Showing posts from 2009

We have a peak oil date...

When I first started this blog, I had recently seen The End of Suburbia, and I was commuting daily on a bike through Canada's auto-manufacturing heartland, and when you add these plus some other things together, you end up with a guy who couldn't help but blog endlessly about peak oil. Some of these old posts can be found here and here and here and here.

Oh yeah, and if you haven't heard the phrase "peak oil" before, try this site for some background.

So I was blogging and blogging about peak oil and except for that blip when oil prices rose for stock market reasons (as opposed to resource depletion reasons), nothing really happened. In fact... for a while now I've been wondering if advances in technology (hybrid engines for example), the recession lowering demand for oil, and general environmental awareness, would succeed in pushing back the peak oil date for many decades.

But now, in the Dec. 12-18 issue of Economist, Fatih Birol (…

Norco Monterey SL

My wife hosted a charity garage sale at our house last weekend. That sounds innocent enough, but I discovered that hosting a garage sale means that everybody and their uncle comes by your house with crap they no longer want and you end up with your backyard and garage full of knickknacks and trinkets to try and assign prices to.

The good news is that three bikes were donated, and at the end of the day - for $20.00 - one remained with me. I now own a Norco Monterey SL. I can't really find a date for it, but it seems like it was probably made in the 1980s. If anyone can give a good date estimate for this bike, I'd be curious to hear it.

When I first spotted the bike in our garage, my first thought was "should be a singlespeed". Now that I own it and have ridden it to work twice, I've realized that the gears actually work perfectly, so I think I'll leave them alone. The wheels are also pretty good, and the bottom bracket seems pretty smooth, so all in all it is a …

Looping around Tudhope Park

It starts snowing in Orillia in early November. Heavy wet snow that is designed to break your back when you are shovelling every single morning.

I'll probably look back on this ride pretty fondly in a few months.

P.S. - the cuss word near the end wasn't uttered by me - it was the annoyed cyclist coming towards me.

The places your Jamis will go

I was recently told about a trail that runs from the end of Carlyon Line (which is north of Orillia) up to the Trent Severn waterway. Thinking it'd be fun to explore, I took a ride up it this morning with my Jamis Nova cross bike.

For any Orillia area cyclists who think they might want to try this, the above map shows where you're going. It was fine on a cross bike, but it'd be better on a mountain bike. It's about 20 km one way to the Trent-Severn waterway (from the end of Carlyon Line).

And before I get to the photos, here's a short video taken on the trail:

From the beginning to the end of the ride, here are some photos from the day's ride (if you click on the photos, you'll be taken to enlarged versions over on Flickr):

A river wandering through farmland on my journey north out of town.

Looking south and taking a picture of Carlyon Line.

Marsh about halfway up the trail to the waterway.

Liftlock on the Trent Severn - also the end of my trip. This is looking w…

Orillia Bike Rally 2.0

Orillia's Trails for Life Committee organized its second Bike to Work Day and Bicycle Rally yesterday.

The turnout was smaller this year. I think there was a lot of excitement last year because it was the first one, and the local cycling community was so surprised that some cycling activism was happening, that they made sure to come out and support the cause. This year it seemed a bit harder to recreate that enthusiasm. Next year we'll have to get Bruce Springsteen to show up or something.

The point of all this is to try and get some momentum building in town which will lead to improved active transportation infrastructure. The cycling community in Orillia has rarely ever been political before. I always remember a story about Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg, and his advice to cycling activists: Basically he said that cyclists need to make life hell for municipal politicians until they get what they want. In Winnipeg it must have worked - in 2005 they had $300 000 budge…

What I drew from the water by the pond-side

So yesterday was road bikes and Oakley sunglasses, and today was single-speed commuter bikes and a camera dangling around my neck.

You can click on these photos to jump over to Flickr and try to see enlarged versions.

These shots were all taken on Orillia's Millenium Trail, which runs mostly north-south along the western shore of Lake Couchiching. It's a great great trail for easy recreational riding, but if you're a commuter who wants to get to and from work/shopping etc, it is completely useless, and there aren't any other bike trails to help you commute through this city (but we're working on it!)

This is the old workhorse - a Kona Hahanna (circa 2001) which is now a single-speed with Mavic wheels (though two different models of their wheels).

I took several shots of trees drinking from the lake, this is the one I liked most.

