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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Aug 06, 2014

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Tue Jul 29, 2014

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Cross-stitch patterns are the plushies of the 2010s
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The ten most useful things I have learned from the Internet

…and from people with whom I converse there.

  1. The arrows on the Toronto PATH signs refer to the directions: north is blue, south is red, east is yellow and west is orange. Wouldn’t it be nice if they actually told people this? My mnemonic is silly but in case it helps: blue is a cold colour so it’s north. South = red because of sunburn in southern climes. East = yellow for sunrise; west = orange for sunset.
  2. On most newish cars there’s a cunning little arrow next to the gas thing on the dash which tells you which side the gas cap is on. In the image below, it is on the left. Of course if you have your own car you probably just know which side it’s on but we drive a wide variety of Autoshare and rental cars and this saves a lot of tedious exploration.
  3. A housecleaner is possibly the cheapest and most effective kind of preventative marriage therapy.
  4. Bandelettes.
  5. Proper bra fitting. Key point: the whole adding 5″ to your underbust measurement is bunk. And you have to stoop & swoop. Then you have to throw out all your existing bras which have become suddenly hateful and go buy expensive new ones three cup sizes larger and two band sizes smaller.
  6. Menstrual cups. I always particularly resented that there is GST feminine hygiene products, as they’re a basic necessity and there is no equivalent product than men (and only men) must buy. Before you say “but condoms”– no, condoms are not equivalent; both men and women buy them and they’re also fundamentally optional in a way that feminine hygiene products simply are not. A DivaCup (stupid name, but never mind) can be bought once and used more or less forever — the recommendation to replace it annually is just plain silly. They used to recommend replacing it every ten years but I suppose they weren’t making enough money that way. Mine is twelve years old now and shows no signs of wear whatsoever. Also, they must have let their lawyers near the tips section: actually it’s perfectly fine in the dishwasher (wash it thoroughly first of course!) if it needs an extra-thorough cleaning, and medical-grade silicone is not going to be affected by a bit of vinegar or bleach either. Oh: cut the silly prong off the bottom; it serves no purpose except to irritate one’s labia.
  7. You can do calculations, unit conversions and a lot more right from the Google search bar.
  8. Do Not Feed the Energy Creature. Applies offline too, of course.
  9. If you adopt cats from a reputable rescue organization, someone else has already done the hard work of vetting their personality (and probably getting them spayed/neutered).
  10. Yes, this pastry recipe really is foolproof.
Apropos of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death

Me: I wouldn’t be able to pick Philip Seymour Hoffman out of a lineup. Well, maybe today I could. He’d be the slumpy one with the flies.
Husband: (spits wine)

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Dec 18, 2013

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Dec 11, 2013

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Nov 27, 2013
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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Thu Nov 07, 2013

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Mon Sep 09, 2013
  • School is no Place for a Reader « Canadian Notes & Queries:

    “Sequential levelled readers” are making their punctual way to the house in the backpack, one every week. The teacher leans forward and says, mysteriously, “There is a difference between decoding and comprehension. Perhaps she is decoding that book, but she isn’t comprehending it.” Raised fingers twitch around his words.

Shout out to the children’s librarians at Brentwood library who made many excellent book suggestions and eventually gently told me I might do better in the adult section.

And another shout out to my parents, who never limited my reading but who offered to read and discuss anything I wanted them to. I’m following their excellent example on this with M.

It’s good to read things that challenge, that you might not absolutely understand. Sometimes you need to let the language wash over you, take from it what you can, and come back some years later. How else can we learn? How else can we learn elegance?

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That’s about right — R.I.P. summer…


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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Aug 14, 2013
  • Tech is killing childhood – Salon.com
    Tech is killing childhood – Salon.com:

    Some of the worst, most passive writing I’ve yet seen on this topic. She makes it sound like parents can’t do a single thing to put boundaries around technology use.

    “I tell you, it feels overwhelming,” says a mother who used to look forward to the drive time as talk time but has seen it devolve into a futile exercise in screen censorship. “All of a sudden I’m driving and hear them in the backseat—they’re looking at YouTube and I think, What the heck? I mean, how much screening and censoring can a parent do?”

    Well, for a start, you can not take the screen into the car. Also you can not provide your children with Internet access you can’t supervise. I mean really, people. 

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Jun 12, 2013

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Apr 24, 2013

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Apr 10, 2013

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Feb 06, 2013

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Thu Jan 31, 2013

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Friday Jan 18, 2013
  • PLOS ONE: How Large Should Whales Be?
    PLOS ONE: How Large Should Whales Be?:

    The title implies that one can consider this as a sort of abstract idea for one’s own judgement: really, how large DO you think a whale really should be?

    The article, sadly, is about the usual sort of size-regulation issues in mammals. But never mind. The title is such fun.

  • Should Hybrid and Electric Cars Have to Sound Like Regular Cars? – Commute – The Atlantic Cities
    Should Hybrid and Electric Cars Have to Sound Like Regular Cars? – Commute – The Atlantic Cities:

    Earlier this week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finally published its proposed “quiet car rule,” mandated by the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, setting out standards for what the quiet cars of the future must sound like. And the long-awaited answer: They must sound like… cars.

    A very disappointing decision. There must be ways to protect pedestrians other than adding to ambient noise pollution.

  • Algonquin Park is no place for a cottage. Or is it?
    Algonquin Park is no place for a cottage. Or is it?:
    “These aren’t cottages that are flipped every two, three or five years,” he adds. “A lot of these cottages have been there for 60, 80, 100 years and have been in the same family over that period of time.”

