30 May 2006



I had the best intentions to head to the Midweek Mayhem Crits tonight at the Uni, but instead I came home after work and had a nap. Joe came home with Vietnamese and we're supposed to be heading to the Ship momentarily to meet Tony for some beers. I feel so angry with myself when I skip out on a training/workout opportunity. However I'm feeling pretty burned out these days. Ever since Bikes on Broadway I've been feeling very unmotivated to get on the bike. I'm not sure why. Four race weekends back to back never did this to me before, but this year might be an exception. It's been a difficult off-season and it's been especially hard to stay focused when everyone is peaking right now and kicking your ass. I hope Pigeon Lake will kick my ass back on track. I typically do very well at Pigeon Lake, so here's hoping the same will happen this year.

We're scurrying to get things lined up for the Prairie Steamer on the 17th. So much yet to do. Natasha is still settling things with the RM of Rockyview to get permits for the road race. I think I'm going to be running around collecting prizes and food this Saturday. We're fortunate that we're only hosting a one-day event this year as opposed to the Stage Race of years past. Sigh. The thankless job of a volunteer.

I'm looking forward to a night out with friends at Jon and Sara's Bonintrogagement Party on Friday. It should be a hoot.

29 May 2006


What a shitty day at work. I can't believe how much bureaucracy has been thrown up since the re-org and outsourcing of infrastructure to IBM and EDS. It seems to take three times as long, requiring five times as many approvals to get anything done anymore. I'm getting quite tired of it, frankly. I've heard rumours that the IS VP is thinking about bringing some of that work back into the company since the cost charges IBM and EDS are going through the roof. To top off all of that, the re-org left us with a lot of holes in the support system at work. There are applications that are still now being discovered that no longer have a service owner or support team looking after them anymore. And everyday we're finding that more and more business owners are trying to dump their stuff on our team, one of the few verifiable web application support teams left in the company. Yet they won't hire any more people for the team and we're expected to do even more with less. It's all a bunch of bullshit and I've just about had it.

Rant complete.


Cute and disturbing...

Produced by Three Legged Legs

Monday is wrong

Pollution may be dark side of globalization

Rich nations aren't used to the dark side of globalization. For them, the phenomenon tends to reduce costs, boosting corporate profits, securities markets and living standards. Recently, wealthy economies have gotten a taste of globalization's other side. High-paying jobs are migrating to cheaper locales, while demand from developing nations is driving up commodity prices. Nowadays, the Group of Seven nations have little control over global trends. Things may be about to get worse, and Chinese pollution could be a catalyst, putting more upward pressure on prices than many investors anticipate. "China has kept the global cost of production artificially low by not paying for pollution and labour benefits," said Andy Xie, Hong Kong-based chief economist at Morgan Stanley. "It's often thought that cheap labour is what draws executives to China. Yet, Xie argued, the mainland's "lax environmental rules and their enforcement are not well understood and may have become more important than labour costs in attracting production relocation in the past three years." Since the early 2000s, multinational companies have contributed to China's pollution to the detriment of its long-term outlook. Xie points out that China's pollution is 12 times the world average per unit of gross domestic product. "The thing is, it's just not possible for developing countries like China and India to pollute the way the West did when its economies rose," said William Barron, an environmental economist and a visiting scholar at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "As politically incorrect as that sounds, I'm not sure our planet could handle it."

China is waking up to the need to normalize pollution costs. On May 15, the South China Morning Post reported that about 2,000 Hong Kong-owned factories operating in Southern China's Pearl River Delta face closure or relocation because of pollution or the environmental hazards they pose. The paper also said about 300 manufacturers of dangerous goods were notified earlier this year their operating licences would be renewed on a monthly basis until they agree to move to designated areas. Part of China's push to promote sustainable development and cleaner production, the move -- and others likely to follow -- would be a major step toward accounting for production costs. If China's factories followed the environmental standards of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, producing goods would be far more expensive. At the same time, China's efforts to spread the benefits of 10% growth could result in higher wages nationally, increasing mainland export costs substantially. (National Post 060529)

Are we in, or out?

Canada's ambiguous stance over the Kyoto protocol is creating a climate of uncertainty for corporations looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, say business leaders. "As a business we are always looking for greater certainty so we can plan ahead," said Gordon Lambert, vp of sustainable development for Suncor Energy. "At the moment we are trying to focus on what we have control over, and that's our own actions." While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not declared whether his government will withdraw from the international treaty, there is strong speculation he may do so, or water down the restrictions. Federal environment minister Rona Ambrose has said the government cannot meet the targets of the Kyoto accord. Last week the government signaled the possibility of renegotiating the accord to make targets voluntary. "This is something very much on our radar screen," said Florence Murphy, spokesperson for Encana. "Not being able to predict the total impact of regulations going forward is an issue." "Some of these companies have spent years negotiating agreements to get it in some palatable form," said Steve Young, head of greenhousegasmeasurement.com. "They've invested heavily and it just makes sense to know your risk and manage it rather than have uncertainty." Suncor, which has been a leader in sustainable development for energy companies, is actively pursuing a multi-pronged energy strategy that includes looking at renewable sources of energy such as windmills and fuels such as ethanol, while investing heavily in new technology, said Lambert.
(Toronto Star 060529)

Oil could exceed US$105, expert says

A Goldman Sachs Group projection that oil prices could top US$100 a barrel in the event of a major supply disruption could be conservative in the current tight market, says a senior executive with the US investment bank. Other energy experts told a weekend energy forum in Kuwait that global oil market fundamentals point to generally higher energy prices as demand growth outstrips new supply. “We thought that maybe somewhere within $50 to $70 [a barrel] we might get the economic damage and that it would take a major, not a minor, disruption to get to the $105 number,” said Arjun Murti, managing director at Goldman Sachs. “If we truly did have a major outage in a major exporting country, then $105 will prove conservative,” Murti added at the National Bank of Kuwait energy forum. Katherine Spector, head of energy research for JP Morgan Securities, said market fundamentals point to petroleum prices reverting to a higher mean in coming years. “The world is running out of easy barrels of crude production,” she said, adding that marginal costs of production are rising. Both Spector and Murti said one factor that the oil markets will remain focused on for the rest of this year would be the US hurricane season after Katrina caused big disruptions last year to refining capacity on the US Gulf Coast.
(Globe and Mail 060529)

Festival Pics

Despite the cool weather, the turnout for the Lilac Festival was huge! Big crowds flowed along 4th St. from 12th Ave all the way to 25th Ave./Elbow Drive. We didn't really find any spectacular vendors along the way, but the bands in the beer gardens were good, the Wildwood Springbok was better and meeting up with friends was the best!

View from 22nd Ave south

View from 15 Ave north

We unexpectedly ran into my old friend Tony at the Wildwood Beer Gardens. I've known Tony since 1990 or so. We run into each other occasionally these days and we've made plans to do something on Tuesday night.

Tony and Reid in the beer tent

We also met up with BK and Patrick, Nick, Doug, and later on, Jerome and Bruce.

Beer gardens

I ended up going to the Shorts presentation at the Fairy Tales Film Festival with Jerome and Bruce on Sunday night. They were debuting Angus Oblong's new short, "Deliriously Jen". It was hilarious. It was good to hook up with the guys for a few brews beforehand at the King Henry, and I'm going to stop by Quab on Thursday for the Opening night of the Pride Showcase. Apparently they're utilizing the entire gallery for gay artists and content, and some of it is pretty racy!

Jerome @ the Uptown

28 May 2006


It's the Lilac Festival today - and can you believe it? The sun is trying to shine! Must be a sign from Gob. It rained all day yesterday and it was expected to be the same today, but maybe things are changing.

