Sunday, July 30, 2006

Stephen Hawking and "The Great Escape"


Physicist (Astro-physicist?) Stephen Hawking gave a speech in Hong Kong a little while back in which he said "It is important for the human species to spread out into space for the survival of the species. Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

He was then a guest "questioner" on Yahoo Answers, which apparently has been publicizing their service by having people like Hawking, Al Gore and Bono ask big questions on the site for the general public to answer. Hawking's question was - "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?"

So what does it mean that Hawking, who is arguably the Einstein of our era, is recommending a "Great Escape?" That he's saying we've doomed the planet and that we better find a way to live in space - SOON - if the human species is to survive?
Well, it probably means that we're doomed.

Here are two stories that came out recently that prove we're doomed:
Ontario Hydro today said that while people are receptive to the "conserve energy" message, they generally don't, because it means inconveniencing themselves. I wonder if the word "inconveniencing" was used deliberately by the Hydro spokesman, as a reference to Al Gore's recent movie.

The other one is a Globe and Mail article by Margaret Wente which I mentioned briefly yesterday, and which annoys me more and more as the day passes. Generally, she's saying that because there are no transportation alternatives as good as the car, people will refuse to switch to public transportation. And, if people refuse to switch, then let's find ways to make driving easier.
This is her first paragraph: "The other day, as I drove to my exercise class (yes, yes, I know there's a contradiction there), people on the radio were telling me to take the TTC. There was a smog alert, and I was contributing to the problem. But it's next to impossible to get to my class by bus, so I drove."

This is what she thinks the poor should do: "As for lower-income people -- supposedly the main beneficiaries of public transit -- they have an alternative, too. It's called used cars."

Conserving energy being too inconvenient, and a major newspaper editorialist recommending we just do more of the same to solve transport problems, make me think of Easter Island, which I wrote about last month. That civilization happily ruined their natural environment due to tradition, and we're doing it out of laziness.

We know better than this. We've known for nearly 30 years. Read Jimmy Carter's 1977 speech regarding energy conservation.

"We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us."

But are the Jimmy Carters, Al Gores, David Suzukis listened to? No, because we're too lazy, and because the poor can still afford to buy used cars.

Here's what we're going to lose:
earth
And here's Carl Sagan on our Pale Blue Dot.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us."

Bike Maintenance and cool T-Shirts


The bad news is that my main commuting bike is in the shop. The good news is that I have two other bikes and can improvise.
Smut's bike (I refer to my commuting bike as "Smut's Bike" because I bought it off my friend Smut, whose real name is Duncan) has somewhere around 2000km on it since I've been riding it, and I broke some spokes on the back wheel. I'm going to be without it for likely another week. On Thursday and Friday I rode my old Kona Hahanna mountain bike to the Go Station, took it to Whitby with me on the train, and rode it from the Whitby Station up to UOIT.
My feelings towards my old mountain bike are probably similar to those of a farmer towards his big, quiet, never-complaining, dignified work horse. It's not a sexy bike, and it doesn't do anything fast, but in return for a little respect and some T.L.C. it always gets the job done.
For the upcoming week I'm going to take the Cervelo off the trainer and ride my race bike (carefully) to Oshawa. I'm not entirely thrilled about this - the Cervelo doesn't have the puncture proof tires that Smut's bike does, and not wanting to break any spokes on it I'm going to have to ride it very delicately, especially down that last damned stretch of Brock Street in Whitby to the Go Station, but I guess the bike and I will survive.

Here are some Biking T-Shirts I've come across.
I Bike T.O., which are sold by the guy who runs the Biking Toronto blog. And Bicycles are for Lovers (see above), which are sold by a gentleman out of Philadelphia.

And, here's the Bike Toronto response to an article in the Globe called The War Against The Car Will Never Succeed. It's a good chuckle.


And since I haven't mentioned peak oil in a while, here's National Geographic's take on The End of Cheap Oil.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rain

I'm not totally crazy. If it's raining when I wake up, I don't do the full ride to Oshawa, I do some combination of bike/Go Train to get to work. Riding long distances through the rain is a really miserable, lonely experience.

Last night on the Weather Network they were saying clear for this morning, and rainy/thunderstorms in the afternoon. So to me, that means bike to work but take the rain pants & coat for the ride through Whitby after work.
And the radio this morning was no help either. I think the word Harold Hossein (sp?), the weather guy on 680 News, used was "unsettled." Unsettled? Hoser. It would have been more informative if he'd said "Chris, this morning about halfway into your ride a rain storm is just going to pound down on your head." That would have been helpful.

