28 July 2006


I'm outta here for a week. This is what I'll be doing, if you feel like checking up on results and such.

Talk to you then!

Would you like some Hoff apples?

Jon, this one's for you!

Hoff Rules Forever!

27 July 2006

Resisting the Matrix

The Matrix
by Jack Duggan

MORPHEUS: Let me tell you why you are here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. There's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

NEO: The Matrix?

MORPHEUS: Do you want to know what it is?
Neo nods.

MORPHEUS: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

NEO: What truth?

MORPHEUS: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.

What is the Matrix
In my opinion, The Matrix films provide the best metaphor our society has for understanding why organized evil and oppression are allowed to exist, and so I will use it for this purpose. While my interpretation isn't the only possible one, I believe it to be valid, comprehensive, and most importantly, illustrative of the message I am trying to convey.

So let's begin by discussing what the Matrix is not. The Matrix is not the physical world. As far as I'm concerned, the physical world is actually real and is in fact governed ceaselessly by the laws of physics. Conversely, the Matrix is also not the Internet, despite what many seem to believe. The Matrix spans and transcends both these worlds. It has existed since the dawn of civilization, and it will continue to exist until its collapse.

So then, what is it? Well, that's complicated. Much like in the movie, it's nearly impossible to convey the size and scope of the Matrix to someone who doesn't already see it for what it is. However, unlike the movie, I believe it is an ethical imperative to try to convey it in a literal sense, even to those who are so dependent upon the Matrix that they would fight to protect it. At worst, they won't understand or believe and will continue on about their business. In a sense, I believe Cypher was right to resent Morpheus for what he did, because Morpheus engaged in flat out trickery and deception to free people.

But I digress. The Matrix is the social structure that subordinates Humanity to its will. It is the machinery of society that exists solely to perpetuate itself, its influence, and its power independent of any human need. It insulates us from each other and ourselves through deception, and essentially transforms us into servile engines of economic and political output (power). The machines that live off this power are institutions: large corporations, governments, schools, religious institutions, and even non-profit orgs. Every institution will reach a point in its existence where its primary function becomes self-preservation and perpetuation, instead of serving human need. At this point it becomes a machine of the Matrix. For example, when they become machines, governments cease to serve people and instead seek to extend their power over them; corporations prioritize increasing shareholder value over producing quality products or otherwise serving the public good; schools view students as a means and not an end; religions equate membership with salvation (and actively oppose other teachings and even independent practice); and non-profits and charities spend more budget on fund raising activity than on their original focus. Inevitably all large institutions eventually become machines. They become too big for Humanity.

In addition to the independent self-perpetuating machines that write most of our paychecks, the Matrix has several major cooperative and more actively sinister groups of machines subsisting off of its power and directly contributing to the structure of the Matrix itself. These groups are the Military Industrial Complex, the Political Industrial Complex, the Prison Industrial Complex, the Surveillance Industrial Complex, the Media Industrial Complex, the Academic Industrial Complex, the Agricultural Industrial Complex, the Medical Industrial Complex and the major organized religions. All machines in these groups either actively oppress humanity, or enable the oppression to persist. It is through their combined efforts that the Matrix takes on some of its more distasteful qualities.

Resisting the Matrix
Resistance is a mental state. The Matrix is designed to make it easy to accept what it tells you and to make it hard to filter the truth from the lies.

Resisting the Matrix requires understanding its operating principles and assumptions, rejecting them, and helping others to do the same.

The Matrix is fascist, the Matrix is deceptive, and the Matrix is bureaucracy. The Matrix is essentially the rule of the institution over the individual, and in it, the rights of the individual are subordinate to the rights of the institution. Individuals have to believe (or at least not actively oppose the idea) that large corporations have the right to protect their profits above all else, and thus dictate policy and law. They have to believe that this law is just, moral, and seemingly based upon reason. Or, they have to feel unaffected by the law on an individual level. They have to accept the program, and be satisfied with the rewards given for doing so. They have to do their jobs, pay their taxes, and be content with their salary (at least to the point where their salary and the stability it provides are appealing enough to deter risking leaving the Matrix). Rejecting these beliefs is the first step in resisting the Matrix.

Furthermore, people must be insulated from the creative process. They have to forget that they are able to produce craft as individuals independent of large institutions, and they must feel entirely dependent upon the system to provide them with what they need. It is mostly through the violation of this principle that many who work with computers come to free themselves, or at least come to see the Matrix for what it is. Despite being products of the Matrix (for the most part), computers and the Internet enable humans to create individual works on a global scale: independent media, self-publishing, Free Software, computer music, computer art and graphics, and so on. Computers also enable independent people to communicate and build human-serving social structures outside of the Matrix.

More at: http://jdoe.freeshell.org/howtos/ExitTheMatrix/ar01s02.html
From http://wakeupfromyourslumber.blogspot.com/

Please say it's just painkillers!

Landis tests positive
Phonak: Tour winner had high levels of testosterone
Posted: Thursday July 27, 2006 10:16AM; Updated: Thursday July 27, 2006 11:58AM
Sports Illustrated

LONDON (AP) -- Tour de France champion Floyd Landis tested positive for high levels of testosterone during the race, his Phonak team said Thursday on its Web site, raising questions about his victory.

The team suspended Landis, pending results of the backup "B" sample of his drug test, just four days after Landis stood on the victory podium on the Champs-Elysees, succeeding seven-time winner Lance Armstrong as an American winner in Paris.

The Swiss-based Phonak team said it was notified by the UCI on Wednesday that Landis' sample showed "an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone" when he was tested after stage 17 of the race last Thursday.

"The team management and the rider were both totally surprised of this physiological result," the Phonak statement said.

Landis made a remarkable comeback in that Alpine stage, racing far ahead of the field for a solo win that moved him from 11th to third in the overall standings. He regained the leader's yellow jersey two days later.

Landis rode the Tour with a degenerative hip condition that he has said will require surgery in the coming weeks or months.

Arlene Landis, his mother, said Thursday that she wouldn't blame her son if he was taking medication to treat the pain in his injured hip, but "if it's something worse than that, then he doesn't deserve to win."

"I didn't talk to him since that hit the fan, but I'm keeping things even keel until I know what the facts are," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview from her home in Farmersville, Pennsylvania. "I know that this is a temptation to every rider but I'm not going to jump to conclusions ... It disappoints me."

The Phonak statement came a day after the UCI, cycling's world governing body, said an unidentified rider had failed a drug test during the Tour.

Phonak said Landis would ask for an analysis of his backup sample "to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake."

Landis has been suspended by his team pending the results. If the second sample confirms the initial finding, he will be fired, Phonak said.

USA Cycling spokesman Andy Lee said that organization could not comment on Landis.

"Because it's an anti-doping matter, it's USA Cycling's policy not to comment on that subject out of respect for the process and Floyd's rights," Lee said. "Right now, we have to let the process proceed and we can't comment on it."

Carla O'Connell, publications and communications director for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said: "I'll make this very brief: No comment."

Under World Anti-Doping Agency regulations, a ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone greater than 4:1 is considered a positive result and subject to investigation. The threshold was recently lowered from 6:1. The most likely natural ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in humans is 1:1.

Testosterone is included as an anabolic steroid on WADA's list of banned substances, and its use can be punished by a two-year ban.

Landis wrapped up his Tour de France win on Sunday, keeping the title in U.S. hands for the eighth straight year. Armstrong, long dogged by doping whispers and allegations, won the previous seven. Armstrong never has tested positive for drugs and vehemently has denied doping.

Speculation that Landis had tested positive spread earlier Thursday after he failed to show up for a one-day race in Denmark on Thursday. A day earlier, he missed a scheduled event in the Netherlands.

On the eve of the Tour's start, nine riders -- including pre-race favorites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso -- were ousted, implicated in a Spanish doping investigation.

The names of Ullrich and Basso turned up on a list of 56 cyclists who allegedly had contact with Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who's at the center of the Spanish doping probe.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Uh oh. Here we go again. Support your amateur racing association! The locals aren't doping up, I think....

This is so stupid

Call to fill boomers' chairs may go unanswered

That thundering sound is the collective tread of Canada's Baby Boomers taking the final steps toward retirement. As the generation that defined excess, as much through their numbers as their spending habits, prepares to step down from senior management positions, a recent study shows that there might not be enough qualified people to pick up the slack. "There is going to be a significant leadership gap," said Prem Benimadhu, vp in organizational performance at the Conference Board of Canada. A recent report by the board, titled The Strategic Value of People: Human Resources Trends and Metrics, found there are not enough people to fill the places Boomers will leave empty. And worse, the ones that are available are not prepared for the job. To complicate matters, the next generation of high-level executives are not much younger than the ones retiring so companies could be faced with another shift in senior management in less than five years. When it comes to losing two sets of senior executives, in quick succession, the transportation industry stands to take the biggest hit with second-level executives having a median age of 48. The report also found nearly half of senior-level executives achieved top-level performance ratings, while only a quarter of their potential successors were performing at the same level.

