Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time to step up.

Copied and pasted straight from This calls for some action.

Toronto's Bixi may be in jeopardy

Bixi, Montreal's successful bikesharing system, is catching on like wildfire and will be expanding to Minneapolis, Melbourne, Boston and even London, UK, this year. But Toronto seems unconvinced, and it appears as if city bureaucrats are close to derailing it.

City Manager bureaucrats seem not to understand the point of bikesharing and, from what I've heard from sources, that they don't see how it would work. An acquaintance has heard from City Manager number crunchers that they don't see Bixi as viable and thought it was waste of money (I'm paraphrasing here). The City Manager's office at City Hall is key to organizing city services and has the ear of council. According to the website, it "guides the Corporation of the City of Toronto and advises Council in the management of all its fiscal, organizational and service challenges. The City Manager is accountable to Council for the policy direction and program delivery of divisions."

This same acquaintance, who is also an avid cyclist, attempted to show how, in fact, Bixi has worked elsewhere and thought it would work here. My other source shows that this attempt may not have been all that successful. The City Manager's office might not be getting behind bikesharing. If they manage to derail it this year, it may take some time for the bureaucracy to get around to doing it again.

So, how is it that so many cities around the world can operate bikesharing programs, but Toronto bureaucrats can't understand if it would work or not? Toronto city leaders are asleep at the wheel, opines Joe Berridge at the Toronto Star. "Paris introduced the Velolibre [sic] free bicycle system, now being copied in some form in almost every big city. But not Toronto."

City staff have kept tight lips on the details so I'm not really sure why Bixi is in jeopardy. In theory the deal was supposed to be at no cost to the city.

It would have been nice if they could have involved the community a lot more in the planning. In the days of CBN's Bikeshare there's was broad support by businesses and organizations, both small and large. Perhaps they could have avoided some of this pain. It's not too late.

Send letters in support of Bixi

I Bike T.O. and The Urban Country encourage you to send letters to your councillors and city staff to encourage them to keep going with Bixi. Here is a draft letter:

Dear Mayor Miller,

It has come to my attention that the City of Toronto is considering putting a halt on its deal with the Public Bike System Company (BIXI) to bring a public bicycle sharing program to Toronto later this year.

This would be an extremely disappointing and unfortunate outcome. Traffic congestion, pollution and obesity are major issues that we need to deal with right now as the City of Toronto’s population is expected to increase by 3 million people by 2031.

Bicycle sharing is important in our city to provide a alternative means of transportation for short trips while helping people stay healthy. A bike sharing system would compliment public transit very well and I had every intention on using this system on a regular basis.

Please do everything in your power to ensure the city makes the right choice for its citizens and proceeds with signing a deal to bring BIXI to Toronto in 2010.


Please send it to the list below plus your local councillor (get the email from this list).

City Hall Contacts:

From The Urban Country:

BIXI installed at no cost to the City

It would be unfortunate to pass on such a great opportunity for this city since BIXI requires very little investment from the city and the taxpayers. The Public Bike System Company would foot the bill to install the bike rental stations and provide the bicycles, so it seems odd that the city would axe these plans for fiscal reasons alone.

I was told the city would only be responsible for identifying the preferred locations of the mobile bike sharing stations, and - unlike Montreal -Toronto wasn’t planning on removing parking spaces to make room for the bike stations. Rather, they would be installed on existing sidewalks and other public spaces.

Is it possible that the city struggled to find space for the BIXI stations? Would parking spaces need to be removed? Was there turmoil between the city’s parking authority and City Hall? Does BIXI require an investment from the City that they weren’t willing to put up?

.. I'll post more as it comes around. This is starting to get ridiculous and a few things need to change.

Here were the original plans. However, these are totally unconfirmed, from what I understand. Walrus blog article on the Toronto riding and Bixi.

There Probably is no God

The launch, held (January 6th) near the Albert memorial, featured speeches by Dawkins, author of The God Delusion; Ariane Sherine, creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign; and Hanne Stinson, from the British Humanist Association. (Guardian UK)

Short video interview here:

...a new campaign in Britain to get atheists to "come out."

Around £6,000 was needed to run adverts in London but within two days, individuals and organisations had pledged more than £87,000. More than £135,000 has been pledged so far.

Despite receiving more than 300 complaints,The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) concluded that the campaign did not contravene the code and it would therefore not launch an investigation.

The authority said it had received 326 complaints about the campaign, some claiming it was offensive to people of faith and others challenging whether the advertisement was misleading.

