31 July 2007


Friday night Patrick and I went to the Calgary Folk Festival. It was an evening of lots of laughs in the beer gardens and an impressive performance by Neko Case. We started out at El Sombrero on 17th for dinner and then to the Festival grounds, where we watched a reggae/jazz band and then went to the main stage to watch Hawksley Workman. Sidetracked by the beer gardens we met up with lots of people we knew, and had a deep conversation pitcher before heading out for Neko. Afterwards we stopped at Joe's work and I waited for him to finish so we could go home together.

Saturday I got up for a run with the group, went to the track for a few rounds with the Saturday training crew, then caught a nap in the afternoon before the '2007 BBQ Party Endurance Night'.

We had planned to stop at four parties - Noel & Allie's, Skybar's, then one of Joe's co-workers bonfire party in Kensington, then to Jon and Sara's for the Tour de France Breakfast at 6a.m. I felt like we were totally up to the task. Things didn't quite work out that way. Joe and I got to two of the four planned parties on Saturday night, but things went awry around 3am. I'm still mad since I didn't get to visit with all the friends I haven't seen in a long time, like Malina and Debbie, Curtis and Calvin, and the rest of the gang. But we did manage to get to see Allie and Noel for a bit in the evening and then swing by Swan's to have a beer with Jerry on his last night bartending there. It was at Skybar's, again, where things went horrifically wrong! LOL

Picture Joe and I riding home at 6a.m. from Arbour Lake. Argh! Actually, I felt much better at 6a.m than I had at 3a.m. It was straight to bed though.

Sunday afternoon I got on my bike and rode down to Deer Run to meet my cousins for a game of pool and a beer at a local pub. We had a lot of fun and then they had to go home, so I hopped on the bike and headed back home. Nap time.

Patrick calls again and says he wants to go to Sunday Skool at the Hi-Fi Club. I had talked to Nat about this on Friday so I called her to see if she was still going since that's why I had originally talked to Pat about it. She wasn't but Pat and I decided to go anyway. We got there around 11pm. It was slow to pick up, but by the time we left at 1a.m. the place was quite hopping. The music was very good. Whee!

That was the weekend.


Urgh...I've been less than motivated to post much lately. I think I'm still in post-vacation depression!

The new job seems to be going well. We had a meet and greet with the new managers last night and my first day of orientation was today where I got my new passcard and laptop. We're still very busy at the old job with the transition of applications to India with odd-hour conference calls and such. I also got the on-call phone and laptop back yesterday after six weeks of freedom. Yuck.

I had been planning to race the Bowness Crit this weekend, but I'm wondering if I'm up to the challenge. Since Nationals I haven't really been motivated to race. I did quite a bit of mileage last week, so maybe I'll have some spark in me by the weekend. We'll have to see.

I'm also thinking it might be a good weekend for Joe and I just to take off somewhere. He's been working so much and we haven't had much time together, so I think it would be a nice thing to do.

27 July 2007

The Catch

Tour de France: The Catch
By Benoît Hopquin and Stéphane Mandard
Le Monde

Thursday 26 July 2007

Whoever wins the Tour de France 2007 this Sunday, July 29, one thing is virtually certain: his photograph will not figure in the hallways of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) in Issy-les-Moulineaux. The event organizer used to hang up big autographed portraits of the winners. The series stopped with Miguel Indurain, the yellow jersey from 1991 to 1995.

Subsequent laureates - all involved in doping - had to be consigned to the basement. The Dane Bjarne Riis (1996) confessed. German Jan Ulrich (1997), implicated in a transfusion affair, was ordered to do the same thing by his former Deutsche Telekom teammates and German public opinion. Italian Marco Pantani (1998) tragically ended a life of addiction. American Lance Armstrong (1999-2005) has been accused by some members of his entourage and confounded by a number of tests. Lastly, his compatriot Floyd Landis, declared positive for testosterone after his 2006 victory, is trying to keep the Tour payout through legal action. From what we have seen up to now, this litany continues in 2007, after the Danish yellow jersey holder Michael Rasmussen was thrown out by his team on Wednesday, July 25.

"The last fifteen years, it's been impossible to know who would have been the best cyclist of his generation," observes Greg LeMond, three-time Tour winner (1986, 1989 and 1990). "Doping now allows a racer's abilities to improve by 30 percent. It has consequently totally upset the rankings." The American had to leave the field at age 33 when EPO arrived, while others of the same age have set out to defy the laws of physiology. "Today, if we had to participate in the Tour with our best racers of the period, Hinault, Fignon and myself, we wouldn't even have been among the top fifteen racers," the former racer continues.

Year after year, the insane escalation continues. "In the final Beille plateau ascent (July 22), Contador and Rasmussen were faster than Armstrong and Basso in 2004." This statistic comes from the best source: the personal web site of Doctor Michele Ferrari. That Italian introduced EPO to the field during the 1990s and has taken care of prepping - among others - Lance Armstrong and Alexander Vinokurov, who was eliminated from the Tour Tuesday July 24 after testing positive.

The doctor, who had largely sculpted Armstrong's dazzling performances, claims to be "impressed" with the changes in rhythm Michael Rasmussen and the Spaniard Alberto Contador, new leader in the overall standing, proved capable of. He is no more impressed than Gilles Delion. The former great hope of French cycling, also prematurely chased off the squad at the beginning of the EPO years, oscillates between anger and amusement as he follows the mountain stages on television. "When we remember how Bernard Hinault climbed these hills and we watch today's speed, we can clearly see there is a problem."

"Athletic credibility is ruined. The gangrene follows us and doesn't let up," Martial Gayant, athletic director for La Française des jeux, recently vituperated to Agence France-Presse. Even the ASO no longer has any illusions about the value of the athletic performances. This Tour "was a fantastic opportunity to win back [our reputation]. It's been blown!" conceded Christian Prudhomme, the contest's director.

In Germany, disconcerted by the repeated confessions, public television has decided to suspend coverage of the race. On that side of the Rhine, less than 15 percent of the people polled by Financial Times Deutschland still assert they take an interest in the Tour. After the latest affronts, part of the European press is heralding the death foretold of the Tour and of cycling. Sponsors are wondering what to do. In France, according to a poll commissioned by Le Journal du dimanche, 78 percent of those surveyed "doubt the honesty of the results."

But 52 percent of them still say they "love the Tour." Television audiences have remained more or less stable since 1998 and the Festina affair. After the Council of Ministers' meeting on Wednesday, July 25, government spokesman Laurent Wauquiez assured the organizers of presidential support. "The Tour de France is one of the symbols of French identity and a month of July without the Tour de France is no month of July," Nicolas Sarkozy declared to his ministers.

"People take pleasure in seeing their time punctuated. The Tour is part of the cycles that have come to be set. It has become a ritual," François Jost, Professor at Paris-III University, television specialist and author of the recent "L'Empire du loft (la suite)," published by La Dispute, says the same thing in a different way.

So, even denuded of a good measure of its athletic value, the Grande Boucle continues to interest people. "We enter the fictional domain a little. The television watcher says to himself: 'Yeah, I know, but still ...' He watches the race like a soap opera," François Jost continues. "The Tour brings together all the conditions for a good story. There's the quarry and the pursuer. In a certain way, doping just spices up the story by adding a new angle."

"The Vinokurov affair revolts bicycling fans. But for other people, it supplies a subject for workplace, cocktail or dinner discussion. Those people don't watch the Tour as a sport, but as a show," Christophe Bassons asserts in the same vein. This former racer rejected doping and got himself thrown out of competition at the end of the 1990s for his hard-line positions. "The question of whether or not to stop the Tour must be preceded by another one: Is it a sport or is it a show?"

