Ramblings of an Extreme Man

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Complexity in design

“Possibly the most common error of a smart engineer is to optimize a thing that should not exist.” – Elon Musk

Boat life and electronic troubleshooting:

Living on a boat can make you moist.

Literally. Everything gets damp all of the time. Having your living space close to or under the water line results in bulk humidity. Surfaces that are moist tend to get moldy.

To keep the humidity under control about 2 years ago we bought a mini dehumidifier from Kogan. It used some Peltier modules to draw up to 2 litres of water out of the air before needing to be emptied.

Peltier modules are silicon semiconductors that when there’s a voltage applied across them they move heat from one side to the other, effectively making one side hot and one side cold. When you couple this with a few heat sinks the heat sink on the cold side will get cold enough so that moisture from the surrounding air forms condensation on it, and with the addition of a fan to keep air moving past the heat fins and a bucket to catch the drips you have a de-humidifier.

We bought it for $60, which seemed like a bargain and it worked great until a month or so ago. When it stopped working I went to buy another one and found the price had increased to $260!!!! I assume partly due to covid supply chain problems and probably due to a really wet time of year so everyone wanted a de-humidifier.

Obviously $260 for a new dehumidifier is against all my tight arse tendencies, so this weekend I pulled it apart to see what was wrong.

The first thing you should generally check for when you’re troubleshooting an electronic device is bulgy / exploded capacitors. It tends to be the main point of failure and pretty easy to spot. Over the last year or so I’ve changed 2 starting capacitors that have failed, one on the raw water cooling pump for the boat air conditioner and one on the compressor for the air conditioner. I was relatively sure it would be something simple like this and I could just buy another one from Jaycar and solder it in.

When I opened it up and had a good poke around all of the capacitors looked OK.

The next step after you’ve checked for obviously bulgy capacitors is to start checking your voltages at the major components.

  • There was 240, tick
  • There was 24V supplied to the control board, tick
  • There was 24v supplied to the small fan, tick
  • but there was no voltage being supplied to the Peltier modules.

That meant that there was something wrong with some logic or component on the control board. The board had a 24v supply, but power wasn’t being supplied to the Peltier module 12v connections.

To troubleshoot this further is almost impossible without having the schematic for the circuit board. Without knowing what voltages and resistances are supposed to be present at each component it’s hard (for me anyway) to work out what has gone wrong and what to replace.

Which brings me back to the title of this blog post. Complexity in design. What the fuck do all those components on the green side of the board do? There’s voltage regulators, integrated circuits, fancy spring type antenna things to detect fingers, LED’s etc. What the actual fuck.

What’s wrong with complexity and why does it happen?

Someone when they designed this dehumidifier fell for a very common mistake that many engineers fall for, to quote Elon Musk:

“Possibly the most common error of a smart engineer is to optimize a thing that should not exist.” – Elon Musk

This is a dehumidifier. It’s primary objective is to dehumidify. Someone in the design process had chosen to add superfluous functionality, such as:

  • Fancy touch screen type buttons,
  • a timer to turn it off after 8 or 12 hours
  • 2 fan speeds so that it would dehumidify efficiently or dehumidify inefficiently but quietly

This superfluous functionality had introduced massive amounts of complexity to what should be a simple device.

This complexity had introduced many points of failure, and that is what it had done. Failed.

Somewhere in the circuit board that provided the superfluous dot points above something had failed, and I had no way to work out what had failed to replace it.

I understand why engineers / companies do this, one of the reasons is they want to impress their customers. To stand out from all the other de-humidifiers why not add additional functionality that isn’t needed? An extra widget, a clock on a device that doesn’t need a clock? Some extra integration to some other system just in case?

The majority of customers don’t need the additional functionality, but it’s a market, and the dehumidifier company is trying to expand its market share. It’s competing for the customers at the margin that  think they need that extra widget and will choose this dehumidifier over the simpler model. Hence superfluous complexity tends to increase in an arms race for market share. This concept is explained better that I could in a great article by my good friend Nassim Taleb – The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

Another reason why engineers / companies do this comes from a mate of mine Marshall Goldsmith who often quotes another good mate, Pete Drucker;

“Peter Drucker,  said, “Our mission in life should be to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart or right we are.” – Marshall Goldsmith

A lot of us are doing the second part, we’re trying to prove how smart or right we are. Our entire education system and much of our careers are about proving that we’re smart or correct. Our education isn’t about making a positive difference, we do what we’ve practiced and what we’ve been trained to do. We try to show how smart or right we are whenever possible, rather than do something that would instead make the biggest positive difference. The engineer or product manager who designed this dehumidifier was no doubt showing how smart they were, rather than designing a dehumidifier that would have a low chance of failure, be easy to repair and not end up in landfill like so many other household items.

The problem with designing complexity into things that don’t need to be complex is you are increasing cost and introducing points of failure. When they fail, they’re too complex for the majority to be able to fix them, hence they end up in landfill. I’m pretty handy, I can fix most things, and spoiler alert, I did fix this, but your average consumer doesn’t realise they’re purchasing something that is more likely to fail with all of these superfluous features, and when it does indeed fail, they have no idea how to fix it and it ends up in landfill. If they do try have it repaired, instead of a mildly skilled technician being able to fix it, you need an extremely qualified expensive technician and they’re rare. Our planet is choking on this stuff, and in a lot of ways it’s because of bad design.

How did I fix it?

I thought about the primary objective of a dehumidifier, which is to dehumidify. In essence a dehumidifier, before you introduce the superfluous features, is a simple device. It only needs a few things.

  • 240v AC to 24V DC rectifier transformer
  • Peltier modules so that moisture would form from the air that passes over them
  • A fan to move the moist air over the Peltier modules
  • A bucket.

It turns out by removing the superfluous functionality the entire control board was not required, hence I didn’t need to fix it, and the dehumidifier could dehumidify really well by replacing the control board with 3 terminals from a terminal block. Terminal blocks don’t break. Peltier modules don’t have moving parts. Fans are a commodity item. By removing the superfluous functionality the reliability of the system overall had increased dramatically and it has been saved from landfill.

If I want to get fancy in the future I could install a switch, and even a variable resistor so I can adjust the fan speed, these would provide some of the superfluous functionality without the complexity and price of a control board.


For those of us that design things it pays to keep in mind the quotes from my good mates Elon and Marshall above. If you’re someone who buys things, it pays to think about the complexity of the devices that you are buying. An increase in complexity has an inversely proportional effect on the life of the thing and increases the rate of failure of the thing you are buying. Keep it simple. Think about the whole of life cost. If it’s complex the life will be shorter, it will require more maintenance and the maintenance will only be able to be done by highly skilled and expensive technicians.

If you’d like to read more on this topic I recommend these excellent post of the same name by boat design legend Tony Grainger:



Money, Life, Retirement – 8. Investment update

“It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.” John Maynard Keynes

I first published the Money, Life, Retirement series in June 2017. It’s been 4 years since that rather long winded series of posts about life, investing and bad jokes. I’m now a long way towards early retirement and if you put into action some of the things I mentioned 4 years ago I’m sure you are too.

In number 5 of the series How to get where you want? I described my investment approach. Since then my approach has changed a little. I’d like to share what it is now and why.

As a reminder my original investing approach was to save as much money as I could and buy diversified index funds through exchange traded funds (ETFs) such as those offered by Vanguard. Within that approach my intended asset allocation was the following:


The reasons for this were discussed in the original post, link above.

I still maintain that this asset allocation is a good one. Over time I’m sure you would generate a mountain of wealth if you followed it.

But over time I kept thinking about how franking credits are a free kick in the Australian tax system. Considering that I’m frugal, when I retire I’ll be in a low tax bracket which will mean I get almost all of the franking credits back. That’s bonus cash and really amplifies the dividend yield of Australian stocks. It bumps them generally to above a 5% dividend yield.

