Thursday, October 21, 2010

Did I make it to Christchurch?

Yes. And wasn't the weather beautiful!

So it's been almost 3 months, but here's my report for the record from the polo comp in Christchurch.

Winter Whack - 3rd Place Winners!

Our team started out with a good couple of wins, but couldn't sustain the intensity and got wasted by in 3 minutes flat by the eventual champs - Polo Disco. In the 2nd/3rd playoff we put up stiffer resistance, but eventually the same team which twice beat our fellow Aucklanders put paid to us as well. Props to Glenn who sorted out the Auckland teams - he must of done a good job of balancing us up as we came out 3rd and 4th at the end of the day.

Play was pretty intense at times - you had to commit the body right up to the action, which resulted in a bunch of spills. At one point I lost my rear brake in our first game, and eventually traded the bike off for Glenn's. Playing so many games at that intensity did take it's toll, and I reckon that was a factor in the later games. Polo Disco was clearly a cut above us in skill as well. Not just us, as they swept up the entire field pretty handily. I think they had 3 goals scored against them all day, but thankfully nobody enforced the down-trou rule or there'd have been a lot of flesh on display.

The whole tournament had a great atmosphere, and everybody seemed to have fun. There was quite a range of skill levels, with people drawn in to make up teams or whole teams of occasional players. No way could Auckland have fielded 21 players like Christchurch did, but hopefully a return tourney will pull out a few of our potential/interested people.

Everybody's first question on arrival was why there were so many vegans in the Auckland delegation. The Chch crew is based around fathers who can't get out for mountain-biking like they used to, whereas I can't think of any player from Akl who has kids. Very different demographics didn't hinder us enjoying a night at the pub together beforehand and an aftermatch dinner at the Dux (which has several vegan options).

One last thing to point out - the club house next to the courts is a great idea. It allows them to store edging for the court, rather than losing the ball under the raggedy fence edge or digging it out of weedy gutters. We need something like that in Akl.

Cycle Friendly City

Christchurch was truly fabulous to cycle in. Lots of cycle lanes. Nary a hill through much of the city. A beautiful park with good tracks to ride through. Most importantly - lots of other cyclists to keep the drivers in the habit of looking and waiting.

They also allow bikes on buses, and I went 30kms out to Rangiora for $5.80 each way to visit a colleague. Get off at the other end with your bike, cycle to a store to pick up a drink and choccies, and find your mate's house. So much harder on foot. But do allow for the fact that the first bus after school gets out may have a full rack.

So thanks, Christchurch! Thanks to Craig for being the main man behind the tournament, and thanks to Mads and Malcs for putting me up and feeding me lots of warm, scrummy soup. (I did get sunburnt on the big day, but it wasn't always warm down there.)

Enough from me. Check out more photos from the day.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Long Way to Work

For probably the first time in my life, I took the scenic route to work today.

It's been a very rainy spring, but the sunny gaps are lengthening and I found myself in one this morning. On top of that, I was on the fixie for the first time after weeks of carting the laptop backwards and forwards (which tips the balance to the Yuba). Riding a light bike, in the sunshine, with nothing urgent waiting in the office, it just felt right to breeze past a turn-off and go a couple extra blocks.


Friday, August 13, 2010

En Route to CHCH

Greetings from Auckland Airport, where I'm waiting for a delayed flight.  I left home at 06:45, arrived at the airport just on 0800, an hour early, and discovered that I'd left my passport at home! :-(  To add insult to injury the slowly-dying cellphone had another fit, but eventually I got hold of poor Heather who arranged for a friend (thanks, Chris) to drop the wallet off for me.  Not really what she needed just before I went away for 5 days and left her with much more self-care work than usual.  Poverty is having nobody to turn to, eh!