That's the syndrome of the American "catch," a "comedy" in which, as per a recent study, a number of actors gorged on steroids die in their forties. Greg LeMond does not want to believe in this nightmare. "People come to see clean racers, otherwise they'll stop watching."

The American praises the recent efforts of the ASO, keenly criticizes the inertia of the International Cycling Union and pleads that the former emancipate itself from the latter. "I want to believe that things can get better," he insists. "There is no comparable athletic event. The landscapes traversed, the people who follow the race from the side of the road, the atmosphere that radiates from that, make it something unique. The Tour de France cannot die."

26 July 2007

Tour de Farce

Tour de France leader pulled out of race
Michael Rasmussen of Denmark sent home by team
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | 6:44 PM ET
CBC Sports

Race leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark has been expelled from the Tour de France for violating team policy.

Rasmussen, 33, was removed Wednesday at the request of team sponsor Rabobank, shortly after winning the 16th stage and upping his overall lead to three minutes 10 seconds.

"Rasmussen has been sent home for violating internal rules," Rabobank team spokesman Jacob Bergsma told the Associated Press.

Although it remains unclear whether the team will keep racing without him, witnesses reported seeing police raid the hotel in Pau where it was staying.

Rasmussen's expulsion is linked to "incorrect" information regarding his whereabouts, provided to the team's sports director, when he missed random drug tests on May 8 and June 28.

"Why didn't they do this at the end of June, when they had the same information?" asked International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid.

"The team decided to pull him out, that's their prerogative [and] I can only applaud that. It's a zero-tolerance policy and a lesson for the future."

Rabobank issued a release claiming it was "shocked and enormously disappointed that Rasmussen has lied about his whereabouts. Wrongly reporting whereabouts is a flagrant violation of UCI rules and is unacceptable."

"Several times he said where he was training and it proved to be wrong," Rabobank director Theo de Rooy said. "The management of the team received that information several times and, today, we received new information."

Rasmussen, the Tour leader since July 15, spoke to the media following Wednesday's drug test and maintained that he is clean.

"Of course, I'm clean," he said. "I have been tested 17 times now in less than two weeks … both the peloton and the public, they're just taking their frustration out on me now.

"All I can say is, by now, I had my test No. 17 on this Tour, and all of those have come back negative. I don't feel I can do anymore than that."

"We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated," Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme noted. "But his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable."

Moreni fails drug test

Doping remained a hot topic for the second straight day as Italian cyclist Cristian Moreni tested positive for testosterone — which French newspaper L'Equipe reported was administered, not natural, and detected following the 11th stage on July 19.

Moreni, who was taken away by police at the completion of Wednesday's stage, "accepted his wrongdoing and did not ask for a B sample," Cofidis team manager Eric Boyer said.

On Tuesday, Team Astana pulled out of the event after its lead rider, Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan, tested positive for a banned blood transfusion.

Vinokourov, a pre-race favourite, insists he didn't cheat and that Astana is simply being persecuted.

"I never doped," Vinokourov told Wednesday's edition of L'Equipe. "That's not the way I see my profession.

"I think it is a mistake, in part, due to my crash. I have spoken to the team doctors, who had a hypothesis that there was an enormous amount of blood in my thighs, which could have led to my positive test."

Rasmussen led by 3:10

Rasmussen negotiated Wednesday's challenging 218.5-kilometre trek through the Pyrenees from Orthez to Gourette-Col d'Aubisque in six hours 23 minutes and 21 seconds to retain the yellow jersey.

Levi Leipheimer of the United States placed second and Alberto Contador of Spain finished third.

Rasmussen extended his overall lead to 3:10 over Contador and 5:10 over Australia's Cadel Evans.

But with Rasmussen removed, Contador, who cycles for Discovery Channel, will take over the lead.

"It is in no way a celebration on our end," Discovery Channel spokesman P.J. Rabice said. "It is the third piece of bad news.

"It reflects badly on our sport."

The 94th Tour de France wraps up Sunday in Paris.

Alternative consequences

Wind farms do more harm than good (e)

An American scientist contends in a new paper in the International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology that renewable energy is anything but green. Jesse Ausubel of New York's Rockefeller University argues that mass construction of "boutique fuels" such as wind and solar farms will harm the environment more than it will help it. He says instead that nuclear energy measured in watts per square metre of land used is greener than other forms of renewables, including for dams and biomass production. His findings have implications for Canada, where governments such as PEI are concentrating on green energy. In his paper titled Renewable and Nuclear Heresies, Ausubel contends the different forms of renewable energy create a devastating environmental impact, adding sprawling amounts of infrastructure to the landscape. Ausubel says he didn't receive any funding from the nuclear industry for his research. He criticized wind and solar farms for the amount of infrastructure they require and called wind farms big industrial facilities. His message to Canadian provinces that are aggressively pursuing renewable policies: "I think they're wasting their money. They'll end up with stranded assets." Instead, Ausubel advocates for nuclear energy, arguing its environmental footprint is smaller than that of renewables. While he acknowledges nuclear power comes with its own set of concerns, including waste storage, safety and security, Ausubel concludes that the "extraordinary density of nuclear fuel allows compact systems of immense scale."

But others aren't as convinced of Ausubel's science. Mark Whitfield, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Toronto's York University, said renewable energy doesn't disturb land, and in most instances makes use of already existing infrastructure. Wind farms incorporate farmer's access roads, while solar panels are mounted on the roofs of buildings rather than spread over the land, Whitfield said. He criticized what he called Ausubel's simple joule-per-square-kilometre approach and said that such a reductionist view doesn't take into account other trade-offs such as security, weapons proliferation and severe accident risks that come with nuclear power. "Those are all considerations you'd have to build into a meaningful policy decision-making framework."
(Calgary Herald 070726)

Yes, there are infrastructure considerations when working with alternative energy sources. But so what? What else does he suggest? Do nothing in order to keep the land surface pristine? I'm sorry, it's not going to happen. We will be requiring large amounts of energy to be derived from alternative sources in the future -- wind, solar, hydro, tidal. It is definitely going to change the landscape, but then so has the proliferation of the automobile, the transmission of electricity, and the search for natural energy sources. What's his point, really? As a civilization, we have and always will alter our environments.

24 July 2007

The death blow to pro cycling?

Tour de France cyclist tests positive for doping
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 2:29 PM ET
CBC Sports

Team Astana pulled out of the 94th Tour de France on Tuesday after one of its riders, Alexandre Vinokourov, tested positive for a banned blood transfusion.

The positive test of the Kazakh rider, a one-time favourite to win cycling's premier event, dealt a heavy blow to a sport already reeling from a spate of doping scandals.

"Vino has tested positive having to do with a blood transfusion and the team is leaving the Tour," team spokeswoman Corinne Druey said, using Vinokourov's nickname.

Tour de France organizers said the race would go on.

French daily newspaper L'Equipe reported on its website that the positive test occurred after Vinokourov's victory in the 13th-stage time trial on Saturday.

The story added that analysis, conducted by the Chatenay-Malabry lab on the outskirts of Paris, revealed two distinctive types of red blood cells found in the A sample, and showed that Vinokourov received a blood transfusion from a compatible donor shortly before the time trial.

Pat McQuaid, president of cycling's world governing body, the UCI, said he could not comment as long as the result of the backup B-sample had not been confirmed.

"We have a process in place and we have to see this process through," McQuaid said.

