Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Election

This year I am volunteering to help my local Liberal Candidate. I am truly appalled by the Conservative party, also known as the Harper conservatives. The dictator known as Harper has been found in contempt of Parliament and brushes it off as a tactic by his enemies. He refers to Parliamentary debates as bickering and has shown a distaste for entering into debates of any kind.

His message is "Vote for me or else". The tragedy is, people are actually voting for this man. I don't understand it. Anyone who watches the news, reads commentaries, will know that:
1) He has created a huge deficit
2) The reason we weathered the recession was because of the work that Paul Martin did
3) He shows contempt for the Canadian people by refusing to respect Parliament and democracy
4) He tolerates no opposition.
5) He has no respect for our judicial system and continues to insist on a nonsensical law and order plan that is based on flawed research and a US model.
6) Harper does not believe in universal medicare.

This would be acceptable if Harper were running for election in the Ivory Coast ..but this is Canada.

Harper is a threat to democracy, and a threat to the Canada that I know and love. I am dismayed that anyone would vote for this individual.

Death wish on a bicycle

The sky this morning was solid grey and it was raining steadily. While driving my husband to his medical appointment, I noticed a cyclist. She had a mountain-hybrid type of bike and was going in the same direction I was.

Then I saw, she reached to her ear and had an ipod. The white wires were a dead give away, she paused to adjust her earpieces, did not look around and continued to ride, through a stop sign.

While I am all for cycling, cycling with a ipod is clearly a death wish. There are enough hazards with Ottawa pot holes, (I like the French ni de poule better), drivers, road garbage, and in this case a steady rain without purposely handicapping yourself.

Why do people do this? The cyclist was not a teenager, she appeared to be around 30 years of old, so had reached 'the age of reason'.

The good thing is, the cyclist had a helmet. I am not sure what she was protecting though, because clearly her head is empty!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday insights

This has been a very busy week for me. I sing in a small but ACTIVE choir and have been exhausted with choir practices, church, more choir and church. It is all fun. This Good Friday we had a long rather monastic liturgy with processing and chanting and some singing. I have never enjoyed Good Friday finding the entire sacrificial lamb and atonement aspect of theology somewhat primitive, so normally I don't really pay attention to what is said. This time, the liturgical comments were about pain and rejection and it dawned on me that there is something very universal about Good Friday, which in essense is about utter abandonment, pain and rejection. Even God forsook Jesus as he lay in agony.

The Easter message, that of resurrection, perhaps shows us that in even in the midst of rejection, betrayal and the all to numerous horrors of the world (the election??), that good will triumph, life will rise again and there is hope.

The Christian message does not see the world through rose coloured glasses. All is NOT all right with Jesus...and yes, the righteous do suffer..but in the end, all is not lost. There is the triumph of hope. No doubt this was what Victor Frankl understood when he realized that in the midst of utter darkness, in his case a concentration camp, if one loses hope...if one loses sight of Easter...then indeed all is lost.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Democracy at work..town hall meetings...conservatives a no show!

Tonight I attended the all candidates meeting for my riding in Ottawa-South. Ottawa South has an excellent incumbent in David McGuinty for the Liberal party. McGuinty is hard working, has a strong social conscience, is highly intelligent and well versed on the issues. He is a dream candidate and the kind of person I am proud to support.

The Conservative candidate did not show up for the debate and McGuinty debated with a well meaning Green party candidate and a charming young fellow from the Pirate party. It was a tribute to our democratic process that questions were asked to all the candidates although Mike from the Pirate party(that stands for copyright protection and open access to information) and Mic from the Green party were clearly out of their depth on most if not all of the issues. That is the democratic process, to get involved, to take a stand on issues and to ask questions.

The Conservatives have shown a distinct aversion to any form of debate during this election fearing questions, or dismissing debates as Harper does, as mere bickering.

Despite the Conservative propaganda that no one is interested, the room at Rideau Park United church was packed. There was a long line of individuals asking questions and it was democracy at work. The questions ranged from health care, to military spending right down to the fact that McGuinty does not know a tweet from a chirp. He promised he would learn!

