior teachers.

The reappointment of the current coaching panel after the last world cup failure (our worst showing ever at a World Cup) and more recently having those appointments extended to the next world cup have polarised the nation. The chasm between the rugby union and the Henry apologists and the rest of us is only going to get wider as the All Blacks' results fail to live up to the high standards we expect.

The first two round of the NPC have been attracting record numbers of live and television viewers. In total contrast to the International team the provincial teams are playing with passion and appear to have a plan of action that the players adhere. The All Blacks and the coaching team would be wise to take some lessons from the local game.

There have been a few upsets and Auckland, the team that given it's pool of potential players should be the overwhelming favorite each time it takes the filed has been tipped over twice. This isn't so suprising as the Auckland Rugby Union appears to be run by the same sort of opportunists that run the national game.

The All Blacks need to be playing with the commitment, passion and structure that the provincial teams are exercising at the moment. The players also need to be playing as often as possible, not coddled in cotton wool after each big game. We need players who are in form not players who were in some sort of form the last time they played which might have been weeks ago. Playing international rugby, well any kind of rugby is tough on the body. But then so are a lot of other sports so I don't hold with the policy of resting players. If they get injured or lose form then pick someone else.

My remedy for their current woes?
  • Replace the coaching staff immediately. There are plenty of candidates out there who can take the team through to the next World Cup
  • Make the players play week in week out when games available. Get them out there playing for this clubs and provincial unions wherever possible
  • Make sure that the start of the provincial season does not clash with the club finals.
My tip for the NPC final. Waikato vs Hawkes Bay. Waikato to win.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Bring back Laurie. South Africa 31 All Blacks 19

The end of the world is upon us. The All Blacks lose two in a row against the Springboks! A depression has moved onto the country and is unlikely to clear anytime soon.

One of the things that defines us as a country and a people is our love for rugby. It would be fair to argue that rugby is not quite the dominant force that it once was. However there is no doubt that the game still has a huge following with many of us supporting both the national team and our provincial favourites (unfortunately Waikato also lost last night!). Rugby continues to dominate the headlines, our biggest stars are household names across the rugby world, and often move there as well.

Players grace the front of the woman's magazines spilling their guts on their love lives and are pilloried in the news media when things get a bit out of hand after a night out with the boys or they get a speeding ticket. Rugby has an impact on New Zealand like the Tour de France in France, cricket in India, American Football in the US and of course soccer in Europe. Performances at every level are dissected endlessly and if our top teams lose it is almost like the end of the world.

The game was long strictly amateur and the All Blacks were the dominant team of this era. Well most of time. It wasn't until 1956 that the AB's finally won a test series against the old foe, the Springboks on home soil. It would take the fall of apartheid in South Africa and neutral referees before we achieved that goal in South Africa.

The All Blacks were the dominant team of the amateur era because they played and trained like professionals and because they played with a dogged determination and discipline that other teams seemed to lack. For a small unimportant country at the end of the world, outnumbered 30 to one by sheep this was one thing that we could do better than almost anybody else. Even if most of the world didn't know much about this obscure game invented by a bloke called William Ellis who picked up a soccer ball and ran with it at an English public school sometime in the 1860s.

The All Blacks epitomised all that we consider ourselves to be. Tough, uncompromising, innovative. World Champions. Well we used to be. They aren't and we aren't any longer. New Zealand continues as a production line of top rugby pedigree but we haven't won the most important trophy in the game since the inaugural Rugby World cup in 1987. The only time we came close was 1995 in South Africa where we narrowly lost a final with a team that had come down with a dose of food poisoning (or were poisoned).

Many people blame the game becoming fully professional after 1995 for our inability to capture the glory of 1987 and perhaps even 1995. As the years have gone by the aura of the All Blacks has dimmed and the fat wallets of the the Northern hemisphere and Japan have siphoned of some of our best playing and coaching talent. Despite this the All Blacks are still the most successful international rugby team but their inability to win the vital games is giving them a well earned reputation as chokers.

The coach of the 1995 team was a pretty tough task master. Several years ago he came out of retirement to coach a provincial team and the players more or less mutinied over his methods. Looking back this really epitomises what is wrong with Rugby at the highest level and to a large extent this is a reflection on our society. The players thought they knew better but clearly they didn't.

We reward mediocrity in all walks of life either by ignoring it because it reflects badly on ourselves or because we don't want to make a scene. We collectively don't respect authority and have no sense of commitment or discipline and we certainly don't take responsibility for our mistakes. It is all somebody else's fault and we let people get away with it. I also blame the namby pamby cardigan wearers that have influenced generations of people in this country to believe that competition (like trying to win something) and personal discipline are bad things and they don't need to do what they are told by someone in authority if they don't feel like it.