    Their presence, however, restricts the park’s use. Most of the cottages are on lakes close to Highway 60 — Cache Lake, Canoe Lake and Smoke Lake. And people aren’t allowed to camp on lakes with cottagers.

    Twenty-one of the leased lots are in the park’s interior. Winters says the government should phase out those leases. Canoeists who make the effort of portaging their way deep into the park should be rewarded with an environment more natural than lakes with cottages, Winters says.

    The debate over cottagers, Winters argues, distracts from greater pressures threatening Algonquin. Fully 51 per cent of the park is open to logging. Winters’ concern is the 6,000 kilometres of gravel roads mostly built and reserved for logging. As roads proliferate, so will the demand for their use for reasons other than logging, he argues.

    “There’s no bigger issue in Algonquin Park than roads,” he says.

    Good, evenhanded article. They’re entirely correct, although (I did a huge piece of research on this way back in grad school) from the article it’s not clear that Algonquin does work quite well as a multi-use park. Trippers rarely see or hear any logging… unless they go more than 150m inland, which they seldom do, and the logging roads are not typically marked on canoe maps. The roads would be excellent for biking, horse-riding and other similar pursuits if such uses could be deconflicted with the logging-truck use.

    As things stand, both cottaging and logging are critical to the whole area’s economic success. And I do say that as an environmentalist and a canoe-tripper! Algonquin is a great example of how one space can accommodate multiple uses with a bit of compromise and thought.

    If the government does eventually take over the cottages I’d suggest we rent them out instead of destroying them. They’d be a nice Night 1 or end-night for serious trippers and would be a great stepping-stone into the woods for the less-experienced.

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Dec 12, 2012

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Cargo bike, 8 months on

So back in March we bought a cargo bike. We’d set out intending to buy a tandem, but on the test ride it turned out that I hated the tandem with the intensity of a thousand burning suns within about ten seconds of getting on the thing. Totally synced starts and stops? No control? Ummmmno. Not working for me. But since we were at a good bike shop we tried this massive, bright orange Yuba Mundo cargo bike because it was there, and we all loved it immediately, bought it on the spot, and nicknamed it The Beast.

Cargo bike in action!

Since then we’ve put the better part of 2000km on the thing, what with schlepping the miss to school (~8km away) and many trips to the grocery store and Home Depot and general errands and whatnot. It’s put a huge dent in our Autoshare usage — when your bike carries 75lbs of tomato flats, 6 2-4s of beer, 8 large bags of groceries, or two human passengers, a car becomes much less necessary — and wow pushing its 50lbs around (often plus a heavy 10-year-old child plus our own pannier plus her school backpack, or whatever other cargo one has loaded on) has been good for our quads and general aerobic fitness. We put a little over 100km on it each week during the school year — 5x20km on weekdays plus a grocery run and maybe a Home Depot run or something similar on weekends. It is in very heavy use.

Since the photo above was taken, we’ve added extra handlebars attached to the main seatpost so the miss doesn’t have to hold on to either us or the frame of the bike. We switched to disc brakes, because the original brakes were insufficient to the task and were actually scraping bits of metal off the rims. We also added a yellow BikeGlow to help outline the bulk of the thing in the dark. The bike is 6’9″ long, quite a behemoth, bigger than anyone really expects a bike to be, so it’s good to have the outline more clear. Here’s an amusing photo of what it looks like in the pitch black dark (front is at left, rear is at right):

Cargo bike in the dark

The BikeGlow runs down the length of the left (traffic side) running board, up the back (not visible in the photo), and then forward the entire length of the bike.

It’s a very sociable thing, riding a cargo bike, whether you like it or not. At stops one is forever answering the questions of other cyclists and pedestrian passers-by.

  • What the heck is that thing (A long-tail cargo bike. It can carry 440lbs of cargo plus the rider. The other main kind of cargo bike is a bakfiets)?
  • Is that legal (Yes. While you can’t carry passengers on bikes not intended for it, bikes designed for passengers are just fine.)?
  • Where did you get it (Urbane, although Sweet Pete’s also probably carries them)?
  • And the sexist one I get that Dave doesn’t: Can you really ride that thing All By Yourself Dearie (hell yes).

…Among other things. Now that we have the BikeGlow and it’s dark by 5pm, we also get to chat about that. So: don’t buy a cargo bike if you’re averse to random conversations with passers-by. Eventually we plan to put a big sticker on the bike with a QR code which links to some sort of explanation and details, much like this post.

Once you’re up to speed, riding it is less work than you might think. It’s the acceleration that’s killer. There are 21 gears on the thing and we use every one — I use many, many more gears on the cargo bike than I do on my own bike, especially on hills. On average I probably change gears every ten seconds or so, less if going up a hill. It is otherwise a very smooth and pleasant ride, though; rather similar in feel to a Bixi, if you’ve ever ridden one of those. Lots of stability, lots of momentum. Hit someone with the thing going reasonably quickly and you’ll probably kill them, so look out. It has power but it is crazy heavy and it is not what one might call nimble.

We’ve found it a really excellent substitute for both Autoshare and the TTC. We haven’t quantified the Autoshare part, but we’ve made about 120 round trips on it that would have otherwise required the TTC, so one adult at 2x$2.60 + one child at 2x$0.60 = $6.40 per round trip, that’s saved us roughly $768. At that rate it’ll pay itself off in another year or so. Not that we’re fussed about that — we prefer riding; it’s not about the money — but it’s kind of fun to track.

In short: recommended. You can put 2 baby seats, 2 child seats, 2 very large cargo bags, or a combination of the above on the back. Or you can just go wild with bungee cords. Cargo bikes really solve many of the problems with using a bike as your primary transportation in a reasonably bike-friendly environment. We’re very fond of our Beast.