It was nice not to race this weekend. I've had four race weekends back-to-back (with all the team organizing thrown in for fun), so it was nice just to be a lazy slob yesterday. I went for a run and brunch with the Frontrunners in the morning, and then napped and slugged around the house for the rest of the day. Joe and I went to see 'X-Men 3' last night, and came home after. We could've hooked up with the gang at Tara's birthday, but figured we'd see everyone today anyways. Definitely a quiet Saturday.

Today we're planning on traipsing around the festival and beer gardens, and then meeting up with Jerome and Bruce for the shorts programs at the Fairy Tales Film Festival. Angus Oblong, who has had a show at Quab recently is debuting a short at the festival tonight. Should make for an interesting day!

Next Thursday is also the Opening Night at Quab for their Pride Showcase.

Saskatoon pics

The Bicisport/Synergy/H&R Block gang at Chianti's

Cacophony after the Mens 1/2 Crit

Top 3, Mens 1/2 GC: Jamie Sparling, Bruce Copeland, Devon Smibert

25 May 2006

How to fix voter's bloc

Americans turn out to vote in dismally low numbers but a political activist in Arizona has come up with a plan to correct this by submitting plans for a one million dollar lottery prize to be awarded to a lucky voter after each state election. Now that's the way to revive democratic participation.

Hypothetical voter interview:
Who did you vote for?
Um, first one on the list, I think.
Which party do you support?
Party? I didn't know there would be a party.
What issue concerns you the most?
I'm missing American Idol to be here.
What do you think of the incumbent's platform?
He should stay on the ground like the rest of us.
What should the state do with the tax suplus?
Um, well, I usually keep extra tacks in baby food jars.
Who do you hope wins this election?
Me, of course!
Thank you for your participation.

Ironically, this bill is going to be decided in this year's state ballot. Let's hope someone shows up to vote on it.

Hilarious! Thanks Sin Nickel.


I just got back to the office from the Alyth Diesel Shop where they do all the repairs and maintenance on company locomotives. What an interesting tour! We actually got to ride in a locomotive moving tracks in the yard. Pretty cool.

I've officially purchased all of the flights required for the rest of our 2006 vacations. I bought the flight for Joe and I to the East Coast last week with Aeroplan miles. We fly to Moncton, NB on September 6, and return from Halifax on September 17.

Air Canada started another seat sale on Tuesday, so I booked our flights to Montreal and saved almost $200 from the previous week (the stupid flights are still $600 a piece though). We fly into Montreal on July 29 and return to Calgary on August 7. I'm so excited about both trips! It will be so much fun!

24 May 2006

Grasping at Straws

GM incentive: A gas price cap

General Motors on Tuesday announced a promotion that caps gas at US$1.99 a gallon for one year for buyers of certain full-size sport-utility vehicles and midsize cars in California and Florida. Consumers will receive a monthly credit to a pre-paid fuel card for the difference between $1.99 and the average price of premium gas in their state. The amount they receive will be based on the number of miles they drive, as recorded in the OnStar communications system in all vehicles, and the EPA city fuel-economy estimate for their vehicle. "Consumers are uncertain about gas prices, and this gives them some certainty about what they're going to pay," said GM's market analyst, Paul Ballew. Dan Becker, director of global warming and energy programs for the Sierra Club, blasted GM's promotion for supporting America's reliance on foreign oil. The gas promotion is the latest example of how GM is shifting from national rebates and interest-rate offers to regional, targeted incentives. On May 2, GM offered buyers in the Chicago, Rockford and Minneapolis-St. Paul areas $1,000 of free fuel on vehicles that burn E85, a blend of gasoline and ethanol. Ford and Chrysler have not matched the E85 offer. Both indicated Tuesday they would not respond to GM's latest promotion either. "Our feeling is that customers can see through gimmicky things like that," Chrysler spokesman Kevin McCormick said. Chrysler is offering zero-percent financing for 60 months on several models, and McCormick said that was "a clean, clear message they can understand."
(Chicago Tribune 060524)

These soul-sucking devils are about as respectable as the cigarette manufacturers. Anything to sell product, common good be damned! Ah -- capitalism at its finest.

Ford to pay its highest-ever bond yields

If you want to know what American investors think of Ford, take a look at the Ford Motor Credit 9.75% notes due in 2010: The world's third-largest auto maker is so enfeebled that it will wind up paying the highest interest rate - and accept the lowest price - on any Ford bond sold in the US in the last century. Ford, which invented assembly-line manufacturing in 1913, is offering investors US$2.5-billion of bonds coming due in 2010 and 2011 that pay annual interest of as much as 10.6%, plus $1.3B in cash, in exchange for bonds that start maturing in October and have coupons as low as 4.95%. Companies that Standard & Poor's says are near default get lower rates, Merrill Lynch index figures show. “You wouldn't have imagined that Ford would ever have to pay more than 10%,” said Thomas Flaherty, who will swap some Ford Credit bonds in the $25B of fixed-income assets he handles at Aberdeen Asset Management. Ford is at the mercy of bondholders, who are due $57B over the next five years, after a drop in its share of the US car market and the costs of firing workers and closing plants led to the biggest quarterly loss since 2001. By exchanging bonds, Ford can hold on to some of its $21.2B in cash while designing new cars to win sales from Japanese rivals Toyota and Nissan. “This is a very expensive way to do it,” Flaherty said earlier this month. The bond exchange will increase Ford's interest costs by about $90-million a year. Ford lost its investment-grade credit rating a year ago and now has $121B of junk-rated debt. Eight years of sliding market share, combined with mounting health-care costs and retirement payments, caused S&P to cut the ratings on Ford and Ford Credit to double-B minus, while Moody's Investors Service reduced its ranking on Ford to Ba3 and on Ford Credit to Ba2. The ratings reflect “concerns about Ford's ability to turn around the performance of its North American automotive operations - a process that will require, at best, a number of years,” S&P analyst Robert Schulz said in a May 1 report.
(Globe and Mail 060524)

Scary. Who would've thunk Ford would ever be scrambling to secure more funding?

Eek 3! More bird flu! This time it's communicable...

Human-to-human bird flu transmission possible in Indonesia, WHO says
10:40:57 EDT May 24, 2006

GENEVA (AP) - A family of eight people infected with bird flu in Indonesia may have passed the disease among themselves rather than individually catching it from poultry, but the World Health Organization is leaving its pandemic alert level unchanged, the agency said Wednesday.

"All confirmed cases in the cluster can be directly linked to close and prolonged exposure to a patient during a phase of severe illness," said a WHO statement. "Although human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out, the search for a possible alternative source of exposure is continuing."

The agency's alert level remained Wednesday at 3, where it has been for months. That means there is "no or very limited human-to-human transmission."

WHO spokeswoman Maria Cheng said it was unlikely the agency would raise the alert level in the immediate future.

"We haven't seen evidence from Indonesia that the disease is passing easily from human to human," Cheng told The Associated Press.

She said WHO had considered convening a meeting of experts to debate whether to raise the alert level, but had decided that the current situation did not merit that step.

"We had discussed that," she said. "But that is not going to happen."

The agency has suspected that in rare cases bird flu may have passed from one person to another, but it usually has been caught by people from chickens and other poultry.

WHO said that testing indicated there had been no significant mutations in the virus. Experts have feared that a mutation of the virus into a strain that could easily pass among humans could set off a deadly flu pandemic.

According to the WHO, 218 people have been confirmed to have been infected with bird flu since 2003, and 124 of them have died.

The agency said the Indonesian Health Ministry had confirmed a man who died May 22 had been infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

He was the seventh member of an extended family confirmed to have become infected. An eighth person in the family, who died of similar symptoms May 4, was buried before tissue samples could be taken, so the cause of death could not be determined, but she is assumed to be part of the cluster, WHO said.

