Friday, September 29, 2006

Saturday Night Live

This morning I wake up to the news that the U.S. Senate has passed a bill (similar to one that already made it through the House of Representatives) to endorse George Bush’s proposals for the treatment of terror suspects - i.e. how badly they can be tortured.

I really don't understand the United States. Since the Gore/Bush election the President's Office has been like a long-running Saturday Night Live sketch. Throw a cartoon figure into the role of the President, have him lie to the country, talk like a hillbilly from Deliverance much of the time, and lead the nation into a terrible war, and then just keep going - dragging the sketch on and on until you want to shoot the television.
Not only has Bush so far escaped impeachment (see a lot more in this post), he's now going to be able to decide how cruelly terrorism suspects can be tortured -
The measure would create military commissions to prosecute terror suspects. It would bar blatant abuses of detainees but allow the President to decide which interrogation methods are legally permissible. It would also protect CIA agents from being prosecuted for war crimes in connection with interrogations. (from the New York Daily News).

So let's think about how awesome this is:

  • George Bush looks every American soldier straight in the eye and basically says this, boys, I need you to keep America safe by going to war in Iraq. I'm sending you in because Saddam helped Al Qaeda attack us, and because he has WMDs and could attack us again.
    As we now know, all of this is a lie and thousands of U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, because (as far back as 1998) neo-conservative republicans had identified securing mid-east oil supplies as essential for America's continued reign as the planet's one superpower.

  • Now, the U.S. is allowing the man who has no moral qualms about sending poor American kids to their deaths on the basis of a lie, the right to determine what an acceptable level of torture is. It's just stunning. I guess he is now, truly, the DECIDER.

And then there's that line about War Crimes. Of course they're protecting themselves against war crimes again, they've been doing that forever. The United States has fallen head over foot trying to evade international treaties regarding war crimes because they know they'll be the first ones to be nailed by such treaties. Heck, they haven't even fully ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. (And they've obviously never signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, although Canada hasn't signed this either).

Anyway - deep breath - cycling.
Today is Joe's Bike Friday and I hope it went really well for everybody. My toes were freezing on my ride this morning. Tanya over at Crazy Biker Chick has a GREAT "Open Letter to Motorists Who Dislike Cyclists" that I'd recommend you read. AND - Martino's Bike Lane Diary has this hilarious You Tube video from the Rainforest Action Network about the side effects of Petroleum.

I think I've made my decision about whether to stay in Toronto and commute to Oshawa all winter, or take a cheap place near work: I reallly really really want a cyclo-cross-commuting bike like the Specialized TriCross or the Bianchi Axis, so I'm going to stay in Toronto and save my pennies. This spring is NEW BIKE TIME!!!

And just because this is such a moving picture, here is an Annie Leibovitz photo from Sarajevo in 1994. A boy is riding his bike up ahead of the car Leibovitz was in, a mortar hits, and the bike is all that is left.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The World of Indecision

I really can't decide what to do this winter. My options are a) remain in Toronto and suck it up and do the two hour commute, by bike/public transit or public transit only, OR b) find a cheap place in Oshawa to crash in Monday to Friday and go back to the Toronto apartment with Anna on weekends.
They both have benefits. Staying solely in Toronto would save me some money, with which I could buy one of these bad boys in the spring (Specialized, Schwinn and Bianchi cross bikes, all of which take fenders):

But - staying solely in Toronto means a long winter of having basically no life. Even at the best of times right now, I get home at 6:30 and go to bed around 9:00, meaning that my daily gap of free time is 2 1/2 hours.

And finding a cheap place in Oshawa would cost me some dough, but I'd have free time, could do some writing, do some yoga and try to repair my body, and mornings wouldn't be such a terrible rush anymore.
Decisions Decisions!