One serious complication is people are not sticking with one job, Benimadhu said. People expect to switch jobs five times so company loyalty is basically a thing of the past. Shifting between companies can be beneficial to workers but destabilizes corporate structure, Benimadhu said. "Corporate memory is essential for success, which is why recruiting outside talent can lead to complications," he said. Outside talent is typically chosen to bring a fresh perspective, which can be a bit too fresh, he said. "They try to bring about changes, without having a significant knowledge of the cultural aspects of the company." But pulling in outside talent may be the only way for Canadian companies to get an edge, said Dr. Anil Verma, professor at University of Toronto's Joseph L. Rotman School of Management. "The fact is that, traditionally, Canadian companies are not leaders when it comes to creating talent," he said. But companies should remedy that problem rather than just trying to fix it with new workers. "If companies don't want to be destabilized or derailed from their strategic goals, then they should be investing a lot more in developing talent internally."

"What worked 15 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago isn't going to work now," said Bruce Peer, president and managing director of the Canadian Management Centre. One antiquated item that should be on the chopping block is mandatory retirement. The idea of retiring in your fifties and sixties was developed in the 1930s before modern health care, Peer said. "You were dealing with a life expectancy and therefore a life effectiveness, if there is such an expression, which is far less than it is now." Rather than cutting senior workers loose, corporations should establish programs, such as mentoring, that integrate that experience with existing younger talent, he said. The second issue is that an increasingly diverse workforce means the entire structure of Canadian corporate culture "is changing dramatically and nobody is ready for that" he said. "It's something in Canada that we are going to have to step up to very very quickly." Very few Canadian organizations have invested in training programs to prepare for the coming changes, Peer said.
(National Post 060726)

I think this just shows how short-sighted and short-term corporations are in their thinking. Demographics is not a speculative science - the numbers have always been there. I find it amazing that only just in the past few years has anyone been showing any concern for this problem. Corporations should have been implementing contigency plans for this, whether it be fast-tracking, mentoring, or whatever, a decade or so ago. But instead everyone at the top has been too concerned on protecting their position of power, their pension plans and their stock options. The corporate world (especially in transportation) have sort of shot themselves in the foot and I can't say that I feel sorry for them. They've spent too much time focusing on technology and efficiencies while forgetting that they still need to retain good people to make good decisions.

26 July 2006

Americans turning away from Big-3

For the first time, more American car buyers are choosing foreign-based automobile brands over the traditional domestic brands of Big-3 automakers Ford, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors, new research shows. From January to May of this year, 52.9% of new vehicles registered by buyers with US state licensing authorities were import brands, auto consultancy R.L. Polk & Co. found in research released yesterday. During the same period last year, it was 49%. One leading automotive journal said the research would deliver "a psychological blow" to the Detroit-based Big-3 automakers. But others say it simply confirms a trend that has been building for years. In Canada, foreign brands overtook Big-3 domestic brands in retail sales three years ago, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Lonnie Miller, Polk's director of industry analysis, cautioned the domestic brands could still hold more than 50% of US retail market share by the time 2006 ends. But it's clear the gains made by foreign brands are showing up. "An American would prefer to buy an American-branded product," said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, a market research firm in Tustin, CA. "But many of them feel like they've been burned so badly in the past by poor quality or poor service that they would not even consider an American car any more." Rising gas prices have also played a part as consumers dump bigger SUVs and trucks for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Ford, which depends heavily on profits from its SUVs and F-Series trucks, reported an unexpected second-quarter loss last week of US$123-million. The company said it failed to predict the extent of the shift in consumer buying. Despite the drop in truck sales, Ford is sticking with its target of selling 900,000 F-Series large pickups in the US market this year. "It's still our goal," Ford sales analyst George Pipas said yesterday. "We have our eyes wide open in regard to demand for full-size pickup trucks in the US." F-Series US sales fell 1.9% to 400,177 in this year's first half, including a decline of 8.2% in the second quarter. Consumers shifted to cars from light trucks such as pickups and sport-utility vehicles as US average retail gasoline prices rose as high as US$2.95 a gallon in the period. F-Series sales are "more heavily weighted in the second half of the year," which is why the annual target can still be met, Pipas said.
(National Post, Globe and Mail 060725)

21 July 2006

Death to the four-wheel killing machine!

Jay's death on Wednesday strengthens my resolve to join the 'Death to the Car' revolution. As some of you know, I've been pretty anti-car for quite awhile (oddly coinciding with when the bike became my primary means of transportation). As I expect, most of you will tell me to piss off - that cars are what made North America great (great for what?), are the epitome of personal freedom (freedom from what?), that it's a necessity for me and my family (necessity for what?), yadda, yadda, yadda. Well if you're in this group, fuck you. They've killed and maimed too many people I've known and loved (how many makes it unacceptable?). We freak out about the horrific situation in the Middle East while there are 3.3 million injuries, 2.2 million permanent injuries and 45,000 car-related deaths in North America each year? No one even thinks about these statistics. Personal vehicles have aided in making North American society the fucked up mess that it is.

But I want to know how all these yokels that shouldn't even be breeding get to drive? Any mouth-breathing troglodyte gets to own a car with only having to pass a practical test that any idiot could pass with a little practice once - and never have to get tested again, ever, unless they kill or come close to killing someone? Geez - medical conditions be damned! Professional drivers need to get medical tests every five years (but they also don't need to be tested for proficiency again), so how are cars different from tractor units? They're still a couple thousand pounds of killing potential...it's harder to get a gun, but really - what's the difference? In the hands of the wrong people - both are lethal. We've all lost someone we know either in a car accident or by being hit by a car. We consider this an unfortunate consequence of normal life. I find it unacceptable. Sometime in the past, driving a car moved from being a privilege to a right. I can't quite figure out when it happened, but I'm pretty sure it was around the time that the auto manufacturers got in bed with the oil companies and the US and Canadian governments. After that all restrictions were off - removal of any sense of social culpability or personal responsibility for our actions soon followed.

Why are the governments so slow to implement cell phone use laws while driving? They penalize people for drinking and driving, but daily I see people driving like complete fucktards, not paying attention to anything in front of them save the terribly important conversation they're having on their cell phone about what their plans are for the evening. It's all so infuriating. I see it endlessly everyday as a pedestrian and cyclist. And it's only getting worse as the roads get more congested and the vehicles get bigger.

Part of the reason civil society is going to hell in a handbasket is because car culture further disassociates people from what's really going on around them. How much can you absorb about the environment around you when you're whizzing by it at 80kph, stereo blaring, windows rolled up, A/C blasting? For some reason, putting someone in the driver's seat changes the most considerate person into a complete asshole. Some neuron switch occurs that suddenly gives everyone a God complex - that their time is of highest importance and that extra 15 seconds it takes to safely navigate a busy intersection or wait for something else to move in gridlock traffic is reason enough to flip out and blow a gasket. What's even worse are those that feel they need to show that cyclist or pedestrian 'a little bit of the fear of god' because they inconvenienced the raging lunatic behind the wheel by 0.5 seconds. If they were rational, they'd realize that the bike or sidewalk is shuttling people along from point A to point B just as effectively as their noisy, belching piece of shit. I can't count how many times I've had someone yell out the window of their car, "get off the road and onto the sidewalk, where you belong!" What driver's training school did these people go to? Oh right - you don't need any training to pass a driver's test. You are able to color in some circles with a pencil on a piece of paper (careful - don't poke your eye out with that thing!), and maybe know how to spell your own name.

I admit, I'm guilty of aggression as well. I become very agitated behind the wheel, and I certainly don't like what I've become when I get out of the driver's seat and analyze my behavior. It's all very messed up. What a weird psychological shift the car does to us.

Add to that that car culture in North America is directly or indirectly responsible for a large part of our environmental degradation, crime, resource depletion, suburban sprawl, obesity, noise pollution and innumerable other problems, and it moves me to want to do something drastic to get people to see the folly of this horrible addiction we have to cars. NASCAR? My point is made.