So this morning around 6:00a.m., when I was either in east Scarborough or West Pickering (it's hard to tell, it's actually hard to tell where you are all along Highway 2), something like this started happening.


Here's one of those things about cycling that you'd never know until you do lots of it. When you ride a bike, the foamy cushioning pads in your helmet soak up sweat. When you ride in the rain, the rain washes through these pads and brings all that sweat down over your face and on your lips. It's fun stuff.
And I really need to buy fenders for this bike.

Thanks to Oli for fixing up my wheels for me last night.

And I had totally forgot about this site. I used to look at it years ago. Anybody ever visit the Astronomy Picture of the Day?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Impeach Bush?


Bill Clinton was
impeached
) for allegedly lying to a grand jury regarding Paula Jones (who had sued him for sexual harassment), and about the nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Should George Bush be impeached?

  • In 1970 the domestic production of oil in the United States peaks. American oil production has since done nothing but fall.

  • In 1973 and 1978 the Saudi oil embargo, and then the Iranian revolution, disrupt U.S. oil consumption. Oil prices soar, causing widespread panic over an imminent energy crisis.

  • In 1997 the Project for the New American Century is formed. The PNAC is billed as a political think tank whose goal is to promote American global leadership. The PNAC believes America must act alone if international organizations cannot be used to promote American goals. In 1998 the PNAC writes President Clinton, imploring him to invade Iraq and remove Saddamn Hussein from power. A great number of PNAC members go on to fill positions in George W. Bush's administration - including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, I. Lewis Libby, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton (currently American ambassador to the U.N.).

  • In 2000 the presidential election comes down to a few thousand votes in Florida, a state governed by Jeb Bush, George's brother. Bush wins the election, despite widespread voting irregularities, including the alleged disenfranchising of black voters, and disposal of ballots in black (and Democratic) townships.

  • New White House Officials who have oil industry links? Condoleezza Rice was a Chevron Director from 1991 until January 15, 2001. For a long time a Chevron oil tanker was named "The Condoleezza." Vice President Dick Cheney was Chairman and Chief Executive of Dallas based Halliburton Corporation, the world’s largest oil field services company with multi-billion dollar contracts with oil corporations including Chevron.
    George Bush himself, who was a long time (unsuccessful) oil executive in Texas.


  • In Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill, former U.S. treasury secretary O'Neill documents how removing Saddam Hussein from power was a White House priority only days after taking office, and long before Sept. 11, 2001. At one meeting, Rumsfeld rejected a suggestion from Colin Powell for new targeted sanctions against Iraq, pushing instead for the actual overthrow of Saddam. "Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that's aligned with U.S. interests," Rumsfeld exclaims. (See Linda McQuaig's
    It's the Crude, Dude
    ).


  • In March 2001, Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force studies maps of Iraqi oil fields, and lists of foreign suitors for Iraqi oil. Iraq, by some estimates, has the second largest reserves of oil in the world. Although currently under embargo, Iraq has oil drilling contracts with French and Russian companies. Once U.N. sanctions against Iraq are lifted, these companies will be free to drill Iraqi oil. A regime change in Iraq would tear up these contracts, allowing American companies access to the oil.

  • September 11, 2001.

  • On Sept. 14 the U.S. Congress gave President Bush the authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [which the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11.

  • As the United States goes to war in Afghanistan, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld demand that their staffs find a way to link Iraq to Sept. 11. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and others begin a media blitz with appearances on current affairs shows, terrorizing the nation with images of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction and the nuclear mushroom clouds they could cause.

  • In Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke, who was the top counter-terrorism expert in the White House before resigning in 2003, documents a pre-9/11 focus on Iraq in the White House, and a corresponding failure to pay attention to intelligence
    regarding Al Qaeda. On Sept 12, 2001, Clarke walked into a meeting where the discussion was already bent upon removing Saddam from power. He realizes that "Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq." Later that same day, Clarke is pulled aside by Bush and told to find a way to link Saddam to 9/11.


  • On Saturday Sept 7, 2002, Tony Blair and George Bush cite a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency which, they say, details new construction projects at abandoned nuclear sites in Iraq. Later that same day the IAEA itself denies that such a report exists.

