Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Immigration: increasingly important to me

Another link from Free Exchange - this one on a topic that troubles me more and more. I repeatedly ponder why I have a highly paid job in NZ that is inaccessible to the other kids I grew up with in Koksamrong.


Via Free Exchange I found yet another article considering the enormous challenge of meeting climate change stability targets. I agree with their opening point that efficiency will be the key issue, but I think that there is more than one facet to being efficient.
  • Carbon-efficient power generation is all the article considers. This will be important, and we can probably make a lot of progress in that area. They focus on electricity generation, but we all know that efficient burning car engines etc will also matter.
  • Efficient use of the generated power will also be important. Think car engines again, but also using other forms of transportation when a car's peculiar attributes are not required. Technology will move us forward here, but pricing (economically and/or socially) will help to make people aware of when they are choosing the inefficient option from the array of 'green' technology to hand.
  • Unless the above work far better than expected, we're still going to have to make choices about what is really important to us. Expect pricing to feature again here, to help us determine what pursuits will efficiently achieve our key goals. Put differently, the up side of scarcity is clearer thinking about what we really want. So long as the scarcity is in luxuries this can be seen as good (if rather bracing). Unfortunately some of us will certainly retain the freedom to choose luxuries while others will be pushed to meet their most essential needs.
Heather and I are quite optimistic that a sustainable lifestyle can be devised which is truly enjoyable, but think it will require a shake-up that few are talking about at present. It could be quite healthy for us in the affluent 'West'/'North'.

p.s. We have just returned from a holiday weekend on Waiheke Island, where it proved really useful to have a car available for getting to/from the further-than-expected beach. On the other hand, as Dad and I paddled a rented kayak through the wake of various launches I pondered the ratio between the vastly greater resources required by a launch and the extra happiness it generated compared to our exertions.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New(ish) Toys 2 - Frame Lock

Yesterday I rode my fixie to work, as I wanted to swim first and it locks up easiest. Not only doesn't it have a derailleur hanger to get caught in the horrible wheel-bending parking slots, but it has a simple frame-lock attached.

The lock is always on the bike, and the key stays in it while it is unlocked. All I have to do is swing the lever through the wheel, line it up slightly (cheap model) and push it home. Since I ride in normal shorts I almost always have a pocket for the key. The security wouldn't be sufficient for parking at university, or in many cities, but I consider it good enough for our suburban pool. The lock really comes into its own at the dairy, where it often takes me longer to place and remove a cable lock than I spend in the store.

Mum scored me this lock from China, as they seem hard to come by in NZ. They were common on the bikes I knew as a kid in Thailand--at least the adults' bikes. This model has a weak connection point, which doesn't compromise its effectiveness as a lock but does mean that it bends away from the seat stays and hits my heels if I don't tape it down. My only complaint, however, is that I don't have one for each bike.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Toys 1 - Homemade Trailer

Late last year I finally got around to painting the trailer which I had welded together at a night class (read club for men without sheds) in the first half of the year. I'd been toying with having it powder coated, but that was too expensive. It was supposed to be cheaper than a bought one, even with the cost of the night class counted in. Galvanising seemed like a great proposition, until I learned how many drainage holes I'd have to drill before they'd go near the thing. So finally I bought a can of Hammerite and painted it by hand. It was actually fairly easy, but I put it on a bit thick. Choosing a hammered copper finish probably didn't help with that as it didn't go on uniformly and I was perpetually uncertain what coverage I had achieved. The paint seems to be holding, however, and I have plenty left after cautiously upsizing to 250ml.

I had planned to make a canvas bed, but was so pleased with the two bamboo garden stakes I lashed on for my first trial that I'm sticking with them. I hope to get some flattish segments from a neighbour's large bamboo offcuts to make good cross-wise supports, but the scrounged wooden cross-pieces pictured hold up if I don't hit bumps too hard.

My course finished before I got another bar on the front to stop cargo sliding forwards. This conveniently allows me to put heavy loads right at the front where there are more structural supports underneath. Presumably this dramatically increases the tongue weight and makes the bike work harder, but it gets the goods where they need to go.

The trailer rides quite comfortably. I have it hooked up to an old, upright bike which is fairly heavy itself. The two parts look good together, and I think that the bike engenders a suitable riding style for the trailer.

The trailer hitches to the rear axle. Consensus on the internet seemed to be that axle mounts ride better than hitching to the seat post, and so far it has ridden nicely for me. I did get shunted by the trailer until I tightened the connecting pin really firmly into the trailer arm. On the other hand, Aaron, who I got trailer plans from, has switched to seat mounting because it gives him a better handle for trundling into supermarkets etc.

I do recommend Aaron's plans. They were easy to work with, although he suggested using galvanised materials which makes for terrible nasty fumes during welding.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Twice in one day

Once you get the habit...

Just to let my devoted readers know that I've posted a first entry on a thematic blog about the many and varied uses of Oil. Heather and I find that everybody talks about running out of oil to drive cars (and maybe heating houses), but who wants to live without all those other oil-based products? [Basically anything 'synthetic' - H interjects] She is trained as an industrial chemist, so is rather more aware than me on the topic. Should learn something.

I used to read a blog called "Oil is for Sissies" (now defunct), but we wanted a more positive slogan. Still looking for something catchy, as oil turns out to be everywhere.

[Okay, so this makes thrice. But only twice here, so still good.]

Giving Up

No, I haven't given up on blogging. I have been stopped up by needing to report on Taupo, and at the end of my Christmas break I'm squeezing in the planned report. Hopefully that'll free me up to give you more reports later.

So, anyway, I did give up at Taupo. I completed the back half of the course - the vast majority of hills - in 4 hours, pretty much as hoped. Unfortunately my victory was phyrric in nature and after taking a long break and limping through to the 3/4 mark I called it quits there. That was about the 7:40 mark, so I'd have been a late, late finisher had I continued. There was mostly flat left, but a decent headwind had come up and I didn't have any strong commitments to draw me on. So I got a lift with the truckie who was just finishing dismantling the final relay station.

Next morning I felt right as rain - it was certainly a fuel problem not any set of muscles giving out. My computer showed a steady 19km/h for on-bike time, but obviously my stops had become too frequent. It certainly hurt most that I'd given up, which is an unfamiliar feeling. Normally I don't commit myself into such stretching challenges, so haven't felt the bitterness for a while. I'm proud that I beat the hilly bit, and still mostly convinced that I didn't have any clear drivers to push myself too far on what was supposed to be a 'respite' weekend, but I'm still niggled by the idea of going back and completing this time.

If I do keep riding then first I want to ride something closer to home. No sense in driving 4 hours to ride your bike. (Or in hitching lifts and getting friends to transport your kit so you don't get your bike back until Christmas day!) I should probably also train more. The fixie will probably be on hold for a while as I aim to get a test bed for the Nuvinci (now built into a wheel and waiting at my LBS), which may be more sensible given how hilly the local rides are.

I have made a New Year's resolution - don't mix respite with such strenuous activity. That whole weekend so exhausted me physically and mentally (taking into account squeezing in packing etc) that I didn't recover until the Christmas rush was well on top of me. It was good to have had a crack at, though. Sadly I didn't get any work people along, which had been what originally drew me into it.

There was a late-minute plan to do a commuting promotion, which didn't come off. Am considering what we can do for the local Bike the Bays in March.

That's probably all I need to say. I did take a voice recorder around with me and when I figure out the uploading you can hear firsthand how exhausted I was.

Happy New Year.