Winnipeg Transportation

First and foremost I have to start with a confession: I’m one of those crazy cyclists. I use my bike as much as possible as my primary mode of transportation in the summer and I even use it for a fair amount of workday commuting in the winter. In nearly two years of using my bike first for going to work, then going to friends’ places, then for errands and most anything else I’ve logged over 3000km and hope that increases every year.

I have another confession: I also drive. I have since I was 16 and have consistently been a car owner for a decade. I drive when I’m going places with other people, have too much stuff to carry on a bike, am going somewhere that I can’t show up to sweaty in shorts and when I’m too much of a wuss to brave the weather. I’ve driven too many miles to count and a car was my primary mode of transportation for years before I took up cycling.

Last confession: When I drive I hate cyclists. When I bike I hate drivers.

At least that’s the way I used to be.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that, perhaps, I was being a tad hypocritical. Did I say perhaps? I mean I was absolutely being a giant hypocrite.

What I noticed is that it was very easy to get annoyed at the group of people that weren’t participating in the activity that I currently was and while I’m not a psychologist, I think it’s safe to say that it has something to do with evolution and our tribal past. Seems like that’s an excuse for a lot of things these days. Anyway, moving on.

In all seriousness, for the next little while I tried to take note of the behaviours of both cyclists and drivers that annoyed me. From there I then did as much as I can in order to correct my own behaviour while participating in both activities and have some suggestions as to how to take a step back and maybe share the roads in a more equitable way.

Cyclists

Drop the holier than thou attitude in public discussions. We get it, you’re saving the world and reducing wear and tear on the road, but that doesn’t mean you should throw it in our faces. Advocating for better cycling infrastructure is fine, but it’s going to take time and public money, so respect that. The only way to suddenly wake up and be living somewhere as cycle friendly as the Netherlands is to move to the Netherlands.

Drivers

Give us space when passing. Please. I understand it can be frustrating to have to slow down and pass someone on a bike, but next time you do count out how long it takes. My unscientific data says 5 to 10 seconds, which is nothing. Not only that, but you’ll probably end up catching up to traffic pretty instantly after you pass the person.

The rare time you’ll end up hitting a light, that sucks, but really an occasional 30 seconds tacked onto your drive is probably worth the human life that is put in danger by passing too close. I know as the driver it seems like you’re a safe distance, but remember you’re coming up from behind someone and we all use the same streets, so having to avoid potholes is part of our life too. To be quite honest, when a car passes right beside you, it’s terrifying.

Cyclists

Stop, stop, STOP weaving in and out of traffic. Also, no more on and off sidewalks. If you want the rights as cars, you need to obey the same rules. Here is a list of things that all cyclists have to stop (and start) doing immediately:

  • STOP passing cars at the red light so you can be at the front of the line.
  • STOP using roads and sidewalks interchangeably. Pick one based on your speed and comfort level, and stick with it.
  • STOP merging or changing lanes to go around things without checking. It’s not every other driver’s responsibility to slam on their breaks for you.
  • STOP going the wrong way down one way streets.
  • STOP drifting (or full on blowing) through red lights and stop signs.
  • START signalling. Drivers will be less erratic around you if you notify them on your intentions.

You are the one choosing to ride a bike, so the rest of the world doesn’t have to accommodate whatever ill-conceived shortcut you think you’re entitled to. Act like a car.

Drivers

Take some responsibility for the 2000lbs+ machine that you’re piloting and look for us. We know that we’re easy to miss and I also forget to should check (or do the Dutch Reach) when opening my car door, but do your best. Really, the fact that people have to be reminded to pay attention while driving is sort of troublesome in and of itself, but looking at how some people act on the road I think it’s warranted.

Cyclists

Cut drivers a break. Even if there are a few jerks on the road during your ride, odds are the large majority of people gave you space, didn’t honk and generally forgot about you as soon as they passed you. They’re doing it right.

