Sunday, 27 March 2011

On what Gander needs

I wrote earlier about a lack of a proper center to Gander. Since then I have been reflecting on the matter and have come to an interesting conclusion based on past experience. In short, it needs local LeBarons.

For the benefit of those readers who don't know me, I grew up in North Hatley, where the LeBaron family has had a very important influence on the town since before its incorporation. The town grocery store has been in the family for over a hundred years and three generations. Joey, the current owner and her sister Naisi are who particularly interest me in the context of Gander.

As I mentioned, the LeBarons are local family who have been in the community for a long time and who have contributed much to it. Generally, they have been business people running various enterprises. I find it significant that the largest brick house in town was built by a LeBaron. However, prominence doesn't necessarily equate to the type of innovation I see Gander needing: I am reliably told that Joey LeBaron's father ran the grocery store with little imagination.

On the other hand, his daughter took the hard nosed business wisdom he gave her and combined it with an inquisitive and curious spirit she seems to have acquired during her adventurous youth. When she took over the store after his death, she brought in numerous exotic products and made the simple grocery store into what is probably one of the world's best. Admittedly, she had the benefit of the markets created by both a university/yuppie population as well as a wealth summer population. But the fact remains that she was able to foster and cater to a more culinarirly adventurous population. In fact, I think she has single handily raised the culinary horizons of the town, including that of the yuppie population.

As for her sister, well, Naisi has an artistic sensibility and talent that impresses me every time I see either of the two of her creations that hang in my flat. She combines her artistic side with a business acumen that while not quite as sharp as her sister's is there nonetheless.

What these sisters have brought to North Hatley is a wider, more diverse outlook on the world while at the same time, being local and business oriented. They were not outsiders to the community. As such, they could elevate the culture of the community without having to deal with complications of being some high-faluting city slicker.

This is what Gander needs. A few local people who can combine experience (culinary, artistic, or other) from elsewhere with a serious business sense and a willingness to take a few cultural risks to elevate the ton of Gander.

Don't get me wrong. Gander is a nice town. It is just that it could do with a few LeBaron types!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

On pedals, shoes, Spain, Australia and more

This entry is going to be a bit of a grab-bag of smallish items. At least, I intend them to be smallish items. Knowing me, they will probably end up larger.

On pedals, shoes and the first ride of the year

When I bought Leonardo, I opted not to go for clipless pedals for a number of reasons. Partly it was financial as getting the relevant shoes would have been yet another expensive decision to make and I was getting tired of making them. In addition, I didn't feel up to learning how to use brake-shifters and clipless pedals at the same time. However, as Leonardo came with a set of clipless pedals, I kept them against the day I would be up to the challenge.

Late last fall, I bought a pair of Pearl Izimi X-Alp Seek biking shoes that were on sale at MEC as well as a pair of the relevant cleats. Anyway, today I took Leonardo out and rode him with my assorted bits and pieces to the Cycle Technique bike shop to learn how to put the various bits (bike, pedals, shoes and cleats) together properly, with the emphasis on properly. Most of my readers will know that I am reasonably clever mechanically. All that had to happen, installation-wise was few bolts had to be unscrewed and then others screwed in. The only thing that I wouldn't have known was which set of bolt holes in the shoes the cleats went into. However, it was very comforting to get an expert to tell me these things. It was also very comforting that both the expert and another customer were envious of both my clipless pedals and my shoes. They were both aficionados of clipless pedals and seemed to know what they were talking about which made their praise more reassuring.

The mechanic put Leonardo on a stand and had me try clipping in and out of the pedals. For some reason, I found it harder to get into the left pedal than the right. Luckily, I found it very easy to clip out of both. This, the mechanic said, was the important bit! Anyway, I have now joined the ranks of clipless-pedal users.

I have also taken my first bike ride of the year on Leonardo rather than on Floria which is somewhat unusual but utterly logical under the circumstances! Admittedly, it was a rather short ride! Out to the bike shop and back, the latter using clipless-pedals in the real world.

On Spain

In the process of weeding the Children's non-fiction collection at work last year, I came across a book entitled: "À la découverte de l'Espagne d'aujourd'hui" published in 1979. It consisted mostly of pictures of landmarks, and by removing a handful of pictures, you could republish it as "À la découverte de l'Espagne des anciennes époques"! The handful of pictures that would have to be removed featured Mediterranean beach resorts. While old buildings are usually the most interesting ones, and thus are most often shown in such books, it was very interesting to see the relative lack of development of Spain at the time (only just after Franco died) compared to when I was there, some thirty odd years later. Obviously, I removed it from the collection!

On Australia

I have been doing some reading on biking in Australia. My impression at this point is that the Broken Hill to Melbourne option is more interesting at this point than doing something around Perth. From my admittedly limited reading, the area around Perth, while beautiful and interesting, doesn't have the variety of landscapes and ecosystems that the Broken Hill-Melbourne run would have. At least in a loop version. Perth might be more interesting if I could figure out how to do a one way run involving Shark Bay. However, that would probably involve a very long bus ride.

