One Lighted Crazy Man

Critical Mass always starts after dark in December. Fewer people than usual come out, as a large number of cyclists have packed it in for the cold season. Last Friday was relatively warm, and a fairly large crowd came out for the ride (I would guess approximately forty people).

On the way to the ride, I encountered last weeks Worst Car Interaction of the Week. After leaving Big Fat Burrito, I headed up Major (which is a one way street). Running into cars going the wrong way on one way streets is fairly common in the traffic mazes South of the Annex. However, most of these wayward vehicles recognize their mistake and give way to oncoming traffic.

Most certainly don't exceed the speed limit while driving with a headlamp out and not yield to oncoming traffic (on a street narrowed by snowbanks).


New Direction

I never really knew what to do with this blog, so I am thinking of taking it in a new direction.

Starting in a few weeks, I will be posting something along the lines of "Worst Car Interaction of the Week." I've decided to use the car as the object of my disapproval rather than the driver as a heavy handed way of illustrating the dehumanizing effect of automobiles.

The idea came to me a few weeks ago when I was out Christmas shopping and a police car chirped at me so that it could pass in the curb lane. Another incident with an sexagenarian VW bus which spewed bitter fumes in my face all the way down St. George and then honked at me when I passed a car parked in the bike lane cemented the idea.

There should be no shortage of material to work with, even given my short 8 km round trip commute. Hopefully writing about these interactions will make them more enjoyable in the long run.

Edit: As fun as I am sure it would be to vent about crappy drivers, I don't think I would enjoy it at all. I am not going to do this anymore.


655000 Dead Iraqis and I'm still paying $2.69 for unleaded

I stumbled across this image just now. Paying for any gas at all is the problem, not paying too much.


Business As Usual

I was aghast to see this article in the news today: Global warming opens Arctic seabed to the search for oil and gas. The author is actually trying to say that this is a good thing. Here is the opening paragraph:
The Arctic is rich in natural resources, including hydrocarbons, and rapid thawing due to global warming could make exploiting those mineral resources feasible relatively soon.

The headline is analogous to 'Chain Smoker Hospitalized, Finds More Time For Smoking.' I'm surprised by how often I see headlines that would fit well in The Onion.



The last line negates itself.


Blog Action Day

Today is an arbitrary day set to blog about the environment.

Here are some steps I try to demonstrate are entirely possible for anyone to take if they care about lessening their impact on the environment:
  1. Go car free. I have harboured an active resentment of all motorized vehicles, but this is optional. I would say walk when you can, failing that ride a bike, and ride transit or take a bus / train between cities only if necessary.
  2. Be a vegetarian. This has a similar impact as point one. There is maybe a bit less of a health benefit, but I think on average vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters.
  3. Live in an apartment instead of a house.
  4. Don't use plastic bags. I generally carry a canvas bag or a knapsack.
  5. Proselytize. This is a big one. No matter how much you do, you can only ever reduce your own impact by 100% (which is not even possible, it is just your upper bound. I think that the only way to accomplish this would be to kill yourself in such a way that your corpse falls into a composter). However reaching out to others can have a much more profound impact.
  6. Grow a garden. I converted my parking space into a garden. It pushes cars out and makes some green space an veggies in an otherwise grey and dingy alleyway.
I have some areas for improvement:
  1. I live in a drafty apartment that was built in the 60s. I could easily live in a greener home.
  2. Cheese has the same amount of CO2 emissions in it's production as beef. I have a hard time eating less cheese.
  3. I really should eat more local and organic food. I try to do this, but I have issues with veggies going bad, and money related issues (it costs more).
  4. I could probably become a vegan.
  5. Be more politically active. I volunteered for the Olivia Chow campaign a bit, but I have since become less enthusiastic about the NDP's environmental policy. This is mostly due to the Provincial party's logging and auto industry support (which they have to do because they are backed by the unions).
This was a bit of a screed I suppose.


Bamboo Bike - how To

Here is how I built my bamboo bike:
  1. find an old frame with large diameter tubes.
  2. Cut out the center section of the top and down tube.
  3. Take these cut out portions to your local bamboo retailer. I found a lot of places in Chinatown that sold lengths of bamboo. Find two poles of bamboo that fit snugly in the tubes you cut out.
  4. Cut the bamboo to fit into your top tube and down tube. Aim between the joints in the bamboo, and leave as much room as possible. The farther into your tubes the bamboo goes, the stronger the frame will be when you are done. Sand it down to fit if in necessary.
  5. I used steel reinforced epoxy inside the areas where the bamboo goes inside of the frame. I am not sure if this is necessary, but it can' hurt.
  6. Drill and bolt the points where the bamboo enters the frame.
I have been told that I drilled the holes in the frame a bit too close together and that it may have weakened the design. I am not too worried, as I can't imagine using this bike for anything other than critical mass and other various street party type events.

For the stability of the frame (assuming every bike I've ever ridden is a 10) I would call this a 7. Before I put the bolts in I was using just epoxy, at which point I would say it was a 2.

Thanks to Bike Pirates for help finishing this project.


