29 June 2006

Chilling, er, Hot!

Scientists OK Gore's movie for accuracy

Tue Jun 27, 9:15 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The nation's top climate scientists are giving "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy.

The former vice president's movie — replete with the prospect of a flooded New York City, an inundated Florida, more and nastier hurricanes, worsening droughts, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice sheets — mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press.

The AP contacted more than 100 top climate researchers by e-mail and phone for their opinion. Among those contacted were vocal skeptics of climate change theory. Most scientists had not seen the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book.

But those who have seen it had the same general impression: Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

"Excellent," said William Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. "He got all the important material and got it right."

Robert Corell, chairman of the worldwide Arctic Climate Impact Assessment group of scientists, read the book and saw Gore give the slideshow presentation that is woven throughout the documentary.

"I sat there and I'm amazed at how thorough and accurate," Corell said. "After the presentation I said, `Al, I'm absolutely blown away. There's a lot of details you could get wrong.' ... I could find no error."

Gore, in an interview with the AP, said he wasn't surprised "because I took a lot of care to try to make sure the science was right."

The tiny errors scientists found weren't a big deal, "far, far fewer and less significant than the shortcoming in speeches by the typical politician explaining an issue," said Michael MacCracken, who used to be in charge of the nation's global warming effects program and is now chief scientist at the Climate Institute in Washington.

One concern was about the connection between hurricanes and global warming. That is a subject of a heated debate in the science community. Gore cited five recent scientific studies to support his view.

"I thought the use of imagery from Hurricane Katrina was inappropriate and unnecessary in this regard, as there are plenty of disturbing impacts associated with global warming for which there is much greater scientific consensus," said Brian Soden, a University of Miami professor of meteorology and oceanography.

Some scientists said Gore confused his ice sheets when he said the effect of the Clean Air Act is noticeable in the Antarctic ice core; it is the Greenland ice core. Others thought Gore oversimplified the causal-link between the key greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and rising temperatures.

While some nonscientists could be depressed by the dire disaster-laden warmer world scenario that Gore laid out, one top researcher thought it was too optimistic. Tom Wigley, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, thought the former vice president sugarcoated the problem by saying that with already-available technologies and changes in habit — such as changing light bulbs — the world could help slow or stop global warming.

While more than 1 million people have seen the movie since it opened in May, that does not include Washington's top science decision makers. President Bush said he won't see it. The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA haven't seen it, and the president's science adviser said the movie is on his to-see list.

"They are quite literally afraid to know the truth," Gore said. "Because if you accept the truth of what the scientific community is saying, it gives you a moral imperative to start to rein in the 70 million tons of global warming pollution that human civilization is putting into the atmosphere every day."

As far as the movie's entertainment value, Scripps Institution geosciences professor Jeff Severinghaus summed it up: "My wife fell asleep. Of course, I was on the edge of my chair."

Missed seeing the movie last night, but it is definitely on the agenda for next week.

Will you believe us, finally?

Sexual orientation of men determined before birth
Tue Jun 27, 12:38 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A man's sexual orientation appears to be determined in the womb, a new study suggests.

Past research by Dr. Anthony F. Bogaert of Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario and colleagues has shown that the more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be gay. But it has not been clear if this is a prenatal effect or a psychosocial effect, related to growing up with older male siblings.

To investigate, Bogaert studied 944 gay and straight men, including several who were raised with adopted, half- or step-siblings or were themselves adopted. He reasoned that if the relationship between having older male siblings and homosexuality was due to family environment or child-rearing practices, it would be seen whether or not a man's older brothers were biological or adopted.

Bogaert found that the link between having older brothers and homosexuality was present only if the siblings were biologically related -- this relationship was seen between biological brothers who were not raised together. The amount of time that a man was reared with older brothers had no association with sexual orientation.

"These results support a prenatal origin to sexual orientation development in men and indicate that the fraternal birth-order effect is probably the result of a maternal 'memory' for male gestations or births," Bogaert writes in his report in PNAS Early Edition.

A woman's body may see a male fetus as "foreign," Bogaert explains, and her immune response to subsequent male fetuses may grow progressively stronger.

"If this immune theory were correct, then the link between the mother's immune reaction and the child's future sexual orientation would probably be some effect of maternal anti-male antibodies on the sexual differentiation of the brain," he suggests.

Other lines of research also support the sexual orientation-maternal immune response link, he notes.

SOURCE: PNAS Early Edition, June 26, 2006.

More and more studies are leaning towards nature over nurture. As more evidence comes in, maybe the fundies and churchies will stop their unsubstantiated claims that it's all a lifestyle choice used to defend their own homophobia and institutional discrimination. The weird thing is that studies on lesbian sexuality are few and far between, and so far they have been indicating that female sexuality is determined in different ways from male sexuality. I think we can all agree - sexuality is very complex and very fluid. It's way beyond straighforward categorization of people into well-defined boxes. The flavours of sexuality are as varied as individuals are!

28 June 2006

Ann Coulter or Adolf Hitler?

Who said it? Check out the quiz here! Ann Coulter's hate-filled anti-liberal spewings are indistinguishable from that of the most heinous dictator of all time!

Midweek fatigue - makes me ramble on and on...

Ahh...Wednesday. I've been trying to catch up on all the blog communiques about the San Francisco Pride weekend. It sounds like it was a lot of fun and included a lot of house parties amongst the blogger group. It also sounds like everyone was impressed with everyone else! I guess it takes a particular type of person to keep a blog running, and more importantly, interesting and relevant.