  • In Jan/Feb 2002 Vice President Cheney's office is seeing intelligence reports which state that Iraq tried to buy uranium yellowcake (used in nuclear arms) from Niger. Cheney's office sends Joseph Wilson, a career diplomat, to Niger to investigate this deal between Iraq and Niger. Wilson finds no evidence of such a deal. In fact, he discovers that the intelligence reports cite a contract signed by government officials who had actually retired long before the contract was signed. Wilson returns to the U.S. and tells Cheney's office that there is next to no chance that Iraq bought yellowcake from Niger. In January 2003, Wilson is shocked to hear President Bush continuing to spout the Iraq-Niger connection as evidence of Iraq's possession of WMD. In July 2003 Wilson writes a column in the New York Times titled What I Didn't Find in Africa. By telling the U.S. public the truth of what he found in Africa, Wilson also hints that the U.S. administration is lying about its goals and intentions regarding Iraq.

  • The Wall Street Journal will report in Jan. 2003, that Halliburton officials met informally with representatives of Vice President Cheney's office in October 2002 (i.e. several months before a decision to go to war is officially made) to determine how best to jumpstart Iraq's oil industry following a war. Cheney and Halliburton deny this. Thaddeus Herrick, U.S. Oil Wants to Work in Iraq.

  • In July 2002, what would become known as the Downing Street Memo is created. The memo details a meeting of British officials discussing the push for war. The most alarming statement comes from Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6. Dearlove had just returned to the U.K. from meetings with U.S. security officials. He told British defence and intelligence figures that "(in Washington) there was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence facts were being fixed around the policy." A top secret U.K. document, the memo does not become known to the general public until 2005.

  • On March 3, 2003, Joseph Wilson is quoted in The Nation magazine as saying that "America has entered one of its periods of historical madness."


  • On March 20, 2003, the United States and Britain invade Iraq. Having given up trying to link Iraq and Al Qaeda, the official reason for the invasion is that Iraq illegally possessed weapons of mass destruction, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, and had to be disarmed by force.

  • In late 2003, in an apparent attempt to get revenge on Joseph Wilson, Bush officials "out" Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson. Valerie Wilson was a long time CIA operative. After her name and role are released to the American and world press, her cover is blown and she cannot continue with the CIA. However, the disclosure of a CIA operative's identity and status is illegal. In July 2006 Wilson filed a civil suit against Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libbey for their role in the disclosure of her CIA status.

  • No Weapons of Mass Destruction are ever found in Iraq.

  • No ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda are found.

  • In December 2005 Michigan Representative John Conyer introduces Resolution 635, which called for a "select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

  • His resolution 636 incidentally was to censure Bush for "refusing to respond to requests for information" regarding the war, and 637 was to censure Cheney for the same failing. For these and any other American bills, go to The Library of Congress's "Thomas" Database. It helps to know the name of the Representative who introduced the bill.


Want to read more?
See Lewis Lapham's
The Case for Impeachment article in the March 2006 Harper's Magazine. Or, Elizabeth Holtzman's The Impeachment of George W. Bush article in the January 2006 issue of The Nation.

And what does all this have to do with cycling between Toronto and Oshawa? Oh, nothing. I just read a lot, and when you're on a bike for 2 1/2 hours each morning lots of stuff goes through your mind. : )

Monday, July 24, 2006

Kingston Road

I've been getting bored with my route, especially because it goes so far to the north to avoid sprawlurbia, so today I tried out a new and fairly direct route which I've been so far avoiding.

Old Highway 2, also known as Kingston Road, basically runs parallel to the 401 through the southern part of sprawlurbia. I've been avoiding it because I generally think of it as a "let's kill cyclists" highway, but I didn't really care this morning so I gave it a go.
To my complete surprise, it was a piece of cake. There's hardly any traffic going OUT of Toronto at 6:00a.m., so I basically had a lane to myself. It also cut about 10km and 15 minutes off the commute. AND, as a bonus, I found a toonie as I rolled into a red light at an intersection.

FYI - I'm working on a nice George Bush post, but I need to do more research first before I put it out there. In the meantime, here's one of my favourite parodies from JIB JAB. - This Land is Your Land. Bear through the 30second commercial and enjoy!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Floyd Landis (just quick)

Warning... entirely stolen content to follow:

The foolish, but inspiring, risk of Floyd Landis:
Thursday in the Alps of France an American with a bad hip declined to listen to the pleas of his fellow cyclists, the common sense of racing strategists, and the overwhelming odds. Floyd Landis, a 30-year-old bike racer, took on the terrible climb that once cracked bike icon Lance Armstrong and left everyone in the dust in the Tour de France.

Landis doesn't have the leader's yellow jersey — but he's in position and is considered the favorite heading into the Saturday time trials. This is an improvement over what he was on Wednesday, which was finished, done, and utterly out of contention.

