Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Clint the vegan

So there's no doubt that I read too much and get myself worked up about things.
A while back I was reading books like Blue Gold about the looming world water crisis. That got me all annoyed about how Canadians are by far the world's worst wasters of water.

Then I moved on to peak oil and started anticipating the day that gas prices went up by a factor of 10 and all those cars were off the road so that I could ride my Cervelo willy nilly on the major expressways.
Then I did some reading on suburban sprawl and how all this farmland is paved over for striphousing. For years I've been reading things like A Short History of Progress and generally thinking that screwing up the planet is built into our DNA.

And now I'm on to factory farming because I've been reading The Way We Eat and will probably try to get my hands on Food Revolution next.
I've been a vegetarian for a few years and am now taking steps towards veganism largely because of what I've been reading about the factory farm industry. I've decided not to do a big rant on this topic, but try instead to piece together a fairly logical set of facts on the issue, kind of like I did about impeaching George Bush. This "set of facts" is still to come and might take me a while, but all in all the arguments for vegetarianism/veganism are pretty overwhelming.

On the animal rights issue alone though - there's something very wrong. In The Way We Eat Singer and Mason claim that 10 billion birds and mammals are slaughtered in U.S. factory farms every year. That number isn't actually footnoted, and it's hard to believe, so let's cut the number in half and say that it's 5 billion. You've got 5 billions animals who were deliberately excluded by agribusiness lobby groups from the Animal Welfare Act, and therefore can be treated in the worst (and most cost-effective for the businesses) ways possible.

Want a little more on this? Just to show that it isn't just liberals who are on this bandwagon, check the very conservative George Will's review in Newsweek of Matthew Scully's (and he's another republican) Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.
And if you want an Alec Baldwin narrated video on this, try this one from PETA.
It might actually take you several trys to get all the way through that video. Personally, I'm never giving my money to the meat industry again.

Thank God there are good groups out there, like a company called 2xist making Soy Bean Fiber Underwear, the folks at Planet Friendly and the Canadians for Kyoto people.

And of course, thank god for celebrities like Clint.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cela est bien dit, repondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin

At my book club last night, we got talking about Myers Brigg personality types. I thought I'd do an online test and see what my type was, and chose this site simply because it was the first one in my google search. God knows if this is at all close to a real Myers Brigg test.

So - the result is that I'm an ISTJ - with a HEAVY emphasis on the I and the J.
ISTJ stands for Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging

Here are some ideas about what I'm supposed to be like:

ISTJs are often called inspectors. They have a keen sense of right and wrong, especially in their area of interest and/or responsibility. They are noted for devotion to duty. Punctuality is a watchword of the ISTJ.

As do other Introverted Thinkers, ISTJs often give the initial impression of being aloof and perhaps somewhat cold. Effusive expression of emotional warmth is not something that ISTJs do without considerable energy loss.

ISTJs are most at home with "just the facts, Ma'am." They seem to perform at highest efficiency when employing a step-by-step approach. Once a new procedure has proven itself (i.e., has been shown "to work,") the ISTJ can be depended upon to carry it through, even at the expense of their own health.

ISTJs are easily frustrated by the inconsistencies of others, especially when the second parties don't keep their commitments. But they usually keep their feelings to themselves unless they are asked. And when asked, they don't mince words. Truth wins out over tact. The grim determination of the ISTJ vindicates itself in officiation of sports events, judiciary functions, or an other situation which requires making tough calls and sticking to them.

Eeyore is one of the most famous "fictional" ISTJs.

P.S. Subject Line = "That is well said," replied Candide, "but we must cultivate our garden."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Saint Peter don't you call me, cause I can't go

I forget how I came across Instructables but it's a pretty neat site. Basically it is loads of "do it yourself" projects for geeks who are good with their hands. If you do a search on bikes or bicycles you could even find this project, which allows you to put fancy light displays on your wheels.

Before I forget - have you signed this amazing petition yet? It is almost time to wrap it up. I'm going to wait until after the bike show is over and then send all the pages to Olivia Chow to present to Parliament.

I am soooo tempted to sign on with the "August September 2007 Cycle Across Russia, Mongolia and China" team (see previous post). It's not even all that expensive - their estimates are for around $2000.00, but hey, even if we double that and say $4000.00 that's not all that terrible for two months of your life.
One problem is that, due to Visas and getting people to do various pre-trip tasks, they would like firm commitments by early March.

I don't know if I can decide by early March, but mannnn, I'm tempted. I feel like I've been working for the man a lot recently, and escaping to do nearly 8000km of campfire biking strikes me as a great way to throw off the shackles.
August and September on the road, seeking the portals of the soft source [and] a completely physical realization of the origins of life-bliss. I'd probably get back in October and be unemployed until January.

Sometimes life is a nasty battle between carpe diem and "growing up."
Me no like. Me want both.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

Monday, February 19, 2007

somewhere i have never travelled gladly

My favourite epidemiologist in the whole world sent me an interesting email today. Some folks associated with the U of T Centre for the Environment are organizing a cycling trip through Russia, China and Mongolia in August/Sept 2007. (See below for a few more details).

Oh my God that's tempting. The contract I'm on runs out in September and in theory I could just leave early and head to Russia! Somewhere I have never travelled. I'm not all that convinced the tour would raise much awareness about the environment (I think sending emails and letters to your local politicians and annoying the hell out of them would be more effective), but then there's the whole "how much suffering can I take" aspect - what could be worse, and more personally satisfying, than cycling through the Gobi desert?

Picture from Wildcat Bike Tours in Scotland. These should be the Khangai mountains on the edge of the Gobi desert.