Which makes me think about my own blog. I haven't really had much time or motivation to post anything too exciting as of late. All I've been doing is racing on weekends, training and racing during the week, and attempting to do some work and Synergy/CBTL administration on the side (yes, I do still work on occasion...).

I'm very happy that the Synergy team represented so well at the track race on the weekend. We were marvelling at how the expertise in different events seems to be spread out amongst team members this year as opposed to having one or two superstars as in years past - especially for the 1/2 and 3 Men's categories. Felix is the sprinter extraordinaire followed closely by Mike, Craig D excels in a more generalist (and smart strategy) approach, Devon is the time trialist, Frank is the kilo expert, Craig and cp are the strategy and support men, BK is the climber, I guess I'm left as the pursuiter and Cyrus is the endurance freak. As a team, we rock, but I wasn't too impressed with my individual results this past weekend. I think there was a combination of several factors that led to a less-than-stellar showing in the GC - fatigue, lack of my showcase events, and changes to my training routines.

I've started running again. I'm trying to maintain/lose some more weight before Montreal and have always found running to be the most effective way to do this. The past few weeks, I've probably been putting in 40-50km per week on top of the cycling training and racing. My weight in the off-season was fluctuating between 182-187 lbs. As of my CP-1 test several weeks ago it was down to 178, but at weigh-in before my VO2 Max test yesterday, it was back up to 182. I'd like to be at 175 as a reasonable goal, maybe even less. I'm not sure whether I've made any progress or not. I'm not sure with my physiology whether 170 would even be attainable. I've found the biggest impact of running again has been fatigue on my legs.

I went into the track race tired on Saturday and didn't really recover any more for Sunday. I think I'm going to be shuffling around my training schedule again to facilitate rest and recovery. I'm convinced that I should be still attempting to do maintenance weight workouts during the week - upper body on Mondays, lower body on Wednesdays. I might still try and slip in a run on Mondays, but I've found that it really knocks me out for the Crit series on Tuesdays. The same goes for runs on Wednesdays kicking my ass for track racing on Thursdays. I have no problems with taking Fridays off, especially before race weekends!

I haven't been sleeping well lately either. Not sure why. I've been waking up multiple times through the night which I normally don't do. And of course, lately it's been so hot in the evenings, it's hard to sleep anyways. I really have to start making a conscious effort to get more rest.

This all culminated in a poor VO2 Max test yesterday. I was still pushing 480 watts despite a lower cadence and way lower VO2 result. The test I did in December yielded a 67.9 ml/kg/min, but the test yesterday was 10 points lower, around 57. I was pretty upset about that, but considering how tired I was yesterday I wasn't really surprised. I had hoped to get the wattage above 500, and it probably would have happened had I been fresh.

I had planned to race at the Crits last night. After the test I went to MEC to find some 15mm cone wrenches for my track axle. They were sold out and I was kind of pissed and my legs were fried so I headed down to Swan's instead and proceeded to drink beer and eat with Joe, Kirsten and Jason. I swear I'll be back at the Crits next week....

I think I might head to the movies tonight with BK. We both want to see "An Inconvenient Truth" so tonight might be the best night to do so. If that doesn't work out I'll probably just go for a recovery ride or something. Joe is working double shifts all week and weekend so I probably won't get to see much of him until Monday.

The CBTL six-day series pizza and prize night is tomorrow at the velodrome. The last three out of four Thursday race nights have been rained out, so they're finally going to get back on track (pun intended) tomorrow night. I'm in the money again! First place in the A group for the first series. 94 points so far. Hopefully I can continue this at least for the second series. I'm going to be out of town for most of the third one, so I have to make every race count!

We're off to Edmonton on Friday for the Canada Day Crit and the Trofeo Leva Crit on Saturday and Sunday. Not a huge Synergy cohort going - cp, Felix, Natasha, Steph, Craig G. and myself - but it will be fun nonetheless and the weather's supposed to be optimal for racing. Plus I love the CDC course around the Legislative Buildings! I've done that course so many times, you'd almost think I lived in Edmonton or something.

We'll be back on Sunday - we're planning on going to Sunday Skool at the Hi-Fi Club Sunday night for Natasha's b-day. Yay for long weekends! It should be a lot of fun. And hopefully a restorative few days for mind, body and soul.

Further to that, I've just decided - I'm taking Friday off as a flex day. My cousin-in-law Dave and his son Brock are in Calgary for a hockey tournament this weekend, so I've agreed to meet up with them on Thursday night. Afterwards, I can go and drink at Swan's without having to get up early on Friday. Sweet.

27 June 2006

Road to nowhere

From soaring fuel costs to lost work hours to increased greenhouse gases, transportation gridlock is like slow-drip torture on the economy, gradually sapping its productivity. No one enjoys traffic congestion. Like the Canadian weather, it's a subject of eternal complaint. Like the weather, everyone has a personal story of hardship. Also like the weather, it seems to be getting worse. So how much is traffic congestion really costing us? And what can we do about it? In March, federal Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon released the first comprehensive attempt to put a price tag on congestion in Canada. The top-line figure: gridlock costs the nine largest urban centres in Canada $3.7 billion per year. The figure represents the sum of the time lost sitting in traffic (at an average rate of $28 per hour during working hours), plus the extra gas wasted and the greenhouse gases emitted. And while $3.7B might seem a big number, the Transport Canada method was deliberately conservative. For the purposes of the study, traffic was considered to be uncongested if it moved at 70% of the posted speed. In other words, there is no recorded loss in time, fuel or greenhouse gases as long as you are going 70 km/h on a 100 km/h expressway.