The family lives in the Kubu Sembelang village, Karo District, of North Sumatra.

"The newly confirmed case is a brother of the initial case," WHO said. "Specimens were taken on 21 May and flown the same day to Jakarta. Tests run overnight confirmed his infection. His 10-year-old son died of H5N1 infection on 13 May. The father was closely involved in caring for his son, and this contact is considered a possible source of infection."

It said the investigation is continuing, but that preliminary findings indicate that three of the confirmed cases spent the night of April 29 in a small room with the first woman infected and that she was coughing frequently.

That group included the woman's two sons and a second brother, who is the sole surviving case among infected members of this family, WHO said. Other infected family members lived in adjacent homes.

So far health workers have found no sign that the case has moved outside the family and there is also "no evidence that efficient human-to-human transmission has occurred."

Laboratory testing has completed full genetic sequencing of two viruses isolated from cases in this cluster. That has found "no evidence of genetic reassortment with human or pig influenza viruses and no evidence of significant mutations," WHO said.

Such a change could have been dangerous, because it might combine the bird flu virus with a strain that would make it easily pass among humans.

Person-to-person, eh? Our only hope it that it loses virulence in its transition...I could use a few days off of work anyways.

Help Me! I'm Melting! (Part Two)

Scientists note stunning loss of Arctic ice, snow
Last Updated Fri, 19 May 2006 13:36:09 EDT
CBC News
Climatologists studying satellite weather maps say they're amazed and alarmed by how quickly spring is coming to the Arctic this year.

Record warm temperatures have significantly reduced ice cover in Canada's Arctic waters and snow cover on land.

"I've never seen it so wide open this time of year," said Environment Canada's David Phillips, referring to the body of water between Baffin Island and mainland Quebec. "It's just blue, blue as the bluest sky."

Phillips said snow cover is also fast disappearing across Nunavut. In Cape Dorset, there is typically 50 centimetres of snow on the ground in May. Now there's just two centimetres. And in Iqaluit, bare ground is exposed everywhere, when there would normally still be 20 centimetres of snow cover.

Phillips, a senior climatologist with the federal weather agency, says temperatures were four to five degrees warmer than usual this past winter. The higher temperatures come on the heels of dramatic losses in sea ice last summer, Phillips says, and so the natural cycle hasn't had a chance to recover.

"There has been no rebounding back," he said. "The ice just hasn't had a chance to bounce back, to grow during the winter, during the cold season of the year.

"Essentially what's happening is there's been so much warm weather, week after week, month after month, season after season, the environment is just not behaving the way it should," said Phillips.

Ice cover has now dropped to a record low for the winter period, attracting the attention of Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.

Serreze said April is generally the month with the maximum ice cover over the Arctic Ocean, and the loss this year is shocking.

"If we compare this April with all previous Aprils, there's hundreds of thousands of square kilometres less ice," he said.

Climatologists, biologists and people living in the area fear the shifting ice patterns are a sign of even deeper changes that will disrupt age-old cycles of plant and animal life, and even global weather patterns.

Serreze says researchers will be watching ice cover data carefully this summer, and many are already predicting the shrinkage in September will largely surpass last year's record high.

Serreze says sea ice loss has been the greatest along the coasts of Siberia and Alaska. This winter a ship could have travelled northeast from London along Russia's Arctic Ocean coastline and down through the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska to Tokyo, he says.

Meanwhile, Phillips says people in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories can expect the balmy weather to continue through the summer.


Whew! I can breathe easier!

Study Finds No Link Between Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer

People who smoke marijuana--even heavy, long-term marijuana users--do not appear to be at increased risk of developing lung cancer, according to a study to be presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference on May 23rd.

Marijuana smoking also did not appear to increase the risk of head and neck cancers, such as cancer of the tongue, mouth, throat, or esophagus, the study found.

The findings were a surprise to the researchers. "We expected that we would find that a history of heavy marijuana use--more than 500-1,000 uses--would increase the risk of cancer from several years to decades after exposure to marijuana," said the senior researcher, Donald Tashkin, M.D., Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles.

The study looked at 611 people in Los Angeles County who developed lung cancer, 601 who developed cancer of the head or neck regions, and 1,040 people without cancer who were matched on age, gender and neighborhood. The researchers used the University of Southern California Tumor Registry, which is notified as soon as a patient in Los Angeles County receives a diagnosis of cancer.

They limited the study to people under age 60. "If you were born prior to 1940, you were unlikely to be exposed to marijuana use during your teens and 20s--the time of peak marijuana use," Dr. Tashkin said. People who were exposed to marijuana use in their youth are just now getting to the age when cancer typically starts to develop, he added.

Subjects were asked about lifetime use of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol, as well as other drugs, their diet, occupation, family history of cancer and socioeconomic status. The subjects' reported use of marijuana was similar to that found in other surveys, Dr. Tashkin noted.

The heaviest smokers in the study had smoked more than 22,000 marijuana cigarettes, or joints, while moderately heavy smokers had smoked between 11,000 to 22,000 joints. Even these smokers did not have an increased risk of developing cancer. People who smoked more marijuana were not at any increased risk compared with those who smoked less marijuana or none at all.

The study found that 80% of lung cancer patients and 70% of patients with head and neck cancer had smoked tobacco, while only about half of patients with both types of cancer smoked marijuana.

There was a clear association between smoking tobacco and cancer. The study found a 20-fold increased risk of lung cancer in people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day. The more tobacco a person smoked, the greater the risk of developing both lung cancer and head and neck cancers, findings that were consistent with many previous studies.

The new findings are surprising for several reasons, Dr. Tashkin said. Previous studies have shown that marijuana tar contains about 50% higher concentrations of chemicals linked to lung cancer, compared with tobacco tar, he noted. Smoking a marijuana cigarette deposits four times more tar in the lungs than smoking an equivalent amount of tobacco. "Marijuana is packed more loosely than tobacco, so there's less filtration through the rod of the cigarette, so more particles will be inhaled," Dr. Tashkin said. "And marijuana smokers typically smoke differently than tobacco smokers--they hold their breath about four times longer, allowing more time for extra fine particles to deposit in the lung."

One possible explanation for the new findings, he said, is that THC, a chemical in marijuana smoke, may encourage aging cells to die earlier and therefore be less likely to undergo cancerous transformation.

The next step, Dr. Tashkin says, is to study the DNA samples of the subjects, to see whether there are some heavy marijuana users who may be at increased risk of developing cancer if they have a genetic susceptibility for cancer.

From American Thoracic Society

This story has been surfacing over the past day or so. Thanks to Jon for the link. I'm sort of surprised (not conclusive evidence though, obviously), but attests to the 'relative' safety of those things organic vs. synthetic that we ingest on a daily basis.

23 May 2006

Wahaha! Back to Reality!

We work too much compared to Europe

Ahhh, back on the job at last. Canada ought to cancel the May long weekend. These words may sound like the rant of a deranged workaholic, but they actually do a pretty good job of describing our society's values when compared with those in many other wealthy countries. The average Canadian worked 1,751 hours in 2004. That's about 300 hours - or 43 seven-hour days - more than the Dutch, Germans, French or Danes. European societies are at one end of the spectrum while Canada, the US, Australia and Japan are at the other. Magnus Schonning offers an interesting perspective. The 38-year-old Swede has been working at his country's embassy in Ottawa for four years. He gets 42 days of vacation annually, which includes a 10-day bonus for working abroad. "I can't take it all," Schonning said. As a father of two children, he also gets as much as a year off, at 80% pay, per youngster. Though the mother and father decide how to divvy up the time, dad must take at least two months off work per child. "We work to live, and not live to work, Schonning explained. Sweden's very high productivity levels - it boasts the highest ratio of industrial robots in the world - allow the society to value leisure time, he said. Based on total economic output, adjusted by population and purchasing power, Canada's gross domestic product is very similar to that of many European countries, and below some.

