Thursday, June 26, 2008

June is Bike Month

I saw a motorcycle cop giving a cyclist a ticket at Burrard/Pacific this morning. The cyclist was not wearing a styrofoam hat so I assume that was the reason for the ticket.

There was another cyclist sans helmet up the hill at Harwood where most people wait for the light at Pacific to turn green. I'm sure she must have seen the ticketing going down, but it looked to me like she was patiently waiting and planning to continue as planned. Since the officer was busy she'd probably have no problem just riding by.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blogs tagged with "vomiting"

This blog is in a list of blogs tagged with vomiting. It's also categorized as miscellaneous. Miscellaneous vomit.

I noticed a while ago that this blog had become linked with vomiting. Maybe this tag is the reason. But the question remains: who tagged my blog with vomit and maybe more importantly, why?

Of course, the more I talk about vomit here the more valid and/or accurate the tag becomes. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling vomit prophecy. Or maybe a temporal paradox. A temporal vomit paradox.

The Internet is mysterious.

The Superiority of Bicycles

The Columbus Dispatch 2008.June.23: EMS on 2 wheels gets speedy care to victims
Emergency medical service medics on bikes are able to weave through crowds and reach a victim quicker than a large ambulance, Fish said. The bikes carry 50 pounds of medical gear, including oxygen equipment, cardiac equipment and a basic first-aid kit. Paramedics can treat anything from an insect bite to a heart attack.


To become a certified cyclist, team members go through 32 hours of training, where they are taught how to ride a bike through crowds, at slow speeds and up and down stairs. They also learn to use the bikes as a barrier to protect the patient.

Yeah, that's right, up and down stairs. It's not bicycle racing, but it still makes me think PRO.

Also, recently Meals on Wheels in Victoria was cancelled after 35 years:

The costs of fuel and food contributed to the demise of Meals on Wheels, Prentice said. The company that prepares the food can't keep up. In May, Meals on Wheels increased its price to $7 a meal, up from $6.75 . a small jump Prentice said he didn't want to see happen.

To make it work, "We'd have to go up at least a dollar a meal," Prentice said. Then, factor in fuel compensation for volunteers and "we'd have to go up at least another dollar a meal to cover the cost."

Back in November of last year, the Vancouver Police Department put out a media release about Meals on Bikes (sorry, no direct link):
The Meals on Bikes pilot project coincides with the 40-year anniversary of the Meals on Wheels program, which has been delivering hot, cooked meals to frail, isolated seniors in their Vancouver and Richmond homes since 1967. The new, environmentally-friendly venture is intended to recruit and attract more and younger volunteers.

For additional information about Meals on Bikes, please contact:

Beth Symansky
Communications Coordinator
Health and Home Care Society of BC
Tel: 604-733-9177, ext. 114

Whenever the automobile inevitably stumbles and reveals its inherent limitations, the bicycle is there.


I bought a book of ten stamps on the weekend. I was given the choice between the stamps that featured a portrait of our Queen, or stamps that featured a lighthouse.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ancient History

Netscape and AOL, Jamie Zawinski, 31-Mar-1999 (emphasis added):
Some will tell you that an organization is the people who make it up, but that's not the case at all. The whole is larger and completely different from the sum of its parts. The system that we as a society have invented to run our world is a simple one. It's a game with a small number of rules. You put the pieces on the board, wind it up, and let it go. The thing is, the rules involved are all about money. The underlying theory is that you motivate people to provide value to society by making it be in their best interest to do so. But that's the intent; the mechanism is much less vague. The mechanism is money.

Corporations are not evil. That kind of anthropomorphism is inappropriate. Corporations are too stupid to be evil, only people can be that. Corporations are mechanisms. People can influence them, but by and large, corporations just follow the rules.

Bear in mind that, for a publicly-traded company, if a CEO makes a decision because it's the right thing rather than because it's the most profitable thing for the shareholders, he will lose his job, and possibly be sued into oblivion. That's the way the rules work.

For someone not solely motivated by profit, the way to win this game is to pick your goals such that your goals, whatever they may be, are aligned with the goals that the corporate mechanism will seek for itself. For example, if your goal is "working on interesting stuff," then the best way to do that is to find a company which looks at the stuff you're interested in as a way to meet its goal of "making lots of money."