After the last World Cup debacle. You know the story. Rested players when they should have been playing. Started favourites. Lost in the quarter final. Blame the referee for missing a forward pass. Real reason out passioned by the French and once the coaches ran out of ideas the players didn't know what to do. To make matters worse when we had the opportunity to get rid of the coaching panel after the World Cup and appoint someone else the panel was retained. The men that should have been appointed take up overseas contracts and are lost to the local game until at least after the next world cup.

What is wrong with our game at the top level is a lack of leadership, the leadership of the team at the coaching level, their tactics and planning and that of the NZRFU for appointing them and reinforcing their collective failures. Some of the players on the field might be a bit past their use by date last night but barring those that are injured the All Blacks fielded close to their top players -they just didn't seem to know what to do.

Round one of the NPC has shown once again that whatever the loses of talent overseas there is still plenty in the tank. We have the talent to win the next World Cup - the players just need some leadership. Bring back Laurie I say.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Woodhill Two Man series round one

The team at the Kawasaki Sandpit have organised a Two Man series in the Woodhill forest. The first round was run on the 26th of July in good conditions.

I was going to ride the Iron Man and simply rove around and take video but ended up entering in the Vets class. I ended up on the fourth row of the grid with all the guns which was a bit intimidating to say the least.

The longer length version can be seen at

While this was supposed to be a fun event most of the local big guns were out in force. You get an idea of how many of these guys are around when in the pit tent beside the spot we marked out for our own pit was the temporary home to people like local luminaries as Chris Birch and Karl Power.

The first lap was pretty intense, starting from the 4th row with all the big guns meant that I spent the first half of the first lap simply getting out of the way.

In the second half of the ist lap I moved along a little quicker trying to pace myself with people a little ahead of me and actually managing to pass a few people.

I have no idea where we placed as on my second lap I stopped to help out with an injured rider and that was more or less that.

Had a good day and got a chunk of video.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Remebering Apollo 11

The 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing is upon us. 40 years ago tomorrow the lunar module landed on the moon and a few hours later Armstrong and Aldrin left the Eagle, lowering themselves to the planet surface. Man had taken the first few baby steps in our exploration of the solar system.

I have vague memories of sitting in a freezing cold pre-fabricated school classroom listening on the radio to.... Well until I did a bit of research today I thought I must have been listening to Armstrong and Aldrin taking those first tentative steps on the moon and uttering those famous words, 'one small step.....'

But by my reckoning school wouldn't have started for the day when the Eagle landed and by the time the astronauts left the lunar module for their moonwalk I would have been on my way home.

At this distance I am no longer sure what I was listening to along with my classmates. I am pretty sure that we were listening to something to do with the moon landing but I can no longer remember which part of that great enterprise it was. Might even have been the splashdown for all I know.

Not that it really matters. However, until this morning if anyone had asked me I would have sworn that I had witnessed, albeit on the radio, along with millions of others man's first landing on the moon.

Strange how our memories play tricks on us at times and how we can believe implacably in something that can easily be proved to been an untruth. While I have just amply shown I am as fallible as the next man I never cease to wonder how many people simply refuse to face up to a truth when it is staring them in the face.

One of the great untruths of course is that god or his equivalent depending on where you live on the planet and the institutions you were brought up in created the world and then sent us prophets with a list of rules to live by.

I take the view that clever men created the mostly good rules that societies like the one I live in use as a general foundation for the way we behave and interact with our fellow citizens in order to do just that. To give us rules to live by and as a way of explaining all that that was inexplicable without the benefit of modern science and technology.

Somewhere along the line other clever but far more devious men worked out and continue to use religion as a way to enforce their will on others in the same way that any other petty despot does. Unlike the simple tyrant religious leaders have a ready made audience of blindly faithful followers. The poorer the nation, the more ignorant and uneducated the people are, the greater the opportunity there is to pursue political power and control in the name of religion and at the expense of basic human rights and freedoms.

And that is the way it happens. Those countries or the people in poorer parts of countries dominated by fundamental religious fanatics are poor and ignorant. If the west wants to reduce the spectre of international terrorism we would be better served spending massively on aid not armaments and drag some of these medieval states and regions into the modern world. Easier said than done when some of the most rabid fanatics live in the backwoods of the world's only current superpower.