I also read a book called Motivated Money by a guy called Peter Thornhill. He’s an old hand at investing who accumulated a really fat wad, somewhere in the order of $8M just working a normal job and regularly investing. His $8M fat wad spits out about $400k in dividend payments per year, which is probably more now (he has a great series of videos here).

He’s a big fan of investing for dividends and pointed out that over time the amount of dividends paid out generally increases at close to twice inflation. This is because generally profitable companies pay out some dividends, but also retain some profits to increase their profitability in the long run. So if you have enough dividends to live on now, in the future that’ll increase to be more and more without doing anything.

He’s also a big fan of Listed Investment Companies (LICs) over index funds. There are a few differences between index funds and listed investment companies:

Listed Investment CompanyIndex Fund (ETFs such as VAS and VGS)
The number of shares is fixed, so the price per share can move out of sync with Net Tangible Assets (sum of the price of the underlying shares)There is a “market maker” which creates or destroys shares to keep the price close to the value of the Net Tangible Assets
A LIC can hold cash to smooth out dividend payments over time, or for other purposes such as to purchase other companiesBecause of the trust structure an index fund must pay out all of the dividends paid by the underlying stocks (as a distribution)
LIC’s generally have some kind of active stock picking (however the ones I like are buy and hold investors with almost as much diversification as an index fund)An index fund replicates an index, is very diversified and doesn’t buy and sell unless stocks move in or out of the index

Taking all of that into account here is what my approach has now changed to over time:

  1. Keep an emergency fund that will cover at least 6 months of expenses in a high interest savings account.

You never know what is going to happen. Life is uncertain. The only certainty in life is that it will end. You and your offspring and your offspring’s offspring will eventually be forgotten and the universe will end in homogenous heat death. Emergencies happen, hence you need an Emergency fund.

2. Spread my cash between the following ETF / LICs with the following allocations, so that I receive a roughly equal dividend payment 10 months of the year.


Their general payment times are:


All of the LICs chosen above:

  • have a low management fee
  • contain a diversified portfolio of stocks, not as many as an index fund, but almost
  • have been around for a really long time (often over 50 years)
  • have a strong track record of paying increasing dividends.

Over time the dividends will grow at a pace faster than inflation. For example AFI over a 24 year period has a CAGR on their dividends of 3.56% vs CPI of 2.45% over the same period, while BKI over a 12 year period had a CAGR on their dividends of 4.16% while CPI was 2.31% over the same period.

Generally during a stock market crash the price of the stocks crashes as the prices have increased to an unsustainable level. However dividends are generally related to company earnings, not stock prices. Earnings don’t have the same mania induced highs and subsequent crashes. So the dividends paid should remain reasonably consistent. To add to this Listed Investment Companies are free to not pay out all of their dividends and to maintain a buffer of cash to smooth out the dividend payments over time. For example in 2008 during the GFC both AFI and BKI still paid (and increased) their dividend.

3. When the LICS are at a discount to NTA, buy them. When they’re not buy VAS.

Listed Investment Companies can often be sold at a price that is a premium or a discount to the sum of the underlying net tangible assets (NTA). The share price can swing between a 10% premium to a 10% discount over time based upon the fickle minds of the investing public. This often means that you can buy what is really a dollar worth of shares for 90 cents. Here’s a graph of the AFI share price to NTA over time. AFI can often be overvalued, since that idiot Barefoot Investor told everyone to buy it in his “book” (long winded sales pitch for his paid investing blueprint newsletter), but the other LICs mentioned more frequently trade at a discount.  I made a spreadsheet using the google finance function to track this so I know what is at the greatest discount or premium, which you can use here: NTA Calculator

AFI share price to NTA over time (below the line is a discount, above the line is a premium)

When no LICs are at a discount and I can’t buy a dollar for 90 cents I buy VAS, which doesn’t fluctuate above or below its NTA.

4. Don’t sell.

If I sell any shares I may trigger a tax event and need to pay capital gains tax. If the shares are paying a steady stream of dividends and I have a nice safety net in the Emergency Fund then there’s no reason to sell. Additionally all of the Listed Investment Companies given above have been around for at least 50 years, have a strong track record of paying ever increasing dividends and there shouldn’t be a need to sell. In the case of recession, they’re well diversified so that they’re effectively a bet on the whole Australian economy. If the whole Australian economy stops, then we all have larger things to worry about than the stock market. At that point it’s time to stop buying shares and to start buying AK47s a LandCruiser and many many cans of baked beans.

5. 100% international stocks in my Superannuation to take a little of the Australian centric risk out of my total investing life.

To make sure I still have some exposure to International stocks I swapped my Super allocation to be 100% international stocks. Many of the Australian companies within the shares above sell things overseas, so there is still some international exposure in my non-super investments, but in an attempt to even things out a little overall everything in Super will be International. The franking credit free kick is really important when I retire, but by the time I can access my Super it won’t matter so much.

Reasons I might be wrong:

A good mate of mine, John Keynes once said, “It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.”

So I try not to over optimise anything, especially something that isn’t an exact mathematical relationship. If you’re making good progress in the right direction it’s probably going to be ok in the end. Compound interest will probably look after the rest. I’ve clearly favoured regular payments of dividends over my previous approach of a mix of diversified index funds bonds and selling down as per the 4% rule, made famous by Bengen. To me it feels nicer not to sell any of my nest egg, even though selling under 4% each year shouldn’t deplete it as outlined in Bengens link above. But in taking this approach I’ve gone slightly against the conventional wisdom, and I owe it to myself and to any readers to point out where I could be wrong:

  1. As pointed out by a mate of mine Shane, previously one of the political parties in Australia tried to change the treatment of franking credits. Apparently this was aimed at fixing an inequality they saw in the superannuation system. I need to explain what franking credits are here for this to make sense. When you own shares, you are an owner of that company. When you own shares in an index fund, you are an owner of many companies. As an owner of a company you also own the profits of the company. Some companies, at their owners request, pay the owners a certain percentage of the profits as a dividend. So the next question is what’s a profit? Well, that’s the roughly company revenue, minus expenses and tax is paid on the remainder at the company tax rate of 30%. So a franking credit is to take into account, that a 30% tax has already been paid on that profit and subsequent dividend. So when you pay income tax, the dividends are taxed at your marginal tax rate and you only have to make up the gap between 30% and your marginal rate on the dividend income. Or if your marginal tax rate is below 30% you’ll get a tax return. The change was to remove the ability to get a tax return if your marginal tax rate was below 30%. This to me seems a little silly, as it will mean some earnings are taxed twice, and it will be taxing people who have a marginal tax rate of below 30% (who are on low income earners) more than those with a marginal tax rate above 30%. So it’s definately a risk, but I’m happy to take it. I think it’s likely if this change does happen, that investors will favour investing in international shares over Australian shares and share prices will go down, which will in effect increase the non-franking credit dividend yield somewhat. If you’re still buying shares it may not affect you so much, but if you’ve stopped buying shares and this changes the lack of the franking credit tax refund will mean a reduction in total income.
  2. According to all the investing books, this isn’t the optimal approach. You shouldn’t favour Australia so much, and you should also have a certain percentage of your asset allocation allocated to bonds and regularly rebalance betwen your Australian, Internal and bond components to take advantage of the regular change in asset prices between these asset groups. You should also sell down your portfolio over time at 4% a year or less and it should last foreverish. There’s a lot of books and a lot of research on this, and if I was giving advice (I’m not) I’d have to say go with what the books say. But for me, I really like the approach of not having to sell anything, not having to rebalance, having a regular dividend payment most months of the year that should increase over time at a faster rate than inflation.
  3. I’m sure there’s plenty of other reasons I’m wrong as well.

I should of course say this is not investing advice, just what I’m doing and why, blah blah blah.

As a refresher, here’s the concluding summary of the key points from the original Money, Life, Retirement series from 2017, and a link to the page that you can read the original posts.

