Thursday, July 31, 2008

What I am doing #2 - carbon offsets

I just looked at offsetting my carbon footprint for driving, using this handy calculator at TerraPass. According to the calculator, by driving my 1994 Toyota Corolla (automatic) 6,000 miles I am pumping around 5000 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. (I would have liked a metric version.) To offset this amount will cost me $29.75 USD on one of TerraPass' projects. I found TerraPass using Google, but it is linked on the Suzuki Foundation's Go Carbon Neutral page.

One Canadian carbon offsetting company would like to charge me $75 CDN for five tonnes (11,000 lbs) of offsets, while another wanted $38 for 1,927 kg (4,239 lbs). You do the math. (It's not that hard to do, but it is indicative of the lack of clarity surrounding offsets.) Then research the offsetter, their projects, their efficacy, etc...

And then contemplate the ethics of buying your way to a cleaner conscience. (I know, that was heavy-handed.) Why not just drive less? Don't fly so often. Buy local. Don't heat your home in the winter. Don't refrigerate your food. Errr....

But I think I'm going to do it. $30-40 isn't that much to offset my yearly driving record. And by monitoring (then limiting) how much I drive, I should decrease my yearly output.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What can I do? or What I am doing #1

This is the first in an installment of posts. Each will simply state a simple thing that I am doing to reduce my carbon footprint and make Vancouver a more sustainable city/better place to live.

1. On August 1st I am going to reset my car's odometer and I will monitor how much we drive each month. This should make obvious just how much we drive and will hopefully encourage me to cycle, walk and transit more often.

Edit: I think I will update it each week, as a monthly total (and fluctuations) will be harder to decipher. 

The Geography of Hope

So I'm still reading this book, and I'm finding these amazing little tidbits of information:

"Anything that exists is possible" is the mantra of Chris Turner, the author. All the technologies required to transform our economies and consumption habits already exist. An island of several thousand has reduced its fossil fuel footprint to less than zero. And so on into the future. I'll ask again: What can Vancouver do to become a truly sustainable city?

Re: architecture and the environment: "Bring ideological or aesthetic or symbolic principles to bear on design, certainly, but figure out, first, what the weather's like in May wherever you intend to execute it." 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

John McCain doesn't get the internet?

I don't mean receive, I mean understand. Heather Mallick writes in her usual caustic tone about the presidential candidate's inability to conceive of what a website is. Seems farfetched until you read this quote (speaking of his family):
"They go on for me. They get me Drudge. Everybody watches Drudge."

And this is George Bush on his internet usage: "One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps." Never mind the poor English...

Edit: Apologies if this is just bad blog slagging. It's funny. 

Bicycle lanes

We don't have enough cycling lanes in Vancouver, and the ones we have are mostly just painted with a bicycle, as if that will deter cars from driving on them.

I just bought a new bike, and I'm excited to explore this city on bicycle. Very different than transit, driving or walking. When I went to Montreal I borrowed a friend's bike and we rode around the city, stopping at cafes, markets, bagel shops, depanneurs, etc... It was a wonderful way to get to know a city.

Sustainable cities (July 24)

I am reading The Geography of Hope by Chris Turner, and I am getting pretty excited about our chances. Of surviving, I mean. He traveled the world looking for examples of existing communities/technology that can greatly affect how much impact we have on the planet, in terms of climate change. It got me to thinking about what Vancouver can do.

How "sustainable" can cities be? What does that vague word mean as it relates to how cities function, consume and regulate?

A few quick ideas:

1) Restrict pesticide/herbicide use. Simple, effective, free.
2) Switch city fleet to bio-diesel. I'm not sure how easy this would be, nor how far along Vancouver is.
3) Introduce/enforce "green" building codes, such as LEED.
4) Restrict automobile usage, or at least charge users more and put the money into beneficial programs. Annoying to consumers but necessary in the long-term.
5) and promote public transit usage. Right now it costs twice as much for two people to take the Skytrain to a Whitecaps game than it does for parking.


6) Property tax refunds/breaks for alternative energy production (solar panels, etc...) and energy-saving measures (garden-roofs).

Can Vancouver be great? (July 11)

I just finished reading Mike Harcourt's book, "City Making In Paradise: Nine Decisions That Saved Vancouver". It's a short, simple look at city planning in the post-war years in Vancouver. I don't know much about Vancouver before 2000, so it was an informative overview. I'm sure much on the material would be contested by those that paid attention at the time.

The Tyee's review of the book.

Our departing mayor (July 6)

What was it about Sam Sullivan, in particular, that made the public dislike him? There was something almost amateur about how his staff promoted everything he did. Almost needy, like a younger brother in the backseat: "Hey guys..."