Cars not stopping at stop signs

Here is a great video of a myth being debunked. The video shows the typical behaviour of a motorist at a stop sign. Notice that no one stops.

I maintain that an equal number of cyclists and motorists run stop signs and red lights.


Car Ad in a Gallery

The Edward Day gallery on Queen West seems to have turned itself into a showroom for automobiles. This is poor form for a gallery. They have not only sold away their credibility by displaying the cars, but went so far as having screens playing ads and having marketing materials available.

These are some of the negative comments from the graffiti wall that took the place of a comments booklet. Strangely, most of the comments were either positive, ambiguous, or unrelated.


Critical Mass Review: Chaos is good

I find that I get a bit antsier than usual when critical masses are as huge as the one tonight. It is all good though. Here is the run down:

  1. This had to be one of the biggest Masses I have ever been at. It was bloody huge.
  2. I corked at avenue and Cumberland right after mass started. There were a bunch of n00bs at the front, so I kind of got to decide to turn right. Awesome.
  3. Heading down Yonge was better than usual. We've had some business with streetcars on College a couple of times, but today was cool.
  4. That Tall Bike! That was pretty cool. I tried to stay away from it as much as possible though.
  5. We got split into two groups on University thanks to the police car behind us chirping. We managed to reunite. It is cool to think that there were two groups of cyclists large enough to take back the streets in downtown Toronto at once.
  6. What was with the n00bs biking down the wrong side of the street all night? That's not how we roll.
  7. The incident with the fire truck at Queen and Bathurst went quite well, considering.
  8. I am happy that we continued from Bike Pirates.
All in all this was an awesome mass. Here is how I remember the route:


Gone Fishing Begins @ Scadding Court Community Centre

From Monday June 18 to Saturday June 23, 2007 you are invited to go fishing at the indoor pool at Scadding Court Community Centre located at 707 Dundas St. West (Bathurst and Dundas).
The program hours are:
  • 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Weekdays only
  • 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Weekdays
  • 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday
This is open to the General Public. There is an entry fee of $8.00 per person with a limit of two (2) fish. Each fish over the limit is $3.50. A .75 cent fee will be charged for each fish cleaned.


Air Quality? Not Bloody Likely

So the AQI was at 23 when I got home. Something tells me that they must do these readings a few miles off the end of the Leslie St. Spit. If they had been downtown they would have noticed that the air stank of gas.

I consider driving to be an immoral act in general (see Peak Oil, Global Warming etc), but on days like today it is down right mean.


Canadian Provinces vs. Countries with Similar GDP

Fairly roughly speaking, the list is

  1. Ontario: Netherlands
  2. Quebec: Denmark
  3. Alberta: Greece
  4. BC: Portugal
  5. Sask.: Slovakia
  6. Manitoba: Lybia
  7. N.S.: Guatemala
  8. N.B.: Sri Lanka
  9. N.L.: Lebanon
  10. P.E.I.: Benin
  11. N.W.T.: Haiti
  12. Yukon: Lesotho
  13. Nunavut: Belize
Inspired by


Mathematical Pet Peeve #1: the equals sign

Here is the first in a list of abuses of mathematics that I will occasionally see that bothers me, in no particular order.

Have you ever seen an ad that has some sort of bogus equation in it? I am talking about things like:
  • You + lower mortgage rates = 1 happy camper.
  • splenda + olestra = healthy snack.
  • Teo Leone + George Wendt = awesome TV show.
  • high mileage + tonnes of horse power = 1 killer ride.
I have two qualms with this sort of advertising:
    1. All ads are lies. By using the equals sign in this context, you deny it it's true meaning. I hope that people don't actually think that these equals signs are valid.
    2. These equations aren't even true. You can't add summands with disparate terms and expect a neat answer unless you have defined some custom form of addition (in which case using the equals sign is bad form), when you clearly haven't. Perhaps this would be a better equation:

      define a function TV from the space of arbitrary sets of actors into the space of the quality of television sitcoms. Then TV({Teo Leone, George Wendt}) = A good T.V. show.

      Of course, I still don't think that this is a good equation. Refer to #1.
I think that the idiocy of these ad campaigns is by design, and that it is meant to cause people to stop and reexamine the message because of the faulty mathematics involved. This is similar to the ads with. random; punctuation, between... words.

No one ever accused marketers of not being crafty, but at least we can accuse them of being dishonest in one more way.


Ride for Heart

I did the Ride for Heart today. It was a lot of fun.


Big Blue Bin of Bicycles

In Ramsden Park (right across Yonge st. from the Rosedale TTC stop) there is a public works yard with a giant blue bin that looks to be filled with bicycles. I wonder what the city does with these? I hope they reuse them rather than sell them for scrap or otherwise recycle them.


What's in a lane?

Does anyone hate it when there is a car parked in the bike lane? Fight Back! Uploading the actions of offenders is fun and easy! Bike lanes are for bikes, not for cars.