And that concludes this rather long winded series of ramblings. As this has been an epic multi-post ramble I’d like to summarise some of the key points for emphasis:

  1. Money is a direct result of a bargain you make with your employer to hand over a very large portion of your life. In effect it’s special paper life force tokens you can exchange with other people for other things.
  2. Your life, and by association money, is not a renewable resource, it is finite.
  3. There is a counterparty to every transaction and they are only entering into the transaction because they think it will be beneficial to them. By inversion it will probably be net negative for you.
  4. Due to hedonic adaption you shouldn’t spend large amounts of your paper life force tokens on things that make you temporarily happy that you will become used to and don’t increase your happiness in the long term. You should invert and spend your paper life force tokens taking things out of your life that make you unhappy.
  5. By committing to full time employment you’ve actually limited the time you are free to be in control of your life to only 2 days a week. Two days a week is but wafer thin Monsieur. Only when you’re in the position where you don’t have to work is any choice to commit to full time employment valid, up until that point it’s a decision made under compulsion.
  6. To optimise anything you need a feedback loop. Measuring and reflecting upon your expenses per category each month is a feedback loop that will allow you to optimise your spending so that you are not spending more on things that do not make you happy.
  7. If your salary gives you a certain amount of dollars per month, by tracking your expenditure per month you can invert that relationship and work out the number of months per dollar. You can then work out the conversion rate between the price of things and the amount of your life you are trading for that thing.
  8. The amount of money needed for indefinite retirement equals your yearly expenses divided by the safe withdrawal rate.
  9. It’s been shown historically that a 4% withdrawal rate could probably last indefinitely with a 75% stock, 25% bond mix.
  10. The most important thing that determines the amount of time until you can retire is your savings ratio. With a 4% withdrawal rate, no current savings and a 7% assumed return a savings ratio of 50% means you can retire in 15 years, a savings ratio of 75% means you can retire in 6.8 years.
  11. People are generally bad at relating short terms actions to long term consequences. In order to get to a point where you can buy your freedom you should forecast your plan to financial freedom and track every expense to turn that forecast freedom into actual freedom.

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Failure in the air tonight (oh lord)

Perspective about failure from a professional and my mate Phil Collins

Towards the end of 2011 I bought my first Landcruiser ute. I’d spent 2011 travelling around Australia in a van and realised in the extreme of northern Australia that you were mad to live a life of adventure in anything except a 70 series Landcruiser.

I flew from Perth to Darwin with a only a swag and some basic tools to inspect and potentially buy a Landcruiser ute.

It was a 1995 FZJ75, petrol and gas Landcruiser ute with 35 inch mud tyres and a diff lock. Unbreakable.

the van punched above her weight, but it was definitely bringing a knife to a gun fight

I’d organised for my good mate Dave to fly up from limp wristed Melbourne and join me to fish and four wheel drive our way through the Kimberley. I’d bought a cheap tinnie (aluminium fishing boat) and some supplies in Darwin and we began our adventure.

Our first stop was just a few hours out of Darwin at Litchfield National Park. A Mecca for epic waterfalls in the tropical heat.

We continued west towards the Gibb River rd and no doubt countless fish and extreme four wheel driving.

The failure started at we nudged the 35 inch oversize muds tyres gingerly onto the Gibb River rd. As soon as the going got rough my new unbreakable Landcruiser started misfiring… This was not good. It felt like an electrical problem, so we limped back to the bitumen and the closest road house to have a look at the distributor. We pulled it all apart, went through a can or two of WD40 and crossed our fingers.

We decided to pick up the next way onto the Gibb River rd and continued down the bitumen for a little bit longer (a few hundred more kilometres). In a little while we were back on the rough stuff and again we were misfiring… We did a whole lot of troubleshooting but couldn’t work out what the problem was. We decided that we’d better take it to a mechanic to work out what was going wrong. So we drove to Broome which was several hundred kilometres away with our first failure for the trip locked in. No Gibb River rd for us due to some pesky electrical gremlin.

We made it to Broome, driving through a lot of the night, booked into the caravan park and took the ute to the mechanic. The mechanic did a lot of troubleshooting too and found the problem. There was a fusible link (a piece of skinnier wire that acts like a fuse) up near the battery, which had snapped in the middle. When the car was on a smooth road it was fine, 👉👈, however when you drove on a bumpy road, the broken bits of wire came apart  👉  /  👈, causing the car to misfire.

With that problem sorted (and after drinking a lot of Broomes finest cold beverages) we decided all was not lost, and we still had some time to head to the western part of The Kimberley to Cape Leveque which is a little north of Broome. We re-supplied, hooked up the boat and started driving north, misfire free.

Our first night was at one of my favourite places, a place called Quandong point. The last time I’d been here I’d had one of the best fishing days of my life. That rare day where the ocean is boiling with mackerel and there are tornadoes of seagulls feeding on baitfish.

I was hoping for something similar on this trip, however that all went wrong when I put the ute in 4×4, drove it and the boat down to the beach to launch the boat and we got bogged. We’d literally made it 5m onto the beach, still had 100m to go to the water and we were completely stuck. It’s OK I thought, it’s just a flesh wound, I’d bought some Maxtrax in Darwin just for this. With a little bit of help from my mate Maxtrax and we were back in business, and the boat was in the water.

On the way out through the waves, both Dave and I were at the back of the boat and we went a little too fast off one of the waves and the boat tried it’s best to impersonate a plane. It went shooting into the air, properly vertical. When it landed rear end of the boat tried to impersonate a chubby kid jumping off a diving board and the motor went under the water and turned off. Try as I might I couldn’t get the motor to start again, we were vulnerable without the assistance of a motor and we were being pounded by swell. We ended up jumping out of the boat and swimming / body surfing it back to shore.

We decided to call it a day on fishing after that, and thought we should get the ute off the beach before the tide started coming back in (they’re 6m tides in this part of the world). We got bogged again… This time as we were trying to drive up the sand dunes it was a lot worse. Digging. Maxtraxing. Taking the trailer off. More digging. Sweating and swearing (it was about 40 degrees). It took us 4 hours of hard work to get the ute and then the boat trailer off the beach, at that point we found a shady tree to sit under and drank delicious Emu Export for the rest of the day, reflecting on our failures and our inadequacies as extreme men.

Further troubleshooting the next day revealed that my front differential was missing a lot of teeth and my unbreakable 4 wheel drive, was actually a 2 wheel drive….

Teeth slight less toothy than usual

What was supposed to be an epic trip through the Kimberley with my mate Dave, turned into failure after failure. Everything went wrong and when Dave went back to Melbourne I was a little unsure if I was really cut out to be an extreme bushman. From then on this trip would be known as the Trip of Failure.

So why am I writing about this tale of woe from 2011 now, almost 10 years later?

Because I’m back to failing again, the song may be different, but the tune is the same, and I can almost hear the chorus.

About 2 years ago I bought a sailboat. A plywood / fibreglass 10m catamaran from the 80s called Miss Margarita. Much like when I bought my first Landcruiser Ute I’d never driven or even been in one of them before, I’d never sailed or even been on a sail boat before. In my opinion, never let a minor thing like lack of experience or skill stop you from doing something potentially very risky.

Miss Margarita

Our first weekend away was a long weekend and we went to the big sandhills at Moreton Island. When we arrived there it was about lunchtime and there were about 6 boats anchored. We couldn’t believe our luck, a long weekend and we had the place basically to ourselves!

As the sun went down the other boats all left too so we were the only boat. I couldn’t believe it, we were so lucky…

Then about 8pm the wind started, a 25 knots straight from the west, straight into the anchorage. We were anchored in about 2m of water and soon after the swell started to build. The wind didn’t stop and within a few hours waves were breaking down the side of the boat. I kept going to the bow to make sure the anchor was holding and the forebeam (big bit of aluminium between the hulls that the anchor connects to) was still attached. With each passing wave the bows of the boat had a metre of air underneath them.