Maybe we all need to take a hard look at ourselves, our self-absorption, our god complexes, how we plan, build and navigate our communities, how we absorb the world around us and realize that yes, maybe we do need to slow down a bit to get a better sense that we are part of a larger reality that doesn't go away when we confine ourselves in our vehicles. We need to get out our cars and live a more sustainable, less dependent lifestyle. I say - break the shackles of your metal prison deathtrap! Death to the car! Vive la revolution!

People Versus Government and Corporations

Grrr....I'm feeling very anti-establishment today. Thanks Labottomme!

Exerpt from "How to Save the World" by Dave Eriqat

Governments and corporations seek only to dominate, control, and exploit people. Governments do it for power, while corporations do it for profit. Either because of forethought or spontaneous discovery, governments and corporations have for a century-and-a-half been wed in a symbiotic relationship that serves the principal goals of each, at the expense of people and the environment. It could be said that governments and corporations are the antithesis of life.

Today the governments of several of the world’s most industrialized countries are running amok, terrorizing their citizens, trampling their rights, seemingly desperate in their pursuit of power. As our own tolerance for each other has diminished, government has happily assumed the role of brutal enforcer in our “zero tolerance” society.

Similarly, corporations are engaged in a free-for-all exploitation of the planet and its people, aided and abetted by governments, for the profit of a few corporate executives and wealthy shareholders, and most seriously, without any regard to the future of our world. The problem with corporations today is that they no longer seem to have any restraint. The attitude seems to be not just that “greed is good,” but that if they aren’t as rapacious as they can possibly be, then one of their competitors will be. It’s almost as if corporations are in a war with one another to see which can be the more exploitative.

What can we do about this state of affairs? I really don’t know. Governments and corporations hold all the cards today. For now, though, we still own our own minds. The first step in restoring the preeminence of life over government and corporations is to recognize how much they control us. As I alluded in the preface above, when we buy into the “American Dream,” we actually become subservient to the government and corporations. We don’t need a fancy house, a fancy car, or a mobile phone with a built-in camera and Internet access to be happy. Sometimes, less is actually more.

Once we recognize that we’re being programmed to behave in ways that benefit governments and corporations, to the detriment of our very selves, and honestly address the question of what would truly make us happy, maybe then we can start taking steps in the right direction. Timothy Leary once said, “turn on, tune in, drop out.” This maxim is amazingly relevant today, and is the first step toward a healthier tomorrow.

Even if you are not willing to “drop out,” or live “off the grid,” simply examining how much governments and corporations control your daily existence will be instructive. For example, how much time do you spend in any given day complying with government rules or dealing with corporations? Just yesterday I spent about three hours preparing my income taxes, on top of the ten hours I had previously invested in that task. I also had to obtain a loan from a corporation to pay my income taxes to the government (Alas, I poorly managed my finances last year). And, in the past week I’ve had to pay bills to six different corporations. In light of all that utterly unproductive effort, I ought to be asking myself if what I’m getting in return is worth the effort.

It would be nice if we could “opt-out” of supporting the government through paying taxes. Unfortunately, the government is probably not going to go along with that idea. But we can look for legal ways to reduce our taxes. For example, by living a simpler lifestyle and augmenting our income by growing our own food, we can take a job that pays less and thereby pay less tax, while increasing our independence and sense of self-efficacy. Bartering with your neighbors is a good way to avoid taxes too, as there are no practical means for the government to tax bartering. Sharing things with your neighbors, besides fostering a sense of community, reduces spending and hence, sales taxes.

“Participation” in the political process through voting is a facade. Not only are some elections in the United States blatantly rigged today, but it really doesn’t matter who you elect to office anyway. Once in office, a politician is beholden to those who pay his or her campaign bills, which are primarily corporations and their lobbyists, and they are always working behind the scenes, pushing their agendas, not just on election day. Thus, regardless of what platform a candidate runs on, once in office, their platform quietly shifts to that which best serves their corporate sponsors. It’s a waste of time to vote. People who vote are consoling themselves with a false sense of participation, when in fact, their votes are irrelevant. If you want to participate in the political process, then give money to organizations that will lobby continuously on your behalf. Recognizing this reality of American politics, I stopped voting a decade-and-a-half ago and have since given money to organizations, such as Greenpeace, the NRDC, the NRA and the ACLU, to lobby on my behalf. Not playing the government’s election game is wonderfully liberating. Perhaps if enough people stopped “participating” in the political system, the mere lack of participants would send the loudest message of all.

I used to ridicule home schooling as quackery or paranoid anti-government posturing. Today I’m an ardent fan of home schooling. Besides the now obvious failure of public schools to actually educate students – the United States is nearly last among industrialized countries – it’s clear to me now that public schools are increasingly used as a vehicle for inculcating in young minds conformity, as well as devotion and obedience to the state. If I were to have children, I would absolutely school them at home. In fact, collective home schooling of several neighborhood children would be a great example of a community working together. As an interesting aside, governments seem to be waking up to the threat posed by free-thinking graduates of home schools, and are now starting to impose oppressive regulations on home schoolers, apparently with the hope of driving them out of “business.”

As for rejecting corporate influence from your life, it’s easy: simply don’t give them your money. Before spending money, ask yourself if you really need the thing or service you’re contemplating buying. When you do spend your money, spend it at local businesses as much as possible. In cases where you are forced to give your money to corporations – such as by laws requiring you to buy automobile insurance – then find a way to minimize the amount of money you give them. Buy a cheap car for which you can skip the comprehensive and collision coverage.

20 July 2006

Jason Lapierre 1971 - 2006


Popular ski coach killed while cycling
The Calgary Herald
Fri 21 Jul 2006
Page: B4
Section: City & Region
Byline: Jason van Rassel
Source: Calgary Herald
Calgary's sporting community is mourning the death of a respected ski coach and athlete who was hit by a car while cycling near Cochrane.
Jason Lapierre, 34, was the program director at the Calgary Alpine Racing Club and an avid triathlete.
Colleagues credited Lapierre's stewardship with revitalizing the club and producing a promising group of young skiers.
"He had taken it from a point a few years ago when our (membership) numbers were declining and we were in a do-or-die situation," said Todd McNutt, the club's alpine director. "With his vision and enthusiasm . . . he made it one of the best."
Lapierre had coached skiing for 13 years and had spent the past seven with the Calgary club. He could have easily coached at a higher level, McNutt said, but remained committed to developing young athletes.
Off the slopes, Lapierre counted triathlon as one of his main interests. He helped organize a triathlon being held in Sylvan Lake this weekend and had competed in the 2003 Canadian Ironman competition.
Lapierre was cycling on Highway 1A about five kilometres east of Cochrane when a westbound car crossed the centre line and struck him.
The driver of the car was treated and released from hospital. The RCMP are still probing whether a medical event caused the crash.

Cyclist killed by car on highway
POSTED AT 10:52 AM Thursday, July 20

RCMP continue to investigate a motor vehicle crash that left a cyclist dead Wednesday.

Investigators say a car heading westbound on Highway 1A near Cochrane collided with a lone cyclist heading eastbound around 2:30 p.m.

The unidentified cyclist died at the scene.

The driver of the vehicle was treated and released from hospital Wednesday night.

The name of the victim is not being released at the family’s request.

Cochrane RCMP continue to investigate the incident.

I just found out this was a fellow racer and friend, Jason Lapierre. I can't believe it. We met racing triathlons together in 2001 and continued to race many tris and duathlons together in the years following. When I moved exclusively to cycling in 2003 I didn't see him for awhile until he started racing more in the cycling scene. By then he was coaching the Alpine Ski team in earnest and trying to get all of his kids trying out cycling as well, especially at the velodrome for off-season training. He was keen on getting his athletes involved in off-season racing as well and even brought a group of them to Synergy's AGM last year to raise interest. He was genuinely a selfless guy and was so passionate about getting kids into racing. He was a great supporter of the sports he was passionate about and getting others involved in them as well. The Calgary sporting community has a huge hole in it now with the loss of Jay. I'll miss his great smile and conversation so much.

Falling Behind

*wiping the zoned-out drool from the corner of my mouth while staring at the monitor*

Damn you, life - you and all your commitments!

I've sorta kinda been taking the last week off to recompose myself spiritually, mentally and physically. Of course I have also been guilting about it the entire time so I'm pretty much in the same place I was when I started. Sigh. I fully understand that it is my own whacked brain that applies so much pressure on myself to perform, to be involved, to behave, to participate, to empathize - but I've always been this way. It's all so exhausting. I have this dread more and more often these days that I'm falling behind in so many aspects of my life. Simply existing where and when I (we) do is tiring enough. Add to that my twisted interpretations of my own behavior, the actions of others and the state of the world and it equates to being on the edge of a precipice. Wouldn't it be nice to get admitted to a 'rest home', just for a little while to get away from it all (and I really mean ALL), to stop worrying about everything for a period of time?