In what many considered a suicidal risk, Landis took it out on one of the steepest stages of the day. He was quickly alone — no one wanted to follow him on such a crazy, exhausting dash — and then, against the odds, he held everyone off, won the stage, gained back the time he had lost, and is now just seconds away from first place.

"I admit I said it was absolutely and utterly impossible,'' Tour commentator and former rider Paul Sherwen said afterwards. "And I am proud to be wrong.''

See entire story here:
San Francisco Gate

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Tour & the Mountains

The last few days have been spectacular at the Tour de France, and I finally feel like writing up a bit of what the Tour is, for people who don't really follow cycling.
The 2006 Tour de France is a bit of an oddity. It's the first Tour after Lance's retirement, meaning a lot of riders thought they had a chance to win. Then the doping scandal hit a few days before the Tour, meaning that 3 of the best riders (Basso, Ullrich, Vinokourov) weren't going to be racing either. This leaves the door open for lots of good, but unheralded riders, to win the biggest race in cycling.

So the Tour starts. These guys are doing somewhere between 150 to 240km a day in intense heat at speeds that shouldn't be possible. They approach the mountains with Floyd Landis in the lead. After all the shake-ups, Floyd can probably be considered the top contender for the Tour. He's also, incidentally, riding with a degenerative hip condition:
Describing the pain, he said in an interview at his team hotel in Ch√Ęteaubourg before the Tour's eighth stage, "It's bad, it's grinding, it's bone rubbing on bone.
"Sometimes it's a sharp pain," he continued. "When I pedal and walk, it comes and goes, but mostly it's an ache, like an arthritis pain. It aches down my leg into my knee. The morning is the best time, it doesn't hurt too much. But when I walk it hurts, when I ride it hurts. Most of the time it doesn't keep me awake, but there are nights that it does."
Now this isn't unprecedented. Tyler Hamilton finished third in the Tour in 2003 with a double-fractured collarbone. At times he could barely hang onto the handlebars but he was still able to win one of the stages in the mountains.

So yesterday the guys were climbing lots of mountains, one being this one:

The mountains are what really makes or breaks the Tour de France, and it's hard to describe what you're going through when you're hill climbing. Everything you know about cycling ends on a mountain. The joy of speed, of the wind in your face, of being able to coast and rest your legs. Even the ability to breathe ends on a mountain. All you have left is suffering. And silence. The only thing which can get you up the mountain, which can keep you turning the pedals, is your ability to say yes over and over again to pain.
Yesterday Floyd Landis cracked. He didn't have the energy or the legs, and a lot of guys dug deep and endured as much suffering as they could to climb the mountain ahead of Floyd and gain time on him.
Today the Tour hit this mountain.

After dropping like a stone in the standings yesterday, Floyd Landis gave every ounce of energy he had in the world to the ride today. He tore away from the main group and eventually climbed roughly 5 minutes ahead of everyone to win the stage, and to once again give himself a chance to win the tour.
With his hipbone grinding in its socket.

Joyce Carol Oates once described writing as being very similar to boxing. She said that when a boxer goes into the ring, he strips himself down and basically spends the next hour showing the world how much pain he can take; showing the world his innermost self, free of posturing, free of friendships, free of anything. "This is me," he says to the crowd. "This is what I can take." Oates said that a writer does the same thing. When you open a book, what you're reading is the writer's soul. You're diving into the writer's pains and worries and fears. You're seeing the barest, innermost part of that writer.
Mountain climbing is the equivalent for cycling. You hit the bottom of a climb and all the speed you had disappears. The road slopes up. You flick down into your easier gears. The road keeps sloping up. You grip the handlebars tight and push the right, then the left, pedal down. Your lungs start to gasp. Your legs begin to feel like tingling noodles. The mountain strips away everything you are, leaving only your ability to suffer - your ability to turn the pedals.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ah, Lance...

So this is why Lance Armstrong isn't really well-liked. He's totally respected, but not really liked:
Regarding the French football team, he was quoted as saying "All their players have tested positive for being assholes."
He's now in France, hanging around his former Discovery teammates at the Tour de France, and this is how one headline welcomed him:
"Welcome to France, Trouduc” — short for trou du cul (asshole).
See story here

This by the way is what the cyclists in Tour climbed yesterday:

That's L'Alpe d'Huez. Today and tomorrow they're doing rides almost as bad as that.