...complaints from Christians, some of whom claimed it breached ASA codes on substantiation and truthfulness. The slogan should read There Probably Is A God, they claimed.

Carolyn's blog

The Southwest, part 3

Tuesday January 26th. Because we had only a short trip to Las Cruces planned for later that day we were able to spend most of the morning walking around the Santa Fe Plaza, along with some breakfast at Tia Sophia's, which was pretty good. I think we came in with high expectations for our first real taste of authentic Mexican, and it came highly recommended. I must admit I was a bit disappointed when I asked for hot sauce and they brought me a bottle of Tabasco.

Anyway, off in the morning to explore... maybe we should have eaten at "Ze French Bistro" adjacent to our hotel...

Ah, the Loretto Chapel, home of the "Miraculous Staircase". The short story goes that these nuns built a Chapel for themselves back God knows when, but never really connected the first and second floors (huh?). So, instead of using a ladder, or building a staircase, they prayed for 9 days and nights until finally some dude, let's call him Joseph, came by with his carpentry tools and built them a staircase in a few days. The staircase was made even more special because it appeared not to have an inner, central support. Moreover, no nails or screws!

This doesn't seem at all believable. In fact, it kinda sounds like a scam, no?

From good old, trustworthy Wikipedia: More recent studies show that there is very little that is "miraculous" about the staircase. It is arguably unsafe since its helix shape makes it oscillate just like a very large spring. The railing, too, was a subsequent addition (Phillip August Hesch). As to its apparent ability to stand without a central support, this argument proceeds on a faulty premise that all spiral staircases need a central support. In fact, they do not, and lateral or outer supports work just as well. However, this staircase does have a concealed central support, an inner wood stringer of a very small radius that, because of its small size, functions effectively as a central pole. This technique is well known. The staircase also has an additional outer support to one of the columns that support the loft. The staircase is made of spruce, but insufficient sampling makes it impossible to conclusively affirm (or deny) the source of this wood.

Anyway, it cost $3 to see this thing, so, deciding to skip it and the "Inn and Spa at Loretto" next door, on we go!

Walking around the Plaza, some fine Polish folk art (??) was available. Miraculous.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Built in 1610, replaced in 1630, destroyed in 1680, rebuilt in 1714, rebuilt again in 1887, straightened in 1967, elevated to a Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. There is a lot of history here. The only part of the original church still existing is the small adobe chapel dedicated to Our Lady La Conquistadora. Brought from Spain in 1625, the statue is the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the United States.

The original was not on display.

Moving on, we explored the Plaza a bit more, and Adam bought a gift or two from some of the local vendors. Well, maybe not that local; apparently this dude came in from about 2 hours away.

More park benches.

Americans and their bumper stickers!

So, back on the road.

From Santa Fe to Las Cruces it's a scant 458 km, or about 4.5 hours.

We decided to stop on the way in "Truth or Consequences"; with a population of around 8000, it's essentially a hippie town looking for tourists.

Originally named Hot Springs, the city changed its name to Truth or Consequences, the title of a popular NBC radio program. In 1950, Ralph Edwards, the host of the radio quiz show Truth or Consequences announced that he would air the program from the first town that renamed itself after the show. Hot Springs, NM won the honor. Ralph Edwards came to the town during the first weekend of May for the next fifty years. This event was called "Fiesta" and included a beauty contest, a parade, and a stage show. The city still celebrates Fiesta each year on the first Saturday of May. The parade generally features area celebrities such as the Hatch Chile Queen. Fiesta also features a dance in Ralph Edwards Park.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Truth or Consequences City Hall:

Wait, this is it:

Back on the road, skeletons in the sky.

So, we made it into Las Cruces, and went through their "downtown area".

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Yeah. Not much there. At all. No one walking, and with restaurants and hotels all spaced just far enough to need to drive to we had our first mini-panic moment of the trip.

After doing a bit searching (apparently the local University hangout is a coffee shop called Spirit Winds, which is, of course, driving distance from the University), we started to do a bit of internet / Lonely Planet reading, we decided to try Mesilla, which is apparently a stones throw away.

View Larger Map

And we lucked out! Mesilla is pretty awesome! For now you'll have to trust me, as morning exploration pictures are on the next update...

So, before booking our hotel room for the night in and around Mesilla, we decided to go to dinner. Chope's, which was good, and better than Tia Sophia's. About 25 miles south on highway 28 in the town of La Mesa (drag down Hwy 28 above, if you like.. ), it was a fantastic meal, although again, it could have been spicier. Jays hat sighting in there as well.