One of the untruths in my life. Well lets be honest here, one of my many, fantasies now that thecoach of the All Blacks is no longer likely to call on me to fill the gap on the open side flank in the final of the World Cup, is that I am a great dirtbike rider and a better video editor.

The truth of course is that I am a middling rider and editor. But like faith in ones religion it is a harmless though fulfilling pass time and I get satisfaction from being the chief camera mount and the hours spent editing the footage.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

The Nukeproof mount for V.I.O POV 1.5

The only accessory I have bought for my camera is the Nukeproof mount and we now stock them-visit us at Dirtvideo

The camera head itself is fairly robust and I was wearing it on the side of my helmet so it was fairly well protected.

However, no matter how robust the camera head is supposed to be it will only take so many knocks before it suffers some form of damage so it is essential to protect it.

The short video clip embeded below shows what can happen out there on the trails and why a Nukeproof mount is an essential piece of kit.

So you want to be famous?

When I was a kid all I ever wanted to be was world famous. It wasn't for the music, the game, or for the art. It was all about being famous and what I was going to do once I was famous.

For me it was about the money, the adulation, the parties I'd get to invited to, the other famous people I would meet, and the pretty girls. Not that I was sure what I would do with all those things at the time. I couldn't sing, I wasn't any good at sport, I didn't even know what acting was. I didn't know how I was going to become famous. I just wanted to be famous.

Looking at the life of Wacko Jacko I am glad that things have turned out the way that they have. I'm not famous, I'm not rich but I lead a fairly happy and normal life, and can walk down the street without being mobbed.

If I had achieved any sort of fame at a young age I am sure it would not have been pretty unless someone had stepped in and kept my feet firmly on the ground. Given free reign in a sweet shop I would not be able to restrain myself. I am not even sure that it would be pretty now. Unfortunately for Jacko and others like him he appears to have been surrounded by sycophants who indulged his every whim instead of looking after him.

This wasn't supposed to be about the crashes.....

I can go to the supermarket or go out at night and misbehave and nobody will really care. Photos of me misbehaving won't appear in papers across the globe, my every move and eccentricity (and I have a few) won't be documented and analysed incessantly by supposed experts in the name of news.

Wacko Jacko's music wasn't really my cup of tea but there is no doubting he was an extremely talented individual and his music had wide appeal. Like many talented people he also had his well documented eccentricities and because of his wealth he was allowed to indulge his whims - which most likely contributed to his untimely end.

He was also perhaps a little unlucky in that he also suffered various debilitating illnesses and injuries due to accidents on film and concert sets that may have led to a reliance on various prescription drugs.

But for all his supposed faults, brushes with the law and, a lifestyle that most of is can simply have no conception of, he can't have been the total nutcase that the media would have us believe.

Despite well publicised troubles with his finances he was in no danger losing his shirt. He owned catalogues of songs that included many Lennon and McCartney hits and he continued to earn tens of millions of dollars from his own work.

The saddest thing about Jackson's life is that he probably never experienced anything like a normal one. From an early age he was famous and in the public spotlight subject to all the pressures that living in that kind of bubble entails. Especially in this age of instant communications where everyone with a cellphone camera is a source of news, gossip, just waiting for a celebrity to start behaving badly.

We put people like Jackson on a pedestal, we idolise them, we buy their music, the magazines to help create the myth that they are special, we watch and hang on their every move and then delight in mocking them when they turn out to be as weak and mortal as we are ourselves.

The problem for anybody famous, for anybody who has never had the opportunity to live a real life, is that they don't realise, often until it is too late that their lives are not real, that they don't really matter any more than anybody else and that in the end we all have to live by the same set of rules.

Yes I am glad I am not famous-even in my own lunchtime. The young French Rugby player Mathieu Bastareaud probably feels a bit the same way after his recent trip to New Zealand.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The melt down

I don't pretend to be a financial expert or understand the machinations of local or international economic and social and or political theories that we are governed by. In their simplest forms there are two main systems - capitalism and Communism.

The lines between these two main economic systems are blurred these days, and maybe they always have been. Capitalism in it's purest form is all about the market regulating itself and communism is all about central planning.

In the last 20 years we have seen both these systems fail to one extent or the other and seen them for what they really are-they're both about a small group of people imposing their will at the expense of everybody else. Neither systems work in their purest form because when they or components of them fail everyone looks to someone else for a bailout.

There are variants of these systems of course, many of us live in societies that to pin a label on them are socialist or social democratic. Either communism with a degree of choice and private ownership or capitalism with a degree of government intervention and support for those that cannot help themselves.