Most Canadian provinces require employers to provide only two weeks of vacation per year. Canada could easily add another week to the minimum holiday times and the economy would not collapse, said Ron Burke, professor of organizational behaviour at York University's Schulich School of Business. "Canadians could actually work fewer hours and it wouldn't make much of a dent in our GDP. And you'd have healthier workers." Long working hours not only fail to promote efficiency, but may also increase the likelihood of people making mistakes, Burke said. Long workdays "may be in the short-term interest of a shareholder or company president, but it is definitely not in the long-term interest of most Canadians." For Canadian society in general, the last big cut in working hours came 50 years ago, when Canada cut the work week to five days from six, Andrew Jackson, an economist with the Canadian Labour Congress said. Back then, the business community warned the economy would collapse as a result, and the same bogus arguments are being made today, Jackson said. "Economists have found that every significant step that was taken to reduce working time was accompanied by a sharp increase in productivity."
(Toronto Star 060523)

Does that mean we can move to a four-day work week now...please? I wish I was European...

Can US engineer soft landing?

The man who helped create one of the largest housing booms in America history, as well as the man who replaced him, say the party is now officially over. Alan Greenspan, the former US Federal Reserve chairman, and Ben Bernanke, the current Fed chair, both said last week the long-running housing price run-up fueled largely by low interest rates has ended. "This has been quite an extraordinary boom," Greenspan said in his first remarks since retiring after 18 years at the helm of the world's most powerful central bank. "Home sales are off, applications are off, everything is going in the same direction," he said at the Bond Market Association's 30th anniversary celebration in New York. "The boom is over, and you can say that with a fairly strong degree of confidence." Those comments were echoed by Bernanke. "We're seeing slowing in sales, slowing in starts," Bernanke said in Chicago. "There also seem to be signs that prices are not rising as quickly as they have been for the past few years." Both men, who have very similar styles, appear to be trying to signal to US consumers that they should soon get used to lower or flat prices for housing. The huge run-up in prices was largely spurred by moves by Greenspan, who lowered the key overnight lending rate to 1%, a four-decade low, after the stock market collapsed several years ago. The debate now, however, is whether Bernanke, with the help of Greenspan, can manage a soft landing for the housing market, which represents about 20% of US economic activity. Bernanke insists there will be gentle landing for the housing market as prices ease in some of the hottest markets such as California. He described the changing market as "moderate" and "orderly."
(National Post 060523)

The question is whether the bubble is going to explode or simply deflate. Let's hope it's the latter. I don't trust the Federal Reserve or the Bank of Canada to do anything responsible anyways. They are simply cronies of big money and big government as well.

Hail Victoria!

Alas, another May 2-4 long weekend (and the official start to summer) is over.

Things started off on Friday night when I met up with Skybar, Jetboy, Doug, Darren and Curtis at the Backlot. We had a few drinks and I had to step out to pickup the rental van for the weekend with Natasha. I came back to meet up with the guys and then Doug, Darren and I went to the Apollo slo-pitch game to see what was going on. We basically sat on the grassy knoll behind the bleachers having a few more beers sort of watching the game. Then we went back to Backlot and I won the bet that Skybar was still there even though he was supposed to leave an hour earlier. Needless to say he was tired of our company and left soon after. We hung around with Jetboy and Curtis. I drove the minivan back to my place and came back to the Backlot again to visit with everyone and then headed home early, around 11:30. Early rise in the morning....

The weekend in Saskatoon was fun, frustrating, painful and exhilarating all at the same time. We rolled into Toon Town mid-afternoon on Saturday with enough time to check into the hotel, register at the Bessborough, and then get prepped for the time trial along the South Saskatchewan River on Spadina Crescent. I was pretty happy with my time, 11:51, however I was ill after the exertion and got sick riding back to the hotel. Time for some rest.

The road race took place on the stretch of highway just outside of Saskatoon north from Clavet, looping around the Patience Lake PCS mine. The Cat 1/2 race was one of attrition. The wind was howling (big surprise) and in the morning, it was freaking cold. Of course, by the afternoon the clouds had disappeared and things heated up, making all of those extra layers of clothes more of a hindrance than a help. I ended up getting spit out the back about 50km in and rode the rest of the 110km route with a couple of other riders that I know who were also just happy to finish to allow us to complete the last stage, the Criterium on Broadway in downtown Saskatoon.

I was already almost a half-hour off the GC lead time, so this was going to be a chance for me to put on some hurt and help out Devon (who was currently in third place in the GC) since my legs weren't too shot from the road race, however I crashed on the fifth lap getting squeezed to the curb on the bottleneck corner where two lanes become one. I hit the boulevard hard and smashed my prescription sunglasses. I would've had the chance to run to the wheelpit and get back into the race with my free lap allowance, however since I couldn't really see, it was sort of a moot point and so that's where my race weekend finished.

Devon was involved in a big crash later in the race but managed to get back in. He was pretty banged up on his left side from hitting the curb. He eventually won the Crit and ended up 2nd in the GC (only THREE seconds off the leader), but even with his prize money, it's possible there is more damage to his bike (and him) than what the prizes would cover. We ended up taking him to the hospital in Saskatoon for stitches after the race and didn't leave Saskatoon until just before 9pm. My excellent speeding skills managed to get us into Calgary at 1:30 in the morning, and then after dropping everyone off, I was finally in bed by 3:30am. I made it to work this morning, but I think I'm probably going to have to take the night off tonight to get some more sleep. I have awful whiplash in my neck from the crash and an inflamed hip (Hey! it's the left one for a change! Woo hoo! I love my hips. They're so damaged and tough now).

Other kudos go to Natasha for finishing 5th in the Women's GC, and BK for all of his support yesterday after not being able to complete the road race.

I'm sort of sad I ended up with (yet another) DNF. In the five years I've been going to Saskatoon, this is the first year I haven't finished. Oh well - it's still early in the season and lots more mileage to put into the legs before peak season in August and September!

Nothing much going on this week. I'm probably going to head to Peak Power tomorrow night, track racing on Thursday, Synergy bowling night on Friday, Canmore ITT and Crit on Saturday, and the Lilac Festival on Sunday. Whee!

Weekend pics to come....

18 May 2006

Oil's well, apparently (and so is denial)

Canadian oil production to double by 2020

Canadian oil production will double by 2020, to nearly five million barrels a day, as companies boost their oilsands development plans, according to a new forecast by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The industry lobby group said yesterday oil production from all sources will probably increase from 2.5 million barrels per day last year to 4.6 million b/d in 2015 -- an increase of 750,000 b/d from last year. The forecast is based on a survey of CAPP's 150 members, who account for 95% of oil and gas produced in Canada. Growth after 2015 will expand total Canadian production to nearly 4.9 million b/d by 2020. With those volumes, Canada will climb to fourth-largest world oil producer, after Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US. It is now ranked eighth, after Russia, Saudi Arabia, the US, Iran, China, Mexico and Norway. Canada is already the largest oil supplier to the US. Greg Stringham, vp of CAPP, said oil volumes are expanding faster than anticipated a year ago largely as a result of new oilsands projects using steam-assisted gravity drainage technology. Oil sands production, which now exceeds one million b/d, is forecast to reach 3.5 million b/d by 2015 and 4.0 million b/d by 2020, accounting for more than 80% of Canadian production. Stringham said the forecast is based on members' assessment of what is realistic and is not on all announced projects.
(National Post 060518)

This is spun to sound like positive news, but it should be mentioned that demand today globally is 84 million barrels per day and is predicted to be 120 million bbl/d in 2020. 5 million bbl/d will only be able to satisfy a fifth to a quarter of the United States' daily consumption by then, and by those estimates only satisfy 4% of the world's daily consumption. Where are the other 115 million barrels going to come from? Saudi Arabia is pumping out 10 million bbl/d currently and there are huge doubts that they will ever be able to produce at any higher rate than that. Unless there are some megafields far offshore waiting to be discovered (and there haven't been any megafield discoveries since the 1980s), we're in for a world of hurt, and soon.