And sometimes the only way to win is not to play.


... But if you think that non-censoring network access and publication will always be available because there will always be some people who want it, consider that Barnes and Noble have all but eliminated the independent bookseller, and that Blockbuster Video have all but eliminated the independent video store. And let's not forget that it is Blockbuster's policy not to rent NC-17 movies. We're not talking about pornography here: we're talking about movies that are merely not for children.

AOL is about centralization and control of content. Everything that is good about the Internet, everything that differentiates it from television, is about empowerment of the individual.

I don't want to be a part of an effort that could result in the elimination of all that.

Moderation Tastes Better

Somebody on the Internet is doing a cleanse:
I decided that this cleanse would set me in the right direction. When the 21 days are over I'm certain I will add sugar and caffeine and alcohol back into my diet, albeit in smaller, more thoughtful quantities than a 32-oz Frappuccino spiked with rum.
The Liquor Store bags in Ontario say Please Drink Responsibly (at least they did when I lived there). There is of course a French language version, but it is not an exact translation of the phrase. If I recall correctly the French version says something like Moderation Tastes Better.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Surveillance fears force Norwich to scrap 'pay as you drive' car policies

Surveillance fears force Norwich to scrap 'pay as you drive' car policies
Britain's biggest insurer Norwich Union has withdrawn one of its flagship car insurance policies less than two years after its launch.

The "Pay As You Drive" scheme used satellite technology to track journeys via a black box installed in customers' cars. The data was used to offer cheaper premiums to drivers who avoided high-risk periods such as rush-hour and late at night.


"The big-brother element of Pay As You Drive, particularly the ability to see how fast someone drives, put a lot of potential policyholders off," said Peter Gerrard.


The policy charged drivers between 5p and [GBP 1] per mile depending on when and where they drove, particularly during rush-hour or at night. This made it more popular with younger and occasional drivers.

Is there a reason that this could not be implemented with all of the smarts inside the black box? That is, the black box in the car knows what time it is, and where the car is (via GPS), and let's say even how fast the car is going. Furthermore it has an internal table of rates to calculate the insurance cost based on these variables. It keeps a running tally while the car is in motion, and monthly transmits the grand total charge back to Central Headquarters. The gist of this internal table could be published so that drivers know what they're being charged and why.

Is there any reason to continually transmit the location and speed of the car to the insurance company (or other authorities)? Is that really an unavoidably necessary part of any Pay as you drive insurance system?

I'm dumb, so please, someone explain this to me.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Crossing the Burrard Bridge

This is a video I took a couple of weeks ago. I'm riding north over the Burrard Street Bridge. I'm not sure why the guy in front of me is riding so far over to the left. Maybe he wants to be completely sure that he won't run into any pedestrians?

I've slowed down the video at a few points where cars and a bus pass very close.

Cycling: bad for the economy?

Kitchener-Waterloo Record: Cycling: bad for the economy?
Sure, you might think that regular bicycle riding would be part of a healthy lifestyle, but do you really want to be healthy? Health Canada says that 47 per cent of the Canadian population is considered overweight. What will be the economic impact on medical testing labs, fitness clubs and junk-food makers if some of that 47 per cent find that cycling helps them to lose weight and become healthier?


Imagine what would happen to the foundation of the North American economy if you used your bicycle for ordinary single-person trips under five kilometres. You might use your bicycle to ride to the corner store or the post office.


And without the gas guzzlers lined up at the pumps, will the Alberta oil-sand sector falter? All because you chose to buy a bicycle.

I've thought in the past that if everyone behaved like I do that it would be very bad for the economy. Mainly because I don't eat out that much, or buy stuff that I don't actually need. Note: yes, I need chocolate milk.

Friday, June 13, 2008


A great post by Joe Clark: It's been 14 years. Can't people learn how to link?

Go read it.