A pre-race favourite, Vinokourov won two stages this year — the time trial in Albi and Monday's 15th stage — and stood 23rd in the overall standings.

He dropped out of contention for good Sunday after losing 28 minutes, 50 seconds to race leader Michael Rasmussen.

The Tour finishes in Paris on Sunday and race director Christian Prudhomme said the case showed that cycling's drug-testing system doesn't work.

"It's an absolute failure of the system," he said. "It is a system which does not defend the biggest race in the world. This is a system which can't last."

Vinokourov was injured in a crash in the fifth stage, requiring stitches in both knees.

"With a guy of his stature and class, in cycling's current situation, we might as well pack our bags and go home," said British rider David Millar, who came back from a two-year doping ban in the Tour last year.

Tour de France officials expressed dismay at the latest doping case to scar the event and the sport as a whole.

"Everyone will feel betrayed," said Patrice Clerc, head of Amaury Sports Organization, which owns the Tour. "The public wants to see a credible winner."

But Clerc said it "never crossed my mind" to halt the Tour.

"We have started a war against doping," he said. "It's out of the question to give up."

*le sigh* This was the death knell for professional cycling we all feared, I fear. Like Millar said, they might as well pack their bags and go home. No sponsor is going to want to be associated with the sport at the professional level anymore.
Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the 15th stage of the 94th Tour de France on Monday.
(Associated Press)

Press release

The organisers of the Tour de France have been informed by Marc Biver, the manager of the Astana team, about the positive test of Alexandre Vinokourov on the day of the time trial stage in Albi. At the request of Patrice Clerc, President of A.S.O., the Astana team has agreed to leave the 2007 Tour de France:

Christian Prudhomme, the Director of the Tour de France, and Patrice Clerc, wanted to reaffirm in Pau their stance in the fight against doping and to assure the public of their determination to insist with the battle. “The start in London was a formidable occasion to re-conquer. It has failed. The riders have to understand that they are playing a game of Russian roulette if they are doping. They have to realize that we will never give up the war against doping in which we are involved. Doping ruins our childhood dreams. Vinokourov has cheated and the only possible answer was: leave! It’s an absolute failure of the system. It has to change now. The re-conquering of cycling has to be done with the Tour de France. I started this job believing that we could change this system but it’s not enough: there has to be a revolution!”

The Facebook Phenomenon

Toronto network falls to No. 2 on Facebook pecking order
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 | 11:01 AM ET
CBC News
The city of Toronto was knocked off its perch as the top regional network on the website Facebook, with membership from the city of London, England surpassing Canada's largest city some time in the past week.

According to Tuesday morning statistics from the popular social networking website, over 813,000 Londoners have signed up on Facebook and joined the regional network, passing Toronto's membership of over 706,000 users.

Facebook allows users to create a personal profile and interact with others who have done the same. And unlike News Corp.'s MySpace, the most popular social networking site, Facebook allows a measure of privacy by only allowing those people the user has identified as "friends" to be able to see their full profiles.

The site, formerly restricted to college students, has seen an explosion in membership since it opened its registration to all users last fall. And while it still lags MySpace in the United States, the site has become increasingly popular in Canada.

The Vancouver network, for example, has over 350,000 members, more than New York City's network of close to 290,000 users, while Calgary's 201,000 plus membership is larger than Los Angeles's roughly 155,000 members.

Network membership on Facebook doesn't necessarily equal actual membership statistics for a particular city. Users from a city do not have to join the network for that particular city and are free to join another city's network, or none at all.

But Facebook's popularity in Canada is real, according to ComScore Media Matrix, which said in June 2007 that 11.4 million Canadians were logged on to Facebook.

The site's popularity has made it controversial in Canada, with the province of Ontario and the City of Toronto banning public workers from using the website while on the job.

Screw MySpace. Facebook is where it's at. Much more personable and intimate. A good way to forge new friendships and enhance existing ones!

23 July 2007

BK Memorial Ride

Sunday morning, I met up with Graeme, Frank and Chris for the ride out to Station Flats to meet the rest of the crew that was doing the Charity ride for the Foothills Diabetes Association in Brian's name (BK's mom has diabetes). There was a good turnout despite the blazing sun, and kudos to Brian's brother Kevin and his mom and dad for putting together such a fantastic event. I finally got up to see the memorial for BK at near Elbow Falls where his body was found for the first time. It is certainly a beautiful spot. He loved this area and certainly would have found this vista from the hill to be a good one to sit and ponder the meanings of life and death. I miss ya, buddy.

cp and Huggy-bear showed up for the meal and presentation and cp graciously said a few words at the presentation that I was supposed to do, since by buddy Ross and I figured it was best to split and make it home before our spouses thought that our quick outing was becoming a day-long commitment. Chris had to head home with Maura and the kids, Frank wasn't feeling the love on the way out so took a ride from Felix back into town, and Graeme left us at Bragg Creek to head back to the city on 22X. Ross and I separated at 36th Ave. and Elbow, and it was a sweet 145km ride in the heat once I was home.

What are the chances?

Diver Dies When Lightning Strikes Tank

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. -- Lightning killed a scuba diver on Sunday off Deerfield Beach. Investigators said that lightning hit the diver's air tank as he was surfacing.

Stephen Wilson, 36, of Deerfield Beach, was pulled out of the water by other divers on the boat and rushed to shore. Wilson had surfaced about 30 feet from the boat when lightning struck his tank, said Deerfield Beach Fire Chief Gary Fernaays.

"We saw the paramedics arrive. There were about three trucks and they were trying to resuscitate the man," said Christoper Virtue, who witnessed the accident.

Wilson was later pronounced dead at North Broward Medical Center.

The medical examiner is expected to rule later if Wilson died from drowning or from electrocution.

A severe thunderstorm warning had been in effect in the area.


Listed in the "Absurd" file, what are the chances of this happening? Man, that sucks. At least the poor guy got to enjoy a dive as the last thing he ever did.

22 July 2007

Montréal en révu

I spent the last week hanging out in Montréal. I really didn't do much of anything. It was really nice. After the intensity of the weekend before, it was just nice to hang out and act comme un Montréalais for a few days.

Sunday night, the Bromont crew came into Montreal to spend the night pre-flight. After dropping my stuff off at Jerome and Bruce's place, I met up with the crew for dinner on St-Denis, then we walked through the Just For Laughs Festival site and bought vodka-laced smoothies.

Jerome and I went out shopping on Monday for my new kickass TredAir boots and a few other things, before settling in for pitchers on the Cafe Européen terrasse and then the terrasse at Saint-Sulpice on the way home. Jerome's long-time friend Wendy who I know too came over for a visit on Monday evening.

Tuesday, Jerome's sister Josée and her husband Stephane came into Montreal for the Def Leppard/Styx concert so we pre-partied with them in the afternoon and then Jerome, Bruce and I went to Mado to watch the drag show. I laughed so hard I cried, as they were parodying children's TV show themes that night (especially Maya the Bee -- I wish I'd caught it on video). It was priceless. We were supposed to meet Josée and Stephane there however we missed them coming in but met up with them back at the loft.

Wednesday Jerome left with Josée and Stephane for Trois-Rivières to visit with his dad who is currently undergoing chemotherapy. He was going back into Quebec City for treatment on Friday. Wednesday night Bruce and I got jiggy with it and went to Le Stud to make fun of the weird and wild examples of gay lifeforms that exist there. We ended up strolling Ste-Catherine at four in the morning chatting up anyone that would listen to us, including one Macy Gray-esque Ethiopean queen who claimed to have fallen in love with a wonderful man, but was heading to the baths to celebrate rather than go to his place. Maybe the drugs had something to do with that lack of judgment.