There is a lot to think and write about and hopefully I'll get around to it before the end of the weekend. I'm not planning on doing any racing or anything else strenuous on the weekend (race-free weekend #3! Wow!), so maybe an attempt at a great blog posting would be therapeutic in a twisted, ranty sort of way.

I'm really anticipating getting away from the daily rut with this trip to Montreal. I've got five-year itch at work, burnout from racing, Stampede and Calgary (the rat-race city poster child), relationship angst, and world-on-my-shoulders syndrome that I need to address.

The Montreal trip is not going to be very restful (that's saved for the trip to the East Coast in September), but it will be very nice to be hanging out in my favorite North American city again after a two-year hiatus. Consequence-free partying! People that aren't only aroused by money and pretty, shiny objects! Whoo!

I'm hoping that my decision to take some time off of racing for the month of July will get me chomping at the bit to get back on the saddle for another two months of high-stakes racing in August in September. It helped last year.

Until later. I need to zone out and start drooling again...

17 July 2006

Calgary's slow burn

Sun, July 16, 2006
UPDATED: 2006-07-16 03:48:12 MST
City hall powers that be in no hurry to force businesses to kick butt

It's a smouldering issue that won't be extinguished, as long as cigarettes are allowed to burn in city eateries and bars.

Three-and-a-half years after a deal was struck between the city and its hospitality industry to postpone a comprehensive cigarette ban in public spaces until Jan. 1, 2008, the fight to fast-track prohibition has flared anew.

Increasing evidence citing the dangers of second-hand smoke -- as exemplified in a recent U.S. Surgeon-General's report -- and a trend towards butt bans in other jurisdictions have fired up foes of Calgary's slow-burning approach.

Anti-tobacco activist Robyn Hefferton says a year of fruitless lobbying that often felt like head-butting a brick wall took its toll, but the latest foray has her back in the fray.

She'll be in council chambers tomorrow when aldermen vote on possibly imposing a blanket smoking ban in public places Jan. 1, 2007, rather than a year later.

"I'm telling aldermen Calgarians support the ban, why is a deal with business taking priority to what the general public wants?" she says.

A former city nightclub manager, who wished to remain anonymous, says he knows one important reason the hospitality industry lobbied to delay cigarette prohibition until 2008.

Some watering holes, he alleges, receive major support from tobacco companies, which they use for booking bands and even renovations in return for promoting cigarettes on their premises.

Tobacco companies fight tooth and nail for the right to sign contracts with bars, worth easily $100,000 a year, he says.

It's a charge echoed somewhat by smoking opponents in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, who say tobacco firms made large donations to a hospitality industry group there that sprang up to block an anti-smoking bylaw.

Calgary restaurateur Al Browne, who was instrumental in negotiating Calgary's 2008 pact, vehemently denies any of the outcome was linked to tobacco money.

"That is completely false -- I've never heard of any of that happening here," says Browne.

It's a view echoed by Charlie Mendelman, vice-president of the Calgary Pub and Bar Association.

"We never got one cent from the tobacco industry in Calgary," said Mendelmen.

That's a preposterous denial, says Les Hagen, executive director of the group Action on Smoking and Health.

"Those companies' presence is everywhere, whether it's the cigarette girls or the signage in those places," he says.

In any case, says Hagen, Calgary's current bylaw forcing restaurants to choose between tobacco and minors while leaving bars unfettered has left the city the butt of black humour among the health conscious across the country.

"Calgary is considered a Chernobyl among smoke-free circles in Canada -- people are constantly bringing it up," says the Edmontonian, noting the city is the last larger centre in Canada not to institute a comprehensive ban.

- - -

A host of health-care-related conventions have passed up Calgary due to its archaic smoking bylaws, says Hagen.

"We're not just talking about the anti-tobacco groups, it's the entire health community that notices," he says.

He insists the city's 2008 prohibition is based on health concerns that are as valid today as they'd be in 18 months.

"Protection delayed is protection denied," he says.

So far, though, only six of 15 aldermen are solidly in the fast-track camp, with a total of eight needed to win the day.
Ald. Ric McIver is one of those backing the status quo, insisting health factors are only one part of the equation.

"Health is an important concern, but freedom and personal responsibility are also concerns," says McIver.

Backtracking to reduce health worries would only place council in ill-repute, as flip-floppers, he says.

"It's stuff like this that led to an 18-percent turnout in the last civic election," says McIver.

Despite numerous polls showing a majority of Calgarians want a swifter butting out, McIver said he has no reason to believe it's a majority desire.

And Calgary, he says, has nothing to be ashamed of in resisting speedier progress towards full tobacco prohibition.

"Some of the other cities are ahead of Calgary in personal health, but Calgary's led in personal responsibility," he says.

Some have suggested city council knew the deal hatched three years ago with its 2008 deadline guaranteed the issue would be an open sore well before that date was reached.

But McIver says the bottom line is, a deal's a deal.

- - -

It's one of the most maligned and bewildering aspects of Calgary's current smoking bylaw -- a cigarette ban on outdoor bar patios while patrons inside are free to light up.

Ald. Craig Burrows admits he brokered that part of the pact nearly four years ago while also engineering the 2008 date for a total tobacco ban in such places.

But now Burrows has changed his tune and wants a 2007 kibosh on smoking in public -- an altered stance that's drawn the ire of some in the hospitality industry.

Restaurateur Browne, who haggled with Burrows and anti-smoking activists in backroom sessions three years ago, says he and his allies were stunned when Burrows offered smoke-free patios in exchange for a postponed ban indoors.

"We were flabbergasted ... it was a weird request," says Browne, a director of the Canadian Food and Restaurant Association (CFRA).

"We protected Burrows all these years, because there's been ridicule over that part of the bylaw -- he's gone unscathed."

But he says the gloves are now off, adding Burrows has proven himself a turncoat.

"When you give us your word, then turn on us, this is no longer a smoking issue, this is a credibility issue," says Browne, who recalled bargaining sessions so rancorous, they almost came to physical blows.

He's convinced if Burrows had approached the negotiations differently, Calgary bars would be smoke-free today.

Burrows, however, remains unruffled, explaining his position on patios was influenced by his own unpleasant experiences while having a cool one outdoors.

"It's the only place I had a problem with smokers -- they wouldn't put their cigarettes down, they'd put them in your face," he says.

Such outdoor smoking, Burrows adds, is visible to the young and sends an unhealthy message.

Three years ago, his concern over the fate of mom and pop operations had him favouring the 2008 deadline.

Since then, however, business owners have told him their fears of a financial hit from a cigarette ban have gone up in smoke, says the alderman.

"They're saying now things have changed. They're doing fine," says Burrows. "It would have been one thing if we'd changed our minds six months after, but now it'll be four years.

The ability to be flexible and admit one might have been mistaken is more valuable than misplaced loyalty, he adds.

And bowing to the demands of the majority, which includes the 80% of Calgarians who are non-smokers, says Burrows, is just plain intelligent.

"Do what the majority says and you'll have a long life in politics," he says.

Offering a smoke-free environment would also make it easier for for businesses to overcome a rising recruiting challenge, said Burrows.

Browne says his side isn't necessarily opposed to the 2007 deadline, but resents having the decision sprung on them.

"We're willing to bite the bullet, but let's have the same process of consultation we had before ... what they're doing is ram-rodding it down our throats."

He said three years ago, the CFRA appealed to the province to bring in an Alberta-wide smoking ban -- in a bid to create a level playing field -- but were rebuffed.

It's one thing both Burrows and Browne can agree on -- the province has abdicated its responsibility on a legitimate health-care issue by downloading it on municipalities.

"The province is missing the boat in this -- they should be doing this," says Burrows.

But he dismissed Browne's call for another round of stakeholder consultation that proved so torturous three years ago.

"By the time we finish that, it'd be 2008," he says.

Browne says time has taken its toll -- on smoking in establishments, adding 98% of Calgary restaurants have butted out voluntarily.

"It's already being taken care of," he says.

"This issue's being used as brownie points by politicians."


Further to Skybar's post on the spam emails that get into your inbox but don't make any sense, I've been getting them more and more frequently at work. Oh how I wish that I could find out which magical database contains my contact info that these emails are being generated from.

They are getting more coherent though, so I guess things could be worse. I'd still like to know what a mimafy and Glamdring are though.