As well, the large fields currently in production in Norway, China, and Mexico (adios Cantarell), as well as predictions for the rest, will already be in decline. A major concern of mine is how much devastation complete exploitation of the tar sands is going to leave on the environment in Western Canada. All that's going to be left when everything is stripped out is a huge toxic hole, and the associated air and water pollution. We probably won't have any clean water tables left in Alberta by then unless they're piping and sucking it out of Great Slave Lake by then.

And for what? A global sacrifice to keep the party that's in its death throes going for just a little longer. grrr. It's all an attempt at hallucination.


Take that, Intelligent Design

Early humans, chimps were kissing cousins, gene study suggests
Last Updated Wed, 17 May 2006 22:25:06 EDT
CBC News
Early human ancestors interbred with chimpanzees after the two species split, researchers propose.

The break from our chimpanzee cousins was messier, more recent, and occurred over a longer timescale than thought, according to a new genetic analysis.

"The genome analysis revealed big surprises, with major implications for human evolution," said study co-author Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Scientists had thought humans and chimps shared a common ancestor, but split about 6.5 million to 7.4 million years ago.

Previous research on the split of the species focused on average genetic differences.

Lander and his colleagues took advantage of the full genetic codes of humans and chimpanzees to estimate the age of sequences, rather than relying on an average.

'Evolutionary smoking gun'

If early humans and chimps separated, interbred and then parted ways again, it would explain the young nature of the human X chromosome.

"[T]he speciation itself occurred in an unusual manner that left a striking impact across chromosome X," Lander said in a release.

"The young age of chromosome X is an evolutionary 'smoking gun.'"

The two species split no more than 6.3 million years ago and probably no more than 5.4 million years ago, the team said in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. That's one to two million years more recent than previous estimates.

The team plans to use the complete genome sequence of the gorilla and other primates to refine their timeline of when humans and chimps became separate species.

16 May 2006

Fortress America

US may crack down next on Canadian border

Yesterday, US President Bush said he would order 6,000 National Guard troops deployed along the US border with Mexico, an unprecedented move he said was required to stop an estimated one million illegal immigrants from entering the country each year. While the extraordinary security measures are focused strictly on America's southern border, the White House left open the possibility the measures could be extended to the US border with Canada if concerns about security increase. "The focus of the entire initiative has been the southwest border, but we remain open, if there are governors interested along the northern border," said Fran Townsend, the White House Director of Homeland Security. "There's no, by necessity, limitation. And we remain open and working with those [northern border] governors." The US$1.9-billion proposal would see the National Guard sent to California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas in a support role to aid a US Border Patrol that has been overwhelmed by the unyielding stream of illegal immigrants. Seeking to ease concerns expressed by the Mexican government, Bush stressed the troops would act only in a support role and not be involved in law enforcement along the 3,200-kilometre border with Mexico. The National Guard will operate surveillance systems, analyze intelligence, install security fences and road barriers for up to two years until 6,000 new Border Patrol agents are trained and hire, Bush said.

Just hours before Bush's announcement, Canada's ambassador to the US warned of a backlash from the tougher US security at the Mexican border, saying Washington may now impose overly strong measures at its northern border in a bid to show the US Hispanic population it is being even-handed. "Sometimes these statements can be interpreted to relate to both the Canadian border and the Mexican border, so we've got to be alert to that and ensure there isn't some unforeseen consequence that could give us some difficulties," Michael Wilson said in New York. Speaking to a largely business audience at the Canadian Association of New York, Wilson said seeking agreement on security levels at the Canada-US border will drag on for years and dominate his work as ambassador. He stopped short of saying he thought the US would post National Guards at the Canadian border, but noted some members of Congress had already called for a wall to be built along some parts of the border. "The Canadian view of effectiveness may be different from the US view, so ... the challenges of making the border as effective as it can be is something we're going to be struggling with for some period of time," he said. Already, US legislation states all travellers entering the US by air must have a passport or other form of secure travel document by Jan. 1, 2007. A year after that, the requirement will be extended to everyone entering by land. But Wilson said the two countries may not be able to meet those deadlines in a way that does not adversely affect trade and the movement of people. Deciding on affordable documents and installing technology that can read them still remain to be done.

(National Post 060516)

Enough of the rhetoric! Either do it or shut up! Why don't you just let your paranoia become pathological and ineffectively spend a couple more billion to build the freaking fences? Get the job done and shut up about your entitlements already. The world is an ugly place and if you need to build a big wall to shelter yourself from reality, then so be it. FYI -- It would be like shooting yourself in the foot. All that indentured labour from across the Mexican border is what makes the American 'non-negotiable' way of life possible. Sorry Sara, I needed to rant. Your government is even more insane than ours.

"Again, there are the profiteers of war. Behind the lines, safe from any possible harm, these vultures ply their trades. Mouthing patriotic phrases, wrapped in the flag, uttering fulsome promises to the boys on the way to the front, the makers of powder and uniforms, the millers of wheat and the jobbers in wool trade take the last possible penny of profit for the things upon which the men at the front depend for their very existence. While soldiers suffer and die these men grow rich, converting the hardships and the agonies of the conflict into private bank accounts."

-Scott Nearing, from "Oil and the Germs of War" (1923)


15 May 2006

Race weekend in pictures

The early part of the road & track racing season in Alberta is shaping up to be an exhausting one! Once I'm fully over my cold, watch out! I'm pretty happy with my early season results so far. I ended up ninth in the Men's 1/2 Omnium at the Bow Cycle Spring Cleanup Track Race on May 6-7, with an especially exciting 5:07.7 in the 4000m Pursuit (one of my season goals is a sub-5 minute timing). I was happy with my time trial and Crit results at the Velocity Stage Race on the Mother's Day long weekend. I went into the Road Race in 17th place in the GC, but my base isn't up to snuff and I completed ~113km before pulling out. I had done the last 30km or so by myself into the gross (but expected) strong winds which switched direction halfway through the race from the southeast to the west. We had hellish feed zone mishaps that really screwed up the racers including a big bike kiss between my bike and Craig's on the fourth lap feed zone. We had to mash to get back on the pack about 7 km later. I was destroyed and fell off the back soon after, but luckily Craig stayed in until the end.

It's supposed to be 30C tomorrow, so the Crits at the Research Park are going to be kickass!

Midweek Mayhem - Tuesday Night Crit Race May 11

Action from the Men's 1/2 Race at the Velocity Stage Race in Edmonton, May 13

More action from the Men's 1/2 Race

Truth in Advertising?

12 May 2006

Bhutan's Happiness Formula

The remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is the only country in the world which puts happiness at the heart of government policy. The government must consider every policy for its impact not only on Gross Domestic Product, but also on GNH: "Gross National Happiness". The politics of happiness has led Bhutan to make very different decisions from countries simply searching for wealth.

The capital, Thimpu, is remarkable for its lack of advertising. In an attempt to hold back consumerism the city council recently banned hoardings promoting Coke and Pepsi. Bhutan was the last nation in the world to introduce television in 1999. Recently they banned a number of channels including international wrestling and MTV, which they felt did little to promote happiness. Bhutan has even banned plastic bags and tobacco on the grounds that they make the country less happy.