Thursday it rained all day, so Bruce and I decided it was a good day to lay around and do nothing other than watch porn and surf the net. Only at 10:55 did we traipse down to the dépanneur to get more beer and drink again until 3am.

Friday, Jerome got back. It rained again all day and I was finally motivated to get out and do some exercise and attempt to detoxify, so I threw on the running shoes and did the run up the trails of Mont-Royal to the Cross and back down. It is a really great run on closed roads with lush foliage with a great view on the top. As I ran further up, the rains came down harder until I was in a veritable deluge by the time I got back to the loft. The run takes approximately 60-70 minutes from de Bullion and Marie-Ann on the Plateau, so I figure around 13km or so there and back. The rain also soaked through the seal on my sports watch - I think it's toast now.

Afterwards I got ready to meet up with my friend Eric and his group of friends for a rubbery night out. I had brought an outfit to pair with the new boots as I knew at some point we'd be going out. There was supposed to be a fetish night at L'Aigle Noir, but there was no one there so we went to Le Parking. There was a blackout party in the lower level which also was dead, so we spent the evening on the main dance floor with all the other non-rubberized gay boys. We sure got a lot of stares and errant groping while walking along Ste-Catherine and in the club! It was a riot. It was figured that it was a quiet Friday out since 1) a lot of the people were in Toronto this weekend for Folsom Fair North, 2) that a lot of the service industry queens are laying low to save up money for Pride weekend, and 3) the remainder are probably out camping/out of town. Too bad -- another poorly-timed weekend out, but it was exhilarating to go out with other rubber guys instead of always being the only one! Better a group of seven or eight than just me, although they thought the evening sucked. It was ground-breaking for me. One step at a time.

Fortunately, I got to practice French since a couple of the guys only spoke French (as did Josée), and I did get told by several people over the week that they were impressed with my Prairie-accented French (mind you, that's coming from people that don't speak a work of English and haven't heard me speak that language yet). We also met a totally cute guy at L'Aigle Noir that hung out with us for the rest of the night. He knew one of the guys in our group through another friend (who is a co-worker of his), but it was his first time out ever in rubber, so he was having a ground-breaking evening as well. A little unnerving for him, but fun!

Saturday was travel day. I spent the morning going out and doing some more gift shopping with Jerome (as well as waiting way too long to be served breakfast), packed, hung out and played with the pythons, rats and Bearded Dragons until the cab came to pick me up at 6:30pm. After a long 4.5hour flight I was back in the sweltering heat of Calgary. I dropped my bags at the door and headed to bed in anticipation of the big ride on Sunday.

19 July 2007

Track Nationals Report

The racing was fast and furious between the incessant rain showers, but Alberta decisively swept the podium at the Junior/Masters/Paralympic Track Nationals held in Bromont, Quebec from July 11-15, 2007. The Alberta Masters Men team (Reid Cummings, Reid Dalgleish, Frank Kovacs, John Plant, James Purdy, Peter Toth) took away 13 medals across all four disciplines that were held. The Pursuits were held on Friday, the Kilo and Points races on Saturday, and the Sprints on Sunday. Congratulations to all the Alberta Junior, Paralympic and Masters participants for a job well done and in particular to the winners of the National Champion jerseys that were brought home to rest in Alberta for 2007 -- six in all!
Ayyyy -- sit on it!

Master A Pursuit podium
Le souper, Quebec-style
Master A Points Race podium
Dinner in Bromont
Master A Sprint podium

10 July 2007

Boom boom boom boom

Canada's oil boom has legs, IEA says

Surging demand in the developing world and oil-addicted consumers in the West will ensure at least five more years of tight petroleum markets, maintaining the boomtown momentum of Canada's oil patch, the industrial world's energy watchdog predicts. Unlike in the past, sharply higher oil prices have not dampened global demand, nor brought on sufficient new supplies of crude oil to offset declines in more mature fields, the International Energy Agency said yesterday. “Despite four years of high oil prices, this report sees increasing market tightness beyond 2010,” the IEA concluded in its medium-term forecast, released yesterday. The agency increased its five-year forecast for global oil demand from the one released six months ago, and reduced its expectation for more supply from non-members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. As a result, the energy agency is forecasting “substantially higher cash returns to shareholders” of global oil companies, whether those owners are governments or private investors.

The IEA said the Canadian oil sands are among a few notable exceptions to the general trend of declining production outside of OPEC, with others including the former Soviet Union, Brazil and the deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Those four regions will account for the bulk of non-OPEC growth in crude supply over the next five years, offsetting steep declines in the North Sea, Mexico and the continental US. Peter Tertzakian, chief energy economist with Calgary-based ARC Financial, said the IEA outlook was extremely bullish for Canadian oil and gas producers, and underscores the ever-increasing appetite for oil sands production, even as costs there soar. “This report confirms what the market is already starting to believe,” Tertzakian said. “There had been a sense of complacency [about abundance of cheap energy], and that complacency should end.” The IEA noted that the demand for petroleum products continues to climb around the world, even though crude prices have tripled in the past four years. While growth in demand has slowed in the developed world, booming economies in Asia and the Middle East have taken up the slack. Indeed, Asia and the Middle East are expected to account for three-quarters of the demand growth between now and 2012. Globally, the IEA forecasts demand for crude oil products will grow 2.2% a year on average to 95.8 million barrels a day in 2012. It expects 1.3% average annual growth in North America, and 0.7% in Europe. But the agency forecasts 3.6% yearly growth in demand in emerging economies and developing world. At the same time, the agency is forecasting only modest growth in crude oil supplies, as producers struggle to offset declines from existing fields. While there will be some spare capacity among OPEC members in the next few years, that cushion will drop to “minimal levels” by 2012, it said. The IEA does not include a specific price forecast in its outlook, but with crude prices hovering above US$70 a barrel, it provides little hope for a significant easing.
(Globe and Mail, National Post 070710)

“There had been a sense of complacency [about abundance of cheap energy], and that complacency should end.”

...and we've built our entire society on this complacency. What is going to happen when our huge energy requirements aren't so cheap and plentiful anymore? Your guess is as good as mine. The effects will most likely differ in different parts of the world. I think North America, with it's huge oil overreach and personal mobility addiction is particularly vulnerable to the implications of expensive energy. In fact, since most Western countries import most of their oil, this is a huge point of concern for most.

I think to get over this hurdle is going to require a massive global efficiency and conservation effort.

Hopefully new supplies offset the rapid declines in such previously productive non-OPEC areas as Cantarell in Mexico, the North Sea, and OPEC areas like Kuwait's Burgan fields and the proposed possible plateau in Saudi Arabia's Ghawar (the mother of all megafields). I think some of the concern lies in the fact that traditionally, tapped out conventional fields decline very rapidly, especially if they have had remedial extraction techniques applied, and no one knows for sure how quickly some of the megafields, from which we get a large chunk of our global supply, will dwindle or how many years they have left in them. Many of the new fields are (currently) expensive or unprofitable to develop right now and are in the most remote regions of the planet. Many of the non-conventional fields require huge energy inputs to get any final-product processed oil out of which lowers their EROEI even further and makes them expensive - financially, environmentally, technologically.

Because Northern Alberta's sands are easier to process than central U.S oil shale or Venezuela's Orinoco Basin sands, it is a prime development target. Especially because of Canada's location and political and economic stability, it is being eyed with hungry eyes by all the U.S. majors. How much you're willing to give up to promote this development is a personal issue, but there's no doubt the boom in Calgary will most likely continue for some time to come. The chances of something happening in the next five years to seriously impact global demand are remote.