Drivers

Cut cyclists a break. We know we’re not as fast as you, but we’re doing our best. Also remember that one more bike on the road means one less car, which I’m sure we can all be happy about! At the end of the day, all that matters is that everyone gets to where they’re going safely.

Political Perfection

I’ve said it before that for some reason I love following politics. True, it usually ends up being an exercise in anger management by the time I get to the end of the comments section of any article, but still, I enjoy being able to consider myself a somewhat-informed citizen.

The one thing that i have never understood about politics is the amount of contempt that is reserved for “flip-floppers”.

I don’t know what other people are like, but I’m incorrect often. Even when I’m right, circumstances can change and based on the new information opinions and plans can change accordingly.

Personally, I would rather know a politician is flexible and has the ability to adapt upon learning new information. If we’re honest withour

 

I’m Losing My Spelling

Yesterday I participated in an event in which I had to take notes the old-fashioned pen and paper style and it made me feel worse about myself than I have for a while. Not only has the quality of my penmanship deteriorated (and it didn’t have too far to fall), but I found myself thinking far too long about the spelling of far too many words. What’s worse is that I wasn’t even getting them correct after all of that thought.

It got me thinking about the debate you sometimes hear about technology in the classroom, whether it is beneficial for students or detrimental. Although it’s not a huge concern for me, as I don’t anticipate repeating elementary school any time soon, it still was interesting to think about how I’ve noticed changes in my own life.

The funniest thing is that I haven’t had any issues spelling while typing this. Now that I’m consciously thinking about it, I think that the biggest difference for me between typing vs writing is the rhythm and use of the delete key.

When I’m writing on the computer I seem to often stop typing half way through words to finish thoughts, which isn’t natural when writing on paper. Also, the deletion and retyping of phrasings is something that is near constant. I’ll write a few words, think of a better way of phrasing something and go back. Not something that is to easy with a pen and paper.

Going through all of this in my mind, what I kept coming back to is, “Who really cares?” I mean, if the vast majority of any important writing that I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life is going to be on a computer, then who really cares if my spelling isn’t up to where it used to be? I guess it really comes down to the pride of once being better at something that I’m now not as good at.

I guess part of my decision that it isn’t that big of a deal is the only logical remedy to this situation is to start writing more long hand, which I honestly don’t see myself doing. I’d usually just have to transcribe it onto the computer, anyway, which seems like a waste of time. Oh well, out with the old, in with the new.

Balancing Boredom

A few months back I had an interesting conversation with a friend that has been weighing on my mind. It was about how we are constantly surrounded by stimuli like no other time in history. While this can definitely be a good thing, there are also likely some repercussions.

Thinking about it from my own perspective, there is virtually no time where I am not consuming content, creating my own (writing or having a conversation), and am often times doing both at the same time. A typical day I start listening to a podcast on the way into work, work throughout the day, often listening to music or podcasts depending on the task, head home to work, watch tv, read or visit with friends. There are other activities like sports or running errands that I guess are a little bit different, but the brain is occupied regardless. Especially when I’m ‘that guy’ in the grocery store with headphones in.

All of this to say that I don’t live a life where I often experience true boredom and I don’t think that I’m alone. The modern-day equivalent to being bored is hitting up Netflix or scrolling aimlessly through Instagram on your phone, which isn’t the same as it’s been throughout history and I think there are some things we may want to consider.

Consider being bored in the year 1900. If you got home and no one was there to talk to, the neighbours weren’t around and you didn’t have a book or newspaper to read, you basically were out of options. Note: According to my quick Google search radio wasn’t invented until 1895, so I’m assuming 5 years later not too many people owned on in their homes. Even if they did, if you didn’t like what was being played on the one available channel you were SOL.

What is a person to do? I’m sure some just kept working, increasing productivity. Some went for a walk, perhaps meeting new people or seeing new things. Some went to bed and got full night of sleep. Some had their minds wander and thought up great ideas, then filled their ‘bored time’ with making those ideas a reality.

