Sunday, April 19, 2009

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.

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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!)

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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).

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

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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. The new one is a Canon PowerShot S5 IS which I snapped up when Future Shop here in Canada sold a bunch off at a pretty cheap price. The new camera isn't amazing or anything, but it is all that we need, and it's a massive jump in quality from our old one - this one is 8 megapixels with a 12x optical zoom.

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The guy in this photo? He's also in the one above.... way way way off in the distance in the above photo. New cameras with powerful zoom capabilities are great!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

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 really care about the big OLCV vs TCT debate that this bike stirs up in people. For the uninitiated, Trek was famous for making high-end carbon bikes IN AMERICA, when so many other companies were having their manufacturing done in Asia. The Trek TCT 5000, which is what I have, was Trek's attempt to sell bikes to people who wanted carbon but weren't willing to pay full price for it. However - and this is the problem - it meant having the bikes made more cheaply in Asia.

Yeah, that's a shame. But from my perspective, I got a carbon frame and an Ultegra / 105 mix (now an Ultegra, Dura-Ace, 105 mix) for the price that heavier aluminum bikes with a Tiagra / Sora mix sell at. I'm happy enough - plus, I have a mortgage to pay.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

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 made, we conserve energy and natural resources, contribute less to climate change, spend less of our time idling in traffic jams on yucky highways, and on it goes...

Here's a (lengthy) excerpt from Bill McKibben's book - and what's the moral of the story? The human species should spend more time at the beach - and we should let the economy chill out. Maybe the financial crisis is actually realigning things in this direction anyway.

Bonus points if you can connect the dots between 1969 and the Joplin photo and the picture of the earth taken from the moon.

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The results of all this work, given what we now know about the deeper economy, are predictable. The more hours you work, the less satisfied you become with your life, even though you make more money. The amount of time that parents spend with their children has steadily decreased, a trend “reliably linked to lower levels of average happiness and life satisfaction” for kids, says Layard. Indeed, children in affluent suburbs are more likely to be depressed even than those living in inner-city poverty.

The more hours you work, the bigger your ecological footprint, too. That's because you're spending more money and spending it carelessly: with no time to go to the farmer's market, let alone cook what you buy there, you drive through the drive-through instead. The numbers are substantial: an American working twenty to forty hours a week requires about twenty-three acres of the earth to support him, someone working more than forty hours requires nearly twenty-eight acres.

Now try the following thought experiment, which Schor suggests. Between 1969 and 2000, she reports, overall labor productivity increased about 80 percent, so that the average worker in 2000 could produce nearly twice as much per hour as the average worker in 1969. “Had we used that productivity dividend to reduce hours of work,” Schor points out, “the average American could be working only a little more than twenty hours a week.” The math isn't that linear of course, but it gives some sense of scale.

And there are those of us yet alive who can actually remember the year 1969 and so can testify that it was not a dark era of unrelieved poverty. True, we drove smaller cars and lived in smaller houses and ate out less. On the other hand, we ate together more. And we were working forty-hour weeks then. If those hours had been substantially reduced, there would now be more time for almost everything, from talking to your spouse, to sleeping in, to volunteering at the local hospital. You could grow more of your own food and have time to cook it. You would have less money, but also less need for child care, for work clothes, for the expense of commuting.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

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).
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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.
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The forecast was for 15 to 25cm of snow yesterday. We got the 15 easily, though I don't think we got more than 20cm. My wife and I had to shovel the driveway last night, and I had to do it again this morning. Man - I hope we're getting close to the end of this craziness - I'm starting to get cycling fever.