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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.

Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Nov 07, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Oct 24, 2012
  • Not guilty | This Magazine
    Not guilty | This Magazine:

    Choice should be delightful, not debilitating. The secret of it is that there is no wrong book to read. Even if you’re re-reading Harry Potter on the subway. So maybe we should take the opportunity to cast aside the textbooks inside of which we’re hiding our comics books, and embrace the fact that we can strive to expand our reading habits without beating ourselves up—and that most importantly, guilt adds nothing to the reading experience.

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Oct 03, 2012
  • The Evolutionary Advantage of Depression – Brian Gabriel – The Atlantic
    The Evolutionary Advantage of Depression – Brian Gabriel – The Atlantic:

    It turns out that depression may not be a mere trade-off for a vigorous immune response. Dr. Miller suggests that depressive symptoms like social withdrawal, lack of energy, and a loss of interest in once enjoyable activities were actually advantageous to our ancestors. For example, a loss of energy might ensure that the body can leverage all of its energy to fight an infection. Also, social withdrawal minimizes the likelihood of being exposed to additional infectious agents.

    Interesting, if not entirely convincing. More evidence needed, etc.

  • The fiscal cliff: Are cliffs very dangerous? – Slate Magazine
    The fiscal cliff: Are cliffs very dangerous? – Slate Magazine:

    About 76 per year. Between 1999 and 2009, 761 Americans died falling from cliffs, according to the CDC’s magnificently detailed data. That’s a relatively small number. If commentators wanted to scare the public, they might have called the looming economic crisis, the “fiscal anvil,” because falling objects killed nearly 10 times as many people as cliffs between 1999 and 2009. Or they might have gone with the “fiscal cobra,” as venomous plants and animals killed 856 people in the same 10-year period. Another option would be the “fiscal hansom cab,” since 1,201 Americans perished while riding on an animal or in an animal-drawn vehicle.

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This is a picture I did not take

of a long line of idling cars waiting to get into the gas station, as I rode by on a bicycle powered only by sweat.

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Yup

A softer world

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Sep 19, 2012

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No arguing with that

(At Canada’s Wonderland)

Me: Oh, sad, the waterpark is all closed.
D: There’s nothing sadder than an empty waterpark.
Child: Except a dead puppy.
Us: …. OK, you win.

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Aug 22, 2012

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For my Dad

Me: Would you like me to turn the music off while you’re falling asleep honey, or what would you like me to put on? (We’re cottaging and if there’s music on, we’re all subjected to it.)

Child: How about that guy who talks along to the music, the one you and Grampa went to the concert of?

Me: Leonard? That’s very good music for sleeping.

Child: Yeah, he’s good.

Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Aug 15, 2012

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It does help

Me: So how did the new raincoat work? Did it keep you dry?
Child: Yeah
(pause)
Child: …when I wore it.

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Aug 08, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Aug 01, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Jul 25, 2012

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Teh coolth, it oozes out

Walking down the street:

M: ….it’s pretty cool. Temperature-cool, you know, not Daddy-cool.
D: I’m cool?
M: Yeah. But you’re never as cool as Mommy.

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Dear publishers: No.

At dinner the other night a number of people were surprised to hear of the absurd phenomenon of digital (and DRM’d to boot) books being more expensive than print versions — not just paperbacks, but hardcovers. So here’s one example.

This looks like an interesting book. A bunch of folks I know on Goodreads have read it and rated it highly. I feel like it’s the sort of book that might be worth throwing money at, so I add it to my queue and off I go to look up the Kindle edition, prepared to buy.

Here’s a screenshot from Amazon from sometime in June.

$19.16? Is the publisher crazy? When I could buy the hardcover, with its lack of DRM and other nonsense, for ~$17.00?

But am I going to buy a huge heavy hardcover book when I set out to buy a weightless ebook in the first place? No, I am not. I doubt anyone would. If I wanted a hardcover I would have bestirred my butt to buy it from the store down the street. But I do not want the hardcover, because it is heavy and annoying and then I have to find shelf space for it once I’m done with it.

You know what happens in this sort of case? Every single time?

That’s right. I shrug, then I add myself to the end of the hold list at the library. I’ll read it in 397 holds (plus mine = 398) / 39 copies x 3 weeks = ~30 weeks when it turns up. Fine. I can wait. There are plenty of other books to read in the meantime.

I will not, on principle, pay more for pixels — especially DRM’d pixels — than I will for a physical book. And I will also not go out and buy a physical book simply because the electronic copy has been artificially made more expensive. For me, pricing ebooks to exceed the cost of a physical book will, 100% of the time, equal a lost sale.

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Thu Jul 19, 2012

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Neat Stuff from Elsewhere Wed Jun 20, 2012

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