The current meltdown of the global financial system shows us that a degree of regulation is required to protect people from themselves and the unscrupulous, to protect the life savings of the man on the street and their jobs. Bailouts should be focused on keeping people in work, not shoring up dodgy institutions that should be allowed to fail.

The fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the breakup of the old Soviet Union prove that the old central command economic theories didn't work either and in fact was a poorer system in terms of improving the standard of living for the people living under its thrall. Communism is just another way of the few imposing their will on the masses.

Of course all of us are experts and seek to blame someone else for their problems. I have seen the value of the house I bought two years ago plummet-but nobody made me buy it. Except she who must be obeyed.

So it is with not a little cynicism that I read the reports of banks holding their hands out for money and large corporations hanging out for cash to keep their unsustainable business models going. I can feel some sympathy for those that have been fleeced of their life savings but little for those that thought that a diversified portfolio meant spreading their wealth between different finance companies or investments banks or thought that house prices could only rise.

At the end of the day it is as much our fault as individuals as it is the perpetrators of the various financial instruments and get rich schemes when things go wrong. By participating, buying houses at over inflated prices, chasing higher interest rates, or voting based on an ideology that appeals to us we perpetrate the institutions that from time to time will melt down.

Until we collectively develop and support a political system that supports and encourages and rewards entrepreneurial endeavour while also ensuring the protection of those that can't help themselves we will continue to experience the the fallout and roller coaster of boom and bust.

On a more positive note I recently travelled up the road to the Jolly Roosta trail ride organised by the good people from the Kawasaki Sandpit.

No sign of the recession here with 400 plus riders enjoying a blast through the northern part of Woodhill Forest. The great thing about the rides organised by this team is that they make the effort to set up virgin trails where they can so that riders don't have to endure lots of strength sapping whooped out tracks.

I have been to all three of the rides that this team have organised and am a regular at the Sandpit, the revamped Bike Park. This team provides a service that people want to avail themselves of not a product or service that someone thinks that we need.

Maybe this kind of motivation should be used as a model for the future?

Friday, 10 April 2009

Performance Bonus Payments

One of the by products of the current melt down in the finance sector is the revelation that even when large financial institutions are on the verge of collapse many of the people involved are still receiving large, almost obscene bonus payments. 

Public outrage has been fuelled by the media and politicians at the huge amounts of money that are being paid out as public money is being pumped into these institutions in order to save them from collapse. Rightly so questions are being asked as to why someone would be receiving a performance payment when they work for or have steered and institution that is not performing or is almost insolvent.

What people don't stop to think about is that for many of us, myself included an at risk or performance based component is a part of our employment packages. The bonus system for the organisation I work for is made up of two components. A personal component based on my performance and a company component based on the overall performance of the business.

The bonus is based on a multiplier system and relies on the company financial result reaching a certain threshold before any payment kicks in.

Given the current operating environment I like a lot of other people stand to receive nothing this year which brings me to the point of this entry.

In this country there has been a lot of posturing about bonuses and the payouts to people working for state owned enterprises. This obscures the fact that most of us are likely to get nothing this year given the current state of the economy.

What this posturing hides is that regulatory authorities around the world have failed to protect us from greedy unscrupulous financial institutions who have frittered away billions of dollars of other people's money.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Vio POV 1.5

We now sell the VIO POV 1.5. Contact us via for a price.

As I wrote my last post I was lamenting the difficulty of getting good advice about helmet cameras, at least locally here in NZ. I was also agonizing over separating myself from my hard earned bucks to buy a new camera.

I love riding dirtbikes. The Husky WR 250 is the greatest thing since sliced bread as far as I am concerned. This bike has quite a hard edge to it. I need to be fit to get anywhere near the best out of the bike. So there has been a double benefit to me in buying it. Not only is the bike new, got a great suspension package and handles exremely well, so it is basically just awesome to ride even for a weelend warrior like myself. It has also prompted me to work pretty hard on my fitness. Since Christmas I have lost almost 10 kilos. So I am fitter, skinnier and can enjoy blasting around the trails on the WR-which equals more fun.

This just proves that with any sport or physical recreational activity you do actually have a lot more fun when you are fit.

The other thing that I realized was that I get almost as much if not more pleasure out of the hours I spend editing hours of video down to short clips posted on YouTube. (let me know if you have any bright ideas around making money out of this as I have exhausted mine)

This self discovery had a major bearing on my choice of camera. The other major influence was the old but true adage that when you are buying equipment, well lets' be honest-when we go buying toys. Anyhow you need to buy the best that you can possibly afford, spend the extra to buy a modern dirtbike, instead of that cheapy 90's 'great deal'. As sure as god made little apples most of us end up regretting taking the cheap route when we find that the 'cheapy' doesn't cut the mustard and end up having to spend more bucks to upgrade to something decent/suitable. I speak from experience.

To cut a long story short I spent the bucks and bought myself a Vio POV 1.5 extreme/sports/helmet cam system. I have taken it out for a test run and I am not disappointed in the usability of the system and the quality of the output.

I still have a bit of work to do in sussing it out-particularly the mounting of the microphone and the sound levels in general-but this will give me something to do next weekend.

This camera system is everything that I expected and more. The video quality is second to none and I was particularly impressed by the battery life. With my old camera system I would be lucky to generate an hours' footage. Running on AA batteries and saving to a 4 gig SD card -gives 3 hours plus videoing -almost an entire ride for old farts like us. If this is not enough all I have to do is slip in some fresh batteries and another card.

The four minutes or so of footage in the YouTube clip above was created from almost 3 hours of raw footage. Clearly I am going to spend more time shut in my office with my editing suite as well. I'm not sure whether the missus thinks this is a good idea or not.

She says that it is 'cos it keeps me out of her hair-but you can never be sure about these things.

Friday, 13 February 2009

What helmet cam to buy?

A few years ago I did one of those once in a lifetime rides -Cairns to Cape York, Queensland Australia -and back again -with Cape York Adventures. It was a great ride and as an aside I would recommend one of these trips to anyone looking for a great adventure.

There were two of us Kiwis amongst a bunch of Aussies and despite the inevitable sheep jokes we really enjoyed the ride and showed them a thing or two about riding, especially through the wet bits.

One of the Aussies had a video camera hooked up to a lipstick camera and took plenty of footage. I was impressed with the whole concept and even more so when a tape arrived of the ride and saw myself in all my glory. I resolved to get my own camera.

Eventually I bought a Samsung Minikit. Samsung no longer makes these cameras and to be fair technology has moved on. This camera has served me pretty (click here for links to various videos) well but has finally succumbed to the kind of abuse you'd expect if you were duck taped to a trail bike. I had thought that the video quality was fairly good but now I have been looking around for a replacement I can see I can do much better for a package that will cost $6 or 700 less than the Samsung unit cost me four years ago.

Latest Video- as the helmet cam died

I am not all that technologically savvy in some respects so I have found that actually selecting a new unit has been a bit of a mission. There are not many places locally that you can go to get information about this kind of thing. The staff in most local stores, even the professional suppliers just give me blank looks when I as a=bout this kind of thing. Shopping on the internet has its own risks, you need to know exactly what you are after. If the shop is in the US or Europe you can't just stroll in there to look at the device or get some expert advice. However, I have made some progress-now it is just a matter of coughing up the bucks.

There are two main types of helmet camera system. Single unit models that you simply strap to yourself or your bike. The video quality is not too bad -resolutions of 640 x 480. The same as my Samsung. The advantages of these cameras are that there are no wires to worry about, they generally record to SD cards and they are relatively cheap. They can be quite bulky and generally don't have a playback function so getting the angle of the dangle  right could be a challenge initially. 

The last thing the budding videogropher wants is to find that they have spent several hours videoing the sky or the ground just ahead of their front wheel and not the series of crashes, hills, and spills they thought they were. This blog has a good review of these options. The winner appeared to be this little beauty from Tachyon.

The other options are generally variations on a theme-a bullet camera and some kind of recorder. The recorders can range from someone hooking up a bullet camera setup to a camcorder to fully integrated units -some using DVR's as the recording device. There are all kinds advertised on the interweb. It is actually a real mission to sort out what they are offering in many casesand compare various units.

The best units have an package where the bullet camera gets its power source from the recording device via the audio/video cable that. Most units require a separate power source for the bullet camera. More batteries and wires to get hooked up or cocked up.

You also have to be careful with these options that the solution-dictated by the bullet camera specs and the recording device - delivers a better quality picture than the much cheaper one piece units. Otherwise why bother?

The best value for money seem to me to be the likes of the Vio POV 1.5
Not cheap but the resolution is good up to 720 x 480, they record to an SD card, they do have a small screen for playback. Best of all these little babies apparently record for hours on a couple of AA batteries which seems to me to be a great solution. 

I am still tossing up what to get. It really comes down to how much do I  want to spend. $4-500 NZ or a bit over a $1000.