A group of enthusiastic individuals is looking for other potentially
interested individuals to join them on a cycling trip across Russia,
Mongolia and China during the months of August and September 2007
(partial trips are possible). The intent is to raise awareness about
environmental issues. This unique and challenging life-changing
adventure requires no special level of cycling and/or traveling
experience. All are welcomed to join, men and women, beginner or
experienced cyclists

Highlights found on the itinerary include the world's deepest lake
(Baikal in Russia), 3 world-renowned centers of culture (Moscow,
St-Petersburg and Beijing), the daunting Gobi desert and the vast open
territory of Mongolia (most sparsely populated country on earth), the
world's most populous country and one of its fastest growing economies
(China), riding beside the camels and the horses in Mongolia, and
amidst the millions of Chinese cyclists in Beijing.

Additional information available by contacting Damien A. Côté
(University of Toronto graduate student) at damien.cote [at] gmail.com.

And as a "p.s." I'm probably going to give my Kona Dew Deluxe to my younger brother. He lives in Peterborough and is getting motivated to join the ranks of urban warrior cyclists.
The good news with giving away a bike is that it means I have space for a NEW one, and once again I'm daydreaming about cyclocross bikes. Thank God the Toronto Bike Show is right around the corner.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gonna manifest my destiny

I don't have much new to report. I'm trying to wrap up the cycling petition but it's probably going to go slowly.

I thought I would report on a bunch of books and articles I've read recently. I read voraciously and sometimes think I should turn the old book club blog (which is never updated anymore) into my own reading list blog, but since I'm finding it hard to update "Tuco Rides" I doubt I'll get around to it.

The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason has been good so far. Basically they follow the food choices of three different American families and show how "ethically" that food got to their tables. Even the preface was interesting, when they discuss how impossible it is for reporters to get into hog/chicken/cattle farms because the meat farming industry knows that nothing good can come from Americans actually seeing how meat gets to their table.

WorldChanging is really pretty cool. Basically it's an encyclopedia covering a wide range of topics - from solar panels to democracy - and saying how these things will have to operate in order for us to survive in the 21st century.

Maclean's Magazine has an article right now called Life's Second Act. If you scroll down that page to the section called "Rider in the Storms" you can read about Lindsay Gauld. Lindsay is a 58 year old Winnipeger who sold his company (Olympia Cycle & Ski) and now works (kind of as a retirement gift to himself) as a bike courier. 135km a day - most months on a mountain bike. Holy crap. I feel like a wuss (sp?) taking February off from biking in Durham.

And the Toronto Star has an article today about an eco-friendly community being built in the Durham region just outside Toronto (where I work actually). It's referred to as the "Seaton development" and it has a long complicated history, but here are the interesting bits:
The Seaton development plan requires:

  • Every home to be within a five-minute walk of a transit stop

  • Extensive bicycle paths

  • Front porches and gardens, not garages, facing main streets

  • Houses powered by solar panels and geothermal energy, with metered appliances to encourage off-peak-hours energy use

I might have to stop referring to Durham as "Mordor" if this development really happens and becomes influential.

And lastly, I stumbled across Bicycles in Amsterdam - which is a photo web page put together by an American gentleman named Brian. According to the page, he just sat down at a corner cafe in Amsterdam and snapped pictures of cyclists for just over an hour - 82 bike pics in 73 minutes.

My God I wish we had a culture here in Canada where a woman with her kids on a bike like this was just a ho-hum every day occurence!!!!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

At night, the ice weasles come...

I'm not really a Valentine's Day kind of guy, and rather than a quotation from Neruda or e.e. cummings I'm going to give you this one from Matt Groenig: Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra which suddenly flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.

Still, I found some cute photos to post for the occasion, and I sincerely wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day.

I haven't been blogging much. If anyone is curious - my job has been nuts ever since Christmas, I'm starting to job hunt seriously again (this commute between Toronto and Oshawa is insane - no matter what way I do it), and in general life has been busy. I do see blue skies on the horizon though, so hopefully I'll get posting regularly again.

Plans are afoot to get the cycling petition wrapped up, which you can still sign here if you're so inclined. It's up over 3000 signatures now.
The best article on the petition so far just appeared in Momentum Planet out of British Columbia, and I'd like to thank them for taking an interest in it.

Of local cycling news here in Toronto, there is a meeting at U of T on Wednesday night at 7:00 pm where cyclists will be asked to chime in on how Lake Ontario Park can be made a cyclist-friendly area.
Full details are on the Cycling Cog

And I just read an article in Newsweek about how George Bush associates his presidency with that of Harry Truman, who he's been reading about recently.
Apparently Bush reads quite widely, so kudos to him for that. The Newsweek article does however point out a few flaws with Bush's self-comparison to Truman, and wonders how much Bush actually understands about what he reads.

However, I found this part quite funny:
Bush's grasp of history may have been a little shaky, but there is no doubting the force of his conviction. Bush wants his legacy to be the long-term defeat of Islamic extremism. Indeed, senior officials close to Bush who did not wish to be identified discussing private conversations with the president tell NEWSWEEK that Bush's plan after he leaves the White House is to continue to promote the spread of democracy in the Middle East by inviting world leaders to his own policy institute, to be built alongside his presidential library.

So George the Shrub is going to open a policy institute. That's rich. And the centrepiece policy is the spreading of democracy in the middle-east.

George, take it from me, you've done enough harm in the middle-east while IN office. Please don't mess things up anymore while OUT of office. Go biking with Lance. Fishing with your Dad and your brother. Buy another baseball team and run another oil company into bankruptcy. That's your destiny. Not foreign policy.