In other news, please visit Joe's Biking Toronto blog and read about Toronto Councillor Case Ootes trying to take away bike lanes in the city. Even if you're from the states, or the Netherlands, or Korea, please write this guy and give him an earful!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Why Men Without Cars Are Sexy

Sometime next week I'm going to buy a monthly GO Train Pass for October. What this means is that I'm officially giving up the idea of doing the full morning ride to Oshawa as my means to get to work. Instead I'll be doing the bike to Danforth / Train to Whitby / bike to school version, which puts 45km on the bike for me for the whole day, so I'll still get some distance in.
I honestly don't know what I'll do this winter. I've been a winter commuter in Toronto, but doing this ride will be different, plus I'll have to figure out where to store a bike that's dripping slush and grime here at work.

Anyway.... there are SO MANY interesting stories popping up right now!!!!!
Remember how quickly and happily Pakistan signed on with Team America's fight against terrorism after 9/11? Ever wonder why? Because the Americans threatened that they'd bomb Pakistan back into the Stone Age if they didn't get on board. That's nice, eh?

I don't really know what to say about the Hugo Chavez attack on George Bush. It tickles me pink though that he used Chomsky's 2003 Hegemony and Survival to back up what he was saying. I also think it's hilarious that he's subsidizing energy for the American poor.

My other favourite story right now is California suing the Big Six Automakers for causing global warming. The suit will likely fail, and probably is something of a publicity stunt, but cool, what a perfect publicity stunt! North Americans really really need to realize that cars - their cars - are killing the planet. Let's drum up all the publicity on this point that we can!

And finally, How to Live Well Without Owning A Car by Chris Balish. This isn't anything we don't know - apparently Balish, who's a St. Louis TV Host, just wrote about how much cheaper life is without a car. And I bet that Katie Alford's 2000 Divorce Your Car is a far better book on this topic, but still, it's nice for another "Stop Driving" book to come out. The headline for the Maclean's Magazine review of Balish's book was "Why men without cars are sexy."

Of course we're sexy!

We wear these:

We have great legs:

(P.S. all these pictures were randomly gathered from the web - I've had nice roadrash before, but nothing like that. Plus, I never jumped on the "let's shave our legs" bandwagon. When I was somewhat fast, I was the "fast guy with hairy legs.")

We understand physics:

And though it may not always be pretty, we can get our asses up mountains!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bill Bryson and why Swedes should rule the world

I'm still feeling too burnt out to be creative, so I thought I'd just steal from my current book, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

Bryson writes about Thomas Midgley, Jr., the man who invented leaded gasoline around 1921. Leaded gasoline, while being wildly destructive to humans and the environment, really made engines run smoothly, so GM, Du Pont and Standard Oil invested heavily in it - the new fuel being released for public use in 1923.

"Almost at once production workers began to exhibit the staggered gait and confused faculties that mark the recently poisoned. Also almost at once, the Ethyl Corporation embarked on a policy of calm but unyielding denial that would serve it well for decades. As Sharon Bertsch McGrayne notes in her aborbing history of industrial chemistry, Prometheans in the Lab, when employees at one plant developed irreversible delusions, a spokesman blandly informed reporters: "These men probably went insane because they worked too hard." Altogether at least fifteen workers died in the early days of production of leaded gasoline, and untold numbers of others became ill, often violently so; the exact numbers are unknown because the company nearly always managed to hush up news of embarrassing leakages, spills, and poisonings. At times however, suppressing the news became impossible, most notably in 1924 when in a matter of days five production workers died and thirty-five more were turned into permanent staggering wrecks at a single ill-vented facility.

As rumors circulated about the dangers of the new product, ethyl's inventor, Thomas Midgley, decided to hold a demonstration for reporters to allay their concerns. As he chatted away about the company's commitment to safety, he poured tetraethyl lead over his hands, then held a beaker of it to his nose for sixty seconds, claiming all the while that he could repeat the procedure daily without harm. In fact, Midgley knew only too well the perils of lead poisoning: he had himself been made seriously ill from overexposure a few months earlier and now, except when reassuring journalists, never went near the stuff if he could help it."