Anywho, turns out you can check in without the wallet so I bagged the bike and had no trouble checking that in.  Then I got the wallet and commenced waiting again.  Plenty of time to look forward to a fun weekend, and getting our butts kicked at the polo comp.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Environmental Footprints 2010 Tax Year - Encouraging Results

Good news! As best we can measure, Heather and I have reduced our CO2 footprint to 30% below the global average. This is a sizeable step1 towards the 40% rich-world reduction which groups like Oxfam are calling for by 2020, a supposedly unreachable target which will 'destroy the economy'. We were encouraged how close we were with 10 years to go, after only moderate changes. No "extreme" measures like detaching from the grid or composting toilets.

Remember, though: we still need 3 planets to absord the carbon emitted if everybody on earth lived like us. Let's not get too self-congratulatory.

Heather and I are constrained to a quiet life by her health, but it's still a distinctly Kiwi lifestyle and we enjoy the benefits of living in a wealthy country. We have made choices to constrain 'expenditure' which gave low return on investment, so that we have plenty to put into activities which bring abundant enjoyment.

Our lifestyle is specific to ourselves, and features several elements that will be particularly difficult for some. For example, we have found work, friends and shops close to home which eases the choice to cycle. Others may find that choice harder until they move house, but over time more walkable (and cycleable) communities will emerge. We also utilise interim practises like buying second-hand, which clearly don't work if everybody tries to do them. These represent further problems to solve, and of course there are plenty of things (like raising kids) that we just don't do. Nonetheless, we are encouraged by the progress we have made and feel confident that others will be making progress on those other challenges.

One challenge all Kiwis face is that public services cost 840kg CO2e/person/year. That represents 2/3 of the globally sustainable per-capita level (2010 population), before we make any direct personal consumption choices. Fully 1/2 this figure comes from building and maintaining roads!

All this thinking comes from the environmental footprint data for the two of us which hardworking Heather has again compiled. She put them together from a detailed 3 month audit and ongoing tracking of unusual consumption items. This data was primarily recorded to calculate a Greenhouse Gas footprint, but she has worked to extract additional estimates from the data.

There is also a year-to-year comparison of our CO2 figures, with retrospective adjustments for new factors added to our audit spreadsheet in the last year. The graph clearly shows the impact of my flying to China in late 2008 (2009 tax year). Something to chew on as I consider flying to Christchurch next month for a cycle polo tournament, which would cost 0.6T -- 15% of my 2010 total emissions.

See the main report for details, graphs and comments, but here are the key numbers as multiples of the sustainable global average footprint
  • CO2e - 3
  • Fresh Water (crops) - 1.43
  • Fresh Water (industrial) - 1.08
  • Agricultural Land - 0.7

  • Forest Land - 0.04
  • Fisheries - 9
Those last two numbers are separated out because they are quite sketchy: the Forest Land number fails to account for the wood used to build our house, and the appropriate baseline for comparison for Fisheries is unclear.

About the fish, I can say that Heather eats a moderate amount of tin fish for health reasons but our fish sauce use is the biggest contributor to that number. We were surprised to find that, and are looking into whether this is an artefact of valuing a genuinely 'cheap' fish at the average rate or whether we need to hold the sauce for special occasions. I have a strong preference for one outcome over the other!

1. It is hard to exactly correlate the GHG footprint figure to numbers like the 40% reduction which Greenpeace is calling on New Zealand to make because our numbers are consumption based and the big public figures are production based. (I hope to write more on this soon, if you're not familiar with what I'm talking about.) We're actually at a 60% reduction from NZ's 2001 consumption figure, and if all of the rich world dropped their consumption that much then the production required to enable that consumption would drop dramatically.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Goal vs Fear

Memo to the TV News people:

We do not fear that the ETS will drive up petrol prices: that was exactly the desired outcome. We may fear that the ETS as implemented won't drive them up enough, or that the government's ongoing rejig of taxation and benefits will fail to provide households with the capacity to pay a fair price for their basic needs, but not that this particular law change will work as intended.

Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Various GHG Emissions Graphs

With the scope of New Zealand's ETS expanding to cover petrol and electricity last Thursday (July 1st), there have been some protests organised by Federated Farmers and the ACT party. Leaving aside the irony of ACT standing against people paying for the resources they use, I want to look at how the way you present the statistics on carbon emissions may shape your response.