The wind and swell didn’t stop all night and no sleep was had. As soon as it was dawn and I could see enough we pulled up the anchor and motored 4 hours beating into the swell to hide behind mud island. The first nautical based failure was locked in on the first outing.

After a few months of owning the boat I realised that there was a leak in the saloon roof (saloon is a fancy word for boat loungeroom) so I removed the false ceiling to work out what was going on. After removing the false ceiling it turned out a large portion of the roof was rotten and had a very dodgy repair. To make matters worse the rot and dodgy repair was near / caused by the traveller which is the deck hardware that keeps the headsail tight while sailing. In strong winds this needs to cope with a lot of force, and had the potential to cause a lot of stressful boat breaky kind of noises while there were strong wind and wave kind of noises about. Was this something I should have known about / checked before buying (and moving onto) an old boat? Definitely. Did I? no.

Please dont rain, please don’t rain…

It took me the better part of a week to cut out, rebuild, re-fibreglass and re-attach all the deck hardware. A week spent boat fixing, instead of boat sailing. Second nautical based failure locked in.

After fixing the roof we tested all the deck hardware by putting 20 knots on the beam through all the freshly epoxy filled and sikaflexed bolt holes.

Several months later we’d been out sailing for about a week, enjoying boat life at pristine Moreton Island. It had gradually been starting to annoy me that I couldn’t lower the starboard dagger board (big white pointy thing below) to sail better. When we got back to the marina after being out for a week I decided to investigate and gave it a few really good shoves to see if I could force it down. My thoughts were that it probably just had some barnacles stuck in there that could be forced out. Being unsuccessful in forcing it down I gave up spent the next few days binge drinking with friends.

We got back to the boat on a Saturday night, medium drunk and I heard a noise I’d never heard before. It was a persistent buzzing for a while and then it would stop. Then after a few minutes it would start again. I stumbled down into the hull where the weird noise was originating from and found out it was a bilge pump. The bilge was full of water. Our trusty 1980s catamaran was trying to turn into a trusty 1980s submarine. In my drunken state I tried to find the leak, I couldn’t really work out where it was coming from, so I did what any half drunk extreme man would do in a similar situation, I reached for my jigsaw and started cutting up the floor.

Cutting up the floor didn’t help to find the source of the outside water turning into inside water, so eventually I just found all the spare bilge pumps in the boat yard and put them in the hull and tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep.

A few days later we managed to get the boat onto a trolley and out of the water to try and work out what was going on.

To explain what happened I need to explain a little about daggerboards. Basically daggerboards are like keels. They help a boat to move forward straight through the water at an angle to the wind. They slide up and down inside of a daggerboard case, which is like a tube between the bottom of the hull and the deck that’s only open at the top and the bottom and is full of water up the waterline of the boat. It turned out the back of my daggerboard case was completely rotten and by giving it a good nudge to try and force the daggerboard down the back of the case had split open to welcome water into the inside of my boat. Come right in, make yourself at home.

The awkward thing is that to get to the back of the case requires a lot of cutting in places that there’s not much room for power tools. Here’s a photo that shows the moist stinky rotten timber core:

After close to a week of being in a confined space cutting, chiselling, swearing, sweating and fibreglassing, I’d finally fixed it, better than new:

That was my third major nautical failure. Over a period of about 18 months the failures had been consistent and spectacular.

We recently we were out sailing for the Xmas / New Years break, and had some friends come aboard for new years eve. While we were all getting drunk for new years eve the worst thing that can happen on a boat happened. The toilet blocked up and started filling up. Brown nutty liquid mere centimetres from the rim of the bowl. No margin of safety. After a few hours of drunkenly trying to unblock it unsuccessfully we gave up and made it a problem for 2021, happy new year!

That’s not Nutella…

As I was hungover, pulling apart a full, blocked, more nutty than usual toilet, (make sure to chew 30 times before you swallow everyone..) I started doing what anyone in a similar situation would do. I started pondering the decisions I’d made in my life that led up to being in this situation. I started reflecting upon the consistent spectacular failures that had happened since I became the captain of an old boat, and I realised something, it felt familiar, the song may be different, but the tune is the same. This felt and sounded exactly like the Trip of Failure with Dave. The tune was exactly the same, and I can almost hear the chorus. This familiar tune of failure in my head sounds similar to the tune in that song by Phil Collins – In the air tonight, seriously click this link and listen to this song. There’s a long winded intro, the scene is set slowly, but then the drums solo starts and the song completely changes.

Just as that overly long intro can’t go on forever, at some point the failing reaches its crescendo, and then the drum solo kicks in. Just as the trip of failure failed spectacularly on so many levels, at some point it stopped and the combination of man, machine and bush shenanigans kicked it up a notch and we were unable to be defeated by even the most extreme Australian outback conditions.

Every extreme place in Australia felt like a warm snuggly blanket that we’d comfortably wrap ourselves up in. People driving Hilux’s and Ford Rangers would be quivering with excitement and nervous fear while we’d casually roll through extreme places and situations with the ready-to-go half chub that comes from being a seasoned old rooter.

Make no mistake, I can still hear the intro. This sailing endeavour is still just vocals and synthesisers, there’s no drum solo yet, but there will be. There’s still nerves, I still stink of fear and there’s no ready-to-go half chub yet, but the more I think about it, the more I can feel the blood starting to draw to my penile area… I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh lord.

Here’s the lyrics to In the air tonight by Phil Collins, what a great song:

In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, (Oh lord)

And I’ve been waiting for this moment, for all my life, (Oh lord)

Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord, (Oh lord)

Well, if you told me you were drowning

I would not lend a hand

I’ve seen your face before my friend

But I don’t know if you know who I am

Well, I was there and I saw what you did

I saw it with my own two eyes

So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been

It’s all been a pack of lies.

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, (Oh lord)

Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, (Oh lord)

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord

Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life oh Lord, (Oh Lord)

Well I remember, I remember don’t worry

How could I ever forget

It’s the first time, the last time we ever met

But I know the reason why you keep this silence up

No you don’t fool me

The hurt doesn’t show, but the pain still grows

It’s no stranger to you and me

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh lord

Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, (Oh lord)

I can feel it in the air tonight, oh lord, (Oh lord)

Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, Oh lord

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh lord

And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, Oh lord

I can feel it in the air tonight, oh lord, (Oh lord, Oh lord)

Well I’ve been waiting for this

Moment for all my life, oh lord, (Oh lord)

I can feel it in the air tonight, Oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord

Well I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, oh Lord, Lord.

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The next step death spiral

In the mid 1600s a good friend of mine Isaac was sitting in an orchard pondering life. As he sat amongst the apple trees pondering, he made a discovery. Nearby an apple fell from a tree and when he saw this he realised that for that apple to fall from the tree towards the earth, a force must be acting upon it. He had discovered a fundamental force that governs much of how everything in the universe interacts. He had discovered gravity.

My friend Isaac of course did not invent gravity at that moment, it had been present since the dawn of time, affecting how all mass interacts with other mass. But what he had done, was to give it a name.

By giving gravity a name he captured this force within a word, and that word could be used to share with others his new found greater understanding of how the universe works. It allowed the theory of gravity to be taught to others. This allowed the people who had the knowledge of gravity to feed it into their decision making to drive better outcomes. Planning on climbing a mountain? You should probably consider gravity.

Planning on attempting to jump your BMX over kayaker’s in a river? You should probably consider gravity.

Gravity is an unstoppable force and if you don’t account for it, you’re going to have a bad time.

Much like my friend Isaac, I’ve spent many hours sitting under shady trees pondering.

I’ve sat under trees in the Kimberley pondering, I’ve sat under trees in Cape York pondering, I’ve sat under trees on small tropical Queensland islands pondering. Much if this pondering has amounted to little, however during this pondering I have gradually come to discover another fundamental force within the universe. A fundamental force that influences or even controls the trajectory of the majority of people’s lives.