2 Km of new bike lanes approved!

Toronto has had 2 Km of new bike lanes approved on Eastern avenue between Logan and Leslie. The plan is to make things a lot more convenient for all of the cyclists coming off the Gardiner and the DVP.

With all annoying sarcasm cast aside, I have no problem adding bike lanes anywhere, I just think they should be added in places that cyclists actually use first.


Bring the Nanny State Noise

I think that left turns for cars should be abolished.

The fuel savings would be astronomical. It is strange to think that going around the block uses less fuel. That probably means going around is faster a lot of the time too.

There should be wide ranging restrictions on the rights that cars are given. I see no reason for the city to offer parking, or allow idling, or allow cars on certain streets. The more that cars are restricted, the less attractive of a transit option that they will be.

I have no problem with the government restricting what cars are allowed to do. I figure if you want freedom, then you should ride a bike or walk. To be the most free, take the TTC.


Why Stop Driving?

Remember the Cake Decorator who went to the doctor. He poked himself in the kidney, and said 'Doc, it hurts when I do this!' Of course, the doctor told him to stop. So stop he did. You see, when an expert tells you that you are harming yourself, you are supposed to stop doing it.

Carbon dioxide emissions from transportation account for about a quarter of total emissions. Canadians keep our houses too cold in the summer, and too warm in the winter. We live too far from work, in houses that are too big, and we have too many coal fired gas plants. It is not as easy for us to stop these damaging practices as it is to stop poking a kidney, but it needs to be done.

The Myth of "Freezing in the Dark"

Reactionary antienvironmentists hear talk like this and make comments like 'god damn patchouli breath granola crunching tree huggers! They won't be happy until we are all unemployed and freezing in the dark.' I will break my reply to this comment:

  • patchouli breath: I don't even know what patchouli is. I doubt that you know. You probably heard Bill O'Reilly say this once. He misheard talking about repairing a quilt while he was coked out of his mind and selling used cars. Forget the patchouli.
  • granola crunching: You'll have to forgive me while I sit here not eating a dead cow. I can see how you would find that offensive.
  • Tree Hugger: I live in downtown Toronto. Any trees I see could use the affection. Just remember where that oxygen (that's some kind of clear shit you need to use a V8) comes from.
  • Unemployed: A reference to the 'inevitable economic downturn' that is the end result of moving away from an automotive based economy. I take offense to this. The idea that people can only be productive if there are people somewhere else building cars is ridiculous and lacks imagination. It also lacks faith in the individual and the community to take care of themselves.
  • Freezing in the Dark: I don't advocate a return to the middle ages. I am a fan of modern medicine, cleanliness and self determination. It is obvious that people will need to make sacrifices, but given the right combination of personal responsibility, clean energy and lifestyle change, things will be better for everybody.

Better for everybody? Are you mad?

Yes, better for everybody. Driving is boring. What fun is sitting in grid lock for an average of 63 minutes per day?

If you have not biked, walked, taken public transit and rollerbladed to work, I suggest you give each a try. Cars don't just emit carbon dioxide, they emit a range of other noxious pollutants. Over 5000 people die in Ontario every year from illness related to automotive exhaust. Cars don't just kill from afar either. 1 in 84 American deaths is in an automobile crash.

We can remove this foul influence from Our lives, and be better off for it.


Reaction to the King St. ROW Meeting

Tonight I attended the public meeting at City Hall discussing the plans for the King St. ROW test run, planned for the summer of 2008. The evening began with Adam Giambrone explaining about the problems with service on the King St line, and how the ROW would be an attempt to solve these issues.

He was repeatedly interrupted by some business owners from the King st portion of the entertainment district. When he finished his presentation, they took about an hour to air their grievances about the project. They basically were opposed to losing on street parking, and said that cars already had enough trouble downtown.

I think that increasing the quality of the streetcar service on King St. is extremely important. The plan is not overly disadvantageous to motorists, and business in the entertainment district would not suffer from the loss of something like 100 parking spots. If these people can only manage to stay in business because there is parking nearby, they have worse problems than streetcars.

One of the attendees of the meeting even complained that there is not enough automobile access to downtown. He spoke glowingly of a plan for a private toll supported expressway leading into downtown Toronto, mirroring the path of the DVP. Taking advice from someone who advocates adding another freeway into downtown seems like a dumb idea to me. That idea is definitely not something that would be popular in this ward (remember the Front St. Extension and Spadina Expressway). The same man made about 10 minutes worth of comments, basically considering nothing but the profits at his business, and ignoring more pressing issues like the health of the public and climate change.

After about 40 minutes of comments from the business owners, Adam Vaughn asked Adam Giambrone to remove the end date from the planning stage of the plan and send the idea back to the community council.

I was slightly upset with this request. There is a lot of support for the plan of a trial run of a ROW on King st with the residents of ward 20, as well as with those who use the King St. Line. Councillor Vaughn seemed to take the opinion of those attendance of the meeting tonight as being representative of the opinion of all of the people in this ward.


How many highway planners does it take to cross the road?

101: 100 to idle in traffic while another designs a road for the next 101 motorists.

Repeat until thoroughly bored and asphyxiating on smog.