Friday, October 27, 2006

Nail guns, cows, and sundown

I have been meaning to do some research and do up a big vegetarian posting for my friend Mark, but I doubt I'll ever get around to it. I didn't go veggie for any one particular reason, but more because all the various reasons added together seemed kind of overwhelming to me. Without even touching on animal rights/cruelty, or the meat industry's effects on the environment, there's always just the health concerns.
I just came across a mention of a documentary called Frankensteer. I don't know if I'll ever get my hands on it, maybe Queen Video would have it, but it looks great.
Frankensteer is a disturbing documentary that reveals how the ordinary cow has been turned into an antibiotic-dependent, hormone-laced potential carrier of toxic bacteria, all in the name of cheaper food.
Every year, 50 per cent of the total tonnage of antibiotics used in Canada ends up in livestock. And every year cattle raised in massive feedlots are routinely dosed with antibiotics even if they are not sick. For public health safety reasons during the current BSE (Mad Cow) crisis, North American health officials have labeled certain parts of the cow as bio-hazardous products and have ordered that they be handled accordingly.

This is pretty much the worst story I've come across in a long time.
A roofer in Austria, a 59 year old guy, was working on a roof, slipped, and pulled the trigger on the nail gun he was holding.

  • The four inch nail went through one of his testicles.

  • The four inch nail went through his testicle, and into the roof, fastening "it" and the roofer (his name is August Voegl) to the building.

The story I read didn't say - and I probably don't want to know - how they got the nail OUT of Mr. Voegl. I hope to God they put him to sleep first.

I thought I was pretty up on all the environmental challenges facing us, but I have to admit I had never heard of global dimming until today. Apparently air pollution is shielding sunlight from reaching the earth, so the earth is getting darker. Scientists don't yet really seem to understand what this means, but the main fear is that plants won't get the sunlight they need to grow, and without plants and food etc and photosynthesis and CO2 being turned into oxygen... well, once again, we're screwed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Some American stories

I wasn't really planning to blog today, was hoping to spend part of my lunchhour figuring out how to become a millionaire on the stock market, but two things in Newsweek caught my eye this morning:

Although signed back in August, a U.S. National Space Policy was just published on the Office of Science and Technology website in early October. Basically it is a document outlining the United States' goals and plans regarding the utilization of space.
A fundamental goal of the policy is to “enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there.”

[The policy calls upon the secretary of defense to] “develop capabilities, plans, and options to ensure freedom of action in space, and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries.”

To deny such freedom of action to adversaries... and to enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space... Doesn't that sound like 1800's manifest destiny, this time in space? It also smacks a little of Dr. Strangelove. But instead of a post nuclear war "mine shaft gap" we'll be fighting over a "space colonization gap."

Another interesting thing in the States is this - a guy named Bill Crozier in Oklahoma is running for the position of "state superintendent of schools." Mr. Crozier thinks that textbooks should be made of kevlar so that students can use them as shields for bullets in school shootings.

Rightttt.... All I can think of is Bowling for Columbine, of hestonCharlton Heston holding that shotgun in the air at the NRA convention saying they'll only take my gun "from my cold dead hands!" of Moore choosing that bank account which comes with a free rifle, of KMART selling ammo...

Yes - Kevlar textbooks are the answer. Yes indeed.

Crozier by the way is a Republican, and we know that Mr. Bush is a republican as well. As I've mused before, isn't it always the GOP that gives America a bad name?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Sacred Madness

When Johannes Kepler had his "eureka" moment regarding the laws of planetary motion, he was ecstatic. Having solved that problem, he would eventually write -
"I am free to give myself up to the sacred madness." He had unraveled one of the mysteries of life, he had taken a step closer to his God, and he could now give himself up to the mystic.

The Sacred Madness idea has always amused me, and I was thinking about what the sacred madness would mean to me as a cyclist.