As for the alternatives....

Biofuel targets doubted by energy agency

The International Energy Agency questions the ambitious targets set by governments around the world to use ethanol and other biofuels to reduce oil imports and cut greenhouse gas emissions. In a report released yesterday, the agency said it is maintaining a cautious forecast on the production growth of biofuels, at least compared to some of the more aggressive promises of ethanol promoters. The agency, which monitors energy markets for the developed world, expects global biofuels production to double over the next five years, led by the US and Brazil. But most of that increase will come before 2010, and growth will then level off. The report says rising feedstock prices – including corn, sugar, wheat and oilseeds – and inadequate infrastructure for distribution remain serious impediments to their wholesale adoption. “Despite political support and enthusiasm for what is seen by some to be an important but only partial solution to the dependence on imported oil, the depletion of liquid hydrocarbons and growing carbon emissions, the economics of first-generation biofuels are still uncertain and raise doubts about whether the ambitious supply growth scenarios some sketch will be realized,” the report concluded. It forecast the biofuels will account for 13% of the overall growth in transportation fuels over the next five years, and 27% of growth in gasoline consumption. But they will still represent less than 2% of the total market for petroleum products.
(Globe and Mail 070710)

09 July 2007

What does six billion ants looks like?

I love this article. I wish I'd written it, as all of these ideas have gone through my head at some time or other in the last few years.

The Ants of Gaia
It's only the end of the world, so quit bitching

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.
-- Thomas Malthus, 1798

By Joe Bageant

As a small boy, I once transferred most of an anthill population from its natural digs in our front yard to a gallon jar of fresh dirt, sprinkled it with a little sugar (in the cartoons, ants are always freaks for sugar, right?) and then left the ants on their own. Of course the day came when all I had was a jar full of dry earth, ant shit and the desolation of their parched little carcasses. I'd guess that it was the lack of water that finally got 'em.

But the most interesting thing in retrospect -- if a jar of dead bugs can be called interesting -- is this: Up until the very end they seemed to be happily and obliviously busy. They constructed an ant society with all of its ant facilities, made more baby ants and did all those things ants do that the proverbial grasshopper is famous for not doing. Obviously Christian predestinationists to the last ant, they met the grasshopper's grim fate by another route, and did not look at all surprised in death.

Now you'd think that the lesson of the ants would be obvious as hell to any non-intoxicated individual with a grade school education. Never mind that many people since Malthus, as my sainted daddy would have put it, "Done drove the point in the ground and broke it clean off." Never mind that Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb was a best seller and remains a classic. Never mind that James Lovelock, the nerdish forward thinking Englishman who 99% of Americans never heard of, delivered unto us yet one more time the worst truth in human history, the Gaia Hypothesis. Which is a fancy way of saying we cannot continue to devour our planet forever because it amounts to self-cannibalism.

Lovelock also convincingly argued that, due to the side effects of this species expiration, now acknowledged as global warming, the equator will look like Mars at some point relatively soon, with the surviving 20% of humans now alive, or perhaps in the next generation, living near the North and South Poles.

As to be expected, the few very comfortable elite folks on this earth said of Lovelock: "This guy is full of shit, a nutcase being adored by a bunch of naked tattooed pagans and gloomy intellectual types," both of which number among my favorite kinds of people.

Those pagans who allowed themselves to feel and not just intellectualize about the earth's condition, and those scientists who did not require computer modeling to do simple subtraction, recognized that these are the most challenging of times in human history, "challenging" being a polite term for the fact that that humanity is gonna die off big time, if not sooner, then later. Call it the secular version of The End Times.

But not much later, in light of the brief span Homo sapiens hath shat, frolicked, killed and exceeded their MasterCard limits upon the earth, which is less than a second in geological time. Already we are on the way out because we did not have the common sense of lizards, which lasted tens of millions of years longer without so much as a calculator, much less computerized eco models.

A bunch of DNA molecules gave us this aberrant evolution of brain and consciousness that enabled us to dominate everything else and get into the totally fucked situation in which we now find ourselves. The monkey got so smart he took over everything, ate most of it, drove over the rest, then stuck the roadkill on his own dick as a nuclear warhead, and after having threatened what was left around him, set out to destroy even that small remaining scrap of his ruined earthly turf. Is this God's cruelest joke?

Global warming as mange medicine

If mankind were discovered on a dog's hide the owner would give the dog a mange dip. Or if the earth were a Petri dish, we would be called pathology. Problem is though, mama earth tends to shed pathogens off her skin, which for us pathogens, is the ultimate catastrophe.

When forced to look at catastrophe on this order of magnitude, we either go numb in shock or look in delusion to something bigger, or at least something with more grandeur than Mother Nature flushing humanity down the toilet. Otherwise, one must accept the both ugly and the weirdly beautiful prospect of oblivion. Meanwhile, we begin too late to "make better choices." Grim choices that do nothing but postpone the inevitable, which are called better ones and sold to us to make ourselves feel better about our toxicity. Burn corn in your gas tank. Go green, with the help of Monsanto. But not many can be concerned even with the matter of better choices. Few can truly grasp the fullness of the danger because there is no way they can get their minds around it, no way to see the world in its entirety. The tadpole cannot conceive of the banks of the pond, much less the wooded watershed that feeds it. But old frogs glimpse of it.

Still, there is choice available, even a superior choice -- the moral one. Accept the truth and act upon it. Take direct action to eliminate human suffering, and likewise to eliminate our own comfort. We can say no to scorched babies in Iraq. We can refuse to drive at all and refuse to participate in a dead society gone shopping. We can quit being so addicted to the rationality and embrace the spirit. Rationality simply turns back on itself like a mobius strip. Too much thinking, too much cleverness on the monkey's part leads it to believe it can come up with rational solutions for what ration itself hath wrought.

All the green energy sources and eating right and voting right cannot fix what has been irretrievably ruined, but only make life amid the ruination slightly more bearable. Species gluttony is nearly over and we've eaten the earth and pissed upon its bones. Not because we are cruel by nature (though a case might be made for stupidity) but because the existence of consciousness necessarily implies each of us as its individual center, the individual point of all experience and thus all knowing. The accumulated personal and collective wounds fester and become fatal because there is no way to inform the world that we must surrender our assumptions, even if we wanted to. Which we do not because assumptions are the unseen cultural glue, the DNA of civilization. If we did so, the crash would be immediate.

So we postpone transformation through truth, and stick with what has always worked -- empire and consumption. And we twiddle our lives away thorough insignificant fretting about mortgages and health care and political parties and pretend the whole of American life is not a disconnect. Hell, all of Western culture has become a disconnect. Somebody needs to tell the Europeans too; progressive Americans give them entirely too much credit for the small positive variation in their cultures and ours. We both get away with it only so long as the oil and the entertainment last.

The front page of today's newspaper tells me that 41 million motorists will gas up and hit the road today, July 3rd. Another five million will sip drinks and read magazines while zipping through the stratosphere, in 747s that burn the day's oxygen production of a 44,000 acre rainforest in the first five minutes of flight just getting off the ground and gaining altitude, adding to the more than 110 million annual tons of atmosphere-altering chemtrail gasses, some of which will remain to hold heat in the upper atmosphere for almost 100 years.