When ACT says that "New Zealand's ETS will not make one iota of difference" they have presumably been looking at the leftmost of these two graphs from a public consultation on NZ's proposed emissions reduction target for 2020.
I'm not sure how an iota stacks up against 0.2%, but there is a point to be made that NZ going it alone won't solve the problem. Another point is clearly seen in the right hand graph--that NZ is above the median emissions level on a per-capita basis and has a moral responsibility to act.

If we can't go it alone, then the answer is not to pike and leave the problem for others (aka the global poor, who will die in their millions) but to show leadership. Rather than being so-called Fast Followers (aka laggards and shirkers) we should bend every effort to creating an international solution. I would be more sympathetic to those opposing the ETS if they showed willing to work for an alternative.

Those countries who are willing to take action are deadlocked over who should do how much. Once again, different graphs give a different spin.

Let's start with this graphical analysis of proposed reduction targets for NZ, from the same set of documents as the previous graphs. I think it's quite cleverly compiled, presenting many different data points to show that the government is balancing competing domestic demands and taking a fast-follower position vis-a-vis other countries.

These percentage reduction figures seem to function as a proxy for the effort made by each country. Certainly the domestic conversation was predominantly about what level of reduction we could manage, and how hard other countries were(n't) trying. The level of effort can be emphasised by graphing projected emissions over time as well as proposed reduced rates, but such a graph runs the risk of making the problem look urgent as well as difficult.

Oxfam and Greenpeace tried to shift the discussion towards impact rather than effort. How much can we afford to emit? This question is better answered by the blue bars in the next chart, which takes the per-capita data from one of the first graphs and adds in a Goal value representing the long-term sustainable emissions level. Suddenly a 40% reduction for NZ seems less outlandish.

Another question arises once we see a long-term goal. How will any initial commitment develop? Will everybody close steadily on the Goal amount, or will their be an ongoing inequity? What is the equitable way to close to a common goal from such disparate starting points?

The red bars on this graph represent data that we rarely see: estimated emissions embedded in the provision of goods and services consumed within a country. These contrast strikingly with the emissions generated for the goods and services created in the country. This data is harder to measure, which I assume is why the Kyoto process isn't using it, but is significant in terms of where the dollars would end up if there were a global carbon price.

How do these numbers change the picture? Is it in our interest to negotiate an international deal based on the blue numbers, so long as we have a global market and our export customers cannot avoid paying us the difference between the red and blue bars? Should China be our ally, as their blue bar has outpaced their red throughout the decade since the figures shown above? Are the Americans even less likely to sign up to such a deal?

I guess I should stop there for now and post this thing. Perhaps in the future I'll get back to other datasets, such as total emissions since 1850 by country per capita of current population or NZ's emissions with and without changing land use factors. (For the latter, look into the consultation paper referenced above and marvel at how the timing of a spike in forestry saves NZ's bacon for Kyoto then reverts us to being way behind for any future commitments!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Great Service

Just dropping by to record some excellent customer service provided to us recently, by way of thanks to the BlackBox people.

Several years ago we bought Heather some noise canceling headphones to keep out the lawn-mowing and similar noises so prevalent in our neighbourhood full of infill housing. Over the years two plastic parts on the headband had broken, and they become less comfortable to wear. I contacted the manufacturer to ask for spare parts, and was surprised when they offered to replace the whole unit as this was a design flaw in 'early models'. The new headphones fit even more snugly than the old, and still provide the crystal pure sound that so delighted Heather when she first plugged them in (having first used them just to deaden outside sounds). So check these out if you're looking for high end headphones or are very noise sensitive.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Polo Bike

I've been experimenting with a more upright posture for polo, using a small mtb that a neighbour dropped off. I feel more free to reach around, as my hands are unweighted. My centre of gravity is also lower, which I think makes me steadier at very slow speeds. I do sometimes oversteer, but hopefully will learn that the bike can't actually turn right angles.

Compare the new posture with two of us on roadbikes in this picture. I'm struggling to reach behind while my balance is tied to the handle bars, and my friend is falling off with hardly an increase in his forward lean:

ps. Having a new bike has been handy since my fixie is off the road - more on that later, once I discuss it with my LBS.

pps. Dig the cap that Heather made me!