Some people think that things like this are just a matter of opinion. That reasonable people can disagree about it. That each side of the argument is equally valid. This is wrong. There are many things in the world for which one answer is the obviously correct one, and all other alternatives are wrong. This is one of those. Here are some more things that are absolute and universal:

  • Numbered footnotes[1] in blog posts or articles that are not links. Each number refers to an item in a list of links that appears at the end of the post. The mind reels. Because this is so wrong.
  • Comments in reverse-chronological order (newest appearing first, and the earliest comment at the bottom of the page). You have to scroll down and up, down and up, down and up to read the comments. I think The Guardian does this, among many others. It's wrong. CBC story comments sort this way by default, but there is an option to change it to be First to Last. The question is, what other order makes any kind of useful sense? Blogger archive pages (including those of this blog) are in the wrong order and it bothers me.
  • Top-posting when replying to e-mail. If you think this is OK then you're wrong.
  • HTML e-mail is not OK. Multipart/alternative with a plain-text section is closer to being OK but not quite there.
  • I prefer vi to emacs, but using either is fine. Something like notepad.exe or wordpad.exe is only good for writing rambling, incoherent nonsense.
  • The proper way to eat a banana. There is only one correct way. Learn it. If you don't know the right way to peel a banana ask someone who looks smart.
  • Ale is better than Lager. It's true. This is my conclusion after exhaustive sampling over many years. But isn't this a matter of taste? No. Ale is better than Lager.
  • Riding around with a squeaky bicycle chain is not acceptable. Oil it.
  • There is a very narrow range of acceptable ways to stack dishes in a dishwasher or on a dish drying rack. Random order of insertion and haphazard ad hoc stacking is not OK.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Your help requested with an ethical dilemma

I'm a bit torn about something I've been asked to do at work. Without going into too many details I will say that my work would directly contribute to the creation of an Internet surveillance device.

I've set up this question at Say-So and I hope it results in some timely and useful feedback.


Robber fled Dawson Creek bank on bicycle

Robber fled Dawson Creek bank on bicycle:
"After the employee turned the money over, the male fled the scene on a bicycle. No one was harmed during this incident," McGowan said in a release.

A security camera caught the robber leaving the premise [sic].

He's described as Caucasian, about 50 years old, with a medium build. He was wearing sunglasses, a black baseball hat, a grey sweatshirt and blue jeans.

No helmet?! Tsk tsk.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister

An intriguing comment by Peaked at on Stephen Rees' blog:
I just learned from a reliable source that the Vancouver Police Department held a little "simulation" at the VCC/Clark Station this past weekend.

Apparently, they're preparing for radical environmentalists to take over a Skytrain car. Had a SWAT team, the whole nine yards. The "organizers" taped the windows of the car over to prevent any gawkers and were nice enough to let the "terrorists" negotiate for pizza, among other items.

Somebody in the media should call the VPD and ask why they feel "radical environmentalists" are a threat to the Skytrain.

Unsurprisingly, the Vancouver Police Department has not put out a press release about this. I wonder what a hypothetical radical environmentalist or eco-terrorist would do after taking over a Skytrain car. Demand safe passage on it to Cuba?

Obama's Bike Helmet

Obama's Bike Helmet: Everyone looks dumb in a bike helmet.

I have an opinion on bicycle helmets, and whether they actually do a rider any good in a real accident. I won't go into that right now.

I will say that I do in fact wear a styrofoam hat when I ride my bicycle. Mainly for insurance purposes. If I have a crash I don't want to give an insurance company any reason to refuse to pay any claims. I have long believed that insurance companies actually have more control over people's behaviour than laws or anything else.

Big Bicycle

Clean Air Foundation to Lead National Scrappage Program, Bicycle Trade Association of Canada applauds new vehicle scrappage program.

Yeah, I'll bet they're applauding it. This is yet more Corporate Welfare for the bicycle industry, or as I call it, Big Bicycle.

When is someone finally going to stand up to these guys? Look at the resources we as a society already devote to bicycles: the constant maintenance of bicycle lanes, the tens of thousands spent on bicycle parking facilities, the law enforcement man-hours devoted solely to policing bicycle riders in a vain attempt to keep them from killing themselves and others, and then of course the inevitable costs to the health-care system. And yet here is more money from the public coffers going into the pockets of Big Bicycle.

Killer Tomatoes

The Globe and Mail: Tomatoes removed from menus
Restaurants and fast-food outlets across the country, including Tim Hortons, Subway, Burger King and Harvey's, have stopped using raw tomatoes as the result of a growing outbreak of salmonella food poisoning in the United States.


Early last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out a warning that advised consumers in Texas and New Mexico not to eat certain raw red plum, red Roma and red round tomatoes ...