The US takes a more stringent view of congestion. The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University has annually calculated the cost of traffic delays for 85 urban centres in the US, using a similar approach to Transport Canada's. However, the TTI starts the bill the moment traffic is no longer able to travel the posted speed. The latest figure is about US$63B in congestion costs - a much larger figure than Canada's on a relative basis. Since 1982, when the TTI began measuring congestion, the average delay per rush-hour traveller has increased from 16 hours to 47 hours per year. In other words, American commuters spend more than a full workweek every year sitting in their cars, going slow.

(Canadian Business 060605)

You know what I think? I think we need more cars. More personal vehicles! Two for each man, woman, and child! There is such a justifiable need for everyone to have their own vehicle. It's completely expected and normal, isn't it? It's completely normal to sit in traffic gridlock. Good grief.

21 June 2006

Week in pictures

It's been raining lots lately, but here is visual coverage of the past week. On Wednesday, Jerome and his friend Ryan along with Joe and I toured the Quab Pride Showcase after having a few drinks at the Backlot and ordering the Team Calgary outfit for the Outgames in Montreal.

The following four pieces are all by Yvon Goulet:

Jerome's new living room art

On Saturday, the gang got together for some drinkin', prayin', and dancin' at the official Calgary Pride Dance. It was overall quite disappointing for the cover charge, and Marc Anthony did not play a bona-fide set. As I mentioned on Jeff's blog, I think Calgary has to start thinking about having a separate dance for the gays and lesbians - only because both groups expect something completely different from their social outings. I'm not sure what else PrideCalgary could do to up the attendance numbers.

Pride crew

An appropriate beginning to the evening

Who knew the elevator was so funny? Seven drunk gay guys got on the elevator all at once. There were already three girls on the elevator and we must've scared the crap out of them because they got off on the next floor, suddenly! That was the beginning of the laughter on the ride down...

At the homo hop

...and later on.

Here are a couple of video clips because I was bored:

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19 June 2006

One of the benefits

Wow! No one was expecting this! There are benefits to working in a tight labour market...

"Effective immediately, the Company will provide six (6) paid, flex days for non union staff located in Gulf Canada Square in Calgary. Employees in all other areas of the company are not eligible. The change also excludes non-union employees who work a scheduled 12-hour shift and who have a separate arrangement already in place that reflects their unique work schedule.

This location-specific policy is being implemented in response to the highly competitive labour market pressure for professional staff in downtown Calgary, primarily driven by aggressive growth in the petroleum industry. The competition for professional staff has had, and continues to have, a direct impact on our ability to attract and retain non-union employees in Calgary. This policy is aimed directly at addressing the already established practice of Calgary-based companies to grant flex/personal days to their employees in addition to their normal vacation schedule.

The flex days will be in addition to the individual Annual Vacation entitlement; however they cannot be carried forward into the next year, if unused, nor paid out upon termination of employment. Flex days may be used for any personal leave purpose.

The six annual flex days will not be pro-rated this year for regular full-time employees. (Part-time employees will be allotted days in accordance with their part-time schedule.) Specific provisions for new hires and other administrative matters regarding the policy and answers to the most common questions will be available on RailTown later today.
As a company, we will continue to monitor our competitive labour market position in Calgary and across Canada and the US."

I think I'm going to take today off....


Here are the details of the hygiene poster in our office.

Huge poster telling me what to do...

Make sure you use etiquette when spitting....

15 June 2006

R.I.P. Maxie 1990-2006

I heard from mom the other night that our family dog, Maxie, had suffered a stroke and wasn't doing very well. I got confirmation tonight that she died this morning. Mom and dad figured she was having a series of strokes since she was slowly deteriorating, shaking and gradually losing her motor functions. It appeared she wasn't in any pain, and died peacefully.

Maxie was a great dog. The folks got her when I left Grandview for university in Winnipeg - Owen was 11, Warren was 15, I was almost 18. She lived 16 great years on the farm and was always the loyal companion. She would follow us wherever we went on the farm or exploring in the country and everytime I was home from Winnipeg, Red Deer, or Calgary, she would always come out for my running sessions with me.

We'll miss you Maxie. Rest in peace.

House it going? Even higher!


UPDATED: 2006-06-15 02:41:46 MST

Average price of a home in Calgary skyrockets $16,000 so far this month


JUST TWO WEEKS into the month, the average cost of a home in Calgary has skyrocketed more than $16,000, earning the typical local homeowner more than $1,150 a day in June.

According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, the average residential sale price this month is $374,380, up from $358,214 in May.

During the record-setting months of April and May, residential realty increased an average of $500 a day, but the latest figures indicate prices are climbing at rates never seen before.

"The real estate market is completely reflective of the economy," said CREB president Kevin Clark.

"I'd be surprised if this wasn't happening."

Despite the escalation in prices, Clark said he thinks the numbers are "a little misrepresentative" of the entire market.

"The numbers will be thrown because of the higher-end sales we are getting," he said, adding expensive properties are moving faster than low-end residences.

Clark said the realty sector is in a sensitive stage at this point and there are some signs the overheated market is letting up just slightly.

The number of sales in June seems to support that.

Just over 1,500 properties have been snapped up so far this month, putting unit sales on pace for about 3,200 transactions.

In May, more than 3,500 homes changed hands.

"There's a little more choice out there," said Clark.

As well, the scant 12 days of inventory available in Calgary is now up a bit to 15 days.

And, while prices aren't expected to drop during the summer or any time soon, Clark said buyers who keep a close eye on different neighbourhoods throughout the city can find the home they're looking for if their timing is right.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Real Estate Association yesterday released its May report on sales activity across the country.

The average price of a home in Canada surpassed the $300,000 mark for the first time and residential average price records were set in several cities, including Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Calgary and Edmonton also established new highs for sales activity.