There's lots of little crazy things I'd like to do as a cyclist. I've been very very tempted recently to reach out and grab onto a truck and do the "get a free tow" thing sometime. I'd like to do some of this stuff. The closest I've come is flying through busy places in Toronto like Spadina's Chinatown, Bloor's Annex, King Street anywhere downtown, at too high a speed and feeling like I was in that "radar aware zone" where I was pretty sure the street couldn't throw anything at me that I couldn't handle.
But yeah, the sacred madness... what would I really like to do just to mix things up?
One thing I'd like to do is have a little quirky revenge on Whitby/Oshawa. On the way home every afternoon I am on Brock Street in Whitby. South of Burns and all the way to the Whitby Go Station, Brock Street is torn and bumpy in the right side cycling area. It's a four lane road with people going fast as hell trying to get to and from the 401 on/off ramps, and I always feel like all those nutbars have it in for me on that stretch, which is about 1.5km long.
I'd like someday - on a hot summer day, when I'm not carrying my backpack and am on my Cervelo and just have my jersey and shorts on - to ride that whole stretch taking up one entire lane doing the "Victory Salute" a la Iban Basso here. That would really tickle me. For a kilometre and a half, in the midst of pure Durham "let's burn gas and kill the planet" madness, to have a cyclist whooping and wailing like he'd just won Alpe d'Huez, would really make me laugh.
P.S. I couldn't find a picture of him in pure "victory salute," but one of my favourite Tour de France stage wins was Michael Boogerd in 2002 (I think). An escape group leapt up out of the pack early in a very long stage with a mountain finish. Boogerd wasn't in the escape group, but eventually decided that he wanted to be, so he left the pack and road alone for a long long time trying to catch the escape group. He finally found them, but he was wrecked and they dropped him, he caught up, they dropped him etc. etc. Finally he outlasted them all and he left the escape group behind and won the stage.
Riding alone forever and ever, getting dropped, being exhausted but finding the willpower to hold on, that's kind of a sacred madness too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A tuesday miscellany

A columnist in the toronto star named David Bruser put out an open invitation for letters regarding the toronto transit situation. In his words - "Is there a better way? If so, the Toronto Star wants to hear about it." He can be reached at As only cyclists read my blog, I'd invite all of you to write in, tell him that cars are ruining the earth, and that we need more bike lanes and tax breaks for cyclists! : )

The most recent Macleans has an interesting article about the internet, and how good it actually is. Of note to bloggers is a section on the free speech allowed by the net. Blogging is good because "(the internet allows) the most participatory marketplace of mass speech that this world has ever seen."
Yet blogging is bad because, in general, people read the blogs of people who share their politics etc. Democrats read democratic blogs. Republicans read republican blogs, and cyclists read cycling blogs. Therefore we're "preaching to the choir" when we write, for example, about how terrible cars are. We're not exchanging ideas in a constructive way with people of differing viewpoints. We're just ranting.

Also interesting is this idea. The internet asks us "What would you want to know about, if you could know about anything?"
Want to know what the top ten google searches were last year?
1. Janet Jackson 2. Hurricane Katrina 3. Tsunami 4. xbox360 5. Brad Pitt 6. Michael Jackson 7. American Idol 8. Britney Spears 9. Angelina Jolie 10. Harry Potter
THAT'S what we want to know about apparently. Awesome.

And since everybody wants to make money on the net, what are the two biggest moneymakers online? Gambling and porn. As the article says, "the internet has shown us as we really are."
Maich, Steve. "Pornography, gambling, lies, theft and terrorism: The Internet sucks (Where did we go wrong?)." Maclean's 30 Oct. 2006: 44-49.

At the bike show on Saturday Annalise and I bought this little beauty for about $300.00 off KHS's suggested retail price (I love bike shows. I hate paying full price for stuff). It's a KHS Flite 200, which basically means a fast city bike, chromoly fork, aluminum frame, road bike size wheels, low end components. Annalise has been riding a heavy and old Giant Comfort Bike, and now with the KHS she should be able to kick my butt.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Peter Miller's Yellow Cards

This is just a quicky - busy day today, Bruce Cockburn concert tonight, mucho bike shopping to do this weekend... BUT... I read about this in the most recent Bicycling Magazine this morning.