And here's a quick note about the sounds of cycling on a highway:

The sound of a car coming up behind you on the highway is nearly unnoticeable until a sudden burst of air right explodes beside your ear, as though someone sneaked up and popped a paper bag right beside your head. The sound of a heavy truck coming up from behind you is like the sound of an incoming bomb.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cycling in Oshawa & Whitby

After being at UOIT for nearly a month now, and cycling around this area for two or three weeks, I feel ready to shoot my mouth off a bit about the Oshawa area in general, and cycling here in particular.
Here's a bit of background for people who don't know the area well.
According to
this document
, Oshawa's history is "without parallel." That really makes me smile. I hope nobody in Prague or Istanbul or Beijing read it, they'd be pissed to know that their city's history is dwarfed by that of Oshawa. (It is kind of cool though that Ian Fleming attended spy training in Oshawa, and got the idea for James Bond here. And Bobby Orr played hockey here for the Oshawa Generals. That's pretty neat for a hockey fan.)

Oshawa can either be considered a city in its own right, or it can merely be considered the last outpost on a stretch of sprawlurbia from Toronto east to Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and finally Oshawa. My vote is that it's part of Toronto's sprawlurbia.
I'm sure that some parts of Oshawa looks like this:

But I haven't seen those parts yet. I'm told there's a nice recreational trail that meanders south through the city all the way to the lake, but it's not part of my commute and I haven't seen it. I generally think of Oshawa more like this:

A big sprawl of residential streets placed around some strip malls.
Oshawa, in fact, is probably in a lot of trouble. When the Peak Oil age begins, Oshawa will have three major problems:
a) Like any North American city, it is based on the automobile as a method of transit. The residential areas are flung far and wide from downtown, and you need a car to get anywhere. In five years, when gas is $1.45 (Canadian) because of $100.00 barrels of oil (see previous Peak Oil posts regarding this), it's going to hit the people of Oshawa hard.
b) As I said, Oshawa is the furthest east of Toronto's stretch of sprawlurbia along Lake Ontario. LOTS of people here commute into Toronto to work. This, as above, will hit people hard once gas prices skyrocket.
c) And the coup de grace?? Well, Oshawa is economically based on the car industry. GM Canada has been here a long time, and has fueled the city's economy for decades. GM is in serious economic trouble already, and will be in even more trouble when people finally start buying fuel-efficient Hondas and Toyotas and say goodbye to gas-guzzling GM's.

And what about cycling here? For those of you who know Oshawa, my trip home in the evening goes like this: I leave UOIT taking Conlin east to Garrard. I take Garrard south all the way to Manning, turn west on Manning and take it to Garden. Take Garden south to Burns. Take Burns west to Brock, and take Brock south to the Whitby Go Station. And why the Whitby Go Station when I work in Oshawa? Because the Oshawa Go Station is hidden behind so much construction right now that it is entirely inaccessible to bikers.
Now much of that trip is actually fairly pleasant. Garrard in fact has a long bike lane (I think it's a bike lane... there's definitely a lane but NOWHERE along it is there any bicycle signage). Unfortunately, as I'm bailing south on Garrard, the few other cyclists I've ever seen on it are riding along the sidewalks. : (
Manning is awesome. After a bit of an uphill climb I get a rockin' long downhill that curves north and then west again. I should check my computer to see how fast I'm going on that descent, but it must be about 50km/hr.
The worst part of my whole day - even worse than riding on Highway 7 in the morning - is the five minutes I'm on Brock street getting down to the Whitby Station. Brock is torn to hell along the side where bicyclists ride, and it's a busy four lane street with people who are in a rush to get to the 401 driving beside you. It's yucky. That's as eloquent as I can be. It's yucky.
All in all, I guess I have a fairly easy ride through Oshawa/Whitby. It's just so discouraging to never see any other bikes in the city. When I get back into Toronto and ride from the Danforth station back to my place it's such a "homey" feeling... seeing other cyclists on the road, feeling like you (as a cyclist) belong on the streets.
That's the big thing that Oshawa lacks - an acceptance of bicyclists (or even an awareness that they exist) - and it's going to be a slow learning curve for this city when the oil runs out and they have to start struggling to figure out how to get by without cars.

P.S. - This morning I grabbed a pair of cycling shorts I don't usually wear, and was half an hour away from the apartment before I realized that I don't wear them because they have a big hole on the back of the upper leg. God knows how many people I flashed this morning.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

How much I'm riding, part II

My first week has passed having my own office at UOIT (meaning a safe place to store the bike and drape wet cycling gear etc etc). I thought I'd give a status report of how much riding I'm doing, because I think I'm still guilty of giving the impression that I'm doing 68km in the morning AND evening to get to and from Oshawa.
I'm not.
The pattern this week, and this will probably be true until winter, is that I'm cycling to Oshawa in the morning, and then biking and using the Go Train to get back into Toronto in the afternoon. All together, that gives me about 90km on my bike computer each day. I simply don't have the fitness level to do the round trip ride each day, plus, the ride back to Toronto is a bit more uphill, and tends to have headwinds, and it takes FAR too long (i.e. over 3 hours).