Monday, March 1, 2010

8 Years Ago

My neighbours in Vancouver had teenage sons who built mounds like fresh graves on their lawn, with headstones showing the flags of the teams the Canadians were about to play. Those boys went wild, running up and down our dull suburban street, when Canada beat the USA for the gold medal from Salt Lake City.

As it happens I'm on holiday this week, and enjoyed the luxury of watching Canada take Olympic gold again in the men's ice hockey. What a game - equalised by the US with 24 seconds to play, then won by golden goal in overtime. Too bad nobody else in the house was particularly interested.

Seven Years Ago

Heather and I, seven years ago. I visited her during my Spring Break - our first time together since her visit to Vancouver that January, when we started going out.

I arrived the weekend after Heather came down sick. We had no idea back then - we went out to a party one night, missed the bus, and started walking. It would have been a 45 minute walk, perhaps more given the couple inches of snow! We had to turn back after the first bus stop, and take several breaks on the way home - one of many examples needed before we realised Heather could feel almost normal but crash quite quickly.

(Very few pictures were taken that holiday, which is a shame because it was the only time I've ever had my hair professionally dyed. Just another curious new experience for a lad back in college world, who was surprised how much applied chemistry was involved for the salon staff, but too expensive to repeat. I quite liked the effect, though - auburn streaks, iirc.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Household Carbon Calculator Posted

If you're interested in drilling down on which parts of your lifestyle are dependent on carbon emissions, then please check out the spreadsheet which Heather and I developed to audit our own consumption in 2008.

Feel free to send us more data for the table of emissions in various product categories. The tool could be a lot nicer, too, but after 18 months of futzing round with Google Spreadsheets, Zoho, and other random ideas, I've gone with a simple Excel spreadsheet. It does work in Open Office, too, so my conscience doesn't trouble me as much as it might.

We've also posted a few paragraphs on the intro page about why we support carbon pricing and why responsibility eventually rests with the consumer. I hope to develop a longer introduction to my thinking on carbon pricing for a friend and his kids, but a brief consultation with my blogging history indicates that you shouldn't hold your breath.

Helmet Hair

The warm weather and my recent haircut have combined to produce a new level of helmet hair, where the ventilation stripes remain clearly visible after I get off the bike. Heather has been most amused.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mundo Maintenance

AS my Yuba comes up to it's 2nd anniversary, I've needed to do a bit of maintenance. Unfortunately, the final element proved challenging due to being a non-standard part (or from a very different standard).
  1. Rear tyre
    I've had two rear tyres go bad on me recently, on different bikes. Not sure what I'm doing wrong, but possibly dragging the rear end around while the tyre has little pressure? Certainly I haul the tail of the Yuba around, as its turning circle can be a bit of a pain for parking. Either way, the rear tyre started to stretch alongside the bead on one side. This was new to me, so I was slow to realise that this was the cause of a wobble on every turn of the wheel.

  2. Brake pads are wearing out faster than I expected. Possibly I'm dragging the rear brake too much?

  3. Rear Hub
    This was the doozy. I tried to adjust the cones at one point to fix the wobble from the tyre, and stuffed it up. I had already broken two rear spokes, drive side, so had to remove the cluster to replace them. (No hurry, though. With 46 of 48 spokes, the wheel still ran sweetly.)
    The rear axle is a 14mm BMX axle (grumbling tech details here), and I didn't have proper cone spanners in 19mm. I managed to approximate one spanner, but couldn't get the freewheel cluster off since my removal tool (Park Tools FR-1) doesn't fit over the 14mm axle! I ended up pulling the axle right out, taking the cluster off, replacing the ball bearings (as I lost one carrying the wheel to my friend's to use his vice), then reinstalling. Naturally, I forgot something so had to repeat. I never did get the spoke guard back on.
So that was a pain, but it has been running nicely again now. Next time I'll probably drop it into the shop for the rear hub, but hopefully that won't be for ages.