Cost for a Calgary home:

- June's average sale price: $374,380, increase of $1,150 per day.

- May's average sale price: $358,214, increase of $500 per day.

14 June 2006


I'm not so sure if it's a sign of the times or part of my company's avian flu disaster avoidance plan, but the signs in the bathrooms and kitchens at work explaining proper hygiene and cleanliness just got a whole lot bigger this week. The ones in the kitchens outline everything from interaction with people, washing hands, and 'proper coughing and spitting' etiquette. Gross. I think it's really pathetic that grown adults that are supposed to be quite sentient since they are working at high paying responsible jobs still have to be reminded to wash their hands after a piss or a dump. Why would someone not wash? Do they revel in their own filth?

As the signs get bigger, I sense the passion of people for hygiene must be slowly fading away. Pretty soon they'll just let us shit in the office, for gob's sake.

12 June 2006

Almost a year ago...

Here are some more pics of Trezlie. She's one year old on July 17th!


This past weekend, thirteen members of the Synergy Track team headed to Edmonton for the Velocity Shishkebab track race. It is the second in a series of four races that result in combined individual totals to determine the winner of the ABA Journal Cup at the end of the season. Synergy kicked ass! We had top three placings in all five categories.

Cat 1/2 action

Cat 3 action

Here are the Synergy results:

Men's Cat 1/2
Placing Name Points
1 Reid Dalgleish 41
4 Felix Haspel 25
5 Devon Smibert 24
6 Chris Hooper 18
9 Mike Patton 10

Women's A
2 Natasha Kuzmak 59
3 Steph Roorda 44

Men's Cat 3
2 Frank Kovacs 45
3 Craig Debellefeuille 40
- cp Walsh -

Men's Cat 4
3 Dave Corr 36
5 John Plant 22

Men's Cat 5
1 Sherwood Plant 64

Warm ups

Devon also raced the tandem bike with Brian Cowie.

Frank automatically qualified for the Alberta Provincial Team with his Master's results. Craig may qualify too, but it's by committee selection, so it'll be a few days until we find out.

What a great weekend. The team did some good work, had some fun and the weather stayed relatively nice, although the rain was threatening both days.

Jayson and Natasha

I am so excited about my results! I did a 5:05.16 pursuit, which is another two seconds off my time at the Spring Cleanup race. Sub-five minutes, here I come! I really want to especially thank Felix, Devon, Chris and Mike, who provided some phenomenal teamwork on the pack races and helped to maintain my first place position, especially during the Points Race on Sunday. Chris had a crash when his tubular came off the bike, but he had the 'nads to jump back into the race two laps later! What a trooper!


I bunked with Dave Corr and we had long conversations in the evening when the lights went out. We got word this weekend that Dave accepted a new position in Albany, NY and is moving the family out East later in the summer. We're really going to miss you Dave! All the cornerstones of Synergy are slowly leaving Calgary....


The team (Chris - you're missed here!)

I also had lots of laughs travelling in the minivan with Natasha and Steph. We went out for dinner together Saturday night after the rest of the team ditched us. No one was quite sure how the restaurants were going to be (packed or empty?) since we were leaving the track during the Oilers/Hurricanes game. As it turned out, everyone went further south to find a place to eat, however we three went up to Whyte Ave and settled on Chianti's. Needless to say, the restaurant was empty and the whole team could've dined together. It was really loud since the bar upstairs was showing the game and we followed what was going on when it sounded like the roof was going to cave in! As it turned out, Edmonton won the game and the happy Oilers fans poured out onto Whyte Ave. shortly thereafter. We decided to make a beeline back to the rez at U of A where we were staying to avoid the crowds. The celebration on the street couldn't have lasted too long since torrential rains started coming down about a half hour later.


Dave, Frank, Felix and I met up with my old work-mate Matt for a few beers later on at Earls. It was good to catch up with Matt. He's so freaking funny.

The racing on Sunday finished early and the prizes were divvied up during a barbeque behind the Juventus clubhouse, complete with shishkebabs. We were able to pull the plug around 2pm and made it back to Calgary around 5pm. Early arrival at home was a nice way to finish the weekend.

This week, it's back to the grind, and this weekend is the Prairie Steamer Road Race hosted by our club. cp and Natasha have been busy preparing. I haven't been able to contribute as much as I'd like since I'm mired in more AGLC paperwork, but I'll be able to lend a hand this week picking up prizes, food and getting things under control on Saturday.

The following weekend is the Women and Children First Track Race hosted by CBTL, and the weekend after that is the Canada Day Crit and Trofeo Leva Crit in Edmonton again. I can't believe the year is almost half over already!

09 June 2006

Beyond Hope

by Derrick Jensen

THE MOST COMMON WORDS I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We're fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have—or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective—to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they're reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

Here's how John Osborn, an extraordinary activist and friend, sums up his reasons for doing the work: "As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure some doors remain open. If grizzly bears are still alive in twenty, thirty, and forty years, they may still be alive in fifty. If they're gone in twenty, they'll be gone forever."

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We're losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don't care.

Frankly, I don't have much hope. But I think that's a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women's shelters in the '50s and '60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they're getting worse. Rapidly.
But it isn't only false hopes that keep those who go along enchained. It is hope itself. Hope, we are told, is our beacon in the dark. It is our light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the beam of light that makes its way into our prison cells. It is our reason for persevering, our protection against despair (which must be avoided at all costs). How can we continue if we do not have hope?