It's just amazing - what big corporations will do to make a buck. This is like big tobacco saying that smoking doesn't cause cancer.

On the other side of the coin - a Toronto Star columnist named Christopher Hume seems to have spent some time in Sweden, because he's been writing interesting columns about how they're trying to save the earth:
This one is about the Swedes voting for fewer cars.
This is one is about the Swedish government basically forcing the country to shift towards biogas.

Have a great week everyone.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why I want a cross bike

So many things to write about and so little time!

Two of Lance Armstrong's former teammates have admitted
to doping
in 1999. One only made the admission anonymously, but the other is well-known Frankie Andreu, who has since been a commentator on OLN.
Good for them. I'm starting to think that the only solution to all the doping is for the anti-doping agencies to continue to nail people like Floyd and Tyler, to investigate Ullrich and Basso etc, and to just scare all the up and coming kids in the sport to death so that the incentive to dope just dies away.

The price of oil is the lowest it has been in ages. Hell, gas in Toronto was down around .75 recently! I know why this happens - I know that gas ping pongs from .75 to 1.10 mainly because of market panic and speculation, but holy cow, that is crazy.

AND - I was contemplating writing a post yesterday saying how I thought the great commute might be coming to an end. I never really planned to do this ride after the end of September, but even this month I've been too burnt out by work to do the full ride (it's even been a stretch to do the "bike to Danforth - train to Whitby - bike to UOIT" version), and so I was going to write and say that the bike was about to be hung up and I was going to become a full time public transit user.

I left the office around 6:05pm last night, waited in the rain with dozens of students for a Durham bus to show up half an hour late, took the bus down to the Pickering GO station, took the train into Danforth where I got picked up by my girlfriend in her car (yes, her car, sorry), and walked in the door at about 8:45 or so. That's about two hours and 40 minutes - almost two hours of which was just going from the university down to the Go station on Durham transit.

SO - I really don't think I can deal with Durham transit all winter. I need a full on cross bike with fender mounts so that I can get to and from the train station on my own all winter.

P.S. (this coming after having given my 8:00a.m. library literacy presentation).
I think I have a new secret weapon for doing presentation - not wearing socks.

It's been cold, WET and yucky here in southern Ontario the last couple days. I had to be at school to give an 8:00a.m. presentation today, and didn't want to do the full ride in the rain, which means I did the bike and GO Train version of the ride, on my Kona Hahanna mountain bike.
Not only am I alive, I just set new highs for library literacy presentations - did my 8:00a.m. without my socks on!

Train arrives in Whitby at 7:06a.m.
Tuco zooms (on the Kona) through Whitby/Oshawa arriving at UOIT at 7:46.
Tuco heads straight to the gym - showers etc and heads to the library, arriving at roughly 7:56.
Tuco changes again (my clothes change is a two part procedure, too complicated to go into right now) and doesn't have time for the socks, plus his feet are still wet, so he just sticks his feet into his shoes and goes to start setting up the classroom etc! : )

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rain on Friday Night

Before I begin, I really want to congratulate, and say "thank you," to Joe over at Biking Toronto. Besides running the most informative blog on Toronto cycling (basically, if there's any cycling event happening in Toronto, you go to Biking Toronto to get the news), Joe has also (as far as I know), single-handedly started Bike Fridays.
Previously Toronto had a once-a-year "Bike to Work" day during BikeWeek in the summer. Joe thought that should happen far more often, and has been organizing monthly Bike to Work days the last Friday of every month. The next one is Sept. 29, and for interested Torontonians, you can go to the above mentioned Bike Friday site and find a route that works for you.
Incidentally, it also appears that Joe is one of the forces behind Car Free Day. Sept. 22 is the next date for this awareness raising event regarding the various evils of automobile-centred transportation systems.

So, Thanks Joe!!