From: Shripati Simson [mailto:shri@assembly.ca.gov]
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2006 5:43 AM
To: Reid Dalgleish
Subject: mimafy

Good heavens! Can you ask! Goblins fighting and biting in the dark,
everybody falling over bodies and hitting one another! You nearly
chopped off my head with Glamdring, and Thorin Was stabbing here there

13 July 2006


Excitement over Milwaukee gas giveaway leads to crashes, arrests
19:08:43 EDT Jul 12, 2006

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Two car crashes and four people were arrested in excitement over a gasoline giveaway Wednesday to reward the city for its safe-driving record.

For the most part, hundreds of drivers waited patiently for hours for about $30 US worth of free gasoline each that Allstate Insurance provided at one station.

However, some motorists started lining up before midnight and the queue stretched far from the station into a residential area, trapping some residents in their driveways, said police spokeswoman Anne Schwartz.

That led to fights and arrests for disorderly conduct. In one case, three officers were sent to a hospital as a precaution because they were spattered with blood from someone's bloodied nose, Schwartz said.

The two crashes apparently occurred when queued-up motorists tried to let friends into line, Schwartz said.

"Any time you offer free gas when it is $3 a gallon, it is not surprising people would get excited," she said.

Allstate gave away a tanker truck load of gasoline as a reward to Milwaukee for ranking No. 1 among mid-sized cities on its safe drivers list.

Clarence Jefferson said he thought he'd be first in line when he got there at 4 a.m. - but found hundreds of others already ahead of him. Pumps were turned on at about 6 a.m.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "It helps. Every bit is worth it."

© The Canadian Press, 2006

How stupid. Well, with oil being at $77/bbl today, I suspect examples of civil breakdown will only become more the norm than the exception.

11 July 2006

I love my bicycle!

Quotations about Bicycling

The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. ~Christopher Morley

The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine. ~John Howard

It would not be at all strange if history came to the conclusion that the perfection of the bicycle was the greatest incident of the nineteenth century. ~Author Unknown

Tens of thousands who could never afford to own, feed and stable a horse, had by this bright invention enjoyed the swiftness of motion which is perhaps the most fascinating feature of material life. ~Frances Willard, How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle

Why should anyone steal a watch when he could steal a bicycle? ~Flann O'Brien

The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. ~Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. ~Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

When I go biking, I repeat a mantra of the day's sensations: bright sun, blue sky, warm breeze, blue jay's call, ice melting and so on. This helps me transcend the traffic, ignore the clamorings of work, leave all the mind theaters behind and focus on nature instead. I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization. The world is breaking someone else's heart. ~Diane Ackerman

[T]he bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created: Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon. ~Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist

A bicycle does get you there and more.... And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun. ~Bill Emerson, "On Bicycling," Saturday Evening Post, 29 July 1967

[T]he bicycle will accomplish more for women's sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged. ~Author Unknown, from Demerarest's Family Magazine, 1895

The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community. ~Ann Strong

Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. ~James E. Starrs

The bicycle had, and still has, a humane, almost classical moderation in the kind of pleasure it offers. It is the kind of machine that a Hellenistic Greek might have invented and ridden. It does no violence to our normal reactions: It does not pretend to free us from our normal environment. ~J.B. Jackson

Until mountain biking came along, the bike scene was ruled by a small elite cadre of people who seemed allergic to enthusiasm. ~Jacquie Phelan

I took care of my wheel as one would look after a Rolls Royce. If it needed repairs I always brought it to the same shop on Myrtle Avenue run by a negro named Ed Perry. He handled the bike with kid gloves, you might say. He would always see to it that neither front nor back wheel wobbled. Often he would do a job for me without pay, because, as he put it, he never saw a man so in love with his bike as I was. ~Henry Miller, My Bike and Other Friends

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live. ~Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle"

Cycling is unique. No other sport lets you go like that - where there's only the bike left to hold you up. If you ran as hard, you'd fall over. Your legs wouldn't support you. ~Steve Johnson

The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard. ~Sloan Wilson

Mankind has invested more than four million years of evolution in the attempt to avoid physical exertion. Now a group of backward-thinking atavists mounted on foot-powered pairs of Hula-Hoops would have us pumping our legs, gritting our teeth, and searing our lungs as though we were being chased across the Pleistocene savanna by saber-toothed tigers. Think of the hopes, the dreams, the effort, the brilliance, the pure force of will that, over the eons, has gone into the creation of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Bicycle riders would have us throw all this on the ash heap of history. ~P.J. O'Rourke

After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow. ~H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance

Messengers and mountain bikers share a common chromosome. ~James Bethea

If we all, mountain bikers, cyclists, multinational companies, Jo Public, respected the land like old civilizations we wouldn't get so many punctures. Earth's revenge. ~Jo Burt (Thank you, Jacquie.)

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~Ernest Hemingway

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride. ~John F. Kennedy

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~H.G. Wells

It is curious that with the advent of the automobile and the airplane, the bicycle is still with us. Perhaps people like the world they can see from a bike, or the air they breathe when they're out on a bike. Or they like the bicycle's simplicity and the precision with which it is made. Or because they like the feeling of being able to hurtle through air one minute, and saunter through a park the next, without leaving behind clouds of choking exhaust, without leaving behind so much as a footstep. ~Gurdon S. Leete

The sound of a car door opening in front of you is similar to the sound of a gun being cocked. ~Amy Webster

Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own. ~Louis J. Helle, Jr., Spring in Washington

There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast. ~Paul Scott Mowrer, The House of Europe

You never have the wind with you - either it is against you or you're having a good day. ~Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles

I came out for exercise, gentle exercise, and to notice the scenery and to botanise. And no sooner do I get on that accursed machine than off I go hammer and tongs; I never look to right or left, never notice a flower, never see a view - get hot, juicy, red - like a grilled chop. Get me on that machine and I have to go. I go scorching along the road, and cursing aloud at myself for doing it. ~H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance

The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash. ~Julie Furtado

If you ride you know those moments when you have fed yourself into the traffic, felt the hashed-up asphalt rattle in the handlebars, held a lungful of air in a cloud of exhaust. Up ahead there are two parallel buses. With cat's whiskers, you measure the clearance down a doubtful alley. You swing wide, outflank that flower truck. The cross-street yellow light is turning red. You burst off the green like a surfer on a wave of metal. You have a hundred empty yards of Broadway to yourself. ~Chip Brown, "A Bike and a Prayer"

All bicycles weigh fifty pounds. A thirty-pound bicycle needs a twenty-pound lock. A forty-pound bicycle needs a ten-pound lock. A fifty-pound bicycle doesn't need a lock. ~Author Unknown

Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world. ~Grant Petersen

Most bicyclists in New York City obey instinct far more than they obey the traffic laws, which is to say that they run red lights, go the wrong way on one-way streets, violate cross-walks, and terrify innocents, because it just seems easier that way. Cycling in the city, and particularly in midtown, is anarchy without malice. ~Author unknown, from New Yorker, "Talk of the Town"

All creatures who have ever walked have wished that they might fly. With highwheelers a flesh and blood man can hitch wings to his feet. ~Karl Kron, Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle

What do you call a cyclist who doesn't wear a helmet? An organ donor. ~David Perry

Consider a man riding a bicycle. Whoever he is, we can say three things about him. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it. That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things. ~William Golding

10 July 2006

The party (in video)

Okay, you really can't see anything, but the dialogue is hilarious! Burnt downstairs carpet! Put it out! Put it out!

Stampede weekend #1

What a weekend! The Stampede officially started on Friday, and so far I've been able to avoid any association with it. Other than the Parade (which no one can avoid) and the fireworks which we still get a great view of - until they build yet another condo tower to block out our view. That will definitely be the sign to move!

Snowbirds overhead during Stampede parade

Friday night fireworks
We celebrated that fact in grand style and another kickass soiree chez Skybar on Saturday night. No party at Skybar's would be complete without a ridiculous amount of great food - which everyone certainly took over the top, right Doug! This picture is priceless! Doesn't he look like a nine-year-old kid in heaven? Some of the following pics were taken by Jerome...

Funniest. Picture. Ever. Wing madness!

Evidence of the carnage
It was so great to see everyone again - all those I haven't seen in a long time - Shawn and Jeanette, Maroshka and Rachel, Debbie and Debbie, Derek, Elle, and Jetboy.

Dance bitches!



Wall of contemplation
We drove up to Skybar's place with BK, Nick, Jerome, and Joe.

Jeff and Haley

Another pose?

The three best things in the world...Joe, Juicy Fruit weed, and the Jesus Action Figure with REAL GLIDING ACTION!

Earth Blends Raid...do I smell toxic irony? (this was funny at the time)

What time is it?