Bravo for Canada and for our democratic process where questions are asked and parties like the Pirate party can sit at the same table as the more traditional parties like the Liberals. Such debates and exchanges of ideas are at the very heart of democracy. It is a pity that the Conservatives do not believe in it!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Terror on pedals

Yesterday was a beautiful warm spring day and my first ride of the season. I was pretty excited and packed carefully and rode from home, some 13km to the start point.

The group was fairly fast so I would not be bored. Unfortunately 10km into the ride on Robertson rd, shortly after the Queensway Carleton hospital...terror struck. My left pedal and clip, which is the one I normally clip in and out of was giving me problems. Things were not sticking the way they should. I was using my mountain shoes and my SPD clips. This problem has happened before with them but I did not see the signs.

I played with the cleats as I rode and finally forced my foot down. There was a very loud CLICK. A little too loud. Worried, I tried to unclip and to my horror, my pedal would not release. My foot was glued to the pedal..and this caused me no end of worry. My right foot could release well enough and had I been calm, I could have ridden with one foot but I am a creature of habit and visualized having to stop, being unable to release the foot I always release and falling into traffic.

My heart raced and I called out "I am in trouble and stopping". I stopped at the side of the road. John tried to get my foot out of the shoe and after a great deal of effort, my foot emerged. We could not unclip the shoe from the pedal. John left and with one shoe on, I tried with my tools to extricate the shoe from the pedal. No luck. I walked half shoeless to a coffee shop to await rescue from Cyril.

Cyril picked me up and as we drove off, I was going to take him home and then go the bike store, it became clear that I had left my cellphone in the Second cup. Horrors. I dropped Cyril at home and then went to Kunstadts. After some effort, they extracted the shoe. The little metal cleat on the shoes for the SPD cleats has two screws. One of the screws was missing and my shoe had clamped onto the pedal using the hole for one of the missing screws. Thus, I was unable to pull free. Very scary!

My last mission of the day was to retreive my cellphone. By this time I was rattled and very worried about future safety with these cleats. I missed the turnoff several times and circled the Second Cup from all angles, except the right one. Finally, I picked up my cellphone and drove home.

It is hard to describe the way I felt when I knew my foot was clamped onto that pedal and I could not get out. I had one fall once with a fully loaded bike that left a nasty scar on my knee and I wince to recall that time!

Clipless pedals are great. They allow you to pull up on pedals and get a lot more acceleration and power..but when they put a deathgrip on your shoe...you have to be a far cooler customer than I.

The family that bikes together....

I am passionate about biking and know of a family that bikes together. Rather than going to the mall, Mom, Dad and four kids go biking. This warms my heart! I use them as an example of how to live responsibly and raise children to have environmental consciences.

Yesterday was a beautiful warm spring day. It was the first fine Spring day we have had in Ottawa and my family (I cannot use their names...so lets call them the Jones) went out for a bike ride. It was heavenly, Dad, Mom, and the four kids all on bikes with helmets and smiles. Off they went.

There are those who would blame a slight breeze for the problem, others see more sinister motives but a slight breeze slowed the progress of the youngest daughter Sophie. Sophie is a very bright, very competitive child who is certain she can best her older siblings in everything. Alas, the wind slowed her down..and then it started. Softly at first but then louder and louder...until it was like the wail of a banshee. The moans and complaints from Sophie.

At first, imagining it to be temporary, the wails and cries of Sophie Jones were ignored and the family rode on. Sophie got louder and louder until the family became worried. Mom was starting to imagine there was something wrong with Sophie and so they rode to the Pizza Pizza place for Pizza.

Sophie shook her head. No pizza. They offered her soft drinks, through sobs she moaned no soft drinks. She lay her head on the table and wept complaining of a pain in her side. Mom was thinking that Sophie was having an attack of appendicitis and touched Sophies belly. Howls. Sophie's Dad, Alex checked his blackberry...the pain should be lower down and she should be nauseated. As if on cue Sophie adjusted her pain spot and felt sick to her stomach. Carole, Sophie's mother was almost hysterical with worry!