So that's my riding report. Here's some fun stuff.
I found a really cool e-card site at Global Fair Trade.

They have awesome ecards that you can send, like these ones (click on image to enlarge).


At some point I'm going to tell some bike accident stories, and I want to explain the Tour de France to people reading this who don't follow the Tour, but for the moment, here's a "why I love cycling" note.
In the evenings I get off the Go Train at Danforth Station, bike down Main Street and turn right onto Kingston Road to begin my bike home through Toronto. As soon as you make this right turn onto Kingston Road you're going 30km an hour (assuming you're on a road/touring bike). Kingston Road just soooaaarrrsss downhill almost all the way to Dundas Street, a distance of maybe 1.5 or 2 km.
Now, Kingston Road is two lanes going each way, but at 6:00pm when I'm on it each right side lane allows parking. What I invariably have when I'm going 37km an hour down Kingston Road is a line of parked cars on my right, cars and streetcar tracks on my left.
Considering how heavy the traffic is, the condition of the streets, the narrowness of the "chute" between cars that I'm surfing, a speed in the high 30's is actually unsafe.
But, a long sloping downhill and 37km / hr without barely pedalling are soooo hard to resist. Passing cars like they're barely moving (actually, they are barely moving), your senses on hyper alert waiting for car doors to open, making sudden adjustments to avoid broken glass, your legs sensing opportunities for more speed and forcing the pedals around harder..., all together it is an incredible rush.
Biking isn't easy... besides the big things (headwinds, rain etc), little things like your helmet chin strap scraping sweatsalt under your jaw can annoy the hell out of you, but at the best of times, on a summer evening, when your legs feel strong and you're soaring downhill and your day of work is done and you're almost home, well, biking is just so much fun.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Tour and Newsweek

Here's a quick post until I get some more time:

I just found this on You Tube - it's kind of a Tour de France highlights package, set to a Moby song (same one used in some of the best racing scenes in SeaBiscuit actually).


And Newsweek's Cover Story for July 17 is called "The New Greening of America: From Politics to Lifestyle, Why Saving the Environment is Suddenly Hot."

Here's the first paragraph:

By Jerry Adler
Newsweek

July 17, 2006 issue - One morning last week ... 29 years after president Jimmy Carter declared energy conservation "the moral equivalent of war" ... 37 years after the first reference to the "greenhouse effect" in The New York Times ... one day after oil prices hit a record peak of more than $75 per barrel ... Kelley Howell, a 38-year-old architect, got on her bicycle a little after 5 a.m. and rode 7.9 miles past shopping centers, housing developments and a nature preserve to a bus stop to complete her 24-mile commute to work. Compared with driving in her 2004 Mini Cooper, the 15.8-mile round trip by bicycle conserved approximately three fifths of a gallon of gasoline, subtracting 15 pounds of potential carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere (minus the small additional amount she exhaled as a result of her exertion). That's 15 pounds out of 1.7 billion tons of carbon produced annually to fuel all the vehicles in the United States. She concedes that when you look at it that way, it doesn't seem like very much. "But if you're not doing something and the next family isn't doing anything, then who will?"

Exactly.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Cyclist reflects on death and cows

Although I'm tempted to do a post titled "The Ride's Yucky Bits" where I'd take photos to go along with that post titled "The Ride's Nice Bits," I won't bore you with pictures of downtown Toronto streets and Highway 7.
Instead, this morning I took a couple photos of other things I like on the ride. This one I call "Sunrise - Cows grazing with Power Lines in the Distance." (P.S. If you click on a picture you get it full size).


Every morning (that I do the full ride), I find it disturbingly ironic that, right before I begin the most dangerous part of the ride, when I turn onto Highway 7, I pass this nice little graveyard.

I kind of take it as my warning to keep my concentration level high on my "10 cm of life."

And this is my favourite gravemarker in this cemetary. All the other ones are pretty large gravestones, and then there's this little white cross.

It's fairly new, only 4 years old, and I wonder about the woman who's buried there, and the people who chose the white cross. Was it all they could afford, or did they decide that the cross itself said all it needed to say? Helen Disney-Brohm, July 17, 1956 - December 25, 2002. Cheers, Helen.