We've all been taught that hope in some future condition—like hope in some future heaven—is and must be our refuge in current sorrow. I'm sure you remember the story of Pandora. She was given a tightly sealed box and was told never to open it. But, being curious, she did, and out flew plagues, sorrow, and mischief, probably not in that order. Too late she clamped down the lid. Only one thing remained in the box: hope. Hope, the story goes, was the only good the casket held among many evils, and it remains to this day mankind's sole comfort in misfortune. No mention here of action being a comfort in misfortune, or of actually doing something to alleviate or eliminate one's misfortune.

The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying "Hope and fear chase each other's tails," not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is.

More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldn't believe—or maybe you would—how many magazine editors have asked me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here's the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.

I'm not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don't hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn't crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they've assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they've stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.

I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn't drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they don't like how they're being treated—and who could blame them?—I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.

When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to "hope" at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.

When we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we're in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free—truly free—to honestly start working to resolve it. I would say that when hope dies, action begins.

PEOPLE SOMETIMES ASK ME, "If things are so bad, why don't you just kill yourself?" The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.

Many people are afraid to feel despair. They fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate our situation really is, they must then be perpetually miserable. They forget that it is possible to feel many things at once. They also forget that despair is an entirely appropriate response to a desperate situation. Many people probably also fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate things are, they may be forced to do something about it.

Another question people sometimes ask me is, "If things are so bad, why don't you just party?" Well, the first answer is that I don't really like to party. The second is that I'm already having a great deal of fun. I love my life. I love life. This is true for most activists I know. We are doing what we love, fighting for what (and whom) we love.

I have no patience for those who use our desperate situation as an excuse for inaction. I've learned that if you deprive most of these people of that particular excuse they just find another, then another, then another. The use of this excuse to justify inaction—the use of any excuse to justify inaction—reveals nothing more nor less than an incapacity to love.

At one of my recent talks someone stood up during the Q and A and announced that the only reason people ever become activists is to feel better about themselves. Effectiveness really doesn't matter, he said, and it's egotistical to think it does.

I told him I disagreed.

Doesn't activism make you feel good? he asked.

Of course, I said, but that's not why I do it. If I only want to feel good, I can just masturbate. But I want to accomplish something in the real world.


Because I'm in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don't determine whether or not you make the effort. You don't simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn't cause me to protect those I love, it's not love.

A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn't kill you. It didn't even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems—you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself—and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there's a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they—those in power—cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you're dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell—you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.

And who is left when that you dies? You are left. Animal you. Naked you. Vulnerable (and invulnerable) you. Mortal you. Survivor you. The you who thinks not what the culture taught you to think but what you think. The you who feels not what the culture taught you to feel but what you feel. The you who is not who the culture taught you to be but who you are. The you who can say yes, the you who can say no. The you who is a part of the land where you live. The you who will fight (or not) to defend your family. The you who will fight (or not) to defend those you love. The you who will fight (or not) to defend the land upon which your life and the lives of those you love depends. The you whose morality is not based on what you have been taught by the culture that is killing the planet, killing you, but on your own animal feelings of love and connection to your family, your friends, your landbase—not to your family as self-identified civilized beings but as animals who require a landbase, animals who are being killed by chemicals, animals who have been formed and deformed to fit the needs of the culture.

When you give up on hope—when you are dead in this way, and by so being are really alive—you make yourself no longer vulnerable to the cooption of rationality and fear that Nazis inflicted on Jews and others, that abusers like my father inflict on their victims, that the dominant culture inflicts on all of us. Or is it rather the case that these exploiters frame physical, social, and emotional circumstances such that victims perceive themselves as having no choice but to inflict this cooption on themselves?

But when you give up on hope, this exploiter/victim relationship is broken. You become like the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.

And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.

In case you're wondering, that's a very good thing.

08 June 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I find our pop culture fascinating. This week heralds the release of Al Gore's new documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" on the Earth's climate crisis. According to the laurels it has gotten from critics, it is apparently very good.

As well this week is the release of two noxious gas-emitter movies (I wonder if the movies reflect the reality of what they're portraying?). "Cars" by Pixar and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift", both movies that I suspect praise the almighty personal vehicle that we've all grown to love and obsess over. Aww...what a cute little car you are! Good thing they're teaching the kids valuable lessons about things that we won't be obsessing over in 20 years or so.

06 June 2006

Bonintrogagement and camping pics


Cyrus and Chelsea

Erika, Connor and Graeme

Jon's swanky new shoes -- all hail the shoes!


More pose


Trezlie at Medicine Lake

Patio lanterns in the rough

Flag Burning and Other Dubious Epidemics

Published on Tuesday, June 6, 2006 by TruthDig.com
by Molly Ivins

Thank goodness the Republicans are around to tell me what to worry about. The flag-burning crisis—here in Austin, there’s that pall of smoke rising from the west every morning (it’s from an area called Tarrytown, where they burn hundreds of flags daily).

You didn’t know hundreds of flags were being burned daily? Actually, you can count on your hand the number of incidents reported over the last five years. For instance, there was one flag burned in 2005 by a drunken teenager and one by a protester in California in 2002. This appalling record of ravishment must be stopped. You’re clearly not worried about what matters.

Gay marriage, now there’s a crisis. Well, OK, so there isn’t much gay marriage going on here in Texas. None, in fact. First, we made it illegal. Then, we made it unconstitutional. But President Bush is all concerned about it, so I guess we have to alter the U.S. Constitution.

Gus and Captain Call (of “Lonesome Dove” fame) will be an item—with who knows who waiting in line right after them.

Also of great concern to Republicans is God Almighty, who, rather to my surprise, has been elected chairman of the Texas Republican Party. That’s what they announced at the biannual convention in Fort Worth this week: “He is the chairman of the party.” Sheesh, the Democrats couldn’t even get Superman.

