azzurriffopubijix

and now, for something completely different.

Politics starts and ends here.

First, I don’t normally get into the political comment game.  I keep it in the back of my head that it might be interesting to run for office some day, and I am mindful of what I post on the internet as a result.  I do a mental litmus test for how people will judge me for what I say when I post it.  I assume I’m a reasonable person, so I assume my litmus test is useful.  Hopefully my political commentary doesn’t anger anyone too terribly, and this type of writing will hopefully end here – there are much more fun things to write about than what feels like junior high school peer drama.

Why did I write this?  I was on my RSS feed and found this article on CBC.  It really made me angry.  So here’s my commentary, a message to the over-entitled whining-because-I-got-nothing-better-to-do sore loser right of the USA:

First, you didn’t lose. Your country is far too black and white when it comes to this distinction – it’s one or the other, you’ve won or you’ve lost, and there is no in between. It’s why you pour so much money into international competitions to strut about and chant “USA” when you win and you’re the best, but if you lose then someone obviously cheated. You could put that money towards fixing your own internal problems, but that would be socialism, so it’s better to keep puffing your chest to the world.

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Stratos – Colour Me Inspired.

Image from the Stratos test-jump. That’s a long way down for a dress-rehearsal.

The short message of this article is that the Red Bull Stratos is a shining beacon of hope for the human race’s incredible will to survive and advance in spite of itself.  You’re gonna think I’m nuts, but that’s okay; colour me inspired.

I’m not usually a sucker for a publicity stunt, and I think that personal preference is still in tact.  So when I say that yesterday I almost lost my mind watching the Red Bull Stratos jump from over 128,000 feet, you might accuse me of succumbing to the marketing hype of the year, or the decade.  Nay, I say; what Felix Baumgartner and his team accomplished was not only an amazing and daring physical feat, but also a marvelous scientific achievement and a beacon for what the human race can do if it really sets pettiness aside and tries.  Sure, the Red Bull logo was all over this, and Felix Baumgartner is responsible for dozens of daring jumps all over the world with that emblem flying proudly on his parachute; but you have to accept that this time, the Red Bull logo was attached to masterpiece of engineering, precision and invention.

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Fall Hike up Pocaterra Ridge

Route map and elevation profile.

With a glorious long fall in Alberta, we attacked Pocaterra Ridge.  I had to make a run to Canmore to pick up my trekking poles first (glad I did), so after that and a fill-up I drove out to the trailhead at Highwood Pass.  We had eight people in our group – a pretty large group!  The advantage here is that we had enough cars to do this as a point-to-point hike; we weren’t forced into an out-and-back.  I ate a Subway while I waited for the other folks to show up and set up the shuttle, and then off we went.

A beautiful hike through meadows that were full of wildflowers not a month ago led to the base of the ridge.  The smell of fall was everywhere, with the damp, moderately pungent but still refreshing odour of disappearing vegetation omnipresent.  The ridge itself climbs out of the meadows with a bit of a trudge, but when you reach the top you’re rewarded with a valley view on the left and hwy 40 on your right.  A technical – but spectacular – traverse of the ridge leads you to a steep and long downhill through trees to the north end of the trail, where we’d stashed a car for shuttling.  This descent is really made easier with trekking poles.  On the south end before the ridge, the Larch trees were still full of yellow needles, while on the north end they were bare.  Just awesome.

It’s fair to say that when I was on top of the ridge I was in exactly the place on the planet I wanted to be at exactly the time I wanted to be there.  That should be evident from my grinning like an idiot in the video, below.  I’ll get some photos up of this eventually, but here’s what Garmin and Strava had to say about the hike.  Even the drive in and out was spectacular and relaxing – given the lateness of the season, there was very little traffic; not a motor-home to be seen on highway 40, which can be a bit of a slow drive in the peak season!

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline – book review

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.  Don’t read my lame post, go buy this book and read it instead.

I have to stop reading the same sets of books and branch out some more, otherwise I might never read another book like Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline) again. I got it for my birthday last year on Kindle, and when I finally got around to reading it, I found I couldn’t put it down. It called out to the child in me who grew up in the 1980s, it called out to the video gamer in me, it called out to the geek in me; this book was not deep in any way, but it was a shout-out to everything that was awesome in the 1980s and a love letter to anyone who was born in the late 1970s to enjoy it. It proved to me ultimately and was a cry for justice that the virtuous geek is truly the greatest hero humanity has ever produced.

You should just stop reading this review now and go get the book.

No, seriously; did you not read my last statement?  Go read the book.