I bought a new camera recently because our previous one broke. The old one really was old, and had only 2 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom. Th…

First road ride of the year

A post or two ago I mentioned the big snowfall we got in Orillia about two weeks ago. The weather then turned nice, but I didn't get out for a real ride until this morning when the local bike shop had their first large group ride of the season.

Almost as soon as we took off, I thought "yeah, I've missed this." Group road rides are so much fun - the sound of shoes clipping into pedals, Car Back!, trying not to look like you're trying to beat everyone up a hill, but not being able to resist and going ahead and trying to beat everyone up a hill - so awesome.

I rode the Trek 5000 that I picked up last summer for around $1200.00 Canadian, and maybe everything is going to be okay with this bike. I've never really been a Trek fan, and I don't love this bike, but it's fine and it works for me, plus I doubt I'll ever do the road mileage that I did a few years ago again, so there isn't much pressure to upgrade.

Not being a Trek purist I also don't real…

party like it's 1969

Something I just read in Bill McKibben's Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future got me thinking about a post I did nearly three years ago (wow! have I really been doing this blog that long?).

The old post was called Working Less = Living More. In that post I was basically agreeing with the British Columbia Work Less Party that the human species works too hard to produce goods that last a year and then end up in landfills. In the process... in the hurly-burly day to day grind which allows us to keep our jobs, we sacrifice things like family time, exercise, and healthy eating. At the same time, we force the planet to cough up its natural resources to make these products (and then, when they've become garbage, make the planet hide the mess for us).

What's the answer? A four day work week! Think about it... we work less and have more quality time for ourselves... meanwhile we have less money to buy non-essential extras, therefore fewer of these things get…

snowstorm - before & after

Spring seemed to be coming. Saturday up here in central Ontario was a bit rough, but Sunday was gorgeous and my wife was cleaning up the yard and starting to develop gardening plans.

We had the cats out in the backyard and I took some photographs... unfortunately none that show the backyard in full. This one will at least give you an idea of how all the snow was starting to leave.

(P.S. if you click on the pictures you'll be taken over to Flickr, where you can see larger versions).

And - yes - my cat is on a leash. We're kind of geeky about our cats, and we're hesitant to let them wander all over town... but at the same time feel bad keeping them inside all the time. So, since we have quite a long backyard with a clothesline that runs the whole way down the yard, we tie the boys to the clothesline with a leash, and let them play back there.

Anyway - on Monday the snow came, and this is what the backyard looked like this morning.

The forecast was for 15 to 25cm of snow yesterday…

Who needs a bait shop?

I grew up in a small town in central Ontario, but we never had live bait vending machines in my hometown. I guess this kind of thing is what makes Orillia special.

I remember being surprised when I was an ESL teacher in Japan that they had these beer vending machines all over the place. As far as I could tell, there was nothing that would prevent a five year old with some coins from getting a beer out of one of these things.

The other good vending machine in Japan were these ones that sold coffee in cans. In summer the unit was set to "cool" so the coffee came out cold, and in the winter the unit was set to "warm" so they came out warm. They were great.

Orillia millennium trail

In Orillia we have the Millenium Trail which runs for about 10km along the shore of Lake Couchiching.

One annoying quirk of the trail is that right about where the 3 is in the above map, the trail is dissected by a boat launch. In the photo below, which is looking west to east towards the lake, the launch is just out of sight behind the clump of trees on the right, and behind the little monkeybars / playarea that you can kind of see behind the trees.

The photo below shows.. on the right side... Centennial Drive, which is the road that runs north/south along part of the lake... currently the Millennium Trail is further to the right of Centennial Drive, along the lake. There is now a proposal to move the bike trail in this area away from the lake and put it (i.e with a marked bike lane) right on Centennial Drive... getting cyclists away from the boat launch.

What you're also seeing in the picture above - the wide dirt strip in the center/left - is the railbed for the trainlines that us…

declare the pennies on your eyes

The provincial Ontario government just released the provincial budget for the coming fiscal year. The main change is the inroduction of a harmonized gas tax. Previously we'd been paying two separate taxes - an 8% provincial tax, and a 5% federal tax. Now, they're lumping them together and we'll be paying a 13% harmonized tax.

Image above is from Marc Engblom's Comic Coverage blog. The post covers an issue of Superman where the Taxman tries to get Supes to pay billions of dollars in backtaxes.