Five months? What is City Hall going to accomplish in that time? Will Sam try for some kind of legacy?
Allen Garr's column on our soon-to-be ex-mayor.

The state of football in Canada (July 4)

I think we have a real chance at qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. We have a difficult group (Mexico, Jamaica and Honduras), but we have the talent, the drive and hopefully this time a little luck. Mexico will probably top the group, but we should beat Jamaica and we can beat Honduras. Our 3-2 loss against Brazil's first team should serve as inspiration for our men.

We just dropped 17 places in the FIFA rankings, even though we had a winning record in June (2-0-1). An email exchange with my friend Lucas:

Me: US down to 30, heh, though we're down to 77. From the Canada Soccer website:
"Canada’s men’s national team posted one draw and two wins in June, including back-to-back wins over Saint Vincent & the Grenadines in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ Qualifiers. Canada lost points in the standings, however, because older matches lost their value (most notably, last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup)."

Lucas: That's the first good evidence I've seen of how stupid the ranking system is. There is no logic that a team loses 15 spots during a period in which they were 2-0-1. Even if they were a perfect 3-0, they'd still lose ground.

Me: I don't know. If the games that are falling off were wins against Colombia or Mexico, it would make sense. Our ranking (62) was dependent on those wins, and even though we had a winning record in June it was against crap teams. You could just as easily make the case that our ranking at 62 was artificially high, given that some of the points for the ranking were from four years ago.

Lucas: Sure, but a team shouldn't lose ground by doing nothing but winning. Maybe they shouldn't gain ground if their opponents are lower ranking, but to lose ground in a period where you have nothing but positive results is absurd. That way you're not ranking the team, you're ranking their schedule.

Me: But that doesn't address the issue of points falling off as they pass out of the ranking period. I don't really have a problem with judging schedules: If France is above Italy in the rankings, and France beat Malta twice in a month while Italy beats Germany twice, shouldn't Italy jump France?

Lucas: True. Let me clarify. If team A beats two lousy teams, while team B beats two good teams, team B should make the jump, but not because team A loses points, but because team B gains more points. Canada lost 83 points - not positions relative to other countries, but points - in a span where they didn't lose a single game. I maintain that that is stupid. They are being punished, not for their play, but because they didn't have difficult enough opposition.

Carbon and other taxes (July 1)

It's an interesting summer so far, with several governments pursuing various taxation schemes. Gas prices are up ($1.52/litre in Vancouver yesterday), and the BC Liberals' carbon tax is taking a beating with the public (82% against last I heard). The Public Eye Online featured an interesting column about the NDP's Axe the Tax campaign. Meanwhile in Ottawa, Stephen Harper has mocked the Liberal's (Dion's, really) carbon tax plan, the Green Shift. Are carbon tax or cap-and-trade systems going to get the public support that is needed? Can politicians sell their plans to a skeptical public?

Here is another interesting column on the NDP's strategy, which is a little too populist for my liking.
And another blog discussing the BC Liberal's carbon tax. And yet another.

Community Coach Senior (June 30)

This weekend I became a certified soccer coach. (Senior is for 14+, not 65+.) It was a fairly simple course over two days, involving some team management skills, skills progression and game management. Nothing too revelatory, though I am a little excited about putting together some skills progression drills for my team. Super-dorky, I know.

Coaching is an interesting aspect of football, one that I think I will seriously pursue. I enjoy thinking about the game almost as much as I enjoy playing it, and with my knees and ankle the way they are, playing it is becoming increasingly difficult. Boo.

Edit: This was the best thing I've read about the Euro Cup so far: "Spain's win has been about good technique and imagination - something that the English, for all their boasting about their over-hyped and inflated Premier League, would do well to note. You never know, this tournament might just influence people to play football again. Stranger things have happened."

Team of the Tournament (June 28)

Just read this: Team of the Tournament

Aniukov---Carvalho------R. Kovac---Zhirkov

Subs: Senturk, van Persie and Fabregas.

Not sure my diagram fits it, but it's about a

Tough choice between Casillas and Buffon. Buffon has probably made a few better and bigger saves than Casillas.

Aniukov? Seeing as his name is barely familiar (and I watched all but one of Russia's matches), surely someone else could take that spot. Ramos had an amazing match against Russia but a crap group stage and only a decent outing against Italy. I thought Bosingwa was really good, but he didn't do that well against the Germans (and didn't make any of the other TOFTs in the article). Lahm out of his preferred left back position?

Puyol has done well in the centre but hasn't been spectacular, as has Marchena. Pepe also played well.

Zhirkov should be the automatic choice at left back, though Lahm was outstanding against Turkey (a depleted Turkey, it must be said).