Magnetic cards available through Peter Miller - Yellow Cards. So much more civilized than my pet daydream of riding around with a baseball bat attached to my backpack.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

i took my potatoes down to be mashed

The conservatives released Bill C30 in the House today. This is the much bally-hooed Clean Air Act, and it should be available to read soon on LegisInfo.
Although I am including the highlights of the bill below, who cares really. We knew the Conservatives weren't going to do anything serious with this bill. To play devil's advocate, would the Liberals? Are any of these guys willing to stand up and say "gasoline should be taxed up to double it's current price, with the extra money going to environmental recovery"? Not likely, but that's the kind of serious measure which needs to be taken to actually save the planet.

More interesting than the bill is this story about the Canadian Automobile Association.
"The country's largest club for drivers, the Canadian Automobile Association, on Monday urged its members to spend less time behind the wheel and said this would help fight climate change and boost air quality.
The club which has 4.9 million members, also backed the idea of mandatory fuel efficiency standards for car makers. It said Canadians needed to "change their behavior and mind-set," with car-pooling, car-sharing and using public transport."

That's a fairly nice thing to hear from the CAA I think. And makes me feel a bit better about another rainy morning bike ride when dozens and dozens of metal death-machines were screaming past me and I was thinking of what a "drop in the bucket" my bike ride was towards reducing carbon emissions.

Highlights of the Conservatives' proposed Clean Air Act, from the Globe and Mail.

  • By 2011, develop new regulations for vehicle fuel consumption.

  • By 2025, set national targets for smog and ozone levels.

  • By 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 45 and 65 per cent from 2003 levels.

  • No mention of the Kyoto Protocol and the emissions targets the government of Canada comitted to in 2002.

  • Harmonize vehicle emissions standards with those of the United States over the next 12 months.

  • Harmonize regulations with those of the U.S. for volatile organic compound emissions in consumer and commercial products over the next year.

  • Over the next three years, discuss and set “intensity based” targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, rather than total emissions targets, for major emitters.

  • Negotiate with provinces to create harmonized system for mandatory reporting of air emissions, reduction of regulatory overlap.

  • Create environmental damages fund from non-compliance fines to be applied directly to cleanup.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

oh to be in holland

Clever Chimp in Portland has a nice little video up in his Oct. 17 post. It's just three people on big utility bikes riding with their children. But man, it looks so peaceful and serene.
If only we all went through life this way.

My buddy Oliver, who I've known since Grade 7, and who is pictured here dressed as his alter-ego, The Flash, has a new cycling photography website at H2o photography. If you raced the recent Oktoberfest cyclo-cross race your picture is likely to be captured there somewhere.
Oli, who used to race with Lanterne Rouge and who is now recovering from a back injury is my friend who tells me things like a) "you really need a good bike" (when I owned a crappy home hardware bike) b) "you need a lighter road bike" (when I owned a heavy KHS chromoly road bike) c) "you aren't really going to sell your Cervelo are you?" (now - as I'm currently thinking of selling my Cervelo road bike).

I really really really really really wasn't happy with the all day rainstorm we had yesterday. Despite the afore-mentioned rubber boots and gloves, the rain went right through my rain jacket and cycling pants and then into my boots and gloves (on the ride home anyway). Sitting on the Go Train on the way back into Toronto yesterday afternoon I thought I was going to get hypothermia because I was wet and chilled to the bone.
I now feel it is my job in life to own Gore-Tex. Unfortunately a Gore-Tex jacket costs $300.00 canadian. Maybe my friend Smut, who built my Cannondale, can make me a good rain coat out of tires or something.

And this is too good not to post. I found it on mtb05grl's blog.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hmmm... what's the appropriate word... "miserable?"

