Ever consider biking to work?

Last month, I bought an e-bike. It’s an Emmo Alien. I got it used on Kijiji for $600. Where I live, it doesn’t require insurance or a license to ride. It costs me nothing to charge since my rent includes utilities.

Emmo Alien E-bike

Emmo Alien E-bike. Mine’s black, though.

Like pretty much everyone in Canada, I’ve had at least one bike at any point in my life. I never once considered riding it to work. My mental picture of a person that biked to work was a sun-glassed, angry man in really tight spandex. I couldn’t imagine biking all the way to work, sweating the whole way there, angry at other drivers for cutting them off or not knowing the rules. It’s just not for me. It felt like riding a bike to work meant you had to join some sort of environmental cult.

The truth is, while I care very much about the environment, I’m a cheapskate. And I’m lazy. Riding an e-bike is free. And I don’t just mean free as in beer. It feels free, as in freedom. I haven’t used my car in so long, a tire went flat from sitting. The insurance on my car (never mind gas or repairs) per year pays for more than two e-bikes per year. I could actually buy a second one, put it into a dumpster, light it on fire, and I would still be ahead.

And, do you know what? Riding an e-bike is fun! It’s liberating. My girlfriend finds it empowering. She’s never gotten the hang of riding a regular bike, but she’s learned how to ride the e-bike. We do groceries (it has hooks to put the bags as well as two storage compartments), we go for picnics, we go out and get fresh air, we get some sun.

Sure, a cyclist looks ridiculous, but when a driver in a big pickup truck zooms past in a testosterone-filled money-burning pissing contest, who looks more ridiculous?

I’m a bit late in posting this, but June is Bike Month in Waterloo Region. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be just June or just Waterloo Region. Have you ever tried biking to work? Do it tomorrow and let me know what you think.

If you’re interested in some data, it takes about 7 hours to charge from completely empty to completely full. A full charge lasts me about 2 and a half hours of continuous use, or about 50-70km, depending on whether or not it’s just me or with a passenger. My trip to work (including to McDonalds for breakfast) is 7.5km, each way. I do this trip Monday to Friday, rain or shine.

The single largest trip I've made on the ebike so far.

The single largest trip I’ve made on the ebike so far. With a passenger. Had half charge left when I got home.

 

More ads = better?

Google Ads

The stuff I actually want starts below 50% down the page.

I understand ads are the main source of revenue for most Internet services. I’m not trying to say ads on a website are bad. It’s just… damn, that’s a lot of ads.

Google Chrome not supported

Really? What year is this??

Also, Netscape?!

chrome-netscape

I’d just like to point out this is the city that is home to Google, Velo-city, University of Waterloo, Hyperdrive startup accelerator, BlackBerry, …

We can do better, Waterloo.

All that, for this.

Interview on NPR with John C. Inglis of the NSA:

While Inglis conceded in his NPR interview that at most one terrorist attack might have been foiled by NSA’s bulk collection of all American phone data – a case in San Diego that involved a money transfer from four men to al-Shabaab in Somalia – he described it as an “insurance policy” against future acts of terrorism.

(Source)

Emphasis mine.

Quality Control

I saw a feel-good Amtrak post come up on the /newest section of Hacker News the other day which covered the new single-level long distance Amtrak cars being produced in the US. The first thing I saw when watching the video was the flag of The Netherlands painted across each of them.

I love trains and I hate to bash or bring negative attention to anything to do with rail. But, I feel that at least someone should point out this mistake.

My Car Makes a Nice Office But…

While I wait patiently for Canada to adopt a comprehensive high-speed rail line and commuter service, the next best thing is a car for working on the go. Though I’m the primary driver these days, there have been times when I’ve been the passenger. I write this now from a very comfortable position next to Exhibition Park in Guelph. I’m doing work on the laptop in the passenger seat (using a 3G USB adapter from Wind mobile).

Rail is my favourite mode of transport because:

  1. You face people. Seats are positioned in a way that fosters communication, unlike cars, in which everyone faces the same direction and it’s hard (and sometimes impossible) for people sitting less than a metre away in the back seat to hear conversation in the front seat.
  2. Free Wifi.
  3. Work while you travel. When you’re driving, you can’t do anything but drive. It’s dead time; a complete waste of human existence. If you travel by rail, you can accomplish work, read, think, relax, read.
  4. It’s fast. Even current rail service in Canada, specifically between Guelph and Toronto, isn’t that bad in terms of speed. My GPS reported that we reached 140km/h at one point. With some proper funding and planning, that could be the average speed, not the top speed.
  5. It’s safe. Rail is a very safe method of travel, especially compared to the car.
  6. You can pee. Every car has a washroom built right in. You don’t have to stop transport to pee.