Fast-forward to today and if there is ever a moment where you feel less than 100% entertained and engaged, all of the information available in the world can be accessed by the machine in your pocket. We have defeated boredom!

What if defeating boredom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, though? What if by not giving our brains a rest from the constant consumption / creation demands we put on it, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice.

This is interesting to me because one of the reasons that I stopped blogging a while back is that I found it hard to come up with topics. I thought that maybe there was nothing that interested me that I hadn’t already written about and quickly filled up my time with other things. After speaking to this friend, however, I realized that quiet time to myself was vital to formulating thoughts.

My typical process is hearing about a topic that seems interesting and reading more about it. Then I talk to some friends about it. Then I forget about it for a while. Then it pops back into my head and I write it down. Without the quiet that comes from being unplugged, that last ‘pop’ back into my head doesn’t happen, therefore my productivity grinds to a halt.

I’m sure that this applies to many more aspects in life and I’m going to make an effort to enjoy the silence a bit more. At the very least I’ll stop wearing earbuds at Safeway.

UBER where art thou?

As the UBER debate rages across our country and others, I have a few holiday-time stories that make my opinion clear.

The first was early in the month. I was attending an event that gave out taxi chits at the end of the evening, very responsible, very classy. No fewer than three times on the ride home (it was a 10 minute drive) the driver said that I should just give the chit to him and he’ll take care of filling it out. I never said anything, but intending on filling the thing out myself, thinking it only fair considering it wasn’t my money that was footing the bill.

Once we arrived at my house I started filling out the information with every intention of giving a generous by fair tip. However, as soon as the driver noticed this he started yelling and berating me that I should of given it to him to fill out and that I would never get a cab again in my life if I didn’t. I handed him the chit and walked into my house, but the whole situation was fairly unnecessary and unsettling.

Number two was post-Christmas leaving a Jets game. A friend and I were both going to the St. Boniface-ish area and flagged down the closest taxi. When the driver pulled over he wouldn’t unlock the doors, but rolled down the window. When he asked where we were going and was told “St. Boniface” he responded, “Not far enough,” and drove away. We were able to find another cab, but still that is a pretty terrible way to treat potential customers.

The third incident was later that same night. Leaving a different friend’s place I called another taxi, which arrived on time. The driver than proceeded to drive like a maniac to my place, and when I paid I was told that I couldn’t use credit card and he didn’t have any change. He cemented himself a very nice tip.

There are so many similar stories to these and many far worse, which serve as the reason that so many consumers are hoping and praying for the government to get out of the way of UBER. To be fair I understand that the regulations put on taxis are unfair, but by artificially creating a duopoly in the market, customer service and innovation are dead. Having a system like UBER’s could easily have solved all the above issues:

  1. After the holiday party the UBER rides could be automatically charged to the company’s account, eliminating the need for any paperwork to be filled out.
  2. We would have been assigned an UBER car and left them a lousy review if they refused to pick us up.
  3. The payment being done electronically gets rid of the awkward “My card machine is broken” conversation that is part of so many cab rides. Also, I could leave a bad review for the poor driving.

Who knows if and when ride services will be allowed into Manitoba, but I hope they are by the time any kids of mine can drive (probably still a tall order, if past ‘progress’ in this province has been any indication). On top of everything else, it seems like a great way to earn some money for someone with a car.

My Birthday

I was born on Christmas Eve. December 24. A week before New Years.

This isn’t based on any sort of study, but I’m going to venture a guess that being born in the immediate vicinity of Christmas Day (December 24 to 26 for sure, but probably the week preceding and following to a lesser extent) has a greater impact on your life than any other time of year. This isn’t a sob story, but rather me reflecting on a life of essentially everyone to learns my birthday making some sort of comment.