I haven't complained about the rain much since I started this blog. I did once in this post from July, and the rain was a bit of a factor in my Lyle Lovett post a few weeks ago, but all in all I've been pretty lucky with the weather. Truth be told though, on days that call for good amounts of rain I generally don't do the full ride. I do the version where I bike to the Danforth Go Train Station, take the train to Whitby, and bike to school from the Whitby Go Train Station - doing the reverse, as I always do, to get home in the evening.

On Friday night though I got caught in the heaviest rain I've ever cycled through. It was especially annoying because I stayed late at work trying to get some presentations done, and if I'd actually left on time I would have missed the rain, but such is life I guess.
From the university to the Whitby Go Station is about a 15km ride. The rain started at about the 6 or 7km mark, just as I was on Manning street, although thunder and lightning had already been rippling through the sky. Manning is a moderate little climb up to Thickson St, on the other side of which it turns into a 50km/hr descent. By the time I was going down this hill, the rain was hammering me so hard I felt like I was standing in the shower trying to keep my eyes open while staring straight at the showerhead. Add to this that effect of having sweat wash out of the pads in your helmet and into your eyes, and the usual problems of cycling in the rain (can no longer really see the surface of the road, especially the depth of pot holes and cracks in the cement), and I had quite a fun finish to my ride to Whitby.
And then, to top it all off, I sit drenched on the train for 40 minutes or so, get back to Toronto looking like a drowned cat, and in Toronto it hadn't rained a bit, and all the other cyclists I passed were wearing shorts and t-shirts, puttering around without a care in the world.

Oh well, I guess I have to get rained on once in a while.

And here's my last public service announcement for the weekend - interested Toronto cyclists should check out Dusk to Dark for news on an upcoming night ride around Toronto.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cycling's hidden moments

Before I begin, I should (sadly) admit that my blogging is about to take a nosedive. I work at a university, and September is hyper-drive nuts for me.

I've been meaning to do a post about all those little moments that cycling has that make you smile, that make you glad to be on your bike. I might start a few here, and add to this list as some more come to me.

I like the following:

When you're zooming downhill with more speed than you need, and you take a moment to reach out on the hoods, move your butt back, and do a biiigggggg cat stretch at 50km an hour.

Those times when your legs take over. When your legs sense a hill that needs to be attacked, or a swoop that needs to be taken fully advantage of, and without the thought actually crossing your mind, you're either up out of the saddle pounding into a hill, or dropping low and powering in a high gear into a dip in the road.

Times when you see a piece of glass, or a screwnail, or something tiny but vicious, and all of a sudden you've swerved a milimetre, gone past it, and you cycle on wondering "what muscle(s) did I just use to avoid that glass?" Because you really don't have a clue what part of your body just moved to alter your course for a nanosecond.

Being hyper-aware. Those times when a) you've got too much speed b) traffic is busy c) death from pedestrians and opening car doors is imminent.... BUT.... you feel totally in control of everything around you, you've "read" the scene and as you hurtle down a chute between moving and parked cars you feel like your senses have got a laser lock on everything around that could possibly kill you, and all those things are in their place, and you have your escape route between them.

A few things I don't like:

Wind Part 1 - when the wind has been just roaring in your ears for your whole ride and you almost wish you had brought earplugs so you could get that roar out of your head.

Wind Part 2 - gusty bad weather winds that just bash at you from all angles for hours and you find yourself feeling exhausted and demoralized just from the effort of keeping the bike on the road.

People's inability to keep glass in one piece. Sometimes I can understand shards of glass on the road, i.e. alongside a parking lane where, presumably, some dimwit has tried to parallel park but could only do so by repeatedly ramming the taillights of the car in front of him. But sometimes there are pools of broken glass in totally random places - what's wrong with you people? Where'd you get a 30 year old coke bottle, and how'd you break into a 100 pieces on a countryroad hill climb?

P.s. - this is really funny (at least the conversation with Batman at the end is):
How Superman Should Have Ended from YouTube.