The book is set in the future, in the year 2044. Things are not good for the human race. Resources are scarce, most of the population is poor, and in many parts of the world anarchy reigns over the establishment, which pretty much exists in name only. Entire cities worth of underprivileged people live in communities called stacks, which are row upon row of mobile homes, stacked on top of each other in sketchy frames.  They are a fire department’s worst nightmare.  They are the residents’ worst nightmare.  They are the reality of the world that people live in.

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Riding… Snacking…

Photo evidence! Bikes parked at the candy shop.

Well, as summer winds down, we reflect.  With family and things happening around us, we didn’t get a chance to ride as much as we wanted.  We did do a couple of great (easy, low-impact) rides with our friends Russ and Lucie though, and I thought I’d share.  We did the Canmore-Banff Legacy trail along the river, and we also did a loop from our house to downtown Calgary and back.  In both cases, we took full advantage of our surroundings halfway through the rides to snack.  Hey, if you’re riding, you need to reload, right?

Canmore-Banff Legacy Trail

Here’s the GPS plot.  First off, we need a rematch on this ride.  It was Adena’s first ride on her roadie in quite some time, and we ended up stopping a few times to make adjustments and repairs as we went.  That’s fine, but it detracted from the rhythm of riding a bit.  She was thrilled, though; she loves going fast on the road bike way more than riding her mountain bike.  Whenever we’d stop to make an adjustment, it was like she was being tortured… she wanted to go!

The only trouble is that the trail starts on the Canmore side just at the park gates.  There’s also nowhere to park there.  The way we did it was to park in Harvie Heights (right here), ride along a trail towards the park gates, and then go the wrong way over a one-way overpass to the other side of the highway.  Once there, we rode about 1km up the Trans-Canada against the flow of traffic (the move looked like this going from B to A).  A bit unnerving, but there were lots of people making the journey and it’s the only way to hook it up.  Access:  a small oversight on the trail designers’ part!

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Sacrificing fitness for fun and enjoyment.

This is just plain and simple more fun.

This is kind of about drinking a Dr. Pepper after going for a run.  Don’t worry, it’s not about slacking off and going on a junk food and video game binge for pure enjoyment (though, that does sound appealing).

Fun.

Partway through the summer, I realized that I had completely stopped running.  I was doing a pretty good job at this (though I don’t exactly enjoy it) through the winter, running to work at least once a week and then doing a group run on the weekend.  With all the riding I’ve been doing to work this summer though, and with all the lovely weather we’ve had in the past couple of months, I hadn’t run since February… until last week.  You see, I’d been putting it off.  I knew I hadn’t been running, and I knew that I was reaping tremendous fitness benefits from the cross-training running was providing, but it was too late.  It had been too long, and I knew I would have to work myself back into it.

I also knew that this would take time, recovery time.  So I didn’t care, I just kept riding.  Getting out of work to 30 degrees and sun outside with mostly east winds meant glorious long commutes home through wonderful Calgary pathways… with a tail wind.  Winter loves to beat me down with cold and headwinds, so the warmth coupled with the conditions made for some purely glorious rides.  My fitness was and is excellent, but I was no longer getting the boost of the cross training, but I also didn’t care.  I just kept riding because it was so nice out.  I knew I was setting myself up for an eventual fall…

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We rode the Big Dipper.

Our 12-Mile Coulee mashup. Because of construction, the “scoop” of our route turned into a “well now where do we go?” mashup.

Okay, that title makes absolutely no sense, but check out the plot of this ride that Russ and I did yesterday.  I’ve seen some impressive GPS plot routes in my time (Space Invaders ftw!), but those are intentional from what I’ve seen.  If they’re not, that’s a series of miracles of coincidence and all parties involved should likely buy lottery tickets.  Ours was accidental.  It’s mirrored, as you can see, but it’s pretty darn close.  Ursa Major mirrored on Earth!  One minor difference is that in our dipper, the ladle has some steaming soup in it.  Nice.

Or it’s a steaming pile of something else, because what that ladle represents on our ride is a big pile of fail.  We wanted to do a fast mountain bike ride, and what easier target than the Coulee?  Heck, we’ve even ridden it in the pitch black in winter.  Summer should be an easy rip, right?  Well, with the City finishing off their ring road by removing the light at Nose Hill Dr. and Stoney Trail, they’ve completely blown up the nice meadow and tree-covered brook that used to make up the bottom of the trail in the park.  In fact, we had to trespass across the construction site to even get to the base of the trail to climb up (it was an up and down trek).

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Carrots, Cross-eyed, and Electric Bikes.

I’m gunna git ya!