Carol who had graduated from hysteria to a state of frenzy at this point decided to see if Sophie was bluffing. Carol hardened her face and squared off against the steely look of Sophie and said "Do you need to see a doctor" "Maybe" came the reply. Carol dug deep inside of her and said "YOu may need an appendectomy" "Whats that?" "Surgery" "maybe"

At this point, Alex and Carol decide that Alex and the older siblings will race back to the home and Alex will return with the car to retrieve his sick daughter. Carol and Sophie waited. Once Alex returned, his face white with anxiety and worry...Carol raced back on her bike as fast as she could pedal, her mind racing, visions of ambulances...

When she got home and breathlessly opened the door, gasping she said "How is Sophie" "She's fine" said Alex. "Fine what do you mean fine!!" Carol stormed in to find Sophie wrapped in her favourite blanket watching a princess movie that she had wanted to see that afternoon.

The moral of the story and breaking news for medical science, is that a princess movie can be a miracle cure for appendicitis!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The different species of bike riders!

I thought spring would never come and that my bike would be forever chained to the trainer in my basement but behold, today I saw a robin and watched as the temperature rose. Yes bike season is back.

The first bike rides with any club are predictable.I have divided riders into the following categories. The first is the "new bike types" There are always those who have purchased new bikes, some hundreds of grams lighter at considerable cost. They maintain that this will make them faster and better riders. They forget that the most important component to any bike is not the frame or even the wheel weight, but the fitness of the rider. Too many Easter chocolates can make a difference!

The next type, or genre are the born again fitness types. They have enrolled in triathalons and will happily tell you all about their bench presses, their V02 max, their power output and will try to convince you that your methods, if you have any, are old school and outmoded. The best solution to these people is to make sure that you pass them early in the ride and drop them. This is the only way to cool their evangelistic ardour!

The new toy type comes next. These are individuals who have purchased a GPS system or a power meter. I have ridden with GPS riders, they miss the scenery because they are fixated on their tiny screens that tell them where they are. "Did you know we are in Kemptville?" "Yes" "How do you know" It is at this point that you point out the large "Welcome to Kemptville" sign for them to see. Maps are a thing of the past for these folks. A close second to the GPS geek is the heart rate geek. I have a heart rate monitor, it records my heart rate. The heart rate geeks have incredible monitors that beep and bleep when your numbers get too high, or fall too low. I suppose if you died...the monitor would call 911 for you. These machines are colourful and loud. Nothing ruins a lovely zen moment of riding in the country than BEEP BEEP of someone's heart rate monitor. As for me, I am very good at predicting my numbers. If I am panting, finding it hard to breath and maintain an effort, chances are my heart rate is close to its maximum. Biking is beautiful because of its simplicity.

There are the tire phobes. These are individuals who are convinced that the narrower the tire the better..and hence they cannot ride near gravel, sand, potholes...or anything else except a smooth paved velodrome. Yes they will tell you that a 22 mm tire is better than a 25 mm tire and you go faster. In fact, you do not, but no amount of physics will convince these people. Like religious zealots they preach the gospel of skinny high high pressure tires and slow the ride because of pinch flats! Heaven forbid that they should put on a puncture resistant tire..weight you know!

Bicycle clothing is another interesting thing to observe. I know that unless you are build like an olympian no one looks good in bike clothing..but that is not the point. The point of tight clothing is for wind resistance and efficiency over a long distance. While wearing loose clothing that catches wind like a parachute may not seem like an obstacle, once you ride over 80km, those little inefficiencies will start to slow you down more and more until you are dropped from the group. Yes while parasailing is a fun sport, a bike ride is not the place to practice parasailing!

The last type of rider is best described as the "I don't like groups I prefer to ride alone" This spells trouble. It means a rider who is not confident in their own skills to ride in a pack and a rider without skills is a dangerous one. In a headwind it is crazy not to form a peleton or a paceline, either staggered or straight. It is insanity not to shelter from the wind. What happens is that these riders will catch the wind, and fall further and further behind..eventually vanishing on the horizon.

This is what makes biking such a lot of fun!

Karine's Blog

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