It is Tuesday Oct. 17 in southern Ontario and it's basically miserable out. It's pouring, that's the first thing you need to know. I had a tailwind for a while as I trekked through Whitby, and I was thankful for that, but then I turned east on Conlin and a heavy headwind blasted itself into my chest. I suddenly felt like I was doing the Scarborough Bluffs climb on my mountain bike.
Anyhoooooo..... I thought I'd talk about gear today.
It's not too big a stretch to claim that my lifesaver for this commute has been this backpack. It's from the Running Room (I worked at the Running Room in the Beaches for several months up until September) and I highly recommend it for any biker.
You know the backpacks you have in your closet which are covered in salt stains from sitting on your back as you ride on hot summer days? And how the clothes/books you have in that pack are icky and damp when you arrive at wherever you're going on those hot days? Well this backpack has a mesh sheet which sits flush against your back, and the actual pack is suspended slightly off you - so that the sweat breathes off your back and your gear doesn't get ruined. It also has a little holster pocket on the right shoulder strap which I assume was designed for cell-phones, but for cyclists it's the perfect place to store a gel and to stick the gel wrapper when you're done.
The final bonus is the black thingy you can see hanging below the pack in this photo. It's a rain cover which stows into the bottom of the pack, and which you can pull up and over your pack to protect it from the rain. The only drawback of this pack is its carrying capacity. If you have to carry shoes and a change of clothes with you (I don't - I leave all that stuff in my office) then you're going to be in a bit of trouble trying to also get your lunch, book, locks etc in there.
These are some old favourites and new additions. The old favourites are the balaclavas, neck mufflers, and the foam face mask (for use in the winter when the wind would otherwise rip your face off. Bonus is it makes you look like some kind of stormtrooper). The new additions are the Pearl Izumi toe warmers on my shoes (they're good, but it's mid October and they're no longer warm enough). Also pictured are some M.E.C. shoe covers, which so far have been quite good for rain protection and for general warmth.
I had this past Friday off and I did an errand I've been meaning to do for a while - I bought old school rubber boots (the kind, when we were kids, that we waded through ponds with up north catching frogs to go fishing) and heavy(ish) duty rubber gloves! When it's really pouring, like today, I ride my Kona Hahanna instead of the Cannondale because the Kona has fenders. The Kona having street pedals I have to wear street shoes, and I've long thought that plain old rubber boots would be the best footwear to have on days like today. I think I was right - after the ride this morning my feet and hands were both warm and dry!
And my Kona... sigh... if I was a cowboy and had a good old hardworking horse that I'd been riding for years, I'd feel the same way about it that I do my Kona. I've had it since about 2001. I've changed the drivetrain a couple times, the tires a couple more times, and the seat is shot and the seatpost is stuck, but otherwise it's still a workhorse.
I remember going for a rainy day ride up the Don Valley biking trails once. I hit one wooden bridge too fast, the front wheel went out below me and I found myself in midair thinking "hell, since I'm up here I might as well play this for all it's worth" and I stretched my arms out in a superman pose and hit the bridge on my chest and slidddddd... along it for several metres like a pro. About 20 minutes later I came to another wooden bridge, tried to take it carefully (editor's note - wooden bridges are SLIPPERY AS HELL in the rain) but still wiped out on it, and as I picked up my bike I patted it gently and said "dude, I am so sorry... I can't seem to keep you upright on bridges today."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Autumn in Ontario

I haven't written about Peak Oil in a while. It's so hard to say what is really going to happen. Oil will definitely run out, but will technology save us? The U.S. Air Force is trying to run its airplanes on oil synthesized from coal. Will that work? Will that work globally? God knows.
Although I've kind of forgotten about peak oil, James Kunstler sure hasn't. In fact, in his most recent blog posting he states that we are over the peak and on the long descent into demand for oil outweighing supply. It's kind of hard to see that, with gas prices being so low right now. I also don't know why he's claiming that the Saudian Arabian Ghawar oil field has peaked. If it has peaked, the party is over - Ghawar is the most massive of the world's massive oil fields. But what Kunstler is basing his data on, I'm not sure. Even Mathew Simmons' Twilight in the Desert didn't go quite so far as to say that Ghawar had definitely peaked.

