Thursday, September 24, 2009

Silly Inventions

In the news this week is the newest invention from Honda:

Basically its a new version of the Segway, only instead of two wheels it has one.

I'm not entirely certain why companies like Honda and Segway have invested what must be massive amounts of money in developing these devices that - so far as I can tell - serve absolutely no purpose that is not already served by current technology.

The Segway was supposed to have revolutionized personal transport by now. Writing this 8 years after its release I have to admit I have never even seen a Segway, which perhaps indicates how much inroads it has made towards supplanting the car as a mode of transport.

There are a lot of reasons put forward for why the Segway was a failure but the most obvious one is that somebody invented the bicycle in the 19th century so we already had an alternative to the car.

To explain the role the bike played in the downfall of the Segway its a bit useful to compare the benefits of car ownership vs. bike ownership.

As a cyclist there are three major areas where I can say that the bicycle is clearly inferior to the car. The first is that the bicycle offers no protection from the elements, making cycling very unpleasant on a cold rainy day. The happy drivers zipping past me on their way to work in their climate-controlled cars listening to soothing music on their sound systems don't have this problem.

The second is carrying capacity. I've basically just got a little basket to put stuff I buy in, so if I want to buy something big I'm pretty much out of luck unless I pay to have it delivered - a problem that car drivers don't have to deal with as much.

The third problem is travelling distance. Unless I plan to pedal all day I'm pretty much restricted to travelling within about a 15 km radius of my home on my bike. Car drivers can obviously go much further than this and steep hills aren't a problem for them either.

Now the thing with the Segway is that it doesn't solve any of these problems. The Segway is just as useless as the bicycle at protecting its rider from the elements, carrying large loads and travelling over long distances.

In fact, the Segway is actually less functional than the bicycle in many ways. It is much wider than a bicycle at ground level, which limits its ability to pass through certain areas that bikes can easily traverse. And of course you have to charge the Segway's batteries after each use whereas a bicycle is pretty much always in a ready-to-use state without any sort of preparation. Perhaps most importantly is the fact that Segways cost thousands of dollars whereas bicycles cost hundreds.

Like the Segway, Honda's new invention seems to be in direct competition with an old piece of technology that performs basically the same function at a fraction of the cost: human feet. It seems like the only purpose of this thing is the allow people to move around without actually having to stand up. I have no idea why we need this. People in office cubicles who might benefit from being able to move around without having to stand up already have a cheap solution to that problem - chairs with little rolly wheels on the bottom. Who on earth would be willing to spend thousands of dollars on a rolling chair that you have to charge every night?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Last Party

After graduation we had a farewell party for everyone. Having moved around a lot in my life I've gotten used to saying goodbyes, but this time was the hardest as I've never felt this close to a group of people before. We lived together, studied together and socialized together everyday for a whole year. The closest parallel I can think of in my life were the friends I made during army basic training, the big difference being that this was actually a FUN experience :)

These are some of the people who made this such a great year for me. I will miss them all (well, the ones who are leaving of course).

Graduation Day

We had our graduation ceremony yesterday. There isn't much else to say except that we all graduated!

Unfortunately the people who made the day possible - Ena, mom and dad - could only be there in spirit rather than person but you were all in my thoughts!

This is some of us outside before the ceremony:

The ceremony was held in the same room that our welcoming ceremony was held in just after we arrived a year ago, which was fitting. These are a few photos from the ceremony itself:

These are some pictures taken outside after the ceremony with friends:

And this is what my degree looks like:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

News Flash for Canadians: We are now mature because we don't hate America as much as we used to

During my web surfing today I came across an article entitled "Canada Grows Up: Canada's Anti-American Hatefest in Ottawa is Finally Over" by Jonathan Kay ( Its one of the more obnoxious pieces I've read in a while and I've got a few minutes so I decided to include it in my blog.

The basic idea of the article I don't have a problem with. Clearly Canadians (and pretty much everyone else in the world) like America more now than they did a couple years ago. Equally clearly this is mostly tied to the change in government in the United States (which the author attempts to downplay), though as the author correctly notes there are also other factors at work.

Equally clearly though is the fact that this article was written with a rather smug American reading audience in mind. The underlying assumption the author brings to this change in Canadian attitudes is that "not liking America" equals "immature" and "liking America" equals "mature".

The author begins in the first paragraph by noting that "[i]n 2003, Canada rejected American entreaties to join in the invasion of Iraq, and the Canadian press bristled with shrill attacks on the neocon agenda" as a sort of "exhibit A" of Canada's previous immaturity.

Subsequent events we are to assume have shown how immature Canada's attitudes on the resoundingly successful Iraq war and "neocon agenda" really were. Thank god we are beyond that infantile stage now and will be better prepared to participate in such lucrative opportunities the US offers as they present themselves in the future.

The author tells us that Canada's anti-Americanism is fundamentally based on "envy and fear". No doubt there are elements of both of these in Canadian attitudes towards the US, but but this characterization conveniently allows him to overlook the fact that Canadian policies which ran counter to US wishes were often based on rational choices that benefited Canada. The decision not to participate in the Iraq war is perhaps the best example of this. Whatever emotions Canadians were feeling at the time, the decision was a rational one that allowed the country to avoid participating in one of the biggest policy failures in recent world history. To imply that this decision was driven by Canadian immaturity is simply ludicrous.

My point isn't that Canada has been "mature" all along. Like any country, sometimes we act rationally and sometimes we don't. Rather my point is that classifying a country as "mature" or "immature" based solely on how hostile or friendly its public and government are to the United States is absolutely idiotic.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to move a 27 inch TV on a bike

This is a step-by-step guide to moving a heavy 27 inch TV from your friend's place to your place which is about 1.5 kms away and on top of a hill using nothing but a little old granny bike.

Step 1: Get a friend to give you a TV and lend you her bike. Remove bike seat. Tie TV to rear rack with string.

Step 2: Push bike up hill with on person pushing handlebars and another person pushing the back and making sure the TV doesn't fall off.

Step 3: Switch positions so you don't get too tired doing the same thing.

Step 4: Re-adjust the position of the TV when it almost falls off.

Step 5: Voila! You now have a 27 inch TV in your living room!

The Last Bike Trip

In addition to seeing the destruction of Sasaguri, we also had a really great day yesterday with everyone. The weather was perfect and we had a lot of fun. These are some pics of our little adventure: