Sep 062010
Shaving with a straight razor

Two years ago my quest for the most eco-friendly shave led me to the Straight Razor.  I bought a reconditioned 70 year old razor to give it a try, and was soon convinced of its supremacy.  Although they are sometimes called “cut-throats” by people who wish to denigrate their safety, there is no better way to shave.

Razor on shaving soap box.

My 70 year old reconditioned razor, with wooden soap box and shaving brush.

I wanted to share my findings and some of the useful information that helped get me started, but thought it best to wait until I was sure that I could actually use a straight razor day after day.  It didn’t take me long to decide that my straight razor was here to stay, but shaving with it became such a normal everyday activity that it hardly seemed newsworthy.

But then, on a weight-restricted cycle adventure, I temporarily switched back to disposable razors.

It was terrible.  The silly plastic handle felt all flimsy in my hand.  The shave was sloppy.  The pathetic little blades got all clogged up after every stroke.  The plastic safety frame made it difficult to trim edges, and didn’t stop the razor from cutting me regularly.  On top of all this, I had to throw it into landfill after just a few shaves.  The experience convinced me that straight razors certainly are worth writing about.

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Aug 162010

As Australia approaches a federal election with scarcely a decent option on the ballot paper, one of the issues that I wish would receive more attention is international aid.  Australia has committed to the Millennium Development Goals, which involve serious effort to eliminate extreme poverty by 2015.  That deadline is rapidly approaching, and will be upon us by the end of this next term of Australian government.

I sent the following letter 4 days ago in response to a Liberal Party announcement, to make sure that politicians are aware that this issue matters.

Dear Foreign Minister Smith and Prime Minister Gillard,

This afternoon Julie Bishop committed to appointing a Minister for International Development in an elected coalition government.

I am well aware of our globally privileged position in Australia, and am anxious to use this position of wealth to help those in our international community who are less fortunate.

A Minister for International Development may improve the effectiveness of our aid, but I see that you have a wonderful opportunity to surpass the Liberal party’s proposal.

Will you commit to policies that achieve the Millennium Development Goals by their 2015 deadline?

I don’t claim this to be the best possible letter, but I was trying to ask for more than just a matching announcement about appointing a new minister.  I was (and remain) concerned that such an appointment might end up being more about show and noise than about genuine commitment to action.  Thus I asked more generally for policies that achieve the MDGs.

I have just received the following response from the Australian Labor Party.  Continue reading »

Jul 312010

As well as the typical photos and video, I also recorded gps traces of our recumbent trike cycle adventure.  Sorting these trip records has been takiing up most of my spare time since arriving back home, and I now only have the video to go.  That will be a significantly longer job, I suspect.

But the exciting thing about having gps traces put together is that I can put interactive maps into my daily update blog posts.  Starting with our first day riding from Whitehaven to Keswick, you can now explore the map of our route on each of the 11 days.  Feel free to zoom in, pan around, and change the map underlay as much as you want.

Jul 212010

While I was in the UK the power must have cut out for a while at home.  As well as causing oven timers to beep in protest, this black-out stopped my webserver.  Frustratingly, a hard drive check warning prevented the server from rebooting normally, and so this website has been down for the last week or so.

But I am now home, and this server is buzzing along happily again on top of the filing cabinet.  It’s good to be home.

Jul 132010

Our ride covered a total of 576.84 km in 11 days, and the adventure was wonderful.  The wet final day made us glad to reach Edinburgh, but it was almost a shame the next morning to leave our trikes chained up.

We have so many delightful memories from our cycle tour of Cumbria, Northumberland, and the Scottish Borders.  Some of them are a bit mixed up and blurred together, and we’ll need to organise photos and video to put them back in sequence in our minds.  Although muscles are sore and tired after all the pedalling, we are convinced that another cycle tour should happen.  

But not just yet. Instead of loading our panniers and riding on, we caught a bus into the city and visited Edinburgh Castle.  It is a great building on a perfect location and it has fascinating history, but we were overwhelmed by all the people.  A week and a half of riding through small villages and minor roads must have recalibrated our tolerance of tourist crowds.

It was nice to spend a second night in the same place after being constantly on the move.  Today we picked up a hire car and drove back to the Lake District in about 3 hours.  Covering the distance so quickly was actually a bit disorienting, but Lake Windermere is beautiful.  The foreshore at Bowness became peaceful after the tourists left in the evening, and was full of photo opportunities as the sun set.


Jul 102010

As we draw near to the end of our cycle tour, it feels similar to where we started.  Today was our second day riding inland along the Tweed River, and we have returned to mountain scenery. It looks similar to the Lake District, and especially so today because it has been raining.

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Jul 092010

Nine continuous days of riding have finally brought us into Scotland. We crossed the border a few times today as we wound inland roughly along the Tweed River.  This delightful and quite rural region is still called the Scottish Borders or sometimes the “debatable lands”.

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Jul 072010

Today we achieved our highest average riding speed so far. This is becoming important because of the increasing density of interesting things to see along the Coast & Castles route. In one day we have pedalled past three castles, some old manor houses and a Pele tower.

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