Senna is the easy pick in midfield; best player in the tournament so far for my money. Ballack will be on most lists, but Fabregas deserves a shout. Schweinsteiger had one great game and one good game. Sneijder gets the nod ahead of Modric, but only slightly for me. Arshavin is automatic.

Torres? He has played well and set up a few goals, but in the semi he was noteworthy for his misses. Villa was pretty great, Guiza was good off the bench, and Pavliuchenko would get the start if he had put away a few more of his many chances. Podolski, maybe? A couple good goals but didn't do much against Turkey.

My TofT, then:

Subs: Torres, Ballack, Pepe.

Cheers, everyone. Enjoy the final. I'm hoping to convince the rest of the coaching clinic (who schedules a soccer coaching clinic on the weekend of the Euro Final?) to take the time off and put in an extra hour at the end of each day.

Edit: Torres deserves the nod, then. Great goal, great effort the whole time he was on the field. After his header against the post I thought that it just wasn't going to be his tournament, and then he pushes past Lahm and beautifully chips Lehmann. Brilliant, and deserved.

BC politics v. 2.0 (June 27)

Here are links to the various news sources I check when reading news on BC politics. It's a little Vancouver-centric, but that's because I am.

Globe BC
Vancouver Sun
The Tyee
24 Hours

I also should mention Frances Bula's blog at the Sun, a must-read for those interested in Vancouver politics. Her entries about the Vision Vancouver mayoral nomination process were brilliant. Edit: She quit shortly after this, and has not started a new blog yet. Apparently she has taken a job with Vancouver magazine.

Rather than a website, I think it would be easy to start a daily blog with links to the stories I find interesting.

BC politics (June 26)

There are more than a few good blogs on politics in BC, but I would like to have a BC political news aggregator. (This is in keeping with my general desire to create various websites that I would like to use.) Is it that bothersome to have to search through the Globe, the Sun, the Tyee and other sites that feature news about BC politics? Not really, but it would probably be simple and not too time-consuming to put something together.


Bill Tieleman
Vancouver Kid
Paul Willcocks

(How do I make these links?) (Just figured it out.)

Euro 2008 (June 12)

I watch a lot of football. A lot. I'm pretty excited about the Euro Cup that's going on right now, and for good reason. Other than the French and the Italians (both usually take time to get going), the big guns in Europe are firing, and the quarters and semis are shaping up to be quite interesting.

Spain: 4-1 against Russia was a flattering score-line, but they deserved the win. Their counter-attacking was brilliant, but they didn't break down the Russian defence in normal open play. Sweden should prove to be a tougher opponent, capable of scoring and much better defensively than Russia.

Germany: Improved their standing with an easy win against Poland. Croatia should put up a good fight, especially in midfield. Germany's defence looked solid, particularly Metzelder.

Holland: Was their win against the Italians that easy? The first goal was clearly offside; I haven't seen anything official that would explain the ref's decision. The second goal was great, if a little lucky, and the third was just unfortunate for Italy. Without Totti, Italy lack some attacking sense in midfield, and their strikers are having trouble.

Portugal: Perfect so far, and the first team through to the quarters. Is this the second Golden generation? Ronaldo is brilliant if whiny, their back-line is solid and brilliant (excepting the merely good Ferreira), and Deco has decided to play (looking for possible suitors?). The Czechs were a little unfortunate, but their D were outplayed.

Middle of the pack teams:

The Czechs and Turkey haven't been too impressive. Sweden should progress and provide some good football in the quarters, though Russia might have something to say about that. Russia were called this year's Greece by Globe and Mail columnist Stephen Brunt in what is easily the worst oversimplification I've read yet. Croatia and Poland should be an interesting match, though neither look strong enough to challenge their opponents in the quarters. Romania as the dark horse? Neither France nor Italy have impressed yet, and who progresses from the group is still totally up in the air.

My urban garden (May 23, 2008)

By urban I mean tiny, and on my balcony. I have planted herbs, two tomato plants (thanks, Lynn) and a strawberry this year. I have also saved two herb plants that barely held on this winter.

Herbs: Three thyme plants, flat parsley, celery leaf (not sure if this is a real plant), garlic chives (seem flavourless so far), oregano and two basil groupings. I can buy huge bunches of basil in my neighbourhood for $1, so the basil groupings are as much for fun as anything else.

I realized last year that growing food plants was neither economical (see basil comment above) nor particularly productive. I think I got 5 tomatoes last year. For me the reward is in seeing the plants grow, handling them when I re-pot, and having green things gently blowing in the breeze while I sit on my miniscule balcony and read in the sun.

My first post (From April 8, 2008)

Hi everyone,

This is just a test. I am trying to decide whether having a blog is worth my time, and trying to figure out what the point is. I would like to practice writing and honing my analytical skills.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.