Yesterday, before I had heard about this, I bought a bunch of red Roma tomatoes. I'm going to eat them. I'm stubborn that way.

There is Power in a Union

The Christian Science Monitor: In Toronto, cyclists form a first-of-its-kind union.

It would be like CAA (Canadian Automobile Association), in that it would offer roadside assistance. I wonder if the roadside assistors would arrive via bicycle or automobile? The Cyclist Union also plans to offer insurance. I'm not sure if it includes liability or collision coverage. What I'd be interested in is some kind of theft insurance. All of this (roadside assistance, insurance) is provided for a $24 annual fee so it's hard to say.

But the primary goal of the Union is

"[to] give a voice to urban cyclists who use their bikes in their daily lives as a mode of transportation," explains David Meslin, founder of the Toronto Cyclists Union. "Cyclists don't feel safe on the streets, and if they know there is a group fighting for safer conditions, I believe a lot more will join."
So the main purpose of this Union is advocacy on cyclists' behalf. Also from the article:
Believed to be a global first, the union already has enrolled hundreds of card-carrying members since it formed in May.
But it sounds a lot like the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (established in 1998) to me:
The VACC advocates for better conditions for cyclists, and the removal of barriers to cycling. We achieve our objectives by meeting with governing agencies at all levels, writing well-researched, proactive letters and reports, working constructively with the media, and encouraging more people to cycle more often.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Police unveil cardboard cops

Vancouver Sun: Police unveil cardboard cops.

The idea is to put life-size cardboard cutouts of police officers holding radar guns on the side of the street. People think they are real cops and so they slow down.

The fake officers were relatively inexpensive to make, Pauw said.


The cut-outs were tested on [Knight] street for a few hours earlier this week and "a tow-truck driver pulled up and started talking to it," Pauw said.

It reminds me of my old idea of walking around with a fully clothed manequin that I could chuck out into the street in front of egrigiously speeding cars.

Oppressed by the English. Again.

I'd like to think that I don't have many prejudices, but one that I definitely can't deny is a kind of intense visceral dislike for the English. It might have something to do with the fact that my ancestry is 45 percent Scottish and 45 percent Irish.

Now of course this doesn't really apply to most actual English people that I have met or otherwise communicated with. I mean come on, Stephen Rees is originally from England!

In fact some of my relatives were born in, and continue to live in England. The fact that I am able to admit that publicly shows you how much progress I have made in trying to overcome this prejudice over the years.

There is also a pretty big list of English people that I have never met but who I like and have respect for. This list includes but is by no means limited to Billy Bragg, R.J. Mitchell, and of course Archie Leach.

This morning on the way to work, riding along a part of Nanaimo street that is traffic-calmed and designated as a first-class bicycle route, I was passed quite closely by a white truck which then slowed down, almost to a complete stop, before continuing again. At the time I thought the driver was considering turning, but subsequent events lead me to believe that in fact the driver was doing it to send me a message, or something.

Of course one block later we're all lined up behind a red light. So I pull up on the driver's side and wave through the window. He immediately rolls it down and says You should watch where you're riding in the road, mate, you're liable to get killed, innit. Yeah, an Englishman.

It occurred to me that this might be some kind of threat. But you know how it is; it's hard to tell with these marble-mouthed English d**chebags. He adds You ought to have some reflectors or sumfin, innit. Which is funny because my bicycle is fairly plastered with reflective tape. I'm borderline Fred, by some definitions.

So I yelled FREEEEEEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOMM! and gave him a nice solid head-butt before riding away.

No, actually I didn't do that. After the truck in front of him turned right-on-red, I moved to the front of the line and waited for a chance to cross. This was a pedestrian/cyclist controlled intersection, so I could have moved over and pressed the magic button. But that would have given this ar**hole a chance to turn right (he actually had his turn signal activated!). Instead I just waited. And waited. And waited. It's a pretty busy street, two lanes in each direction.

What do you think this guy in the truck did? Did he honk at me? Did he get out of his truck and go over and press the magic pedestrian/cyclist button? Did he get out of his truck and physically confront me?