Below it all are the spreading pox-like blotches of economic and ecological ruins of dead North American towns and city cores, such as downtown Gary Indiana, Camden, Newark, Detroit -- all those places we secretly accept as being hellish because, well, that's just what happens when blacks take over, isn't it? Has anyone seen downtown Detroit lately? Of course not. No one goes there any more. Miles of cracked pavement, weeds and abandoned buildings that look like de Chirico's Melancholy and Mystery of a Street. Hell, for all practical purposes it is uninhabited, though a scattering of drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless insane people wander in the shadows of vacant rotting skyscrapers where water drips and vines crawl through the lobbies, including the Ford Motor Company's stainless steel former headquarters. (See the works of Chilean-born photographer Camilo José Vergara.) It is the first glimpse of a very near future, right here and now for all to see.

The hearts of even our most avowedly thriving cities are just a dead, reduced to nothing more than designated spending zones, collections of bars and banks and overpriced eateries lodged at the center of a massive tangle of overpasses and freeways designed for a nation of soft people hurtling themselves through the suburbs in petroleum powered exoskeletons in search of fried chicken, or into the city for the lonely monetized experience called urban nightlife. Which is no life at all, but rather posturing in lifelike poses amid simple drunkenness and engorgement.

We allow ourselves to imagine the worst is somewhere in yet another future so we can continue without owning decision. Love of comfort being the death of courage, we continue the familiar commoditized life, the only one we have known. Is it not true that our entire understanding of courage as we know it is about braving some unknown? About making the socially unaccepted and dangerous choice? Stepping forward in the face of the wars and evil mechanics of our own particular time?

Empire and its inevitable permanent state of warfare flourishes not because evil men are at the helm, but because the men at the helm are even weaker and more in denial than we are. (Look at Dick Cheney. The guy is a nervous wreck wrapped in arrogance and denial.) And so their uninformed and crude confidence is assuring to both them and us. We elect the worst among ourselves in increasing avoidance of ourselves and they are validated by our endorsement. Evil men seeking empire did not make us or the world this way. We made their existence possible through our denial, love of ease and non accountability.

The most dangerous question in the world

Yet, I dare say that comfort is not the most important thing in most American lives. It is just the only thing we are offered in exchange for our toil and the pain of ordinary existence in such an age. Consequently, it is all we know. Meaningless work, then meaningless comfort and distraction in the too-few hours between sleep and labor. But we settled for that and continue to do so. The day will never come when we stand around the office water cooler and ask one another: "Why in the hell are we even here today?" It's the most dangerous question in America and the Western world.

Some few of us are in a hellish limbo, simply waiting for total collapse because it is easier to rebuild from nothing than to change billions of minds not even remotely concerned with the looming catastrophe. A minority of the world, the six percent called America, suffers the mass self-delusion of endless plentitude. A much larger portion is less concerned with the moral aspects of consumption because they are brutally engaged in trying to find enough to eat and a drink of clean water. So plentitude on any terms looks damned good. Escape to America because those fuckers over there don't seem to be suffering at all.

Manifesto of the Damned

I thank the stars for younger men, writers such as Derrick Jensen and Charles Eisenstein. They say what we cannot yet say to ourselves and what the media will never say because media survives by the corporate numbers game. Consequently, the iron rules of being allowed to communicate with significant numbers of people within our empire tend to call for glibness, fake optimism, and the wide net of inclusion of even the silliest sorts of people. Fuck only knows I've participated in the sham over the years. But the truth is never politically or socially correct.

What's left of my own aging hippie optimism dies hard. And as an older guy who has seen both interior and external horror in this life, I often assure those who will deal with this world after I am worm chow that "to have seen a specter is not everything." I've often repeated this theme because it is important to know that many more specters lie ahead of the next generation, the survivors of which will be the new "brave happy few," links in the chain of reason tempered with art. No one yet knows with absolute certainty the outcome of our terrible common plunge toward truth. But even in the worst of times, there is glory in the sheer electricity of life, the expression of its juiciness, those moments when the eternal fecundity of the flesh struts by in a tight skirt, or perhaps sporting the perfect unshaven jaw, offering everything and nothing. Life is never completely joyless.

Younger men and women will live to rule or rule the day. So seize it for god sake! And listen to the cellular wisdom of the flesh. I did and do and am damned glad of it. Despite what a police court Jehova, Yahweh or Allah may have told us, the only holy thing existent is this the flesh in which we now walk. It leads us toward both good and evil, but it leads, and most probably will bleed if we are on the right path. Yet, what could be better than a meaningful life during meaningless times? Which is everything, whether we be artistic, queer, altruistic, an unheralded ox in the fields of labor -- or one of the invisible ones out there with a stone cold determination to kill the supposedly deathless machinery in which we are expected to supplicate daily and call that a life.

I am not a wise man, but I dare say that's about all you can hope for. A splash of small glory, or perhaps even a canteen filled with meaningfulness in the desert. It is no small thing.

So here we are. You and me. Let us hang all our laundry out to dry in this tiny corner of cyberspace. I think it is entirely possible that we can be honest cybernetic bards in an unpromising age, possibly even noble amid the ruins.

So now oil's not so well -- which is it?

Oil to stay north of US$60

Column - After a brief period of slack last winter, oil prices are once again reflecting the tightness that prevails in oil markets in light of a weak supply response in the face of strong demand globally. A truer picture of oil markets has emerged in recent months, one that suggests oil markets are not as well supplied as previously thought, OPEC supply cuts notwithstanding. In only a few short months, demand has proved stronger than predicted and oil supply that was expected to materialize has not. The end of the bull market in oil was hastily pronounced by wishful value managers and a doubting public last winter when oil prices traded around US$50 per barrel in the midst of a US economic slowdown. Yet, neither warm winter weather nor a US housing recession provided sufficient or lasting respite to counteract what is shaping up as a weak supply response to higher oil prices.

Despite the intensity of capital expenditure directed toward new supply in recent years, the result is appearing less than promising. A variety of factors are conspiring to limit oil production over the near term and perhaps beyond. Capacity erosion or depletion, cost inflation in equipment and services and lack of access to resources in several countries are the most important factors. Declining rates are most profound in non-OPEC oil-producing countries. Net additions so far this year are anemic, a total of 640,000 barrels per day. Also current OPEC production appears to be too low to meet "the call on OPEC," which is the difference between projected demand and projected non-OPEC supply. It's not one thing but a variety of factors that are conspiring to potentially send oil prices even higher in the near term. Demand has been revised higher this year by 420,000 bpd and last year's numbers were also ratcheted up by 250,000 bpd. Revisions are attributed to non-OECD countries where demand has been compounding at nearly 4.5% per annum since 2003, far stronger than previously thought. Production outages in Nigeria and declines in Iraq are surprises that tip the balance to tightness over the next few months. Conflicts in both these countries suggest that resumption to full capacity is unlikely in the near future and current weakness could prevail. Even if we leave speculation about depletion to peak oil theorists, the balance for oil markets appears exceptionally tight in the near term only a few short months after oil prices were in a free fall. Perhaps the world should get used to $60 oil.
(National Post 070709)

Blah blah blah. Demand is climbing faster than expected and supply additions are pathetic. Sound familiar. I feel like a skipping record on this topic. I've been talking about this for months. All the numbers publically released are bogus (or, at least, intensely filtered -- much like inflation numbers) and only meant to satiate the concerns of the stock market investors. The reality is far different from the fantasy that is being spun by the talking heads.