I call it The Next Step Death Spiral.

The Next Step Death Spiral, like gravity is invisible. You can’t see it or feel it, but just like gravity, it’s a strong, fundamental force. It’s everywhere.

The next step death spiral is the propensity of people to constantly crave the next step. The propensity of people to not enjoy their current accomplishments and to instead fantasise exclusively about the next step, until one day they are dead.

This invisible fundamental force tends to manipulate people’s path through life to match it’s spirally will:

A single person, enjoying life with no commitments,


Find a boyfriend / girlfriend


Move in together


Get engaged


Get a mortgage


Get a pet


Get married (spending a small fortune on a one day cultural ceremony)


Have a baby (reducing the couples earning potential dramatically, often at a time when they’re facing the most debt they’ve ever had)



Much like my friend Isaac, I didn’t invent The Next Step Death Spiral, I only discovered it. I merely gave it a name.

But by giving it a name, much like gravity, it will allow the concept of The Next Step Death Spiral to be shared, to be taught to others. To allow people who now have the knowledge of the fundamental force that is The Next Step Death Spiral to account for it, to compensate for it as they plan the trajectory of their life. To be aware of it whenever they interact with other people who may be completely unaware that they are under the influence of, or even being directly controlled by The Next Step Death Spiral.

The ability of the next step death spiral to affect people’s desires is so strong that often people measure the success of their lives or others not by things such as happiness, wealth or fitness, but upon progress within The Next Step Death Spiral. I’ve heard of many small talk conversations at hair salons and the like along the lines of;

“How many kids do you have?”

“I don’t have any kids”

Then with a look of pity, “Married?”,

“No, I’m not married.”

With an increasing pity in their voice, “Don’t worry, one day it’ll happen, I’m sure”

These type of interactions of people deep in the spiral cause Status Anxiety amongst those not yet deep in The Next Step Death Spiral, often leading them to want to increase their speed and spin closer towards the centre of the spiral.

So now that we’ve identified this fundamental force, how do we compensate for it? How do we account for the power of it so we’re not caught unaware by the way it will fundamentally affects and spirals people’s lives?

Don’t allow huge life decisions to be made without any conscious thought, without thinking through and evaluating every possible option.

Think of the second and third order consequences of every major decision. If I do this, what happens next, what happens after that.

Think of the opportunity cost of making each present day decision. If I do this, what do I miss out on? What future opportunities will I miss because of this choice?

Don’t avoid making conscious life decisions, and hence let The Next Step Death Spiral lure you into its grasp as it is the fundamental default.

When decision making you avoid attributing the merit of different options based upon on what the majority is doing. Often the majority is wrong. Often if you’re with the majority, it’s a crowded trade, and you’re likely to pay a premium just to be in on it.

So why don’t people try to avoid the next step spiral? Why do people act like lemmings diving headfirst into the abyss one after another in an orderly line?

People don’t think about the consequences of decisions, they instead think about their reputation, they think about their status. Decisions are made based upon the likely positive impact on their reputation and status amongst their fellow lemmings. And as another good friend of mine John once said:

Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.

John Maynard Keynes


The end of an era

This blog started with a small series of blog posts on a renovation I did to a camper that I attached to my trusty Landcruiser to travel around Australia.

Since then I’ve sold that camper and fitout another one using an aluminium canopy as a base with a roof top tent and a 270 degree awning. This was built to travel around for longer periods of time, with more capacity in general to live in the bush in crocs and board shorts for a month at a time between trips into stupid town.

The new camper went from:

  • 80L of water to 130L of water
  • 80L fridge freezer to 110L fridge freezer
  • 160W of Solar to 400W of solar
  • 130ah of deep cycle battery to 260ah of deep cycle batteries
  • Little camp kitchen to fancy slide out heat treated glass covered kitchen

I was pretty sure that between a camper setup for longer stints of maximum wig out in the middle of the bush and the unstoppable Toyota Landcruiser HDJ79 that I’d met my forever car. I’d be buried one day in this car. My old broken back still held upright by the right angled bench seat as we both slowly rusted away back into the bush from which we came.

But this seemingly perfect plan to melt back into the bush in my Landcruiser started to unravel when I found myself watching automatically suggested and automatically playing YouTube videos a few too many times. Videos of people sailing around on boats were all of a sudden forced into my delicate and impressionable eye balls. Sailing around tropical islands, fishing, diving, spear fishing and girls doing yoga in bikinis on yachts.

Compared to my predetermined destiny to drive my forever Landcruiser into the sunset, this youtube based sailing life seemed new and exciting, but also quieter, more freedom, cheaper and sexier. Sailing rather than using diesel. Dropping the anchor in deserted anchorages rather than booking campsites. Fishing from the comparative luxury of a yacht rather than a cramped fishing boat.

I was sure that I would never convince Katie to go for this crazy idea to buy a yacht and one day sail around on it, but that didn’t stop me from suggesting it at every opportunity. Don’t like the smell of that drop dunny? – you wouldn’t have to put up with that if we were on a yacht, don’t like having dirty feet from walking around camp all the time? – you wouldn’t have to put up with that if we were on a yacht.

And so it was on Australia day in 2019 that I finally convinced Katie that we should buy a yacht. After a trip to Moreton Island in the my little fishing boat, sleeping in our hiking tent with sand in our sleeping bag and sand in our jocks. One morning as we walked down to the beach and saw people swimming and bbqing bacon on the back of their yachts, she said in a moment of weakness, “I could probably do that one day..”

The next weekend we were inspecting yachts, of which I already had a list ready to go…

Since then we’ve bought a catamaran, moved onto it and learnt how to sail. But that’s a different blog post.

What I didn’t realise when I watched those youtube sailing videos all those years ago was that a chain reaction had been set in motion, that would eventually result in me selling my forever car. I’ve just sold my 70 series Landcruiser ute.

While I wallow in my sorrow, I’d like to share a short poem I wrote about my Landcruiser, and the ad, which went viral.

The end of an era.

70 series Landcruiser.
Unstoppable Earth Mover.
If you want, she will take you far
Oh, how you complete me
1 H D F T E

The year is 2022. You’ve been living in the bush since the world went full Mad Max in 2020.

You’ve heard of a camp in the Kimberley, where people eat barramundi for 3 meals a day, with plenty of fresh waterfalls for drinking and swimming. That’s where you’ve been heading, but your Hilux has just given up. Common rail injection systems just weren’t meant for the kind of diesel you syphon out of tractors after fighting farmers to the death. Common rail injection systems just can’t run on blood diesel for long.

You wonder how all your friends that you’ve left behind on the way are going. Are they still alive? So many friends with ford rangers with blown up motors, amaroks that dropped CV joints on the road. Even your friends with V8 70 series Landcruisers were left behind after their alternators and starter motors filled with mud from being badly positioned.

As you drink your last litre of water, staring into the desert heat you start reminiscing about what you should have done differently. In hindsight it seems so obvious now that the Corona virus was going to kill the world economy and turn civilisation into Mad Max 2. At the time we thought social distancing and 6 weeks of playing PlayStation instead of going to work and we’d be fine. But after ScoMo died from the Rona it all went haywire.

If only you’d seen the signs earlier and prepared a little better you would’ve made it to the land of endless barramundi.

If only instead of buying a Hilux you’d bought a HDJ79 Landcruiser. That 1HDFTE motor is unstoppable.

You even looked at one once in early 2020. The previous owner said it had taken him all around Australia with ease and it was going to be his forever Landcruiser, but since he moved onto a yacht all his camping was done by boat now.