So the harmonized tax sounds simple - but there is a catch (which I like). The provincial tax was primarily on goods not services, and so many things were exempt from the 8% PST. Now they won't be. Apparently this includes gasoline, which I don't really understand, because my understanding was that the provincial government collected tax on gas, and then gave a cut of it to municipalities in order to supplement public transit funding.

In the Globe and Mail, New Democrat Leade…

the republic of active transportation

Me Likey!!!

So many bikes, so little time. I have no business owning another bicycle, but these Republic Bikes out of Florida look awesome - especially after a long snowy winter in central Ontario.

Although a small-town newspaper story about a city council meeting isn't usually the most interesting news in the world, it is this time.

City Staff are urging Council to officially hire a consultant to devise and write an Active Transportation Plan for the City of Orillia.

From the article:

Recognizing a provincial shift toward encouraging and creating active transportation in municipalities and following up on a deputation from Orillia's Trails for Life Committee, city staff are recommending council look at creating an Active Transportation Plan.

The recommendation that council committee will discuss tonight is for staff to prepare a capital budget request for the 2010 budget process to hire a consultant to develop a standalone active transportation plan for the city.

Active transportati…

Battlestar is over

Battlestar Galactica is all done.

In an article called The Way We Were - Newsweek magazine called it the best TV show to represent arts and culture over the last 8 years.

Battlestar Galactica
By Joshua Alston

An orchestrated terrorist attack. An inexorable march to war. An enemy capable of disappearing among its targets, armed with an indifference to its own mortality. It sounds like a PBS special on Al Qaeda. In fact, it's a synopsis of the Sci Fi Channel series "Battlestar Galactica," which—for anyone who manages to get past the goofy name—captures better than any other TV drama of the past eight years the fear, uncertainty and moral ambiguity of the post-9/11 world. Yes, even better than "24," with its neocon fantasies of terrorists who get chatty if Jack Bauer pokes the right pressure point. Of the two shows, "Battlestar" has been more honest about the psychological toll of the war on terror. It confronts the thorny issues that crop up in a…

Black sheep of the family

At the bottom of the post below, I more or less promised to shoot a series of videos about converting your bike to a single speed. I really wasn't happy about the quality of video I was putting up though (shot in hi-definition, I was converting the file a million times to get it uploaded onto youtube). I was also getting impatient and wanted to finish the job, so the series has had to be postponed.

You can click on any of these photos to go over to Flickr and see bigger images. It's amazing how much cleaner bikes look when you take more and more parts off them.

The drivetrain (44 x 16) involved a new bottom bracket, cranks that I got off a friend in a trade, spacers, cog and chain tensioner from a nashbar single speed kit, a chainring from the local bike shop, and single speed chainring bolts. I also put on new brakes, and if you look closely you'll notice a wheelset (mavic rim with deore hubs) that is probably worth more than this whole bike was when it was bought. You real…

Hear my motor purr

Every once in a while my thinking comes back to taxes on gasoline.

North America has the lowest gasoline tax rates in the world - and the historically cheap price of gas here is why we also have sprawlurbia and mostly ignored public transit systems. Everyone knows that North American reliance on the automobile has caused a litany of different problems, including killer air pollution. So why do we not raise the tax on gasoline?

Ironically, the Americans (even Republicans) are talking about this more and more often. Meanwhile, here in Canada, there is no discussion of this at all. In fact, when oil and gas prices were high this past summer, a southern Ontario group was getting tons of TV coverage by lobbying for a reduction in the gas tax ("Mr Prime Minister, please help the poor struggling families" kind of thing).

My thought is that the gasoline tax should be raised - gradually but steadily, with nearly all of the money going straight into public transit.

By doing this, you wean…

Bush and his legacy

If you go to google news and type in something like george bush (legacy OR "place in history") you'll find tons of articles that are trying to assess how Bush will go down in history.

The anti-Bush writers point to Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, torture, Guantanamo Bay, wire-tapping and the Patriot Act etc as the best examples of Bush's failures.

The pro-Bush writers don't have much to commend him for - but the key one is that after the 2001 New York attack, Bush the Strongman didn't allow any other terrorist attacks to happen on American soil.

Apparently trying to fix his environmental legacy a little bit, Bush has also done something that actually is tremendously valuable and important - he created several massive marine protection zones which can be thought of as oceanic equivalents of National parks where marine eco-systems will be protected.

If you haven't read about the catastrophic state of the oceans by the way, check a special report by the Economist magaz…