Also weighing down the nation with a heavy burden is the estate tax, which the Senate will try to repeal this week. The estate tax applies to around 1% of Americans, and I have yet to find any record of it costing anyone a family farm or business. It affects only very, very, very rich people, of whom you are probably not one. And they don’t, actually, need another tax break.

These are the things we are supposed to be worrying about, and you notice that it frees us of quite a few troubles we might otherwise fret about.

The war in Iraq? No sweat.

War with Iran? We’re carefree.

The economy? Hey, did you see that employment report? Well, ignore it.

Budget out of control, shipwreck ahead? Never mind—Bush doesn’t. Worst class divisions since the Gilded Age, rich so much more enormously richer than everybody else, country starting to get creepy? Don’t worry, be happy. Torture, massacre, extraordinary rendition, hidden gulag of prisons in foreign countries, Guantanamo and massive violations of international law, American law and the Constitution? Well, you can see why gay marriage is a far greater menace.

Wipe out for the environment; hundreds of regulations and laws changed to favor those who exploit and damage natural resources; all so common no one is keeping track of them all? Let her rip.

Global warming? In the first place, it’s Al Gore’s issue. In the second place, it’s a downer. In the third place, who cares if it’s too late in a few years?

Homeland security/war on terror? With the highly excellent disposition of anti-terror funds once more judiciously applied by the Department of Homeland Security, we truly have nothing to worry about. We’re ready to stop terrorist attacks in Wyoming, and there are no important cultural sites in New York City, so let’s rock.

Oil crisis? Ha! What oil crisis? You want a $100 rebate you can then give the oil companies? Hey, we’re going to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and that should see us through ... oh, about nine months.

Windfall profits? You think the oil companies are ripping us off for windfall profits? Who? ExxonMobil? Why, they would never!

I believe what we have here is a difference over moral values.

The Republicans are worried about the flag, gay marriage and the terrible burden of the estate tax on the rich. The rest of us are obviously unnecessarily worried about war, peace, the economy, the environment and civilization. Another reason to vote Republican—they have a shorter list.

Molly Ivins is the former editor of the liberal monthly The Texas Observer. She is the bestselling author of several books including Who Let the Dogs In?

Good timing, bad timing

It's interesting how the cascade effect of an event can affect so many other events that you don't even consider at the time. Being in a certain place or doing a certain thing at a certain time has completely different outcomes than had it happened moments sooner or later.

It's like the old adage of meant-to-be lovers that never quite cross paths or can never get together because their situations can't allow them the freedom to do so. Bad timing.

Or two people that accidentally run into each other and immediately know they are meant to be together. Good timing.

The Pigeon Lake road race on Sunday was fantastic. The temperature was hot, the wind was low and the pack was fast. There were several breakaways in the Cat 1/2 race, but they all eventually got pulled back into the peloton. The one that Cyrus was in was reeled back in with 8 or 9 km to go. However, at the 134km mark with 2km to go, several racers got tangled together and went down at 55kph. In the chaos, another three or four went down as well. Those at the front and along the sides of the pack managed to get around unscathed, and this undoubtedly affected the outcome of the final sprint and the placings in the race results. This was bad timing for those involved and those that were unnerved by the sounds and sight of frames, wheels and bodies becoming entangled and hitting the road. It was good timing for those of us who recovered our resolve and put the smackdown at the finish.

(As a side note, I'm still amazed at the relative low incident of horrible injury in bike crashes. Lots of rash, a few broken bones, but you rarely hear of anyone being so injured to require extended hospital stays and even fewer encountering something worse.)

CSIS and the Mounties had good timing in stopping the suspects in the terrorist plot on Toronto and Ottawa. They put the pieces together and figured out things early enough to prevent a catastrophe. This was bad timing for the terrorist suspects. I imagine they're going to be doing some well-deserved hard time because of the new anti-terrorism laws. Did you know one of the leaders had visions of beheading Prime Minister Harper (Harpoon) and taking other MPs hostage while blowing up the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings? Madness!

As well this was really bad timing for Jon. He was scheduled to cross the border heading towards Dallas on Monday, but I just got word today that he got turned back since he didn't have enough documents to satisfy the border guards. I suspect if he had been travelling across last week, things would have worked out differently. Here's hoping his next try is successful. Good timing is I just found out that he made it across today! Yay!

Bad timing: I had two flats last week at track racing, following close to a dozen late last season. I had to miss out on the last two races. This is also the reason cp squeaked by me in the final point standings last season to take first in the A Group.
Good timing: I got to the track to apply a final fix to my flatting Ellipse wheels. Hopefully that is the end to my problems. Although I doubt it.
Bad timing: I got a call from the AGLC last week and have to put together another receipt submission for our Annual Return report in the next couple of weeks. This coincides with racing this weekend in Edmonton and our team's hosted race next weekend, the Prairie Steamer.
Good timing: Because of scheduling, the Prairie Steamer is a road race this year as opposed to a Stage Race. This makes planning and coordination MUCH easier than previous years.