No one is drunk.
No surprise, Curtis and I were the last ones standing. For some reason we figured we could hail a cab or two at 4am on Saturday night during Stampede. Needless to say, there were many bodies all over the house when Jeff got up in the morning. What a great party! Stay tuned for Stampede weekend #2....

The next real estate boom

Dense settlements, not sprawling ranch houses, are the future of housing - and could make for a smart real-estate investment.
By Chris Taylor, Business 2.0 Magazine senior editor
July 7 2006: 2:50 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Picture the scene: it's 2025, and you and your family are living in a beautiful, leafy-green village that seems more 19th century than 21st, even though it has only been in existence for ten years and is just 20 miles from a major American city.

You know all of the 150 or so souls in the village; you see them at the market where you pick up a box of locally-grown produce once a week. You see half of them in the morning as they board the commuter train for school or work in the city; the other half are the network warriors who work from home or, on warm days, use the free Wi-Fi in the village square.

It all seems a world away from the crumbling old 20th-century suburbs people used to live in, if you could call it living. You shudder to think you could still be living there. Oh, and you see that really nice house just down the bicycle lane? That's yours, the fruits of your smart move to plunk down a payment on a piece of the hottest new trend in real estate.

Streetcar stops desired
Sounds like a far-off future? You can already see such a development opening up in Hercules, Calif., 20 miles northeast of San Francisco. And you can bet on seeing many more across the country if changing consumer desires and economic trends dictate the direction of the housing market.

"New Villages," as community planner Robert McIntyre dubs them in the latest issue of The Futurist magazine, are compact, pleasantly urban settlements located well away from city centers. They share some of the charms and amenities of cities, thanks to their density, but have the mostly rural surroundings that originally drew people out to the suburbs, as well as the friendly feel of a small town where you know your neighbors.

The concept of New Villages shares some similarities with the so-called "transit villages" you can already see around the country. Starting in the mid-'90s, when architects and local planners became more interested in more pedestrian-friendly, urban developments, transit villages started to spring up outside cities along revitalized rail lines, from Mission Valley near San Diego, to Ballston and Bethesda outside Washington, D.C.

They were very attractive to young city workers and empty-nest parents. Their defining characteristics: They were eminently walkable, densely constructed without feeling overcrowded, and offered a real community feeling with plenty of common spaces.

The difference between transit villages and New Villages is location: While transit villages mostly reinvented older suburbs that are close to cities, New Villages promise to reinvent the sprawl further out.

The demand for such developments is real, and it's only going to get greater as consumer preferences rapidly shift away from the McMansions preferred by boomers. According to a study by the nonprofit Congress for New Urbanism, while less than 25 percent of middle-aged Americans are interested in living in dense areas, 53 percent of 24-34 year olds would choose to live in transit-rich, walkable neighborhoods, if they had the choice.

Demand for housing within walking distance of transit will more than double by 2025, according to another nonprofit, the Center for Transit-Oriented Development. Even now, properties within a 5- or 10-minute walk to a train stop are selling for 20 to 25 percent more than comparable properties further away - a price premium that's likely to increase as traffic jams worsen.

And as the effects of the Internet continue to kick in, it won't be so necessary to be in the big city - you'll just want access to it every once in a while, for the occasional business meeting or nightclub outing. But as social animals we'll still want to cluster together for face-to-face contact, local food and local culture.

The payoff
All of these consumer trends suggest that New Villages just may be the future. But there are also compelling economic arguments for developers to build and sell such properties, as well as for consumers to buy them.

Rising oil prices notwithstanding, sprawling car-culture cities and vast suburbs simply do not make economic sense in the long run. As much as 50 percent of the land surface area in any given city or subdivision - we're talking prime real estate - is taken up by roadways. For developers, less space given over to roads means more space for housing.

Not only are roads a drain on landlords' potential income, they're a turnoff for residents -- and are only going to become more so as gridlock, road repairs and air pollution increase.

While you might assume that a higher density community would have more traffic, you'd be wrong. When neighborhoods are dense and walkable, studies show, people make fewer car trips. And some may even forgo owning a second car, especially as families realize that living with one less car can save them $6,000 a year on average (and again, that's not counting price rises at the pump).

And then there's simple math. While standard subdivisions have five units per acre, transit villages tend to pack in 20 to 25 per acre - still mostly single-family dwellings or townhomes, but without the vast lawns and backyards of suburbia. And with transit village homes selling for more than similar houses in traditional, sprawling suburbs, developers will make considerably more per acre, while fostering community and being kinder to the environment.

Pocketing a nice real-estate gain while saving the planet? That should help you sleep very well at night in your nice, safe, quiet, neighborly New Village home.

10 things to do on the last day of your career

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Magazine

France's football hero Zinedine Zidane ended his glorious career in spectacular style - getting a red card for headbutting an opponent in the World Cup final. How are you meant to leave the office in a way that won't be forgotten? Here are some ideas...

1. Use your leaving speech to deliver a verbal Zidane-style headbutt. Affairs, expenses scams, inflated bonuses, wigs, how the place has gone to the dogs. Feel the room get colder than an eskimo's beer fridge as you give them your wit and wisdom.

2. Leave a challenge for your successor. When President Bush's staff took over the White House they complained that the Ws were missing from the computer keyboards (as in George W Bush) and that an office had been renamed Office of Strategerie.

3. If David Beckham can cry when he's leaving his job (as England captain) then so can I. Don't. Bad move. Nothing is going to fill an office with more horror than the prospect of Jeff from accounts showing emotion. It's not what open plan is about.

4. Leaving speech II. Talk at interminable length about your own glittering career - that time you really showed them who was boss over the faulty photocopier - and deliver rambling anecdotes about characters who left years ago. Just keep talking, it's your last day. What are they going to do? Sack you? You've listened to them for long enough. Look, I can just keep going...

5. Hand your identity dog tag to the craziest frother in the shopping centre and tell them where they can get free coffee and meet lots of new and hospitable friends.

6. The Mozambique chardonnay has all been drunk at the leaving party, they're playing the get-your-coat-on music ... and that special co-worker is just about to say a final goodbye. But it's never, ever a good idea to tell someone you've worked with for 20 years that you love them. Life isn't a Christmas special edition of The Office. It's much more cruel.

7. When you read your leaving card there's always a great big signature and a message from someone you've never heard of. Find out who they are and promise to meet them for a drink... since you're such big friends. It'll scare the hell out of them.

8. Check your e-mail in-tray for the bitchiest messages from your colleagues - you know, the ones slagging off people in earshot - and then threaten to send them out to the entire organisation. Watch your leaving present fund grow and grow.

9. Refuse to admit that you're leaving and just carry on as if nothing has happened and that you'll be there forever. This is technically known as "the Prescott".

10. That "exit" interview. This will be the first time you've come across the gleaming 20-storey office block occupied by floor upon floor of the "human resources" team. It's your big chance to tell them exactly... Are they listening? Hello?

07 July 2006

Couldn't have said it better myself...


What is it that gets a grown person riding a bike? After all, most Americans think of bikes as child's toys. Those few that don't worry about the supposed dangers seem to worry about just looking silly. So why bother with bicycling? Well, here's my answer - my philosophy of bicycling.

There's a lot I love about bicycling. I love the machines themselves - so elegant, so efficient. I love the exercise - keeping me in good health, and keeping me able to be active and enjoy life. I love biking for getting me out of doors, into nature and the countryside. I love it for the wandering and exploring of new roads, new places. I love it for the people - for the many, many friends it's brought me. I love it because it's a family activity, and I love doing things with my family. I love it for the independence - because I can actually ride my bike across the state, carrying all I need, and not rely on Exxon. I love the excitement of pushing myself to climb a steep hill, or to go fast, and the friendly competition with someone trying to go faster. I love relaxed cruising, too, and the great conversation that always seems to go with bike riding.

But one thing I love most about bicycling is: I think bicycling does something positive for the world. I love the earth that God has created, and I feel we have a moral obligation to care for it. It's a concept of stewardship. And I think bicycling helps. It's good for the earth.

In particular, anytime a person uses a bicycle instead of a car, it's good for the earth. Think about this: Isn't it strange that we Americans use twice as much energy per person as the British, or the Japanese, or the West Germans? And isn't it strange that we'll use a belching machine that weighs more than a ton, with the power of over 100 horses (and fuel consumption to match), to move a person and a briefcase a couple miles? It's like using a 100 pound bag to carry 10 pounds of groceries. It's like using a cannon to swat a fly. It's a clumsy use of technology.

The bicycle can be appropriate transportation - at least, much of the time. And in many countries, everybody (not just poor people or weird college professors, but everybody) knows this, and rides one all the time. So it can be done. And so I like to promote it - for the good of the earth.