The one set of traffic lights Bhutan ever had was on one junction in Thimpu. But people found them frustrating, so they went back to a human being. Buddhist prayer flags flutter in the wind. In Bhutan the government puts inner spiritual development on a par with material improvement. One of the pillars of Bhutan's happiness philosophy is care for the environment. Strict conservation laws are aimed at achieving sustainable development. Development has been moderated and people are less well off financially than they could have been. Bhutan has been able to adopt radical policies partly because it is a remote kingdom and partly because it is an absolute monarchy.

There have been many studies on 'happiness indices' and many say the same thing. Western society, in general, was at it's happiest around 25 years ago, and has been in slow decline ever since. As materialism has become more and more fundamental to our societies, happiness has declined. It's in our genes, folks. More and more money doesn't necessarily make someone happier. I recall the results of a recent study that said worldwide, once an individual makes the equivalent of $10,000/yr CAD, money is not a factor in increases in their happiness. This charade the corporations fleece over us that more is always better is a big lie, and one that must be stopped if we're to have any long-term collective good mental health. This will hopefully change before society becomes even more neurotic than it already is and something very regrettable happens...


Ottawa wants Kyoto softened

In its first official statement to the world on climate change, the Conservative government has signalled it is willing to keep Canada in the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, but only if it gets breaks on meeting the targets. A Canadian report to the United Nations says the second phase of the Kyoto accord should be more lenient, with longer deadlines, voluntary targets and exceptions for Canada's resource-based economy. The Conservatives have said they will not meet Canada's targets for the first phase of the accord - which ends in 2012 - to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, the main cause of global warming. The submission is the first signal that the government is open to remaining in Kyoto for the post-2012 period and outlines Canada's bargaining position for staying within the accord. Environmentalists say most countries are pushing for the accord's second phase to be more stringent, with stiffer penalties for countries that fail to meet their targets. The previous Liberal government made a commitment that by the end of the first phase of Kyoto, Canada would reduce its emissions to 6% below the levels it was producing in 1990. Environment Minister Rona Ambrose said the latest figures show that Canada is producing 35% more emissions than the target level. “We cannot meet the targets that the Liberals negotiated, but that does not mean that we give up the fight. We are committed to real progress on cleaning up Canada's environment and on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” she added.
(Globe and Mail. National Post 060512)

We're fucked. Stupid Conservatives. They make no effort whatsoever to maintain the tenets of Kyoto. It's sort of like, "we have no chance of even coming close, so why even try?" Sure, Kyoto is definitely more symbolic than practical, however that is a huge step in trying to address the problem. They are taking the issue literally, as most conservative-type people do. There is no effort to engage Canadian citizens in the issue. It would be political suicide to actually ask the electorate to buckle down and sacrifice something. That's what our society has come to today. Unobstructed economic growth at any cost. These people fail to remember that we live in a finite closed system. Unfettered growth cannot keep continuing without dire consequences. We are only beginning to see the results of our faulty logic and faulty economic systems now. Boy, I can't wait to see how it ends up. I'm sure going to miss those polar bears.

Race weekend

Last night was relatively cool so there was a poor turn-out at Thursday night racing. There were only seven racers in the A Group, six of which were Synergists. More points for us, I guess. CBTL meeting followed, then Ryan and I headed to Swan's for some grub and a couple of pints.

I have to pick up a 15-passenger van at the Driving Force this afternoon in preparation for our team trip to Edmonton tonight. We have sign-in at Velocity Cycles before 10pm so we have to be timely. Race up to Northeast, get van, race home, pack van, to Natasha's for her stuff, then Colin's, then to Deerfoot Mall to pick up everyone else at 5:45. Luckily I'm 3/4 packed. Yipe!

The Velocity Stage Race (formerly the Ardrossan Stage Race) starts Saturday morning in Josephburg, just outside of Fort Saskatchewan. The ITT and Crit are on Saturday, the road race on Sunday. New routes, should make life interesting (plus the ITT is longer and not a lung-buster uphill). There are approximately 12 teammates going and we are all staying at the U of A residence. Should be a good weekend. Wish us luck!

Wish I could stick around though. Doug is planning on having a get-together on Saturday, which I'm missing. I haven't seen the gang in awhile, and I'm starting to miss them! I'll probably not be present for such other events in the near future like the Lilac Festival and Calgary Pride weekend. Oh, what I sacrifice for my passion.

08 May 2006

Pimpin' (thanks Martijn)

First this....
Your Pimp Name Is...

Macktastic Tease

Backdoor Tease
White Chocolate Dynamite
Master Pimp Shagswell
His Majesty Tickler
Ribbed Luv
Big Playah Tickler
Uncle Tickler
Master Pimp Tease
MC Tickler
White Chocolate Dazzle
Pimptastico Slick (my favorite)
Stud Glider


The validity of dreams and life implications

It was really weird. I normally don't remember my dreams unless my sleep is sporadic and I wake up in the middle of one. And I hardly ever dream of anything that has a very clear message. However last night, I dreamt that my dad died. It's pretty hazy now, but I remember the gist of it.

I talked to mom and dad tonight. Everything's fine, but my dad informs me that he's had two PSA tests done in the past year and both have shown an increase in the value from the previous (not sure what the measurements are, exactly). Now he's getting booked for an appointment with a specialist in Brandon. I told him it's much better getting the tests done and knowing than simply being in denial or ignoring the urgency to get the prostate tests done when you get older or have a family history of problems. At any rate I'm freaking out. I hate reality - and you wonder why I try to escape it so much?

Good one, you simpleton

Bush's best moment in office? Reeling in big perch
Sun May 7, 2006 11:01 AM BST

BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush told a German newspaper his best moment in more than five years in office was catching a big perch in his own lake.

"You know, I've experienced many great moments and it's hard to name the best," Bush told weekly Bild am Sonntag when asked about his high point since becoming president in January 2001.

"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound (3.402 kilos) perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

Bush said the worst moment was September 11 when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

"In such a situation it takes a while before one understands what is happening," Bush said. "I would say that this was the hardest moment, once I had the real picture before my eyes."

Because Bild could not immediately furnish English quotes, Bush's comments were translated from the German. The paper said the White House planned to release an authorised English version of the interview on Monday.

Is this guy for real? I guess when your administrations mandate is in chaos and ruin, there aren't many high points that would come to mind. What a freakin' retard! THE DECIDER RULES!

Reid out

Urgh. Still sick. I guess racing this weekend wasn't the best laid-out plan for recovery, but I couldn't just NOT race this weekend. Madness!

Things went quite well considering. I did a 5:07 in the 4K pursuit, good enough for sixth place, and also a sixth place finish in the Saturday scratch race and fifth in the points race. Good enough for ninth overall. Out of the money, but a good showing this early in the season.

I went out with Jon, Natasha, James and Shelley on Saturday to the S&A for a few pints and food Saturday evening, and over to Ryan's for a few more and Huckleberry Hound last night.

Next weekend is the Velocity Stage Race in Edmonton. Gonna be a train wreck if I don't get better this week. I think the gym session tonight is off (as is team recovery ride) and I'm spending the evening on the couch.

Reid out.
"On the whole, however, it is only out of pride or gross ignorance, or cowardice, that we refuse to see in the present the lineaments of times to come."

-- Marguerite Yourcenar, 1951

"If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst."

-- Thomas Hardy

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."

-- Seneca

05 May 2006

God's A Gas

Boy do I ever feel left out for having missed this event last week: PrayLive, an online e-church, organized a group prayer for lower gas prices in Washington DC last Thursday which they dubbed "Prayer at the Pump". What would one of those sermons have been like? Rever'nd Billy Bob steps up to an Exxon Premium unleaded pump and starts pounding on the malific contraption whilst hollering:

"Devil fuel surcharge taxes, begone! Wanton price gouging oil fiends, burn in a flaming pit of your heathen brew! Harlots of Houston, may God smite you with holy hurricanic vengence! Bow your heads now and pray with me all you poor souls conned by Conoco, shorn by Shell, shived by Chevron and tempestuized by Texaco! Sing with me brothers and sisters,
we shall overcome
we will drive 'til kingdom come
Arctic gas shall be set free
for all our SUVs..."