For the majority of you who are born during another time of year, think of the reactions that you’ve received upon telling someone your birthday. I have to assume there isn’t much of a dialogue other than the occasional, “Oh, you’re born August 23? My Grandma was born August 26. Crazy.” Quite often you probably are met with 5 seconds of interest followed by indifference.

Now imagine that a good 50% of the time (number completely made up, but that’s how it seems) someone finds out about your birthday be it through conversation, an invitation or renewing a drivers license, it’s the starting off point of a conversation. Not just any conversation, but inevitably one of two conversations:

  1. Is it weird being born the day before Christmas?
  2. Do you get ripped off with presents?

For years my standard response has been, “I’ve never had another birthday, so I can’t really compare it to anything.” I think it’s fairly polite, but still points out that it’s a fairly awkward question to answer. What do I say? “Yeah, I never get enough stuff!” or “It’s so weird and I regret being born every day.”? Seems a little extreme and both are likely inaccurate.

I’m sure as a kid I pouted, but truth be told all evidence shows my parents are painfully fair with their kids. Not to mention that I have a brother born December 13 and my mom’s birthday is December 28, we’re well versed with having birthdays being side attractions.

The other thing that throws a wrinkle into the mix is that my parents had the choice to either put me in kindergarten when I was 4-turning-5, but chose to delay me starting school a year. So I went to school with people born in 1987, but was born at the end of 1986. They’re teachers and that year of development can mean a lot in terms of academic success. There was some teasing that I was too stupid for kindergarten the first time around, but luckily I was usually a pretty smart kid so it usually fell flat. I also hold onto the fact that my parents bought me a Mensa puzzle book as a kid to show I wasn’t a complete dunce. The whole genius thing definitely didn’t pan out, though.

So other than having that same conversations hundreds of time over my lifetime about a couple of situations that weren’t in my control and some businesses not being open on my birthday (there’s been some good attempts at having lunch at favourite restaurants that didn’t work out), it’s nice that family and friends are already making an attempt to see one another during this time of year. That is until Malcolm Gladwell wrote Outliers.

For those of you who haven’t read it, the first part of the book is about how birthdays can be broad indicators of academic and athletic success. That is to say, kids born in the first quarter of the year, on average, are better at both than kids born the second quarter, who are better than the third quarter. Those of us unfortunate souls relegated to the last quarter of the year are, on average, the worst.

Ever since this book was released there seems to be very open conversation about how people really don’t want their kids born in the later part of the year. I know their opinions really don’t have any baring on my life, but it’s a slight jab every time some says something like, “I’m due mid-December, but really hope the baby waits until January.”

While I love books like Outliers, statistics are used to generalize large groups and they don’t really apply to the individual. Just like if you were to poll five dentists it’s not very likely that exactly four of them would recommend Colgate, just because you have a kid born from October to December, doesn’t mean you should start teaching them how to bag groceries early on.

So don’t sell yourselves short, parents, you probably have way more of an impact on your child than the date they were born. I’m sure if you provide a safe, nurturing environment they’ll reach their full potential.

Oh, and next time you meet someone with a birthday on or around Christmas, treat it like any other day and just let it pass. We appreciate it.

The Blogger’s Back In Town

Why hello there, it’s been a while. Months, but really over half a year since I’ve been writing at the pace that I once held myself to. Or at all.

I honestly didn’t know if I would ever start blogging again, but it was the automated renewal of the hosting of this website showing up on my credit card that jolted me into action. I’m cheap and if I’m going to be paying for something, I better be using it. Thus I started thinking about writing again.

So I started reading some old posts, trying to determine what made me stop posting in the first place. Was it laziness? Run out of ideas? Sick and tired of no readers? No, I determined, not any of those things.

Rather, it was that I had grown tired of being a critical bastard know-it-all. Most of what I wrote was based on something I didn’t like and what I would do to change it. Sometimes I didn’t even get to the second part of that equation and just complained.