More good timing/bad timing:

Nations get 'wake-up' call about aging workers

Aging populations are set to make a mess of the world's public finances in the decades ahead, and could cause government debt to hit speculative grades everywhere except Denmark, Austria and Canada, Standard & Poor's says. The New York-based credit-rating agency ran some models about the state of the world in 2050, and the overall picture isn't pretty. The world's population is expected to swell to nine billion by the middle of the century from 6.5 billion now, and get a whole lot older. The median age of the world's population by then will reach 38 years, a decade older than today, according to United Nations estimates. The study looked at the impact of current trends in state pension and health care spending on creditworthiness of 32 industrialized nations. It found that, without changes in their fiscal stance or policies, most of the countries' ratings would sink to speculative grade by 2050. In short, they could be much more likely to face defaults. “For many countries, it's a wake-up call to the creeping effect of the demographic realities,” said Nikola Swann, credit analyst and author of the Canadian version of the report to be released today. “The basic demographic root of the problem is a shrinking labour force compared with the number of people who will be collecting age-related benefits.”

Canada emerged as one of only three nations above investment grade in 2050, with a double-A rating, according to the model. S&P currently rates Canadian public debt at triple-A, the highest investment grade. Other countries are in much worse shape, including the US, where net debt could rise from the mid-2020s to reach 29% and 350% of [gross domestic product], respectively, by 2050, according to the report. Canada has several factors in its favour that will allow it to weather the demographic shift, Swann explained. “Immigration is an area where Canada has more flexibility than most countries.” Canada can continue to attract working-age immigrants for three reasons, he added: a healthy economy, the fact that Canada's not a very crowded nation, plus “a political culture very accepting of new immigration, and that's less the case in many of the world's industrialized countries.” The two main other reasons that help Canada's standings are the country's strong starting fiscal position and reforms undertaken in the late 1990s to the Canada Pension Plan, the report said.
(Globe and Mail 060606)

Could this be good timing for the baby boomers, bad timing for the bust generations (X & Y - the ones that have to pick up the slack in a deteriorating economy)? Maybe it's bad timing for everyone. I'm not sure how resilient the world economy is going to be to such a radical shift in demographics. Maybe it's good timing for everyone, but only if you believe a miracle is going to come along that fundamentally changes the economic system in a world where the number of retired people eventually outnumbers the number that are still in the workforce (it will never get to this, but you get the point).

Energy hard to wean an economy hooked on oil

With crude oil trading at near-record highs and a litre of gasoline at $1 or more, alternative energy companies looking to replace the smog-spouting internal combustion engine should be on cloud nine. If the security and longevity of the world's oil supply is in jeopardy -- as many fear -- zero-emission technology could be the very thing to keep gas-guzzling SUVs on the road. Just ask US President Bush, who has outlined a vision of a hydrogen fuel economy to wean his country from its oil addiction. In Canada, it has led to a renewed push for other alternative energy supplies, says John Tak, president of industry group Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Canada. "Greenhouse gases, climate change, the security and reliability of our energy -- these are all drivers. It raises a lot of questions and gets people thinking about other options." Hybrid vehicles using a combination of gasoline and electricity are hot sellers in markets like California, while fuel cells are finding their way into forklifts and other machinery and lower corn prices have made ethanol a cost-effective fuel additive and substitute. Skyrocketing crude is a silver lining for many fuel cell makers and "green" energy companies.

Yet some Calgary firms say the pinch at the pump has not in itself translated into a spike in interest. "Even at US$70 a barrel, people just aren't dedicated enough or convinced to move away from oil dependence," says Robb Thompson, ceo of Dynetek Industries. "This is an oil-based economy. North Americans just aren't feeling the pain yet -- and without an environmental or economic push, there is an unwillingness to make any big changes." Dynetek, a maker of storage cylinders for compressed natural gas and hydrogen-based vehicles, is focusing its attention on South America and Europe, where efforts to improve air quality require cleaner, low-emission fuels to support them.
(National Post 060606)

Do you ever wish sometimes that you had been born in another time? Possibly when things were simpler, more oriented towards things that really matter - family, friends, community? I've moved away from the alarmists on the problems we are about to face with our cheap oil-dependent society, but the prognosis isn't a good one no matter what scenario plays out. The well-intended collective choices that brought us here were made so long ago (as well as the bad choices made clearly out of greed and power), how can you do anything but wonder what might have been had things worked out differently? This is definitely good timing/bad timing. Good times, bad times. These are the fundamentals of our existence.

02 June 2006

Why irony blows my mind and destroys things

I stopped in at Swan's to visit with Joe on Wednesday night (and last night too, but that's another story). Lana, who is a really nice girl is the only other pseudo-permanent employee there was working the floor while Joe was behind the wood. She's really nice, but said something on Wednesday night that really made me think.

As you know, Joe and I don't own a car, so during the summer most of our mobility is done on the bikes. I stuck around the pub until closing time and then Joe and I got our bikes ready to ride home.

Lana: "Did you ride your bike here? Are you riding it home now?"
Me: "Er, yes. I ride my bike everywhere."
Her: "Really?" (sounding incredulous)
Me: "Yeah. Riding at night really isn't that big of a deal either. And you can't get stopped for drunk biking."

I was thinking about this as we walked out the door. She thinks I'm nuts and sometimes I do feel like a big Luddite without a car (like, dude, where's my horse?). That was until I realized she was hopping into a half ton truck for her commute back to Cranston, a suburb of Calgary about 45km away at the south end of Deerfoot Trail. She's spending how much on gas to get back and forth from a service job? A slave to the vehicle because she has no other options to get around?!

I then realized, quite happily, that she's the crazy one, not me. I was about to say something about it until I figured out that her reaction to my statements would be about the same as everyone elses -- incomprehension.