And goodness and cheap gas shall follow me all the days of my life.

Sin Nickel, Clusterfuck Nation

03 May 2006


The Flames are losing game seven. It's the second intermission so I thought I'd drop a few lines before heading back to witness the rest of the carnage. I've been sick as a dog the past two days and took today off of work. I didn't get out of bed until 3pm and have spent the rest of the day relatively immobilized. I did get up to the track tonight for a couple of hours to get my new Vittoria tires from ProBikeKit (ordered by Frank) on my track bike. Now there should be no excuses for flats like last year on those stupid thin-wall tires. This weekend coming up is the first track race of the season. It is also the provincial team selection race for Master and Junior riders, so it should make for some fun competition. The weather is supposed to be better than it has so far this week, so that's a bonus. Tomorrow night is the first night of CBTL Thursday night racing, which I'm looking forward to. Of course, I doubt I'm going to be feeling 100% tomorrow night, so I'll probably just hang around in the back of the A group pack and see what happens.

Last weekend was interesting. Saturday was the first part of the Bicisport Race weekend. It was very windy and I figured I was doing okay until I started having problems with my chain falling off my chainring. I managed to slip it back on the first time without stopping, but the second time it happened on the biggest hill, it got jammed and I had to stop to put it back on, which probably lost me 30 seconds or more of time. Needless to say profanity was brought to a new level that afternoon. Sunday was supposed to be the Crit at Race City Speedway, but it was cancelled due to the inclement weather. Tuesday night Crits at the University Research Park were also cancelled last night due to the crappy weather. Nothing like springtime in Alberta to throw you off your schedule!

Saturday night I went out with Cheryl-Lee and Ryan to the Rose & Crown to watch Game Five of the Calgary/Anaheim series, and we ended up on the Red Mile afterwards, heading home with a case of beer. I'm secretly glad I didn't have to race on Sunday because I certainly wasn't feeling great. This was the beginning of my slide into sickness. Luckily it's not too debilitating. Damn viruses anyways.

More pictures

Here are some shots from the Easter long weekend:

Aly & Nila - Engagement Party @ the Mercury

Aly & Reid

Darren & Patrick @ Western Cup 10K Run brunch

Hugh, Doug, Gregg, Daryl @ Western Cup 10K Run brunch

Trezlie on Easter morning

Uncle Joe and Uncle Reid with Trezlie

The World's Saviour?

Christopher Walken for President in 2008!!!


The dood

02 May 2006

hee hee...the hypocrisy...

Why bikes are (going to be) awesome

Riding a bicycle can save the world
Published on 27 Apr 2006 by New West. Archived on 2 May 2006.
by Dana Green

Killer storms. Glaciers melting. A rapidly disappearing snowpack.

The signs of global warming are here, and they aren’t pretty. With the U.S. spewing 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air last year – one-quarter of the world total – a global meltdown, Day After Tomorrow-style, doesn’t seem farfetched anymore.

But getting on a bicycle saving the planet? Call me a skeptic, but I wasn’t buying it. Jim Sayer, Director of Adventure Cycling, a national bike advocacy group headquartered here in Missoula, was giving a lecture during Bike Walk Bus Week claiming bike travel could save humanity from its own excesses. So I hopped on my cruiser, with its cute little basket, and biked over.

I left convinced that, if I would only drop my car keys in the toilet and flush, a revolution would sweep the globe. One person at a time. With happy, smiling people across the planet riding bicycles everywhere.

Vive la revolution!

Okay, first we start with the problem –a virtual carbonfest in the Earth’s atmosphere. Right here in Montana, there aren’t too many people who haven’t noticed the glaciers in Glacier National Park are looking a lot smaller. Puny, actually. Outside Montana, Mt. Hood, a snowy icon with its perpetually snowcapped peak, is rapidly losing its snowy dome.

That’s where Jim Sayer has the answer. Enter enlightenment – the bicycle.

Sayer could convince Rush Limbaugh to sell his car and buy a road bike. With a fit build, wide smile, the man radiates impossibly good health. His young, blond children all cheerfully ride their own bikes around Missoula. In all, he’s the perfect person to convince the global community they need to permanently ditch their cars.

Sayer’s argument is simple: In the U.S., Sayer said, half of all trips taken are three miles and less. If just half of those trips were done by bicycle, we would save 24 billion gallons of gas each year – and reducing emissions as a result.

Those figures are why most of the world is seriously committed to promoting bike travel. So why can’t the U.S. stop spending billions on automobile travel and start spending a small portion on bikes?

It’s all about attitudes – and a political commitment, Sayer pointed out. In Japan, fuel taxes are huge. In Denmark, a 180 percent car registration fee helps encourage bicycle travel. France just hired a National Bike Czar, under the Ministry of Transportation. Copenhagen has 2,000 free bicycles out for commuters to use. And in Bogota, a city of 6.5 million, a plan is in place to ban all cars downtown during peak commute hours by 2015.

Even in Beijing, where the Chinese government is trying to encourage the purchase of automobiles (God bless capitalism), 50 percent of commuter trips are still done by bike.

“Bikes are just part of normal life – they’re respected, and no one thinks anything about it,” Sayer said. “Here, if you rode into work tomorrow on a bike, what would your (boss) say? They'd probably think you were weird.”

In the U.S., federal, state and local governments have committed almost nothing to encouraging bike use. Culturally, while business suit-clad European men get to work by bike, most American businessmen wouldn't be caught dead riding their cruiser to the office.

It’s not like everywhere in the U.S. is equally bike-unfriendly. As Waylon Lewis points out, the revolution has already begun in Boulder. Davis, California, has committed millions to make their city the bike capital of America.

The tide is turning, Sayer believes. National advocacy groups such as Adventure Cycling, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Bikes Belong Coalition, and the venerable League of American Cyclists are growing in strength, and they are pushing to get bike safety and infrastructure on the political front burner. Rails to Trails has a goal to get 90 percent of Americans within 3 miles of a bike trail network by 2020.

As for Adventure Cycling, Sayer’s group, they aren’t dreaming small. They want to see a nationwide, coast-to-coast bike “highway,” with extensive signage, allowing travelers to navigate across the country by bike.

“We think its time there was an interstate bike system,” Sayer said. “We want an official one, so people can follow signs across the country.”

But to bring on the global change, it’s all about starting local.

Missoula is mostly flat. It’s compact. It should be the perfect bike town. But its far from ideal. Although there have been improvements in recent years – extending trails, new bike/ped bridges – there’s a long way to go. Only 5 percent of all trips are by bike in the Garden City. The city hasn’t spent a lot of money on bike paths and advocacy – instead, dollars are going towards widening streets for cars, in Sayer's view.

“We have all the ingredients to be the best bike city in the nation,” Sayer said. “What if the sound you heard in Missoula wasn’t the drone of traffic, but the ring of a bike bell?”

The revolution starts with a simple act of defiance, a symbolic raised fist to the gas industry executives: Leaving the car at home.

I think I’ll leave the basket on the bike. I might need it to get to work tomorrow.

Pedal to save the planet, speaker says
By MEA ANDREWS of the Missoulian

Bicycles have already changed the world once, and they could do it again, says the director of the country's largest bicycling organization.