Without realizing it that took a toll on me. I’ve always been on the critical thinking (with special emphasis on critical), but this was on another level. And I knew I had to stop.

So I reached a point where I challenged myself only to write positive things. Then I quit. It was a simple as that.

However, I’m now back and am going to be giving it another try, but with more of a neutral / positive spin. I can’t promise that I won’t regress, but I’m going to do my best! So welcome to the first post of Kevin’s 2015 Positivity Blog, name subject to change.

Hope you read soon!

I Love Municipal Politics

There’s an election around the corner, which is always exciting to me. What’s even more exciting this time around is that the incumbent isn’t running again, meaning that people don’t have the option to default to what they know and there is 100% chance there is someone new in the big chair!

While I like following politics at all levels, municipal has always been my favourite by far, thanks to the absence of a party system. You know that what you’re hearing isn’t some party line that has to be toed, but in fact straight from the candidate. So with the individual structure comes the opportunity for accountability.

Not only that, but especially in a city like Winnipeg, it isn’t overly possible to meet the candidates. Either by going to an event or reaching out to them personally (let’s be honest, we’re all 2nd connections with them one way or another), the person who will be our next mayor transcends the talking head persona of so many other politicians and (s)he becomes a real person!

What’s more, the decisions of the mayor and city council are most likely to affect our day-to-day lives. So I encourage you to vote tomorrow and have your say! If you’re feeling uninformed, http://winnipegelection.ca/ is a great resource.

Remember, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

Crazy Commuters

I will never understand people who seem to drive into work with the plan to be in the incorrect lane for as long as possible and then cut everyone who was waiting off. Seems very selfish.

What’s more, they wait for their opportunity to change lanes, slowing down everyone behind them. If you can’t plan on leaving on time, why is it the responsibility of everyone else on the road to cater to your schedule?

Just to clarify, I’m not talking about construction, where I know the “zipper” is the correct protocol (though the rest of Winnipeg doesn’t seem to get it). I mean when I’ve waited in a line of cars down Main Street, only to have 5+ people cut in front of me between the crosswalk before Broadway and the turn onto St. Mary. Just waiting for the accident to happen…

Who Expects McDonalds to be Healthy?

There’s virtually no dispute that on average Westerners weigh more today than 10, 20, or 50+ years ago. The numbers speak for themselves.

While the concept of “health” is over-simplified, and how our weight factors into that is over-emphasized, there seems to be more risk of something bad happening the heavier we get. I don’t know if it’s years of brainwashing saying this, but that all seems to make sense to me. Being overweight is harder on your body.

All of this said, I can’t really (for obvious reasons) get all preachy about health. I’m more of an “As long as you’re happy,” type of person.

That being said I’m obviously writing a post about this, but it’s in more broad of terms. What I want to know is what is in the title: Why is fast food under fire all the time about people gaining weight?

I mean come on, obviously when you get a Big Mac meal it isn’t the best decision you made that day. It’s meat on bread, accompanied by deep-fried carbs, with sugar water to wash it all down. Not a fruit or vegetable in sight. We all know this, though.

If there are people out there who think that’s a well-balanced meal, I would argue that it’s the education system that has failed. And failed hard.

There’s some talk about how everything at these places are refined, have added preservatives and sugar. Guess what, SO DOES NEARLY EVERYTHING ELSE. Have you ever read the labels of what you buy in the store? If it isn’t free range and organic, you’re basically eating flavoured salt and sugar.

Fast food doesn’t even resemble a healthy meal. Do you think that on the day of a big competition serious athletes opt to have a burger, fries and a shake for their pre-race meal? Pounding red meat, refined starch and oils shouldn’t be an every day thing, regardless of where you get it from.

So let’s start taking some responsibility and realizing that our demands for fast food to be more healthy is ludicrous. Start making sure that everyone understands burgers and fries need to be balanced out, and maybe one day we won’t have this insane notion it’s the fast food joint’s responsibility to help us lose weight.