More crap from China

Fake building material imperils new railway

Fake construction material is jeopardizing the safety of China's newest high-speed railway, a Chinese newspaper says. An investigation by the newspaper found that large quantities of bogus material had been used in several hundred kilometres of a US$12-billion high-speed railway between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou. The China Economic Times said the scam by unscrupulous suppliers could lead to cracking in the railway's concrete supports, creating a "great danger" to the railway. The newspaper report has triggered an investigation by the Chinese Railways Ministry. The report is the latest revelation in the widening scandal over shoddy and hazardous goods in China. In the railway scam, the newspaper reported that the railway's contractors had been tricked into buying large quantities of fake or deficient coal fly ash, a common ingredient in concrete. The newspaper said the bogus material was discovered in March by a construction engineer, who noticed a blockage in a pipe where concrete was being poured. Such blockages are uncommon, and he suspected it was caused by phony fly ash. The fake material looks identical to the genuine material, and only laboratory testing can tell them apart. The high-speed railway, designed to carry trains at speeds up to 350 kilometres an hour between two of China's biggest cities, is currently under construction. It is described as the longest and most technologically advanced high-speed railway in China, and it has been praised lavishly by the Chinese news media.
(Globe and Mail 070707)

The mantra "you're crazy to buy anything built during an economic boom" rings so true once again. With all of this unmanaged growth in China over the past few years, the cracks in the foundation are starting to show, so to speak. All the make-a-quick-yuan products are flooded on the market all over the world now that China's is the world's manufacturing plant. If this issue happened in Canada, I doubt that the construction project would be allowed to continue until the matter was investigated thoroughly. But with this being China, I'm sure they will forge ahead, crashes and casualties and tragedy notwithstanding.

06 July 2007

Skanky Calgary

Reining it in

Column -- As Calgary's 10-day, booze-fuelled Stampede bash kicks off today, the mantra quietly embraced by corporate Calgary to "drink triple, see double and think single" is coming under increasing scrutiny. Along with being a salute to Western cowboy heritage, the Calgary Stampede has blossomed into a business networking free-for-all involving scores of parties where liquor and morals flow freely. The party has become such a unique part of cash-loaded Calgary's fabric that employers tend to look the other way as entire departments leave at mid-day for a romp at the bars, show up hungover after a night of two-stepping, or even start the day off drinking tequila at one of the notorious breakfast booze-ups. The result is that divorce-law firms are in big demand after the Stampede ends and, moreover, it's common knowledge that sexual assault reports spike during the festival. But some believe the corporate revelry is getting out of hand, highjacking the event and promoting behaviour that puts employees in awkward situations.

A marker of the emerging discomfort is the recent workshop organized for the first time by the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, a Calgary-based group that promotes ethics in business and government. In the session for corporate executives to draw attention to the deterioration in Stampede behaviour, the foundation highlighted true scenarios where employees were pressured into situations that would not have been acceptable or could have resulted in legal ramifications outside of Stampede. They ranged from a rookie engineer at an oil company who was encouraged by his employer to attend a client's party where waitresses were topless, to an articling law student who was humiliated and embarrassed when encouraged to try a "booby shot" in which she had to drink from a glass placed between a waitress's breasts. "If you think your fate in this firm or company is tied to whether you accept an invitation or how you behave at an event, we're into something that is a lot more serious than what people would choose to do in their own time," said Janet Keeping, president of the foundation. The event attracted only 25 people - a measure of Calgarians' reluctance to be seen as party poopers. Officially, companies promote good behaviour. Petro-Canada sponsors Family Day at the Stampede Grounds to encourage family values, while EnCana expects its employees to abide by its code of conduct. "Sure, everybody knows that in a festival atmosphere, behaviours become festive," said EnCana spokesman Alan Boras. "We have guidelines with respect to behavioural matters and codes of conduct that are ongoing and have been in place for a long time. There is nothing seasonal about them."
(National Post 070706)

Has the 'Stampede excuse' gone too far? Now that the Stampede's started, everyone seems to now use the Stampede for an excuse for everything from hangovers to improper behavior. I don't really know if a workshop is necessary -- can't people just act and behave and consume with a bit of restraint and foresight, diplomacy and ambassadorship? Maybe that's asking too much. I think things have gotten so bad with the Stampede that for some, it's their annual excuse to throw their morals out the window and act like a complete idiot for ten days. Some even anticipate and plan for it to be their chance to act like a loose retard. Now it's almost expected behavior. Ridiculous.

Like any other city that has a huge, money-making annual event (think: New Orlean's Mardi Gras), there is always a large chunk of the indigenous population that prefers and desires to not be part of the action. Trying to get around the city on a daily basis is difficult enough with the increased numbers and traffic, nevermind having to deal with drunken sods that have no time for reasonable social discourse. I think it really reflects on the civility of the city, for which I think Calgary is sorely lacking these days. The boom and the money mean more than the community. The Stampede's reputation is now downright skanky. That's why as the years pass, I try to spend less and less time in Calgary during Stampede week. Been there, done that, tired, admittedly a bit embarrassed, and moving on.

Food for Thought

I know, I'm lame for stealing someone else's blog entry, but V.A. is a very thoughtful writer and this entry from earlier this year pretty much sums up a lot of conversations I've had with people lately about relationships and friendship-building, real social engagement vs. internet relationships, and how what you see/read/hear on the internet or on TV is not the way the world really works.

How the Me-Generation Ruined Modern Conversation
May 2nd, 2007

When I wrote my article on depression, a lot of people went into pointlessly long lectures about the difference between clinical depression and sadness. They needn’t have done this; I know the difference between clinical depression and sadness. I wasn’t trying to claim they were the same thing. I was merely arguing that most people are quick to assume depression when some honest self examination might just reveal plain, old sadness. They say to themselves, “I have a good job, plenty of money, a nice home, the latest gadgets, and good looking kids. What reason do I have to be depressed?”

Upon communicating these facts with their Doctors, while also admitting to vague thoughts of suicide, the end result is a man in a white coat who replies, “Good point. Here’s your pills.”

No one ever considers that happiness doesn’t always come in the form of a boat or a tropical vacation. TV tells us that a new car with a heated cup holder will make us happy….or a cell phone that plays MP3’s….or a cute new sun dress. So we buy and buy and buy and when that doesn’t work, TV is quick to remind us that people in other countries are starving, so we should grateful for what we’ve got.

Do you want to know the reason I think people are so sad?

Loneliness. Simple loneliness. I think most people are so motherfucking lonely, they can’t see straight. Again, I will use post secret as an example. Don’t you think it’s just a little sad and pathetic that so many people have to write down their secrets on a postcard and send them in anonymously because there is not a single person in their lives they feel comfortable confiding in? Technorati boasts that there are 71 million blogs right now. Most of which contain people who reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings to complete strangers likely because no one in real life pays attention to them. No one sees anything wrong with this?

In this day an age, it’s hard to admit you’re lonely. After all, we’re surrounded by an endlessly vast amount of people on a daily basis. We have co-workers, extended families, and shopping buddies. Sometimes we have children, foolishly hoping that a small baby will fulfill our need for companionship. When none of that works, we buy a dog. If, at the end of the day, nothing fills the void, we say to ourselves, “I have it all, so why I am a still unhappy? I have no right to be unhappy. I must be clinically depressed.”

The issue isn’t the amount of people in our lives, though.

The issue is that society, as a whole, has lost the ability to meaningfully connect with other people.

In other words, the Me-Generation has ruined modern conversation to the point where we cannot form anything but the most superficial of relationships with the people we’d like to be closest too.

How did this happen? Well, I’m glad you asked!