But there's more. I think the bicycle is good for society as well. I see America as a country where the isolated, insulated, glass-enclosed mobility of the automobile is severely damaging society. Neighbors don't know the family two or three doors down, because they never pass them at less than 30 miles per hour. Impatient drivers, anonymous in their cars, curse or cut off drivers that somehow offend them. Middle class families abandon the cities to decay, using their mobility to move further and further into the countryside, which quickly becomes flattened and paved. More and more of the world becomes ugly and commercialized. In many fashionable areas, a 14 year old kid - who really should be out kicking around the woods, exploring the world - literally can't get anywhere without begging a ride in a car. Nobody plans or allows for anybody to travel any way but by car. So, nobody travels except by car!

I would like to see a society where transportation alternatives exist. More important, I'd like to see "development" take human beings, not just cars, into account. A person should be able to walk or bicycle to every shopping center, without feeling threatened with assault by automobiles. A kid should be able to bike out to get a loaf of bread for Mom. There should be enough neighbors out and about that parents would know their kids are safe and behaving.

I like to think bicyclists can help bring about this kind of world. If we use our bikes more often, maybe we'll begin regaining the streets. Maybe more folks will see us enjoying the outdoors, and be inspired to walk or bike on short trips. If we can make it popular enough, maybe they'll help us ask for more rational development plans. Maybe it will actually get to the point where the average suburbanite can bike to the mall without being terrified by traffic!

And of course, maybe it's all a fantasy. But in the meantime, I enjoy biking anyway. I enjoy it so much, for so many reasons, that I'm willing to keep on doing it, and keep on promoting it. If, ultimately, it does some good for society, and some good for the earth, so much the better.

- Frank Krygowski
Source: Bicycling Life

Five, uh, Different Reasons to Ride a Bicycle

You probably think that you've heard all the arguments for riding a bicycle. Sure, the bicycle doesn't use non-renewable resources or pollute (including noise pollution), is inexpensive both for ownership and in terms of public infrastructure to support it, can be parked anywhere, and is a healthy activity.

"Blah, blah, blah. Tell me something new," you say.

O.K., here's five reasons to ride a bicycle that you've never before heard of. Not in your wildest dream. And if you don't already ride a bicycle for fun, fitness, or transportation, this will surely convince you to get your gears spinning.

1. Bicycles are more technologically advanced than motor vehicles.
Don't let the shiny, complicated looking engine on that Ecstasy S.U.V. fool you. A bicycle is in certain ways the most intelligent vehicle ever created. It has the world's most advanced "engine" controlled with the most wondrous and sophisticated "computer." The engine often knows what's wrong with itself and usually fixes itself. A bicycle is also the world's most energy efficient mode of travel, using just 35 calories per passenger mile versus 1860 for an average automobile with one occupant. And the engine can run on all kinds of strange fuels, like broccoli.

Affordable bicycles are manufactured with exotic materials such as titanium, carbon fiber, incredible aluminum alloys, and high strength alloy steel. If you've never ridden a high quality modern bicycle, you're in for a treat.

In comparison, cars are dinosaurs. Actually, they burn decomposed dinosaurs in an internal combustion engine that, evolutionarily speaking, is about at the Paleozoic era. We've had rocket ships that go to the moon and back since 1969. We have limitless solar energy and enough nuclear technology to atomize the earth, but our motor vehicles still use fossil fuel. Cars are made with steel, iron, and plastic. You can't pick them up. And try to fix one!

2. Bicycle manufacturing is not controlled by special interests.
Well, special interests are EVERYWHERE, but relatively speaking, this is true. Bicycle manufacturers could have invented the Army recruiting slogan "Be All That You Can Be." Their goal is to produce the best vehicle possible. Bicycles are the perfect synthesis of body and machine. Be a cyborg.

Cars on the other hand, are the epitome of special interest controlled products. The oil industry wants cars to get the worst gas mileage possible. The steel industry wants cars to be big and heavy, ostensibly in order to be safe.

So, reject the greed of huge multinational corporations. Tread lightly and ride a bicycle.

3. Bicycles are faster than cars.
In urban areas, this is sometimes literally true. Congestion, traffic signals, parking-space-search time, and walking-to-final-destination time all conspire to reduce the speed of even the highest powered motor vehicle to about that of a bicycle. However, if you consider that the time cost of travel also includes the amount of time spent working to pay for the vehicle, bicycles come roaring ahead. Also, why spend loads of time working to pay for the car to get to work to pay for the car?

Since exercise is mandatory for optimal health, and riding a bicycle to some necessary destination incorporates exercise which would otherwise take time in the gym, pedaling to someplace can be considered as taking zero time. Therefore, bicycles are infinitely fast. That's faster than light, which, according to Einstein shouldn't be possible, but nonetheless reverses time. Riding a bicycle makes you younger. Be a kid again!

4. You can be part of a cutting edge movement.
According to the 1990 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, only 0.7% of all transportation trips are made by bicycle. Ninety percent of trips are taken in a personal automobile with the remainder via transit, walking, or other modes.

Lets face it, bicyclists are a minority. But, by the same token, we're unique. So why be normal? Be different, ride a bicycle.

5. Someday you'll wish you had.
Helen Hayes, the much beloved "First Lady of American theater" who died at the age of 92 was asked in an interview if she regretted anything. She said she had only one regret. "I never rode a bicycle. I wish I had. That's all."

While few of us can hope to achieve the stature of Ms. Hayes, we certainly can fulfill a dream that she never did. The simple pleasure of riding a bicycle — effortless motion at one moment, challenging yet empowering hill climbing the next, followed by the thrill of the descent.

Bicycling is the wind in your face and your senses on hyperdrive. It's life at its best. Try it. Ultimately there will come a time when you won't be able to.

Source: Bicycling Life

Transcon-holics Anonymous

by Rich Testardi, Jack Dingler, and Ken Kifer
Rich Testardi wrote:

Hi. My name is Rich and I'm a transcon-holic. I started riding 20 years ago as a boy -- 10 miles here, 10 miles there, on weekends... I really never thought anything bad would come from it -- it was just like a game... The next thing you know, I was riding during the week, missing work, even missing T.V. sitcoms in the evenings. And I was even convincing my FRIENDS to go with me... It was an addiction and I didn't even know it.

All of a sudden, a three speed roadster wasn't good enough for me anymore... So, I borrowed a ten speed from a so-called friend... One thing led to another and, before I knew it, I bought my OWN 24 speed mountain bike with twist grip shifters... I honestly thought the fresh air and thrills were all that mattered. I was out of control -- especially on the long rocky descents... I began hanging out with people who wore bike shorts, gloves, and even helmets... I began to think that was all normal.

Of course my co-workers tried to help me get back into the 40 hour work week and evening sitcoms, but I was convinced I knew better. I thought I had found true peace of mind, but I know now all I had found were some technical challenges and cheap thrills...

Anyway, last summer it all came to a head... I never even saw it coming... I really thought I was still in control... Anyway, like I was saying, last summer it all came to a head. I left my job and took THREE MONTHS OFF just to ride and ride. No T.V., no work, no nothing. I just wasted and peddled away. To be honest, some days I didn't even have a DESTINATION... I'm so embarrassed. And the WORST thing is that I thought it actually felt GOOD at the time, and I even believed in my so-called friends encouragement... I was THAT far gone.

I got back to work afterwards and I honestly couldn't even see WHAT was so IMPORTANT about work. I actually thought I would like to NOT WORK! That was when my boss finally called Transcon-holics Anonymous and my healing began.

The first thing they did was separate me from my bike and so-called friends. It was hard at first, I have to admit, but after just a few months of shock treatments intermixed with video tapes of mid-day talk shows, I began to see the soft blue glow of the tube... Then they started easing me back into work -- a short phone conference at first, then a meeting or two, and finally multi-day touchy-feely offsites. It was so strange. I had completely forgotten the warm glassy-eyed look of my co-workers as they nodded off in the back of a meeting room...

As I started nodding off myself, I knew I was on my way home, and my transcon days were behind me...


Jack Dingler replied:

Man, didn't anyone ever tell you that there are ways to beat the system?

1. First off, find a safe place to park your car and bike, near your workplace. Then commute to your car by bicycle and then drive your car the 1/4 mi or so to work. This way, no one will suspect that your slipping back into your old ways.

2. Sneak your sports drinks in using a thermos or carry it on a nondescript lunch bag. You can probably fit a Camelback into a briefcase.

3. Rewrap your Power Bars so that they look like Snickers. Bring some real Snickers in case a coworker wants one. Don't leave any Gu Gell wrappers, or the like, in the waste baskets.

