2008-05-25

Dammit!

A pigeon has laid two eggs in the flowerpot I was going to put my strawberry plant in, and is sitting on them. It stared at me the whole time I took down the drying racks, which I have brought inside pending our decision about what to do about the family growing on our balcony.

On the one hand, it does seem unfair to kick a pigeon out of its home and kill its children-to-be when, as my sister said, I didn't have a sign up or anything. But on the other hand, pigeons are creepy and poo on your laundry and the balcony isn't really big enough for the both of us.

Grumble grumble.

2008-05-23

Thoughts on Commuting by Bike in the Suburbs

1.  Distances in the suburbs are longer.
No matter how you slice it, 12.5 km (not including the vertical components, which are considerable) is a long way to go twice a day. When you expect everyone to get everywhere by car, or even bus, such distances are unremarkable, but on a bike it's a serious commitment

2.  Overall vertical vector matters.
However hilly the road may be, if there's an overall downhill trend going one way, and a corresponding overall uphill trend the other way, you'll notice. If you live in the Ferrel cell and your downhill-trending leg is eastward, so you have the wind at your back going downhill, and in your face coming uphill, you notice that too.

From this, I have developed what I think should be every cyclist's motto: Always live uphill from where you spend your days. The reason for this is that if your trip out in the morning is going to be downhill, it's fairly easy to choose to ride your bike. And then in the evening, when both you and your bike have to get home, you just have to suck it up and ride uphill. I have had the excellent sense to live uphill from my various school/work for the past seven years and it has served me well.

3.  Desolation is not a cyclist's friend.
Seriously. If your bike breaks down on the side of a major suburban road, ain't no one there to help you. Not that I needed help, or would have accepted had it been offered, a mis-shifted chain is a fairly easy fix, but if it had been something more major I would have been royally screwed.

4.  Other suburban cyclists are completely fucking insane.
In downtown Toronto you rarely see a car doing more than about 50 km/h; there's just too much traffic. I'd estimate roughly 30% of the downtown cyclists wear helmets. On the major street I ride along out here, although the speed limit is 60, people regularly do 70 - 90 km/h. On the way out in the morning I didn't see a lot of other cyclists, but coming home this evening I saw several, only one looked over 25 and he was also the only one other than me wearing a helmet. And a lot of these helmetless kids rode on the street.*

5.  Bikes are asshole magnets.
Apparently there's nothing like a sweaty woman on a bicycle, red-faced and grimacing, wearing incredibly unflattering gym clothes and an enormous backpack complete with waist strap to really bring out the catcalling urge in jackasses.

Okay, I don't honestly think that what I look like has anything to do with it. I think the driver/cyclist and pedestrian/cyclist dynamic just lends itself really well to that kind of jackassery. One of you is whizzing by the other at high relative speed, which adds to the anonymity, and a person on a bicycle is less maneuverable and less able to respond verbally or manually, and therefore less able to meaningfully object than a person on foot. I think a lot of this is also true of the driver/pedestrian dynamic but since we don't do a lot of walking out here in the Grey Wasteland, I haven't been catcalled in a long time. It's been nice.

6.  People in the suburbs drive while unconscious.
It's the only explanation I can think of for how someone turning right, or stopping at an intersection, or pulling out of a gas station, can completely fail to notice the bicycle that is about to be RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. Seriously. Downtown drivers have this problem to, but not nearly to the same extent. If you ride in the suburbs, invest in the loudest bell you can find; you'll need it.

And those are my observations on suburban cycling. I biked 25 km today and I'm tired. I also think I could use a shower.


*I ride on the sidewalk. Not only because, as mentioned, people drive way too fast, but also because, this being the suburbs, nobody actually walks anywhere.

2008-05-20

Why I Love My Job

Conversation between me and one of the grad students in the lab today:

Me: Why are there fish from the grocery store in the freezer?
Grad Student: This is a fish lab.
m: uh huh...
gs: They're silversides.
m: and...
gs: But they're selling them as smelt, which is not even the same family! And they claim to have caught them in an area where you don't find silversides. So I figured I'd bring them back here, sequence their DNA, and find out what they really are.
m: you know you're the world's biggest geek, right?
gs: No, this is sweet. It's forensic ichthyology!

2008-05-15

While We're At It

Continuing in the vein of posting links while not providing any of my own content (slated to continue until I have something interesting to say and school lets up enough for me to say it), I received a link today to a new buddy blog. Sinead, my old friend from Montreal, evolutionary biologist extraordinaire, and all-around good potato, has a food-focused blog called Kitchen Dancing.

I had forgotten what an amazing writer Sinead is, and how exquisitely quirky she can be. I hadn't forgotten what an amazing cook she is though, and I have spent much of the afternoon and evening salivating over the blog's archives. If she and I don't end up in the same city some time soon I may find myself trying to swim across the Atlantic.

Olbermann Tells Bush to "Shut the Hell Up"

But only because you can't say fuck on television.

Seriously, if Olbermann has a stroke I think he'll be able to sue Dubya over it; he's getting into some serious neck vein territory here and not without cause.

If you want to see Olbermann's angriest Special Comment yet, go click that link.

2008-05-09

Links

Amanda at Pandagon does an excellent job explaining why virginity makes a lousy asset.

Also, via Crooks and Liars, I learned about Hasan Elahi, a man who, having had his civil rights violated by the FBI, decides to just give them all up. While I can understand the practical appeal of having a constant alibi, the fact that sources like Wired and C&L are treating this as a cool and innovative way of dealing with civil rights violations, instead of an understandable but tragic capitulation to an oppressive regime is seriously problematic.