On idiot cyclists

About a week ago, I was walking to my local grocery store when I noticed a doofus cyclist have a complicated and somewhat dangerous interaction with a car, pull across the intersection and get on the sidewalk and proceed along it. As I was leaving the grocery store, the same cyclist came along the sidewalk with a bag in one hand going in the opposite direction. Trying to make a point, I "accidentally on purpose" "failed" to see her in time. Consequently, she had to stop. I said that she should really be on the road, and on the right side of it. She angrily told me that "there wasn't enough space for her" which is a serious load of bull. (I have been biking on that street for years and have never had a problem.) She then proceeded down the sidewalk, before crossing the street dangerously weaving, partly on account of the fact she was steering with one hand (the other holding the bag). A woman who witnessed the incident commented to me that the cyclist was a danger to herself, especially as she wasn't wearing a helmet. It came to me later that the cyclist was wearing a parka with the hood up which limited her vision and hearing. What an idiot.

On evangelicals

Between the time change and too many late nights, I slept in this morning. Around 10:30 in the morning, my doorbell rang. Out curiosity (I wasn't expecting anyone) I answered it. A young man greeted me and said that he was doing "bénévolat" in the neighbourhood (the conversation was in French and the direct translation doesn't quite scan). Okay, whatever, thinks I. The man went on, he was doing a survey about Jesus... "No, I am not interested! Please go away!" In French says I.

I am an agnostic Catholic, borderline theist. This means that it is the Catholic God I have considerable doubts in. It also means I have considerable dislike of those who try to shove God at me.

I also have little tolerance for bullshit, especially in the form of dishonest evangelicals, especially Protestant ones. Why do I say Protestant? Well, this is Quebec where the default is that you are Catholic unless proven otherwise. Consequently, Catholics don't go door-to-door trying to make other people Catholic. (Actually, Catholics rarely do that even elsewhere.) I say "dishonest evangelical" as saying you are doing a survey about Jesus as "bénévolat" is both dishonest and evangelical. Nobody, but nobody would ask to start a real survey about "Jesus" by saying it is about "Jesus", you would describe it as "religious attitudes" or something similar. Also the fact he didn't have a clipboard at the ready was suspicious. By asking about "Jesus" he betrayed the fact he was an evangelical on the prowl or should I say the "prothel" (as in prothelytise). While they rarely pay you to prothelytise, I don't consider it "bénévolat". Thus, he was approaching me under deceptive pretenses which is something that I really dislike.

The fact that his goal was also something that I have no interest in was also a negative, but I would have respected him more if he had been more honest in his approach. What is about these bloody American influenced evangelicals that they are so f***ing dishonest about the way they go about their business. It is one thing to want to convert people, if rather annoying. It is another to go about it by deception. This whole business about intelligent design is a hugely disingenuous and enormous project by these f***ing evangelicals to counter the scientific arguments against the literal interpretation of the Bible. It is monumentally dishonest, which rather discredits the people and the movement behind it. It also runs counter to some of the ideas running through the New Testament which in my interpretation Jesus discourages blind obedience to text in favour of using your god-given intelligence. This further discredits these loons.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

On this year's biking

Biking in Australia

Well, between a municipal tax bill and delays in signing the new contract at work (and the associated retroactive increase, lump-sum payment) I don't think I will be able to afford to go to Oz in May or June which puts a damper on biking from Alice Springs to Darwin. However, as I have previously mentioned, there are other places to bike in Oz. Probably just as well as I have yet to make a start on reading up on Australia.

Biking in Newfoundland

I was reading one of the Library's copies of the Trans-Canada Trail guide to Newfoundland, mostly for background information, when I stumbled across a section about the bit between Deer Lake and Badger. It gives the scenery a definite thumb's up with the Topsails (a series of four bald mountains which it compares to Ayre's Rock). Caribou and moose sightings are described not just as "possible" but "probable". The downside is that the surface is rated "C" for most of the way and "D" for the last 20 km or so. In short, 100 kilometers of loose, rutted gravel, frequented by ATVs and pickups. If I were to attempt it, I would have to invest in wider tires. Possibly Continental Travel Contacts in 700x42! Just to give you an idea, Leonardo is currently fitted with 700x32 tires. (The second number is the width in millimeters.) Unfortunately, now is probably not the best time the bring up this possibility as Margo and Chris seem to be in the middle of a prolonged stretch of South American ripio and would probably enjoy the relatively bland Newfoundland asphalt! ;-)

Biking in Quebec

A few days ago, I signed up for the usual summer events put on by Vélo-Québec. I was embarrassed to discover that I had let my membership lapse. I also signed up another year as a card-carrying member of Vélo-Québec.

Also, there was a large snowstorm on Monday which dumped something like 30 cm of snow on Montreal (and 75 on North Hatley!). Someone at work asked me if I had biked in that morning! Evidently, my sign I hung the wall near my desk saying "No, I am not still biking to work. I am a devout, not a fanatical cyclist" isn't big enough!