There was a bar just across the way from the restaurant, but seeing as we didn't have a hotel room, and we had our car, we booted it back up to Mesilla, and the local Days Inn.

So, it must have been somewhere around 11pm at this point. Maybe later. We go to the front desk and asked to get a cab to the Old Mesilla Plaza. The dude at the desk hands me two cabbie cards. I call the first guy, and he reports that he scored a long trip to Albuquerque and wouldn't be available for the rest of the night. He gives me a number to call for another cab, which, curiously, turns out to be the same number on the second cab card given to us by our fine concierge. Giving this second dude a call, he tells us he'll be around in about 20 minutes and he'll call to our room when he gets there. We go back to our room, and yeah... the phone doesn't work in there. So, after splitting a tall boy of Coors Light, we hang out in the lobby for a bit.

After about 15 minutes he comes by and apologizes for the delay. See, apparently there are only two cab drivers IN ALL OF LAS CRUCES. This is a town of almost 100,000 people, serviced only by two cabbies. Everyone drives down here it seems... pretty much no matter the circumstances...

So, instead of Chope's bar, we hit up this bar:

El Patio. One year it apparently made Men's Journal top 50 bars in America. Or, the owner just put up this picture. I don't really feel like fact checking.

As described over at,

"El Patio, Old Mesilla Plaza, _The_ Bar in town. Live Music. Unique smell. "

Whateves. Again, it's not always the places you go, but it's the people you meet. We happened to crash a birthday party there, and had a great time. And no, the bar didn't smell at all; highly recommended when in Mesilla/Las Cruces.

Here are some pics taken by our Las Cruces friend Cindy!:

And one with the birthday girl!

So, about 1:30am I call up our cabbie friend figuring it'll take at least a 1/2 hour for him to come by. JUST after 2am, after the bar keep threatens the entire bar with a taser, we're on the sidewalk - yes. Our pals, seeing as the cabbie was probably not coming, graciously offered us a ride back to the Days Inn.

Mesilla, you rock. Tomorrow we'd be getting up a bit earlier than usual as it would be our longest driving day, accentuated by a very out of the way detour. However, we would see us some white sand desert, a "take pictures only in that direction" missle range, drive up to almost 9000 feet, eat some bbq, drive along the Mexican border, and make it through most of Texas at night without a license plate.

See part 2 here.

See part 1 here.

So, why isn't women's ski jumping an Olympic event?

Picked up from Google Reader here, originally linked from the Southern Beale blog, I'm basically reposting the below from her post, as it seems to sum things up pretty well.


It seems the issue is a hot topic this year and via this video I finally have my answer. Although some very thin and lame excuses have been floated around, what it seems to boil down to is that the European men don’t want to be shown up by a bunch of girls, one of whom holds the record on the actual ski jump used at the Vancouver games.

Yes that’s right, Lindsey Van beat the men’s record on the exact same ski jump the men will be sliding down to claim their Olympic medals this week. I ask you: how fucked up is that?

This quote cracked me up:
In 2005, Gian Franco Kasper, FIS president and a member of the IOC, said that he didn't think women should ski jump because the sport "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

Oh my God are we still having that same argument? Seriously? In this day and age? What does Gian Franco Kasper think is going to happen? Vaginas scattered all over the hill? Menstrual blood on the start bar? Boobies flying through the air?

If you think about it, it seems like men with all that stuff dangling around down there would be less "medically" suited to a whole bunch of sports, not just ski jumping. Imagine if one of y'all's testicles just flew off in mid-air. Someone could get hurt. An eye could get poked out.

Even worse is IOC member Dick Pound, who withdrew his head from his ass long enough to utter this asinine warning to the women ski jumpers:

"If in the meantime you're making all kinds of allegations about the IOC and how it's discriminating on the basis of gender," he warned, "the IOC may say, 'Oh yeah, I remember them. They're the ones that embarrassed us and caused us a lot of trouble of trouble in Vancouver, maybe they should wait another four years or eight years.'"
Oh, man. Is that a threat? Are you fucking serious?

You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see all female athletes stick together on this one--and I mean all of them. Skaters, skiers, gymnasts, track stars, tennis players, golfers, you name it. Because if bogus “medical reasons” and lies about “competitiveness” are still being used to bar women athletes from the Olympic games, then they will be used to bar women from every avenue of achievement. The Olympic Games are not just about medals; for the athletes involved, it’s about sponsorships, it’s about access to gear and training facilities. It’s about validating your sport.

In the meantime, to learn more about the isssue or help the cause, go to Women’s Ski Jumping USA.