Here's a quick link to a website about making furniture out of bike parts.

A few bloggers have been talking about biking in the rain recently. Usually in a positive way. I hate to be grumpy, but biking in the rain sucks. That's it and that's all. It sucks - no matter how happy these two people look.
The actual cycling part is the least sucky of the whole process, but even it is no fun. No matter what you wear, you end up soaked, and when it's a cold rain that's even more miserable. The potholes fill with water and you can't tell if that puddle coming up is a nice little one or a deep sucker that's going to send you over your handlebars.
The real problem is pre and post cycling in the rain. The "pre" involves wrapping all your backpack items up in bags, and dressing yourself the best you can in various layers of waterproofness (as opposed to the summer when you pull on shorts and jersey and you're done).
And the WORST is the post cycling stuff. You get to wherever you're going looking like a drowned rat. Your bike is all covered in grime. Hopefully you have access to a shower (which I do, or I couldn't do this commute at all) but you have to somehow dry your stuff in your office, so you spend 20 minutes wringing socks and gloves, trying to hang jackets and rainpants discretely on chairs, and doing the "stuff paper into them" trick (for those of you who don't know - if you stuff crumpled newspapers into soaked shoes and socks and gloves, the newspaper absorbs the water out of them, making the drying process go much much faster).
So you do all that, and then at the end of the day you put your moist clothes back on, and get nailed by another rainstorm on your way home. (Starting my ride in Toronto, then 30 minutes and a Go Train ride later being in Oshawa, I basically have my choice of two weather systems to get beaten up by).

Biking is still the better way. I guess I just wanted to grumble a little bit. Here's a nice photo I found on an Australian news website of an Afghani boy cleaning his bike in a massive pool of rain water.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rabies and Politics

My little sister, who's a wildlife biologist, has spent the summer and fall in southwestern Ontario working on a MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) project which entails live-trapping as many raccoons, skunks, possums and anything else that they can get - vaccinating them against rabies - and then releasing them back into the wild.

So I think my sis places the traps in high wildlife traffic areas.

She catches raccoons... and whatever else ends up in the traps (what is that black one?)... she carries them in their cages against her hip back to the truck...

she vaccinates them, and then she lets them go! Fun way to spend your summer, eh?

There's no cycling stuff today, but here's some U.S. and Canadian politics -

Bob Woodward has a new book called State of Denial: Bush at War Part III. There's a lengthy excerpt of it in the most recent Newsweek, and the chunk in Newsweek is all about Donald Rumsfeld, the Defense Secretary. I'll resist saying what I'd like to say about Rumsfeld, and instead just give you this great quote.
Rumsfeld wrote a memo in May 2006 titled "Illustrative New 21st Century Institutions and Approaches." Apparently he felt the need to defend himself, and the Bush administration, from charges of incompetence (largely re. the handling of the war in Iraq). So he writes, in this memo "The charge of incompetence against the U.S. government should be easy to rebut if the American people understand the extent to which the current system of government makes competence next to impossible."

Hmm... so the U.S. system of government, and "competent governance," are mutually exclusive? Thanks for the heads-up.

In Canada - where our economy is based on the Alberta oil sands and the Ontario auto industry - and where we believe that climate change and environmental catastrophe only happens somewhere else to somebody else, there was big news recently about Rona Ambrose, our Minister of the Environment, calling all the auto-industry head honchos in to talk about reducing auto-emissions. Wow! The Conservative Government (of all parties - their political base is in Alberta with the oil cowboys) is going to set standards for reducing auto emissions! We're going to start following California and Sweden and help save the planet?
No, not really.
In the Toronto Star yesterday, in a story titled -
Car emission curbs planned
- there's a quote from Jim Miller, the executive vice-president of Honda. "Everyone walked out in a fairly upbeat mood. Nothing of substance was discussed."
Wow, she really got tough with those guys, eh?