No. He did none of those things. Although every time I inched my bicycle forward a little bit, I would hear his mighty engine roar as he gunned it to follow me forward. So every 10 seconds I would move forward another inch just to hear him gun his engine. It was pretty fun. I looked back at him once and pointed at him, then made the jerk off motion. I know: brilliant, clever, just fantastically witty in every way. I did this twice because I wanted to make sure he understood me. I'm not sure if he did.

Yes, my commute this morning was pretty good. I managed to strike another blow in the historic battles against English and motorist oppression.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A typical day at the office

I just found out that the office I work in has surveillance cameras! This is some footage from a few weeks ago of a typical day.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Route Planning

A Metro Vancouver cycling route-planning tool being developed by Cycling in Cities and TransLink.

Cycling in Cities is a program of research investigating
  • which factors encourage or discourage the use of bicycles for urban transportation, and
  • which types of transportation infrastructure are associated with increased or decreased risks of injuries to cyclists.
It has a maximum slope option, and it shows the severity of the slopes along the calculated route. If I ask it to give me directions from home to work and set the maximum slope gradient to 9%, it tells me No direct route. It shows you the mean NO2 level for the route (measured in ppb.) as well.

Surveillance, Sousveillance

Study: Surveillance Software Revenue to Quadruple by 2013. Maybe it's time for me to make the jump from the Internet Censorship biz (e-mail me at sgt.turmeric at gmail dot com if you'd like more details) to surveillance? There are just so many ways to profit from a Police State, after all.
... the advent of Wi-Fi has made it possible to place wireless cameras just about anywhere while still sending footage back to a central location.
Ah, is that what's really behind the proposals for free wireless Internet access in Vancouver? The Vancouver Police have an intermittent lust for surveillance cameras, and if they are going to piggy-back on municipal Wi-Fi, then said Wi-Fi should be paid for at least partially out of the Police budget.

In my opinion total surveillance is inevitable. There's nothing the public can do to stop it. In fact the public seems to be quite keen on it, even though it doesn't work. And that's when the cameras are actually working (not guaranteed: CBC also reported that a number of security cameras went off-line four hours before the theft.). That's my only comfort, really: the people deploying and operating the cameras are basically incompetent.

Also, ever since I read Steve Mann's book Cyborg I've wanted to be one. The incompetent public institutions and private entities can put up all of the cameras they want as long as sousveillance remains legal. Whoops, there's a concerted effort to stop ordinary citizens (and even the media) from taking photos in public. So to everyone out there who yearns for security cameras everywhere to make you feel safer: don't be surprised if you get TASERed or something for taking a snapshot someday.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Party like it's 1991

 $ date Tue Jun  4 19:16:54 PDT 1991 
That's what it kind of feels like. It's over-used but:
  • There's a Bush in the White House
  • There's a war in Iraq
  • It feels a bit recessiony
  • The Prime Minister of Canada is not a member of the Liberal Party
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the Stanley Cup finals
  • And the CBC Radio 3 Track of the Day last Friday was The Grapes Of Wrath - You May Be Right
This post was just an excuse to link to that song.

Real Men Ride Bikes

From Canada's leading independent online newsmagazine (how does one earn such a designation?) Straight Goods: Real Men Ride Bikes

Benefits? There could be enormous benefits of aggressively promoting bike transit as part of Canada's transportation picture. More people on bikes and using shared or public transportation means less fossil fuel use, less pollution, and more healthy people who happen to be a bit happier too because of all the exercise and social contact. The economic benefits are many: helping family budgets, jobs building infrastructure, jobs in public transportation, lower health care costs, and reduced national dependence on oil ??? other than chain oil.

I just want to say that I've been using the same little bottle of chain oil for at least the last four years. And it's not empty yet.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hot cycling accessory for the summer

When is MEC going to start carrying these?

That's just good baseball

Today on the way to work I was riding along 45th avenue, as usual. I heard a car approaching from behind; it sounded like it was going to try to pass me and beat me to the four-way stop that was about 30 metres away.

I looked over my shoulder at the car and moved ever so slightly to the left. The car backed off and I was first to the stop-line, and first through the intersection.

It was like a ground ball to the short-stop (me), who looks the runner (the car) back to second base before throwing to first for the out.

CBC Radio One

It???s official: Vancouver???s CBC Radio One adding FM signal. So now I'll be able to better hear Rick Cluff b*tch about the weather in the morning.