This is a picture of the UOIT Library. Right in front of the library there's a long rectangular reflecting pool, which you can't really see. In the winter they're planning to use it as a skating rink. And guess what's below the green field!? Geothermal wells! Lo and behold I end up at a university which is keen on alternative energy systems!


"UOIT uses one of the world's largest geothermal well fields to help heat and cool its buildings. Made up of 384 holes drilled 213 metres (700 feet) into the ground, the sophisticated system takes advantage of the earth's relatively constant temperature to provide a stable, low-maintenance and efficient energy source."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jimmy Carter

I was thinking recently about how different the world would be if Al Gore had won (well, he did win, he got the majority of the popular vote) the 2000 presidential election, and if he had been the American president instead of Mr. Bush. Would Iraq have been invaded after 9/11? Probably not. Would the U.S. have signed Kyoto? Probably.
Then I got thinking about another unfulfilled presidency, that of Jimmy Carter.

Carter was a Democrat, and was President from 1977-1981. The critical thing about Carter was that - as far as energy goes - he "got" it. It probably helped that he was a nuclear engineer.
In the 1970's the world was hit by two oil shocks - in 1973 the Saudis reduced their oil output to piss off the world a bit and show how upset they were about Israel's continued growth, and in 1978 the Iranian revolution took Iran's oil off the market - both oil shortages sent prices soaring and got people thinking about energy conservation. In 1976, one of the people who truly understood what was going on, said something that Al Gore is kind of echoing today in "An Inconvenient Truth."
Regarding America's dependence on a finite resource, Carter said "We must face the prospect of changing our basic ways of living. This change will either be made on our own initiative in a planned way, or forced on us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature."
When he became president and the 1978 oil shock happened, Carter took concrete steps to tell Americans that the age of conservation was upon them. He went so far as to install solar panels on the roof of the White House.
But Carter got nailed by soaring inflation, and by the Iranian hostage crisis (when 70 some Americans were held hostage in the American Embassy in Iran, and the U.S. was very unsuccessful in getting them released). In the next election Ronald Reagan and the Republicans whooped him. Reagan told the country "Hey! There's no energy crisis!!" and the solar panels came down, and the era of the SUV came into being.
So now we know that "peak oil" and global warming are happening, and there was a president in 1980 who knew that they would happen. In 2000 the Republicans took blacks off the voters list in Florida and that state went Republican, and Bush became President, beating out Gore, who, like Carter, would have done something about global warming.

Doesn't it make you wonder "What If?" Carter instead of Reagan, Gore instead of Bush, and maybe these guys wouldn't be dying.


and though this is a little cruel, here's the funniest "Jimmy Carter" story, which I first came across in Bill Bryson's book "Mother Tongue." Carter was giving a speech in Poland, with a translator at his side. Carter said something like "I wish for America to get to know the Polish nation on an intimate level." But, due to the translation, what the crowd heard Carter say was "I desire the Poles carnally."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Economist on Global Warming

I should be getting ready for work, but I really have to share this because it annoys me so much.
I was at work playing around with the Economist, and decided to see what this (very conservative, very pro business) magazine had to say about "peak oil."
I came across this article "The oil industry: Steady as she goes" from 22 April 2006.
Basically the author (there are no "bylines" in the Economist - you never actually know who has written the articles) denies that we're approaching peak oil, mainly because technology will improve etc etc... plus there's this nugget:

"Globally, the oil industry recovers only about one-third of the oil that is known to exist in any given reservoir. New technologies like 4-D seismic analysis and electromagnetic "direct detection" of hydrocarbons are lifting that "recovery rate", and even a rise of a few percentage points would provide more oil to the market than another discovery on the scale of those in the Caspian or North Sea.

Further, just because there are no more Ghawars (Tuco's note - the Ghawar field in Saudia Arabia is the world's single biggest oil field) does not mean an end to discovery altogether. Using ever fancier technologies, the oil business is drilling in deeper waters, more difficult terrain and even in the Arctic (which, as global warming melts the polar ice cap, will perversely become the next great prize in oil). Large parts of Siberia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have not even been explored with modern kit."

Isn't that awesome? Can't you picture Cheney and some of his oil exec. buddies studying maps of the arctic ice cap going "God damn, is this ice ever going to melt? We got oil to drill!"

It's really truly sad that it's these morons, who value oil over the environment etc etc, that control the strings of power.