The above is especially ironic when you look at the Conservative Party's attitude towards the Kyoto Accord. Although Canada has signed the Kyoto Accord, the Conservatives believe that meeting our greenhouse gas targets under the Accord would ruin our economy, and so they're trying to backpedal away from the Accord.
A Liberal MP out of Quebec named Pablo Rodriguez is trying to force the Conservatives to honour Kyoto, by sponsoring Bill C-288 - An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. On Oct. 4 the bill passed its second reading - Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and NDP joining for 152 votes in favour of the bill, with 115 Conservatives voting against it. The bill will now move to committe hearings before it goes for its third reading, and then moves over to the Senate for approval.

Here are two quick things from the Globe & Mail on this topic:
Kyoto linked to soaring power bills

Along with other Conservative MPs, Ms. Ambrose attacked the private member's bill from Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez that would force the government to meets its 2008-2012 Kyoto targets. “Electricity prices in British Columbia would increase by 40 per cent, electricity prices in Ontario would increase by 65 per cent, natural gases prices would increase by over 300 per cent in Alberta and over 130 per cent in Ontario. These are the kind of impacts of enforcing the [Kyoto] target on Canada's industry today which is exactly what [Mr. Rodriguez's bill] entails,” she said, as opposition MPs groaned dismissively.

No need for a Kyoto debate: It's over
Jeffrey Simpson

The reduction of about 65 per cent [of greenhouse gas emissions] by the early part of the 2020s is supposed to occur while energy use continues to rise and more and more oil is produced from the tar sands.

Just yesterday, EnCana and ConocoPhillips of Houston announced plans to spend $10.7-billion (U.S.) to produce and upgrade 400,000 barrels a day of raw oil sands crude by 2015.

A barrel of oil from bitumen produces about two to three times the carbon from conventionally pumped oil. By 2020, 80 per cent of Canada's oil will come from the tar sands. If nothing is done to radically change the capturing of carbon from producing all that oil, Canada's greenhouse gases will rise, and rise sharply. And what does Ms. Ambrose propose to do about that?

How Canada, or more precisely Alberta with its constitutional control of natural resources, is developing oil sands is environmentally crazy: using relatively clean natural gas to produce heat that allows the oil to be extracted from the sand. We are using a clean fuel to produce a dirtier one.

So the debate over whether Canada will meet its Kyoto commitments is a false one, because it's over. Those targets will not -- cannot -- be met.

Every sign points to this country's emissions continuing to rise for years, short of an upsurge in public concern and the application of sustained political will.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bike Messengers are on crack

I figured it was about time I put this up. I've recommended it to a few other bloggers but don't think I ever posted it on my site. It's 7:00 minutes long, has a fairly nice background song, and shows NYC messengers weaving amazingly through traffic and pedestrians in the city. They're definitely crazy, but man, there's a lot of grace involved as well.

I was fairly proud of myself last night. I had planned to stay late at work and catch a much later train, but about 15 minutes after 4:30 (which is my normal leave time to catch the 5:27 train in Whitby) I thought "ah hell, I've worked on this stuff enough" and I decided to just get going and see if I could make the 5:47 train.
I start actually pedalling around 4:50 and the thought gets into my head "I should hammer and see if there's any chance I can catch the 5:27." So I do hammer, even into a headwind, I catch a few lucky breaks with stoplights etc and generally good traffic, and I'm eventually standing on the train platform at 5:24 with a few minutes to spare.
That was fun - it was a gorgeously warm October day (as compared to the pouring rain I cycled into this morning) and I felt like the Red Baron or somebody zooming through Whitby. AND - I caught my normal train and got home on time.