It’s hot in Calgary right now.  I know there are a lot of places a whole lot hotter than Calgary right now, but when we have been struggling to make it over 20 degrees for all of “summer” so far, a sudden blast of 30 degrees makes everyone both happy and sad right now.  The same way that we laugh at other cities in Canada who shut themselves down after a foot of snow, people laugh at us for when the heat goes above 25 and we have to start having rolling blackouts because the system can’t handle the sudden load of air conditioners turned on for the one week of the year we might “need” them (because, it still drops to almost 10 overnight… seems like a decent air-conditioner to me).  Well I don’t have an air conditioner, and I do have a lot of grumpiness, so here goes.

I did a nice commute route home tonight, as can be seen here.  I don’t get to do it in 30 degree heat that often, so I take days like this as being a bit of a treat.  The wind seemed favourable today instead of the usual blast out of the west straight into my face on the way home, so I lengthened it to the funny finger-trap bridge before looping back towards the northwest.  As always happens when the weather improves, the fair-weather commuters appear on their bikes to get to and fro.  I’m 100% behind this, I think it’s great that more people get out and on their bikes, it’s just too bad a lot of them don’t know the rules of polite cycling on city pathways.  Seriously, buy a bell, people; the pedestrians will thank you – they thank me!

Now let me state this outright.  I don’t like you, electric bikes.

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Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card – book review

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

I recently did a two-week stint on the road for work. In preparation for the trip, I loaded a few books on my Kindle Touch. One of those I’ve already posted about on here (The Enlightened Cyclist), and another one was Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. I didn’t know anything about it, save that it is considered a modern sci-fi classic, and that there have been some rumblings about a possible movie adaptation. Anyways, I can’t say I’m versed in sci-fi without reading this book, and now I’ve done it.

Ender’s Game is the story of a boy named Andrew Wiggin who goes by the name of Ender. He is possessed of extremely high intelligence. He is the third of three children (eldest brother Peter and middle daughter Valentine) in a future Earth so over-populated that many nations have limited childbirth to two children per family. Ender has been allowed to exist because Peter and Valentine were so far mentally advanced that a third child was actually requested of his mother and father. There is a war on, and Earth is taking the brightest and most capable children on to mold them into what Earth needs to defend herself against a future invasion of an insectoid alien race known only as the Buggers.

The defense effort identifies promising children based on intelligence, genetics and other markers. They then implant monitors in these children so they can observe how the children grow and develop. They are looking for signs of how intelligent and capable each child will be in the future. Ender’s siblings were both monitored as very young children, but then had the monitors removed when they were not chosen. We find out later in the book that Peter was not chosen because he was too violent and unpredictable (though undeniably brilliant) and Valentine was not chosen because she was on the other end of the behavioral spectrum – too meek and gentle for the likes of Battle School. The hope with Ender was that understanding his brother and sister’s genetics, he would turn out to have both of their brilliance, but a disposition squarely in between them: equal parts decisiveness and compassion.

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The Enlightened Cyclist by BikeSnobNYC – book review

Bike Snob – a manifesto for the cycling realist, in my opinion!

I enjoy Bike Snob’s blog. It’s probably one of the only blogs that I regularly follow and snigger at in a self-satisfied fashion while sitting smugly at my desk. He is definitely an avid cyclist and fan of cycling in general, and he enjoys deconstructing and mocking all of the cliques, communities and movements that seem to strangely grow off of a simple machine with two wheels. Anyone is a target – including himself, and especially Mario Cipollini – and his language is at once hilarious, scathing, and disarming. If he just completely insulted you, you’d probably have to give a sigh and admit “yeah, you got that right, Bike Snob.”

The Enlightened Cyclist – a manual for how not to commute like a jerk.

I read his first book and utterly enjoyed it. I enjoyed classifying my friends as combinations of the different cycling stereotype “species” that Bike Snob identified. I am at once a retro-grouch and a bit of a lone-wolf, with a roadie and mountain biker mixed in… among other things. The book lashed out at the more polarizing aspects of cycling that would intentionally exclude other cyclists. Those hipsters look on the roadies and the roadies look on the hipsters with equal amounts of disdain. It all seems so silly, doesn’t it? It call comes down to this bizarre phenomenon that one group of cyclists looks at another group of cyclists and determines “you’re doing it wrong.”

Bike Snob’s second book is all about commuting. If you’ve read much of my blog, you’ll know that the bulk of the 18 pounds I lost last year was done on a bike between my home and my workplace. Because of that, I was pretty interested to see the full take on commuting from the snob’s point of view. What I like about his outlook is that it’s inclusive as opposed to the often fragmenting aspects of cycling communities. If you’re riding, you’re riding, and that’s a good thing. It’s what you do while you’re riding that defines the way the rest of the world sees you. A dirty hipster on a ridiculous track bike with no brakes running a red light is every bit as annoying as a full-kit roadie with 20 gears and sponsor stickers running a red light.

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