Actually, it's even more sad that their figurehead is this moron:

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Route's Nice Parts


On Monday I took Annalise for a ride along the nice parts of my route to UOIT. This part here is Sideline 26, where I leave Taunton Road and head north to Concession 5. It looks peaceful enough, but this stretch shows up about 40km into my ride, and is a long gravelly uphill that wears out my legs quite nicely.

It does have a nice bonus though....
I get to say howdy to these two horses almost every day!
And this is my climb. I think I've revised my opinion that it's worse than the Scarborough Bluffs climb. It's not quite as steep, but as you can see, it's a nasty sucker that goes up for a long time. It's on Concession 5 somewhere around 50km into the ride.

So two and a half hours. That's how long I'm on the bike by myself in the morning. When I rode the stationary bike at the gym (usually for an hour) I brought music and that kept me entertained. I could bring music on the bike, but with the wind and the traffic I'd have to turn the music up so loud to hear it that I'd probably ruin my ear drums. I do kind of wish I could listen to the radio while biking though - I really miss CBC's Metro Morning.
So what do I think about on the road? I seem to spend a lot of time worrying that I packed everything into my backpack that I'm going to need for the day. "Did I pack my belt? Do I have my cell phone in case I double flat and need to call for help?"
I sing to myself. I've always done that. When I pass across Morningside Avenue each morning I start singing the Neil Diamond song of the same name. I curse cars a lot. I imagine scenes for the cycling movie I want to write.
I search for the perfect sunrise. The perfect barn hiding in the mist. I look out over the fields (when I'm near fields) and try to believe that that glimpse of nature is worth more than the city streets and minor highways that make up the rest of my ride.
And sometimes I get a bit of a gift.
This morning (Tuesday) was fairly misty. As I was spinning up the above-mentioned sideline 26 I was getting drizzled on a tiny bit, I was getting tired, and just as I approached Concession 5 I saw a roadie in full kit on a Louis Garneau hammer past like a ghost in the fog. I sprinted to the end of the road and turned right onto Concession 5 in the same direction that the roadie was going, but he was in better shape than me, was on a better bike, didn't have a backpack on his shoulders and he was gone, there was no way I could catch up to him.
But still, to spin the pedals all morning by yourself and then get a glimpse of another biker sharing the country roads with you... to see him disappear far ahead of you into the mist..., that was worth it.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Clinton on Peak Oil

The Georgia Straight has an article talking about a speech former President Clinton gave to the
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.
The highlights are:
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has urged newspaper editors to focus more attention on the depletion of the world’s oil reserves. Clinton said a “significant number of petroleum geologists” have warned that the world could be nearing the peak in oil production.
Clinton suggested that at current consumption rates the world could be out of “recoverable oil” in 35 to 50 years, elevating the risk of “resource-based wars of all kinds”.
He added that "everybody I know who knows anything about this business believes it’ll be $100 a barrel in five years or less".

So Clinton is on board. Hopefully that means that Hillary is also well-versed on this topic, and if she runs for the Democratic Nomination for 2008, maybe peak-oil will be a big topic at the Democratic Convention and will carry on into the next presidential election.

P.S. oil today is around $73.00 a barrel, and prices at the gas pump in the GTA are around $1.05. At $100.00 a barrel that puts gas prices at about $1.45.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Saturday Miscellany

So it's Saturday morning, and I've got my body so confused it's waking up by itself at 5:30a.m. Which leaves me lots of time to goof off on the net before I go to my weekend job in the beaches at 10:00.
So what do I do when I'm goofing off? I find cool stuff!!! : )

Here's a link to a BBC story about what the earth will be like when the peak oil crisis is in full gear:
BBC.
And here's a link to an urban activism blog out of the University of Winnipeg. This particular story talks about how the WTO is contemplating classifying (it's early in the morning and I'm practicing my alliteration) bikes as an "environmental good" which should be free from tariffs.
U. Winnipeg Blog.

And THIS one is about how wrecked the Tour De Franceis!!!
ESPN Tour de France
Besides Ullrich and Basso, VINO is OUTTT!!! For those of you who don't know pro-cycling, Vinokourov is like a pirate. It's like a game between the Leafs and the Habs where a guy with a patch on his eye skates onto the ice and starts swooping around stealing the puck and scoring on both teams. He's so cool and now he's gone. Me so sad.

And here's a link to You Tube and a Daily Show video where Jon Stewart interviews Al Gore regarding "An Inconvenient Truth." This is just part 1. If you go onto You Tube and search around you'll find a part 2 as well.



And here's the Staple Singers, just because they make me happy.


For those of you on ITUNES, download "I'll Take You There" and thank me later.