It was setup perfectly, it was only just run in with 350 thousand km, twin diesel tanks providing about 180L, ARB air lockers front and rear, Runva winch, CB radio, 2 spare tyres, 3in exhaust, snorkel, a massive under tray slide out toolbox, and the best setup camping canopy and roof top tent you’d ever seen with:

• Jack off legs stored neatly in the slide out undertray toolbox so you can take the canopy off to go put the boat in

• A King’s kwiky roof top tent that fit him at 190cm and his girlfriend well with LED lighting and USB charger that you can setup in minutes (video https://photos.app.goo.gl/SCrM48ZzfbjQEGRx8 )

• A Drifter 270 degree heavy duty canvas awning

• A really neat kitchen featuring a Dometic 3 burner stove and sink including basic kitchenware

• 2 x 135ah AGM batteries

• Ctek D250SA DCDC charger

• Ctek mxs5 ACDC charger

• Ctek battery monitor

– 2000w invertor

• 12v white LED lights all around

• 12v amber LED lights all around to keep the bugs away at night

• All cabled back to a central switch panel with resettable circuit breakers

• 2 x 200w solar panels stored securely on the camper roof

• A 12v water pump, that pumps from the 130L water tank or can pump from a bucket for the shower

• An instant hot water shower, that would’ve meant you could have your pick of female camping companions

• A small gas bottle, but a bracket for a 9L bottle and space for another 9L bracket

• A Ziggy portable BBQ / Oven that fits perfectly

• MSA drop down fridge slide that fits a evakool RF110 fridge freezer, that wasn’t available as he’s using it on his boat

• A fire pit grill

• Camp table

And all you need to get really remote like

• 2 x Maxtrax

• Recovery gear

• Axe

• Saw

• 12v air compressor

• Tyre deflators

• A small invertor welder, clamps and mask that fits behind the passenger seat to fix broken boat trailers along the way

• Some firewood

• Alvey surf rod and reel

And all he was asking was $32k with safety certificate and rego.

If you’d bought that Landcruiser instead of a Hilux you wouldn’t be lost in the desert, you’d have made it to the Kimberley and be eating barramundi while the girls all competed with each other to use your hot shower.

From <https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/deagon/cars-vans-utes/2003-landcruiser-hdj79-ute-with-jack-off-camper/1245077690>

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XMAS-time inland adventure (Inverell, Armidale, Boyd River, Cangai)

It’s fair to say that all of my life inspiration comes from songs from the 70s. Most of my life is actually modelled on the lyrics to the Billy Joel classic hit Movin’ Out (Anthonys Song) <link: here>.  Then there’s the timeless wisdom about dealing with adversity captured in Devo’s Whip It <link: here>. In the case of our Xmas road trip adventure planning, we took inspiration from the bastion of team-based Manliness that is the Village People, in particular, their song Go West <link: here>

Anyone that’s been on a Xmas road trip on the east coast knows that it’s anything but peaceful. This time of year every campsite is taken, the coast road is full of caravans and camper trailers, you’re camping tent wall to tent wall with a million people.

Go West, Life is Peaceful there.

Go West, lots of open air.

So go west we did. We planned an inland Xmas adventure of camping and mountain biking through inland northern NSW.

We started with XMAS at Katie’s parents’ house in Inverell. When we weren’t eating and drinking far too much at the inlaws I was riding at the Inverell mountain bike park, which I’d driven past plenty of times but this was my first ride. I was really impressed. The small country town mountain bike club has built 3 trails all in a circuit, a 1km easy and a 3 and 5km Intermediate loops.

inverell trail map

Trailforks Trail map

The 5km loop covered heaps of different riding. In some spots is was loamy, in others loose. Then it had technical rocky sections with massive boulders and one part you seemed to be riding on the surface of the moon. The downhills were great fun and the uphills could get pretty technical . By the end of four laps I had worked out how to carry my speed and pick my lines enough to make it up all the uphills.


Entry Sign


Well placed berms and features were found throughout.


pretty shitty photos, after a phone mishap I was transported back in time to a Samsung S4 with a broken camera lens…

After Inverell we moved on to a free camping area at The Pines mountain bike park in Armidale.

armidale state forest

The camp site here is a large parking area at the edge of the pine forest. There’s a short walk to some drop dunnies in the bike park. It’s off the highway and nice and quiet.


The riding consists of a lot of mellow green trails through the pine forest. They’re all reasonably flat and relaxing. There are a few more advanced trails with some small jumps and obstacles. Also, there’s a few sneaky cows on the track that you need to keep an eye out for, and it looked like some kind of drifter was living in a hut in the forest (an actual drifter, not like the wannabe drifters sleeping in their cars at the edge of the forest…)


After enjoying the relaxing Armidale trails we moved on to follow up a hot tip given to us by a family friend at Inverell. They mentioned the old Glen Innes to Grafton Road which winds along the Mann and Boyd River with plenty of nice camp spots and a tunnel that had been dug by hand by convicts. As we were on the Armidale end we decided to drive along the road from south to north and we headed to Nymboida.


On the way to Nymboida we stopped for the night at the Clouds Creek free camp site. It’s next to the Armidale road, and if you’re lucky you can camp right next to the creek like we did.


This was a great find, if we weren’t on the way somewhere else we would have stayed there for a few days. The one funny thing about this camp site was that there were wild chooks!! Unfortunately, there was an overly excited rooster that would start it’s cock-a-doodle-dooing really early in the morning. (seriously, not a sexual innuendo.)

From Cloud Creek campsite we headed on to Nymboida and the Old Glen Innes road.  The road winds along the Boyd river and there are a lot of campsites to choose from. It was reasonably quiet considering it was over the new year period and we chose a camp site right next to the river away from the few other campers.


There was a track across the river that I took my bike across to and went for a ride. It led to a lonely scenic lake and stream up in the hills.



This place was paradise. We’ll definitely be back.


Creepy Dalmorton a few k’s upstream from where we camped. The town looked to only have one resident these days. There’s also another campground here by the river.


Apparently hand-made convict tunnel.

After Boyd River we headed to Cangai to camp next to the Mann River. There were a lot more campers here and for some reason I got the impression that the river gets pretty high at times.


When compared to the Boyd river camp Cangai felt a little crowded. After a nice night we decided to head back to Brisbane after a stop off at the Grafton Mountain bike trails, Bom Bom state forest.

bom bom state forest

After the awesome, well thought out tracks at Inverell, Bom Bom state forest felt pretty lame. It was just some really mellow single track and the features and flow of the track weren’t really all that well thought out. Seemed like it might have been made by road bike riders, or people without much mountain bike experience. This really highlighted how good the Inverell trails were.

We did a lap and then made the drive back to Brisbane.

I really enjoyed getting away from the normal coast based camping trips that we usually do. In general I never really think to head inland, but there are a lot of really great camp spots, often with few or no people and they’re often free. In fact, we didn’t pay any camp fees for the whole trip. It was really nice to be able to swim in fresh water at a lot of the camps. I really enjoyed taking bikes too.

We planned the trip using an app called Wiki Camps (https://www.wikicamps.com.au/) which I highly recommend.

We planned the mountain bike parts of the trip with an app called Trail Forks (https://www.trailforks.com/). About 15 years ago (jesus I’m old) I went on a bike based road trip up the east coast and we needed to use internet forums (they might have been called bulletin boards back then…) or stop at bike shops and chat to people to work out where the trails were to ride. Now with the Trailforks app it makes it really easy to find somewhere to do some skids and hucks wherever you happen to be. It’s awesome.

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NZs Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail – Sweet As

What do you think of when you think of New Zealand? The land of sheep? Fush and Chups? That skit from Hunt for the Wilder People where Psycho Sam rants about the form fillers?  (I bring up that skit at least once a week at work to the form fillers who have no idea what I’m ranting about).

Well, what you should think of when you think of New Zealand is endless, unspoilt, solitary bike trails like the south island NZ’s Alps 2 Ocean (A2O).