Still, for times when I need a third place and cafes are closed, I use my car. It’s a 2001 Chrysler 300m. Here are a few things that could have been done better.

  1. Built-in inverter. My car has two access points to DC electricity: One in the front and one in the centre console. It uses the traditional cigarette lighter type adapter, to which I plug in an inverter which gives me AC electricity for my laptop.  (An even better solution would be to buy laptops that include a DC plug as well as an AC plug so I could just plug straight into DC since that’s what laptops use natively).
  2. Auxiliary input for the car stereo. I won a free car stereo and had the installers provide access to an AUX IN jack so I could plug my laptop audio in but it would be awesome if this came included out of the box. I have all of my mp3s, oggs, and music modules on my laptop.
  3. DC Access point for the back seat. Currently there is no way to access DC power in the back seat except through the centre console, which, when left open, is uncomfortable for the driver.
  4. Better fuel economy. While I’d love to have a fully electric car (such as the Ford Focus Electric), I realize that in 2001 the technology wasn’t close to being ready. My car gets an average of 11L/100KM in town and 7L/100KM highway. It would have been nice to have the ability to switch the engine between performance mode and economy mode whilst in the city.

Spending Less Time At Facebook These Days

Facebook has recently changed the way it handles my news feed. Because of this, it’s likely that I’ll be reading it less and keeping it around just to post things and check up on to make sure I haven’t missed a message.

Here’s why: I don’t equate friendship with following.

When I’m your friend, I want to keep in touch, maybe hang out, and share something with you directly. I don’t want to see your thought stream.

Don’t take it personally because it isn’t personal. When I read stuff online, it’s usually news. I want to learn something new about the fields in which I am excited, not in which you are excited. If it’s not news, it’s an editorial on said fields. If it’s not an editorial, it’s a tweet from someone who might be generating the previous two examples.

I had spent the last 6-12 months whittling down my Facebook news feed to weed out most people’s/most page’s posts from showing up.  The little down arrow icon with the “Hide all from xyz” was my best friend.

Then, a week or so ago, all those settings got wiped in favour of a new “acquaintences” system where you specifically select which group you want to read from.

Here’s why it doesn’t work: I have no clue what people are going to say before they say it, so I have no idea who I would like to follow. But, once they’ve said it, I sure as hell know who I would like to unsubscribe from.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to be their friend, it just means I don’t want to mix their stuff in with mine is all.

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Awesome Vegetarian Restaurants in Downtown Toronto

Staying at the Hotel Victoria in downtown Toronto for the last week with my girlfriend Amy has opened us to a ton of new, fantastic vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Google has helped us find them all, but I wanted to take a second to put together a small list in case you’re downtown Toronto for a while and are looking for great places to eat.

I’ll separate them by category.

Pizza

Pizzaiolo
http://www.pizzaiolo.ca/
There are probably 15 to 20 of these around Toronto, but the one we went to was just a few doors down from our hotel on Yonge St. It was amazing. In fact, it was so amazing, we ordered pizzas there two days in a row. They have a ton of vegetarian and vegan choices and each are made fresh right in front of you. It’s amazing.

Take-Away and Fast Food

Urban Herbivore
http://www.torontoeatoncentre.com/EN/Directory/Stores/Pages/UrbanHerbivore_F018.aspx
Like most food places in Toronto, there are a few locations. The one we went to was in the Eaton Centre, and it was fantastic. I ate the BBQ Tofu sandwich and loved it even though I’m not normally a huge fan of tofu. It was quick and cheap. Like all great vegetarian food, if you didn’t know it was vegetarian you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Sit Down

Fresh Toronto Vegetarian FoodFresh
http://www.freshrestaurants.ca/our_history.asp
Fresh was, without a doubt, our favourite. It’s got great style, it’s busy, it’s fast, and the food tastes fantastic. Amy loved it so much she bought one of the recipe books they offer on sale.

King’s Cafe (Kensington Market)
http://www.kingscafe.com/
This is the sister restaurant to our favourite vegetarian restaurant in Guelph, Zen Garden. Great food and amazing Lychee Black tea.