For me the choice has come down to the Tachyon or the Vio POV 1.5. The Tachyon  appears to be the best of this type of unit around. Simple, rugged, and well priced. The only thing that concerns me is that it is a fairly bulky unit and I wonder how easy it would be to attach to my helmet and how often I would whack it with something out in the bush.

Of all the integrated systems I have looked at the thing that struck me about the Vio POV 1.5 was its use of AA batteries to power both the recording device and the camera and an impressive recording time. It appears that it is not called the Holy Grail of helmet cams for nothing.

Now it is just a matter of justifying to myself how much I want to spend.

If anyone wants my old Minikit for spare parts and batteries let me know.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Desert Storm 2009

The Epic Events Desert Storm trail ride is a classic 2 day trail ride featuring some 160km of trails around the foothills of Mount Ruapehu in the central North Island of New Zealand. The 2009 ride was held on the 17th and 18th of January. A ten minute clip of Day One of the ride is avaailable from

I'd hoped that this ride would be a good workout for the new Husky after the muddy PowerAdventures Maramarua trail ride a few weeks ago. It isn't as if I mind riding when it gets wet and sloppy, though to be honest as I get older I am more of a fair weather rider. I just wanted something moderately challenging to get to grips with the new bike. I wasn't disappointed.

After it's initial workout I took the bike into Matt at Bikesport.  Matt  checked it over and changed the jetting to see if that would overcome some of the starting issues I was having. The Euro bikes should start on the first or second kick. The Husky also has a short awkward kick starter that takes a bit of getting used.

We arrived at the motel at Ohakune early Friday evening to find a  hearty group already starting their weekend's entertainment. Apart from a beer with dinner I remained virtuously sober. 

On day one of of the ride there were two tracks open, three if you count the novice track that we didn't go near. The Middle track, roughly 35km and the East track which went up to the bottom of the mountain, roughly 55 km.

YouTube promo 

We headed off on the Middle track to warm up. This was a great we track filled with lots of sweeping loamy tracks that were just simply a lot of fun to flick the Husky through. 

One of the great things about this bike is how responsive it is and how it pulls effortlessly away in 4th gear and even top if you're going fast enough. The bike has no problem lifting the front wheel in the higher gears to whip over the bigger sharp bumps. All I have to do is hang on-like trying to hang onto a runaway train. More than once I found myself going a little faster than I had intended -and had to break heavily as the sharper corners came up really fast. My cornering skills are improving as a result. Pulling away out of these corners in 3rd and 4th was effortless and Mr Castle didn't enjoy the roost!

The only real problem was that given the extremely hot and dry weather in the week leading up to the ride was the dust once we got out into the open areas and gravel road sections.

The dust was more of an issue on the more open sections of the main track but once we were under the trees the tracks were in mint condition-still just moist enough to keep the dust down and provide awesome traction. 

The main track had a bit more open stuff in it and it was pretty dusty in places, while some of the faster riders are quite happy to blast through the dust I tend to button off when I can't see where I am going. 

I did manage to give Mr Castle's WR450 a good run for its money down some of the road sections when we rode side by side. I had initially felt that the bike felt a little under geared but this didn't seem to be the case once I wound the wick up to about 120km.

We had a great day on these tracks-once again superbly marked out by the Epic Events crew. In fact the organisation at these rides is generally superb.

Unfortunately for the people that organise these rides they can't control the weather gods. Run the ride in the summer and dust might be a problem. Run them in the winter and you run the risk of sleet, snow, and tracks that get cut up by hundreds of riders so that they can become almost impassable to a number of riders.

Some time over Saturday night it started to absolutely hose down. I didn't hear anything on Saturday night, the rain or  the other riders in the motel reliving the days' riding over a  few beers until some ungodly hour I am told. I was dead to the world. Waking up to steady rain was enough to dampen the spirits of most of the riders at the motel. I am sure all those camping at the site had a terrible night as it was apparently pretty windy through the night as well.

While I wasn't all that keen to ride in the wet we had come a long way just for one days' riding. Besides the last time we had ridden the Dessert Storm it was almost the middle of winter and it was wet then. Once we had cleared the first part of the track it was ok riding.

Still there was a fair bit of negative sentiment around the place and I didn't really want to go out and ride in those conditions by myself. So although I really wanted to ride I joined the Exodus of people heading away who had made the same decision. I should have made the effort to do at least one loop as I am sure although I would have been wet and cold it would have been a blast.

Thanks to the team at Epic Events for another great ride.