I’ve been getting more and more into cycle touring lately (the cool kids call it bike packing). It offers everything that I love about hiking, the epic scenery, the self-sufficiency of carrying everything you need to live with you, the almost meditative state you find yourself in when you’ve only got one goal, one thing to worry about for the day; getting to your destination one footstep or pedal at a time. But what I like about cycle touring over hiking is you don’t have to carry any weight on your back so it’s more relaxing – the bike takes all the load, also for long trips the logistics are a lot easier, it’s easy to ride 20km out of your way to re-supply or seek shelter, whereas 20km is a whole day of hiking.

The Alps 2 Ocean bike trail goes from either Mount Cook or Lake Tekapo and is approximately 300km of a mixture of dirt cycle trail and backroads. We chose the alternative start at Lake Tekapo rather than Mount cook (you need to book a helicopter across a massive river if you start from Mt Cook) and spent a leisurely sometimes windy, sometimes sunny, sometimes freezing 5 days riding to the oceanside town of Oamaru.


Day 1: Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki – 36km

day 1

We left Christchurch at about 7AM using an Intercity bus from Christchurch Airport to Lake Tekapo. The bus pulled into a freezing windy Tekapo at about 12:30, where we realised that we might have underestimated the weather we’d be up against. A quick stop to buy some buffs and gloves and we were off.

day 1 1.jpg

The alternate start to the A2O at Lake Tekapo.

day 1 2.jpg

Lake Tekapo

day 1 3

Almost all of day 1 was spent riding next to the canal between Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki.

day 1 4

New Zeeland Far-shun.

day 1 5

It was proper windy. Like 100km/h headwind type windy (click for video). There were times where Katie got off her bike to walk because she couldn’t ride her bike straight enough to stay on the road.

day 1 6

day 1 7

As we got to Lake Pukaki we lost a little elevation and got down out of the wind. Our first camp was up over a berm on the side of the road next to the lake.

Day 2: Lake Pukaki to Lake Oahu via Twizel – 56km

day 2

Day 2 was really nice. The wind died down and the sun was shining. The trail around the edge of Lake Pukaki was amazing. The backroads to Lake Oahu were really nice and the trail around Lake Oahu was a really fun, undulating dirt track.day 2 1day 2 2day 2 3day 2 4day 2 5day 2 6


Day 3: Lake Oahu to Otematata 77km

day 3

Day 3 was the only real day of climbing. The nice thing about riding from an alpine region to the coast is that it’s mostly downhill. Having said that, day 3 was a bit of a test for Katie, the climb was a real grinder.

day 3 1

When you’re a vagabond bike tourist you need to take the opportunity to wash your nether-regions whenever you can. I can vouch for the member shrinking coldness of this water.

day 3 2day 3 3

day 3 4

And the climb begins.

day 3 5day 3 6day 3 7day 3 8day 3 9

We camped at a caravan park at Otematata for night 3. Strangely there were a lot of caravans there but they were empty. Ghost caravans. We later found out that a yearly pass to camp in these places is about $350, so a lot of people just leave their caravans there and visit on the weekends. Australian grey nomads would have a pretty good time here.

Day 4: Otematata to Waitaiki River campsite near Duntroon 59km

day 4

Day 4 was slightly downhill most of the time and there was a nice tail wind.

day 4 1


day 4 2

Dam I look good.

day 4 3

This part of NZ is full of ghost caravans and lovely camp spots next to lakes. If the Australian Grey Nomad ever found their way here they’d take over the place much in the same way the Australian possum has.

day 4 4day 4 5day 4 6day 4 7day 4 8


Day 5 Waitaiki River campsite near Duntroon to Oamaru 70km

day 5

Day 5 was the day the weather turned. We’d only met two other groups of cyclists and they mentioned that the last day the weather was going to turn, a strong southerly weather pattern they said, straight off Antarctica they said.

The dry creek beds started to fill with chain-rusting, hub-filling-with-grit water.

day 5 1day 5 2day 5 3day 5 4

day 5 5

Much like that Lincoln Park song, Katie was one step closer to the edge.

day 5 5a

day 5 6

I couldn’t feel my fingers. I was resting my fists on the top of the bars to conserve finger feeling. I was changing gears with my fists, I was talking in grunts because I couldn’t feel my face, cheeks or lips.

day 5 7

day 5 7b

There’s light at the end of the tunnel until there isn’t.

day 5 8day 5 9

When we got to Oamaru we found a hostel that would take us in, had a really long shower and then drank some well-deserved beer. Delicious.



How to get there:

From Christchurch, you can get the Intercity Bus to Lake Tekapo.

You can get an Intercity bus back to Christchurch from Oamaru.

The bus is about $40-$50 dollars each way. It’ll cost you $10 bucks per bike to put your bike under the bus. Make sure to contact Intercity and confirm you can get your bike under the bus and ask them to tell the driver.

The track is extremely well signed, I was really impressed. Whenever you come to an intersection there’s an obvious sign pointing which way to go.

You can view the Alps 2 Ocean google maps layer here:


The official website is here:


Camping Cost:

We only paid for 1 night of camping at Otematata which was $25 for a site. Everywhere else the camping was free. You’re allowed to “freedom” camp in NZ wilderness areas if there are no signs and you’re self-contained.

It’s worth mentioning that we met a couple from Auckland on the ride that didn’t carry much gear besides a change of clothes and booked into hotels / motels / pubs / airbnbs on the way and bought their food at local pubs or cafes. If that’s more your scene you could have a great time riding with very little gear on this track.

Other Opportunities:

There were some things to do next to the trail in some of the towns, you could binge drink at wineries on the way, go on joy-flights in gliders, fish for salmon etc.


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Shared Finances: The Tragedy of the Commons?


A long time ago, in a university far far away a guy called Garrett Hardin wrote an essay called The Tragedy of the Commons, which was about a key concern of many at the time, human over-population.*


He argued that the resources of the world are finite and that if the human population continued to expand we would reach a point where the quality of life per person would be reduced as more people were added to the world. An example would be that the capacity of the roads in which traffic will flow freely in a city is finite, and as you add more traffic to the road each motorist experiences greater congestion and a lower quality of transit.


Here’s an excerpt from his essay in which he describes the concept of the tragedy of the commons using an example of farmers sharing a common paddock for their cows:

Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly, or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks: “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1) The positive component is the function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another, and another …But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit — in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

So, the title of this blog post included the words shared finances. What does a paddock full of cows and greedy farmers have to do with shared finances?

I’d argue that, to a degree, if a couple share their finances, the same concept of the tragedy of the commons applies as the income that the couple bring home from their jobs each month is of course finite.

With each individual purchase decision that each member of the couple makes the percentage of benefit that the member gains from the purchase is 100%.

However, the negative component that they receive from that purchase, which is, of course, the extra time they need to work in their job to pay for the purchase decision (as described in more detail here) is shared between the couple, that is the individual share of the dis-benefit is 50%.

For example if one member of the relationship decides to buy a really cool brand new mountain bike, like say a 2019 Giant Reign SX, or a YT Capra 27 AL; he gets 100% of the benefit of the extra traction that 180mm of bump eating front suspension provides, along with the street cred that comes from taking a masterpiece of space-age fluid formed aluminium out of the back of the car at the mountain bike trail car park on the weekend in front of his mates.

However in the case of shared finances he has actually only contributed his share of income to this particular purchase, hence he’s getting 100% of the benefit of the purchase, but only contributing 50% of the income required to make that purchase.

This, of course, is not the only thing that’s considered during each purchase, but over time, faced with thousands of purchases the asymmetry in the individuals share of the benefit vs dis-benefit will influence many purchase decisions and hence affect the financial health of the couple overall. Of course there’s other affects that may have to be dealt with, possible resentment, potentially having to negotiate for non-communal purchases and the fact that financial stress tends to be the biggest contributing factor to relationship breakdown.