The Self Esteem Police Produced Self Obsessed Adults

The very day we became obsessed with the self esteem of our children is the first day shit started going downhill. We told our children they were unique and special and perfect. We insisted that the world would one day find them beautiful and smart and glib. We told them their individuality was their greatest asset and refused to criticize them even when it was sorely needed.

The end result? A generation of children who are endlessly fascinated with themselves who can’t, for the life of them, understand why the rest of the world isn’t as enamored by their utterly uniquely genius minds as they are.

Teaching our children to be confident is one thing, but we took it too far. Our children are infatuated with themselves, sometimes to the point of delusion. With so much of their love and energy devoted inward, how can we expect them to feel love for another?

Self esteem brainwashing dooms people into becoming narcissistic assholes who genuinely believe the whole world revolves around them.

Too Much Conversing on the Internet Has Diminished Our Ability to Recognize Social Cues

I spent one afternoon walking around the mall with a friend of mine. She was babbling about something ridiculous and no matter how many times I tried to change the subject, she kept referring back to our original discussion. Finally, I gave up and for two solid hours, my only reply to her was, “Mmhm.”


She happily chattered on for 2 straight hours, absolutely oblivious to the fact that I had quit listening to her. I was amazed.

Frankly, I blame the Internet. Online, it’s hard to determine whether or not you’re boring the person you’re talking to. You don’t see them looking around the room, or staring off into space, or sighing distractedly. A few well placed ‘lols’ or ‘hehes’ can fool you into believing they are actually engaged in the conversation. So it’s really no surprise to me that so many people totally lack the ability to recognize when they’re boring someone when they attempt a real life dialogue.

This explains why people can actually maintain completely one sided conversations that last for 3 hours strictly about their fucking cats.

In reality, it takes two people to have a meaningful, enjoyable conversation. How can we expect to connect to people on a deeper level if we consistently fail to engage our conversational partners?

Right now, there are people reading this and thinking, “A true friend will want to talk about anything I want to talk about! They would not be bored by anything I say!”

You can thank the Self Esteem Police for that ideology.

We Quit Listening and Instead Began Waiting for Our Turn to Speak

Have you ever been talking to someone when it finally hit you that the other person wasn’t processing a single thing you were saying, but merely waiting for your lips to stop moving so they can say all the things bouncing around in their head?

Welcome to a kindergarten mentality applied to adult conversations! You go! Now I’ll go! It’s your turn! Now my turn! Look at us! We’re sharing!

A vital part of communication is to listen to and process what the other person is saying. You’re response should play off the statement of your counterpart. Otherwise you might as well be talking to yourself.

The only kindergarten doctrine that should apply to adult conversations is the Golden Rule. Namely, if you want other people to listen to you, you should be willing to listen to them. Quit talking AT people and start talking TO people.

We Ask Questions We Don’t Want the Answer To

The worst example:

“How are you doing today?”

The person who is asked this question might as well give up and say ‘fine’ right off the bat; because chances are that’s the only answer the asker is willing to hear. Don’t believe me? Try answering ‘terrible.’ Watch in amazement as the asker airily replies ‘Good to hear’ as they sashay away.

Some people believe simply asking is being polite. You can thank the Self Esteem Police for those people. I’m sorry, but putting forth the least amount of effort doesn’t win you any courtesy points in my book. Taking 5 seconds out of your day to slow down and actually show interest in the answer is polite. Asking a question merely because you want recognition for your condescending form of pseudo-caring is actually pretty rude.

In a similar vein are the people who ask you a question only because they want to you to ask them a question. For example:

Person A: “What did you do this weekend?”

Person B: “Well, I went to a movie and—

Person A: *interrupting* “Guess what I did this weekend!”

In closing, if you don’t care, don’t ask. Keep your shallow displays of insubstantial friendliness to yourself.

We Use Our Peers to Validate Our Decisions and Often Sacrifice Honesty to be Nice

I learned a long time ago that many of my friends never actually wanted my advice when they asked for it. Instead, they wanted to me to validate whatever stupid conclusion they already came to. I was merely a puppet meant to smile and nod at all the appropriate places.

When I refused and insisted on actually communicating to them what I really thought, the entire conversation shifted to them trying to convince me that they were making the correct decision!

An example:

Friend: “V, tell me the truth, do you think my boyfriend will ever leave his wife for me?”

V: “No, I don’t.”

Friend: “But I can tell he loves me by the look in his eyes! And he wrote me a poem!”

V: “That may be so, but he’s still going home to another woman at night.”

Friend: “Read this poem! Seriously, how can you read this poem and not think he loves me?”

V: “The poem is nice, but it’s a poor substitute for real love and dedication.”

Friend: “Are you saying I should stop seeing him?”

V: “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

Friend: “But he loves me! Don’t you understand that he loves me? I mean, just yesterday….”

It’s an exercise in futility, really. My choices are to pretend to be convinced and tell her that her relationship has a chance, or to maintain my opinion and risk wearing the Mean Tag.

My question is: what’s the point? What do we have to gain by forming relationships that revolve around validating ourselves through other people? Why maintain a friendship if you don’t respect the person’s honest opinion? When did honesty become synonymous with cruelty anyway? How can we ever learn to connect with other people when we can’t see them as individuals, but instead see them as reflections of ourselves?

Much like most problems in life, the solution to our loneliness is simple:

If you want people to care about you, you should care about them.

If you lack the ability to do that, then grab your prescription for prozac and shut the fuck up already.

But either way, quit blaming your brain. Blame yourself for becoming part of the Me-Generation.

04 July 2007


Thank-you Tom and Ed - "Do It Again"

02 July 2007

Reality Bites

Gah. It's back to work tomorrow after a glorious period of vacation that I'm reminiscing about fondly already. I'm still mired in cold symptoms which put a bit of hamper on the Canada Day festivities, but we did manage to get out to Symon's Valley Ranch for the ARGRA Rodeo Barn Burner dance on Saturday night. It was a lot of fun, but the time flew by and it was all over for another year.

My one big complaint was about transportation. The ads for the event were all touting this awesome bus service that would transfer on the hour between the bars and hotels downtown and Symon's Valley Ranch - return ticket for $15. So Joe and I got to the Texas Lounge around 7:45pm and were told that the bus for 4pm had shown up over 2 hours late, and chances were there was no 6pm bus (obviously). One did finally show up at 8:30pm or so, so I bought return tickets for Joe and I, thinking they might have the service back on track by the end of the night. The last bus was supposed to leave Symon's Valley Ranch at 1am, but do you think it was there? No way - we waited outside for about 20 minutes before Skybar came out to his car. We hopped a ride with him back to town, and then took a $40 cab ride home. Transportation to the dance and back? $70 for two. What a rip. The bus drivers had no idea where they were going (where any of the pickup spots were downtown), and we had to direct him to the Eagle. What a ripoff. I'll drive the bus next year. How hard is it to run a service between Point A and Point B? I mean, really.

Anyways, that's ancient history now.

I'll be busy tomorrow getting my new work contract finalized and sent to Markham while trying to settle the severance package with my soon-to-be previous employer. Once that's out of the way, I'll have to get some catch-up work done this week before heading off to Montreal on the 11th. Whoo-hoo! Another vacation! I just can't get enough! Okay, there's some serious stuff going on at the beginning of that one in Bromont, but then after the 15th, I have a week to hang out in my favorite city in the world!

The Calgary Stampede officially starts on Thursday night, hard to believe, I know. I'm hoping to get a ticket for the company party on Friday afternoon, since that will probably be my only exposure to the Stampede frenzy for this year. I'm entered to run the half marathon at the Calgary Marathon on Sunday, so this week is definitely going to need to be a recuperative one.