If everyone replaced half of their short-distance auto trips with a bike or their feet, the country would save more than 20 billion gallons of gas a year, and hundreds of billions of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

“You can't carry a whole soccer team on a bike,” says Jim Sayer, director of the Missoula-based Adventure Cycling. “But you can carry a lot of stuff.”

As part of the 2006 Bike Walk Bus Week, Sayer on Thursday gave a slide show on “How Bicycling Can Help Save the World (and Missoula),” a pictorial history of biking and some of the environmental challenges that face the United States and the world.

In their early days, bikes brought affordable transportation to the masses. Suddenly, people of modest means could travel outside their neighborhood, taking jobs away from home and shopping in more than one location, he said.

Bikes are even credited with freeing women from cumbersome hoops and undergarments, he said.

Now, with global warming and pollution such worldwide concerns, and with gasoline supplies dwindling and costs skyrocketing, the bike could save the planet again, he said.

Bikes also could help address an American epidemic: obesity.

“I call it carbos and carbon,” he says, clicking through a progression of slides showing the weight gain of Americans, state by state.

How bikes will help with the carbos is obvious. American kids need to walk and ride bikes, get more exercise in general, he said. Some national efforts might help, including one that earmarks money in every state - $1 million in Montana - to make riding bikes to school safer.

Higher gas prices this summer might encourage more bike riding for everyone, he said.

“I talked to friends in California, and they're at $3.69 a gallon,” he said. “We're peaking. And the Middle East is producing oil at capacity. We'll have to do something.”

“We are going to see the end of cheap oil,” he said. “The more dependent we are on oil, the more mired in the Middle East we'll be. I don't think that's what people want.”

Using less fossil fuel is not just a pocketbook issue, but also a climate issue, he said, showing slides of a dry Mount Hood and disappearing glacier fields, signs of a warming climate. Missoula's average March temperatures are up from 32 or 33 degrees to about 37, “which doesn't sound like a lot, but has profound implications for the planet,” he said.

Europe is making progress, encouraging more bicycling, he said. In Copenhagen, bicyclists are surveyed every year on whether they feel safe, and steep goals for improvement are set based on the survey. France appointed a bike minister to encourage biking, and many countries - the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany - are building connected bike paths across their land.

Numbers show the impact: In Copenhagen, 36 percent of work trips are done on bike, and in Germany, the number is 12 percent. Missoula's is 5 percent, compared with a national average of 1 percent, he said.

“If we don't get our acts together, we can't tell other people to get their act together,” he said.

Sayer said he'd like Missoula to endorse street designs that incorporate cars, walkers and bikers, especially in the urban center, such as the university area, downtown and West Broadway.

Connect bike paths to each other, to create a large network across the town and county, he suggests. Connected trails encourage more people to ride.

Also, offer incentives and provide more bike lanes and bike parking, he said. It's the “I” in “ALFIE,” an acronym that summarizes how to promote biking: Attitude, Laws, Facilities, Incentives, Enforcement.

Besides, biking is just plain fun, he said.

“People say that it is a way to connect with your surroundings, whether the air on your face or what you hear,” he said. “It's highly social: You can smile and wave at people.”

01 May 2006

Here, here!

"Until the geographic scaling of our cities, towns, and hamlets returns to the human, and not the automotive, scale, we will continue to be the slaves of our own devices."

Caught over a barrel

Gasoline prices have the power to change our behaviour: Motorists will drive endlessly to save a few cents on a litre and families are changing their vacation plans in the face of $1 a litre at the pumps. There's a Web site on where to find cheaper gas that gets 200,000 hits a day. To Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, this is more than a little strange. He remembers what happened the last time gas prices spiked. That was late last summer, after Hurricane Katrina knocked out most oil-producing and refining operations on the Gulf Coast. "The biggest impact we've seen on consumer confidence in five or six years was Katrina. It had a bigger impact than the tech meltdown, 9/11, and the Iraq war. To me that's unbelievable." Part of the story with the price of gas, Porter said, is that it's the most visible cost in our lives. We can't avoid seeing it every time we leave the house. In his view, it's arguably the most influential price in the country. But it isn't necessarily the biggest one. According to data from Statistics Canada, just 3% of total household expenditures are going to gasoline and other fuels. That compares to food (10.9%), shelter (19.2%), clothing (3.9%), tobacco and alcohol (2.3%), and household furniture and equipment (2.9%).

So why the focus on gasoline? "Canada is a big place," said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers' Association of Canada. "We drive a long way, we have a lot of urban sprawl, people tend to commute a long way. Gas prices affect us more than other places." Our paranoia that we are being fleeced at the pumps is ironic, given that gasoline is one of the rare commodities whose price isn't officially manipulated. Marketing boards set the prices for poultry and dairy products. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission regulates local phone rates. Pipeline and distribution rates on natural gas are regulated. Even the insurance industry is heavily regulated by the federal and provincial governments. "But gasoline is also the only commodity we see posted on billboards," said John Williamson, president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "It's always in your face. Your income taxes might be in your face this time of year, but not the rest of the time." Although investigations have proven there is no gas price manipulation taking place, the complaints about gouging and manipulation at the pumps remain. And the experts seem to agree they are unlikely to go away any time soon. "A lot of people think they're being gouged," Jason Toews, co-founder of GasBuddy.com, which operates a network of Web sites that track gas prices, said. "They shouldn't blame the gas stations. Crude oil prices are at US$75 a barrel. We're going to see that price reflected at the pumps."
(National Post 060429)

Bush rejects tax on surging oil company profits

President Bush on Friday rejected calls in Congress for a tax on oil company profits, saying the industry should reinvest its recent windfalls in finding and producing more energy. "The temptation in Washington is to tax everything,'' Bush said in an exchange with reporters in the White House Rose Garden. Rather than for the government to reap the benefit from oil company profits driven by the recent surge in global oil prices, "the answer is for there to be strong re-investment,'' he said. "These oil prices are a wakeup call,'' Bush said. "We're dependent on oil. We need to get off oil.'' With gasoline topping US$3 a US gallon (3.78 litres) in some areas, Bush said energy companies should use their increased cash flows to build more natural gas pipeline, expand refineries, explore "in environmentally friendly ways,'' and invest in renewable sources of energy."
(Canadian Press 060428)

I actually agree with Bush on this one. First of all, the profits the oil companies make is used for exploration and development of new O&G sources, which are only getting more expensive to develop as the deposits get smaller, more scarce, more remote and of poorer quality. To take that investment money away from the 'developers' could potentially result in much higher prices down the road. Second, it sets a very dangerous precedent (special tax every corporation when they start rolling in dough?). Third, it wouldn't address the fundamental issue that is resulting in the problem we have today, and it appears Bush finally gets the picture - a bandaid solution won't stop our addiction in any way.

Loonie may flirt with US parity

The Canadian dollar punched to a high not seen in 28 years against the US currency Friday, prompting some leading economists to raise the possibility of parity with the greenback as early as next year. The loonie gained US41 cents during the day, ending at 89.45 cents. At one point, it hit 89.56 cents, its highest level since May 26, 1978. "When you talk to foreign investors, they don't see parity being an unreasonable target at all," said Doug Porter, chief economist with BMO Nesbitt Burns. "It is definitely a possibility. Whether it can be sustained is another question." BMO is forecasting the loonie in the mid 90 cents range by early 2007, with parity not far behind. And although there are opposing views, Porter is not alone in his thinking. Dennis Gartman, an economist and editor of Virginia-based Gartman Letter, also raised the possibility Friday.
(National Post 060429)

This is really hard to believe. Just over five years ago, the loonie was at its worst performance against the greenback ever. I took a trip down to New Orleans in December of 2001 when the exchange rate was 62 cents on the dollar. That trip almost put me in the poorhouse. Now it is almost a deal to buy everything mailorder from the States. How time changes things....