Sharing finances is a very personal topic, I’m sure there will be a lot of people that disagree (potentially emotionally) with my opinion that sharing finances is probably more problematic than it’s worth. That’s cool, no problem, people think I’m wrong about all kinds of things, but if you’re at the point of your relationship where you’re deciding whether you should share finances with your significant other or not, at least take into consideration the above and work out some methods that work for you to manage the problem of the tragedy of the commons and think about how to disarm any other problems that could arise from shared finances such as  resentment.

Bonus Discussion:

One solution to the problem of the tradegy of the commons is to impose more rules and regulations onto the “herdsmen” as the number of herdsmen increases. Travelling around Australia this becomes very apparent. In a city like Melbourne, there are a million rules and regulations so that the vast number of city dwelling herdsmen don’t spoil the environment for the rest of their fellow herdsmen. Contrast this with Queensland or the Northern Territory and the number of rules and regulations is dramatically less. You could argue that in general, the quality of life in a less populated city is higher, not just due to the lack of traffic, often cheaper housing etc, but also the lack of excessive rules and regulations that have been imposed to address the problem of the tragedy of the commons.

An example of the difference in the number of rules is that in Victoria, (Melbournes state) you’re not permitted to drive a car on the beach, the common reason given that driving a car on the beach will kill the birds that live on the beach. While in Queensland, everybody drives their car on the beach. If a Queenslander mentions this to a Victorian, the policeman that’s slowly been installed within the Victorians mind over time will often cause them to judge the Queenslander. I often wonder what this rule following inner policeman mindset does to the tendency of the population to take chances, risks and innovate over time.

*Reading the essay through the lens of todays cultural norms many people would label the essay racist.


The Opportunity Cost of Private Schooling


It’s a common belief that private school children are given better tuition, better resources and a better peer group that helps them to succeed in life and have better careers than their public school counterparts.

This belief is used by parents to justify spending often ridiculous amounts of money per year, for a private school education.

The problem I have with this is that a fancypants peer group and a more attentive teacher are intangible assets, intangible assets that are paid for with very real tangible dollars. It’s a qualitative thing that demands a very large quantitative price.

In business, when there’s a decision to make upon which investment should be chosen from a few options a concept called Net Present Value (NPV) is used to assess each option. This consists of estimating the future cashflows from each option and discounting them exponentially over time using an appropriate discount rate that considers the cost of money, inflation and the risk of the investment. This is a solid way to make investment  decisions.

In the case of a cash outflow NPV is called Net Present Cost and the cost is inflated over time to account for the opportunity cost of not being able to allocate that cash elsewhere.


Let’s analyse the Net Present Cost of sending a child to a Private School from Prep to year 12. To discount the future cash-flows we’ll consider the opportunity cost of spending that cash rather than investing the money in a diversified group of stocks in the stock market, such as could be bought easily via an index fund or listed investment company.


  • The child goes to private school from Prep to year 12 – a total of 13 years.
  • Private school fees from Prep to Year 6 are $20,000 per year
  • Fees from Year 7 to Year 12 are $22,000 per year (these fees are typical of what I could find with a little bit of googling of Australian Private School fees, it could be more, it could be less. I encourage you to make your own spreadsheet if you are considering this)
  • Expected average yearly return from diversified group of stocks – 8%

table 1

At the end of Year 12 the parents have paid $272,000 for their child’s education. However the money they have forfeited by tying up so much capital that could otherwise be invested is $444,577.

We all tend to be puppets dancing the same dances to our preconceived ideas; as such I’m sure some of you are saying, well hang on Extreme Man, the value of a Private School education is much more than that. The better education, more attention from teachers and sophisticated peer group lead to better outcomes later in life, a better career, high income etc. To that I would say, this is not Ramblings of a mild mannered social science and statistics based man, this is Ramblings of an Extreme mathematics and hard science based man. All of those things are either qualitative or only able to be measured statistically – correlation is not equal to causation.

The assertion that there’s a quantifiable difference of a Private School education resulting in greater pay later in life is a pretty speculative argument to make, there’s a lot of variables.

I’d like to assert that even if there is a difference in pay between private and public educated students later in life, due to the power of compounding over time there is no way at all (seriously, not a chance in hell) that the difference would make sense from a Net Present Value perspective. To highlight this, let’s build on the table a little more. Let’s assume that the student spends 5 years at university and then a few years in the workforce which brings them to the ripe old age of 25.

table 2

If instead of the parents spending a large amount of money on private schooling they instead invested that money until year 12 and then made no further contributions; using the assumptions above the portfolio of stocks would have grown to over $822,000 by the time the child is 25.

Taking this one step further, if the objective is to give a child a head start in life so they can get a better job and hence earn more money, then you should really consider sending them to public school and investing the difference in the stock market on their behalf. The hypothetical private school child, no matter their career or salary will never be able to bridge this gap in wealth of the public school child. In addition to overall net worth, a diversified group of Australian stocks (such as is easily purchased in a listed investment company) will pay greater than 5% gross dividend per year, rain hail or recession. Modelling this for the table above gives:

table 3

I track all of my living expenses and I live off approximately $25,000 per year.

In the scenario above, if the child had similar spending habits to me they would be financially independent and able to retire in their second year of university. At the age of 25 they would have far more money than they ever need, hence rendering any need for a high salary career completely redundant. On top of this, dividends tend to grow at approximately twice the rate of inflation.

Even if, the private school educated child is earning more money at the age of 25 it doesn’t matter, the public school hypothetical student could be retired. Their time could be free to volunteer, travel, start a business, pursue their passion, etc without the need to earn a salary.

In the words of the model Private School student, Summer Heights High’s Ja’mie, “Sorry, no offense, but it’s true.”



BVRT, yeah you know me

What’s really dirty, results in a sore arse, guys tend to like more than their girlfriends and isn’t anal sex? Bike touring on the Brisbane valley rail trail.

The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT for those fond of acronyms) is an old railway line that’s been converted to a multi use trail, multi as in bike, hike or horse.

It’s about 160km long and goes from Yarraman to Wulkuraka.

With the last of the start of the year long weekend bounty coming to a close Katie and I decided we needed to squeeze some adventure into the last one.

Riding from start to finish with hiking gear it was.

Day 1.

We drove to Wulkuraka station near Ipswich and got a lift to the Yarraman end with Josie from Out there cycling for the reasonable price of 50 bucks per person.

We rode 69km from Yarraman to stop at Harlin for the first night.

The section from Blackbutt to Linville is a highlight, steady long downhill through the forest.

Rail trails are nice because they’re never too steep, but currently the section from Moore to Toogoolawah isn’t complete and there’s a detour that consists of riding through some paddocks and a lot of back roads that can get a little steep at times.

Day 2.

Day 2 we rode 68km from Harlin to a little past Coominya.

This was the hardest day for Katie, the hills on the detour really took it out of her. Luckily just at the point where it looked like all hope was lost the track turned downhill and she stepped back from the edge.

We ended up sleeping under a bridge like homeless people. I think I could get used to this.

We also rode past a pretty big fire.

Day 3.

Day 3 we finished riding 39km from near Coominya back to Wulkuraka station.

Once we’d finished first stop was to see the Colonel for a bucket of his finest. I demolished most of a family feast on my own, delicious.

Other highlights included Katie eating almost 2 packets of ibuprofen over the 3 days. Impressive.

It was pretty quiet on the trail but we met a few people, 2 of whom volunteered for rail trails Queensland. They also mentioned there is another one from kilkivan to kingaroy which you could join onto the start to make it into potentially a week of relaxing riding, or if you wanted to get really serious you could ride the whole Bicentennial Trail of which the BVRT is but a small part. I’d never heard of the bicentennial trail before, and after going all the way down the bicentennial trail rabbit hole on Google I could feel the seriousness slowly but surely building.

How to get there:

Drive to one end and give Out there cycling a call to drop you at the other end. They can also drop you off and pick you up from any town along the way.

Camping Cost:


Other Resources:

BVRT website