The car slaves are normal, I'm not. I bike through rush hour downtown and see all the throngs of humanity locked in their comfort boxes, billowing out poisonous and greenhouse gases, going nowhere fast. And I think - how can all of this shit be considered NORMAL? It looks like frickin' madness to me. A madness that might eventually destroy us. I think if you could get any of these ardent commuters out of their metal 'reality deprivation' bubbles and get them to see how futile and doomed the system is, they might start thinking about options. It's not like the roads are going to get LESS congested over time (unless gas goes up to $5 a litre or something. I think you'd be starting to see quite a few more bikes around at that point). It's not like there's much more capacity to keep expanding the private vehicle transportation system bigger and bigger either -- even though the developers and politicians would have you believe it. It's not like we'd be able to plunk a brand new infrastructure in place overnight. We're talking decade(s).

I just can't fathom it though - why have we built our entire infrastructure around oil and cars, knowing full well that petrocarbons are a finite resource? We've known it all along. I guess it was because it was always plentiful and cheap, but now it's not and things are only going to get worse. Our entire way of life is dependent on that black gold staying plentiful and staying cheap.

"What's that you say? It's FINITE? What? I've never heard that before."

YOU DUMB FUCK! You've known it all along but were just too lazy to find something better and cleaner.

Meanwhile, we're releasing millions of years of trapped stored carbon sinks into the atmosphere in the span of decades, and there are people still not convinced that it's going to have irrevocable effects on everything that exists on this planet?

We've screwed ourselves due to our own laziness and ineptitude. And people won't change until they are absolutely forced to. And Lana will keep doing her 90km round-trip everyday because it's NORMAL. I'm appalled.


That was the word that stumped Finola Hackett in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Although she was the highest ranking Canadian in the competition ever, she started the spelling with a 'v' instead of a 'w'. Damn Germans.

What does it mean? Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "a weary or pessimistic feeling about life." Hmm. Sort of describes how I feel most of the time. I feel so overextended and exhausted, especially this time of year, with all of the training, racing and volunteer obligations, on top of work, relationship and social needs. Of course, we all feel this way from time to time, and I guess this is my time right now.

Luckily warm weather and outdoor activities help to alleviate the weariness. The past few days have been beautiful. I went out for a three hour ride on Wednesday and last night was racing at the track. Lots of people out and lots of fun. However my equipment woes are making me weary. Two flats on the Mavic Ellipses at the track last night and my Madone is in the shop getting TLC and potentially a new derailleur hanger. Hopefully she will be shift-worthy again in time for Pigeon Lake on Sunday. I'm going to take rolls of hockey tape and electrical tape to the track tomorrow and see if I can't nip my track wheel problem in the bud.

Synergy's host race, the Prairie Steamer Road Race takes place on June 17. The Exec is getting pretty busy organizing that. I'm in charge of food and prizes, and some of the communications.

However, on top of that I just got a call from our AGLC rep yesterday and she is requiring more information for our Annual Returns for 2005 so I have to get a bunch more stuff collected, cross-referenced and sent to her by the 16th. Nothing like having everything crash in on you at the same time!

Oh well. It's the fun stuff that makes it all worthwhile, like a successful race weekend, or the chance to hang out with friends and family. It is with a bit of sadness that we will be saying goodbye tonight to Jon at his farewell party, but from the sounds of it, he and Sara won't be strangers.

Saturday I'm picking up my rental car, going to brunch at Jeff's (Joe has to work Saturday afternoon), then going to the track, fixing my wheels and then Natasha and I are going prize-hunting for the race on the 17th. I'm packing up the car and then heading to Red Deer Saturday night to visit with Owen, Chloe and Trezlie and then setting off early for Pigeon Lake on Sunday. Race start time is 10:30, so I probably won't roll out of Red Deer until 8am or so.

I'm also excited about the track race next weekend. It's being held in Edmonton and a large Synergy contingent is going. Those race weekends are always a hoot. As usual, we will be staying at the U of A residence.

Unfortunately, the Calgary Pride parade takes place on the 11th while I'm in Edmonton, however I'm very happy that I'll be around on the 17th for the Pride Dance, Xist 2006. It's always fun to hang out with the gang.

The rest of June is a full roster of track and road racing up until the Canada Day weekend when there will be two Crits in Edmonton back-to-back. After that, it's only four short weeks until Montreal. I can't believe how quickly time is passing.

Anyways, it's thinking of these things that makes the world not so weltschmerz-y.

01 June 2006

Upping the ante

Ford to give drivers free petrol

BBC News

Ford Motor is trying to temper US motorists' worries about soaring fuel prices - by giving away at least $1,000 (£540) of petrol with new vehicles.
In a marketing salvo, it is also offering interest-free finance on nearly all of its 2006 models.

The move comes a week after General Motors (GM) offered to subsidise petrol prices for drivers of its new vehicles.

High petrol prices have slowed sales - especially of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and trucks.

Desperate measures?

As the cost of oil has surged, consumers have been hit by rising petrol prices - now averaging close to $3 a gallon.

Ford said that as part of its new promotions programme, customers buying a new car would get either a pre-paid debit card for $1,000 of petrol or an equivalent discount on the car's price.

In another incentive, Ford said it would give $4,000 cash back on its Expedition SUV and up to $2,500 on other models.

One analyst described the move as "one of the most generous programmes we've seen in a long time".

"I said Ford was going to be the first to blink when it comes to incentives this summer, and it looks like that was the case," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with Edmunds.com.

The offers being made are seen as an indication of how desperate manufacturers are to offload unsold vehicles.

Ford, hampered in recent years by heavy losses, saw sales fall 4% in the first four months of 2006.

Sales figures for the motor industry in May are due out on Thursday.

Analysts have predicted that GM will be hit hardest because of its heavy reliance on SUVs and truck sales.

GM, too, has spend the past year deep in the red, as it struggles with slowing sales, resurgent Asian rivals and steep legacy costs of employee healthcare and pensions.