4. If you must take biking mags or catalogs to work, insert them into boring looking trade magazines so that it looks like your researching. If you drool on the pages, they'll be even more impressed with your dedication.

5. Never forget to change all of your clothes when getting ready for the office. Wearing Sidis into the office is a dead giveaway that you've fallen off the wagon. Be careful with the sunglasses too. Don't take the hat to work.

6. Make sure that you never wear anything that might not cover unusual tan lines. Some of your office mates may have been trained to watch for little details, such as these.

7. When climbing stairs with office mates, act like it's difficult. Get winded, try to make your face turn red. Showing any superhuman abilities like climbing stairs with ease is a sure giveaway that you are a cyclist.

8. Be sure to act droopy and half asleep when you get to work. If you're too alert, some people might get suspicious.

9. Occasionally make up some story about something that you saw a cyclist do. Faking derision will be tough, but we all have to make sacrifices for our addictions.

10. Wear baggy clothes. Don't give anyone any reason to believe that you are fit.

11. If #10 fails, don't say, I work out, jog, swim, etc... Next thing you know, a coworker will call you on it. Your form will suck and they'll suspect that you might be cycling again. How many times have had a friend come along on a ride, bragging all the way to the start, only to wander all over the road and quit five miles into the ride? You probably won't look any better pretending to be a tennis player. Blame it on your genes and change the subject.

12. When people tell you they called, drove by, your car was there but you didn't answer, just lie. Say you were out with your grandma. You were sleeping, drunk and passed out, etc...

13. If someone calls right after you've finished a ride and they ask why your out of breath, say, I thought it would be you, so I ran to the phone...

14. When people comment on your weight, blame it on a high metabolism. respond with, "I wish I looked healthy like you, everyone thinks I'm anorexic."

15. If you're caught. Don't blame it on an evil twin. That never works. Admit your weakness, blame it on stress and don't get caught again.

Television will be the tough part. You'll need to pick a series of show that are to be your favorites. Try to pick shows that don't interest your coworkers but try to pick inane ones so that you'll still fit into the herd. Then you'll need to come up with a means to keep up with the shows without watching them. Web pages and TV and cable guides can all be used for resources. Unfortunately, you can find yourself entrapped by your own deception if you offer an opinion on a show that didn't actually air due to a game overrun, special report or Presidential Address. For this reason, don't volunteer to much information. Chances are, if you pick the right shows, you won't need to talk about them anyway. If discussing television is unavoidable, you might invest in one of those little radios that pick up TV stations so that you can listen while you ride.

Hope this helps.


Ken Kifer replies:

Wow, Rich and Jack; you have really helped me see the light. You know, I wouldn't tell this to another living soul, but I too have betrayed the American work ethic by enjoying cycling. Oh, I try to cover it up the best I can; I moan and groan about how I'm too poor to get my van fixed, or I talk about my tendency to fall asleep and wander off the road when driving (the next thing I know, they're telling me not to drive), but I know they see through me. For one thing, when I come in in the morning, I am bright and cheerful and friendly. My cheerful mood spoils their whole day. And then at lunch time, I quickly wolf down my meal, eating twice as much as they do and looking slim, while they have to ponderously and slowly chew their ways through their greasy meals, and then slowly raise their ponderous bodies from their chairs. Then, in the afternoon, when it's time to go, I skip out of the building light on my feet, feeling gay. That's a terrible way to act when every other decent soul is complaining about tired legs and feet. It's no wonder no one likes me.

I just really need to change my ways before it's too late. Someday, everyone else I know will be dead and gone, and I'll feel young and healthy. Won't I regret it then!

Source: Bicycling Life

Peak Oil: A Shattered Myth?

Canadian Tar Sands: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
Dr. Joe Duarte Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Some are saying that peak oil is a myth since there is plenty of low grade oil to still be recovered around the world. The question is whether it's worth the price being paid to mine the stuff, and whether the problems spawned by its extraction will be worth it in the long run.

The Wall Street Journal suggests that peak oil is not truly happening. "The surging interest in Canadian oil sands is stark evidence that the world isn't about to run out of oil. Instead, it is running low on readily accessible light, sweet crude -- oil that flows like water, has few impurities and can be easily turned into gasoline. As the good stuff gets scarce, Big Oil is turning its attention and pouring money into extra-heavy crude, such as the giant deposits near Fort McMurray and another similar one in Venezuela."
We were proponents of the same concept since we wrote "Successful Energy Sector Investing," in 2001. But five years later, a great deal has happened that has led us to a new perspective, that of joining the camp that believes that oil is perhaps at the start of its final stage as the primary fuel on planet Earth.

And while it could still be decades before we know who's right and who's wrong, the real story is being written now, in the forests of Canada and in the Orinoco Basin in Venezuela, two ecologically sensitive areas of the world.

The New Top Ten

According to the Journal, there is an oil sand deposit the size of Florida under an "ancient" forest in Northern Canada. And France's Total is likely to begin extraction of the tar sand "sludge" by May 2006.

The net effect is that "Heavy-duty oil-extraction projects like these are turning Fort McMurray into the first great oil boom town of the 21st century."

In fact, due to high oil prices, major oil companies have finally been moved to spend money going after low grade oil reserves, and are expected to spend some "$70 billion" to do so.

There is so much low grade oil around, that countries with large reserves, such as Canada and Venezuela, have been vaulted to the top of the reserve list, if the sludgy stuff is included in the estimates.

For example, according to the Journal, if you include the tar sands and other low grade oil deposits: "has vaulted Venezuela and Canada to first and third in global reserves rankings, although Venezuela's holdings in extra-heavy crude are a rough guess. Saudi Arabia is No. 2. Not including the oil sands, Canada would fall to No. 22."

In other words, the oil reserve map has been redrawn, and a whole new ball game is unfolding.

The Dark Side

If this seems to good to be true, as you prepare to pay $3 per gallon to drive your car this summer, as could well happen if current price trends remain intact, there is an even darker side to the use of low grade oil.

According to the Journal: "heavy oil has big economic and environmental drawbacks. It costs more to produce and takes more energy to turn into gasoline than traditional light oil. Recovering and processing Fort McMurray's heavy crude releases up to three times as much greenhouse gas as producing conventional crude. And upgrading it into refined products, such as gasoline or diesel, will require a gigantic investment to retool global refineries."

The extraction process is so labor intensive and requires so much heat, in order to extract the oil from the tar sand that "Total briefly floated the idea of building a nuclear-power plant" in Fort Mc Murray.

In other words, just because new oil is likely to be more plentiful, processing costs will likely keep prices higher than in the past, and the toll on the environment won't be fully known for years to decades.

Indeed, some effects are already visible as "Canada, which exports more oil to the U.S. than any other country, already is having trouble meeting its pledge to cut CO2 emissions largely because of its mushrooming heavy-oil production. By 2015, Canada's Fort McMurray region, population 61,000, is expected to emit more greenhouse gases than Denmark, a country of 5.4 million people."

Even more alarming is this: "In northern Alberta, the oil-sands boom is remaking the landscape. The mining operations have clear-cut thousands of acres of trees and dug 200-foot-deep pits. The region is dotted with large man-made lakes filled with leftover waste from the mining operations. To chase off migratory birds, propane cannons go off at random intervals and scarecrows stand guard on floating barrels."


There is something new in the air, at least for the mainstream media. Aside from what is likely to be the new buzzword in the oil market, tar sands, it's also heat, and pollution.

The exploration and extraction for oil in Canada, and likely elsewhere, will have significant repercussions, which may not be known or at least acknowledged for several years or decades.

At some point an environmental disaster will unfortunately, but likely occur, which will raise red flags and bring political drama to the situation.

Already the battle lines have been drawn. [Alberta's energy minister, Greg Melchin, says oil-sands development creates a minimal environmental disturbance that is outweighed by the opportunities and jobs created. "It's worth it. There is a cost to it, but the benefits are substantially greater," he said.]

Meanwhile [Environmental groups are increasingly critical of the government's reluctance to regulate the oil sands. "The pace of development is outstripping our ability to manage the environmental issue," says Mr. Raynolds of the Pembina Institute. "Our unwritten energy policy is dig it up and sell it as fast as possible."]

But far beyond the near term, it is unlikely that the tar sand phenomenon will permanently fix what has become increasingly obvious to anyone who cares to have their eyes open about the world's energy situation.

The price of oil is unlikely to fall significantly anytime soon, due to higher extraction and security costs, limited refinery capacity, and the writing on the wall, the easy oil has been found and the hard to find stuff is now on its way to being used up.