Beer. Funny outfits. Conquering Cancer.

My good friend and Daily Gumboot collaborator, Natasha Moore, is doing a very good thing. She’s participating in the Enbridge* Ride to Conquer Cancer, which goes from June 18-19 and involves a fairly epic route from Vancouver to Seattle. All proceeds go to the BC Cancer Foundation

Here’s what the organizers of the event have to say about it:

It is a unique fundraising event benefiting the BC Cancer Foundation, a B.C.-based charity that raises funds for the BC Cancer Agency – a province-wide, population-based cancer control organization. The funds you raise stay in B.C. and benefit cancer patients across all of British Columbia.

Funds from The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer support groundbreaking cancer research at the BC Cancer Agency, focused on advancing new understanding of cancer with the goal of developing new therapies to extend and save more lives.

And here’s what Natasha has to say about it:

I’m riding for our lovely Book Club-ett, Michelle in memory of her Mum and for my friend and tri pal Sarah who also lost her Mum to cancer last year.
My team, Powered By Noie is geared up to raise $25,000 and it would be just awesome if you could help me reach my fundraising goal by sharing the link to my personal page on Facebook, Twitter and any other social media you happen to be on.

Michelle and I are grateful and appreciative of Natasha’s efforts, particularly because her recent fundraising event on Saturday night at the Greedy Pig involved a seven-hour pedal, funny outfits and delicious beer. The pictures in this post do much to tell the story.

Thanks, Natasha, for taking on this cause in honour of Michelle’s mom. If you’d like to donate to Natasha’s ride, just follow this link: Natasha’s Pledge Page.

Theo Lamb shows some support of Natasha and her funny outfits!

*Enbridge sponsoring the event makes things a bit awkward, which was recently best emphasized by a good friend of mine who grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, a town with way, way, way above-average cancer rates that are linked directly to the oil and petro-chemical refineries that make up the bulk of the city’s economy; so, I guess you need to ask yourself, first, how you feel about irony and, second, if you believe that good things can come the world of big oil before donating like I did.

CLJ Reviews The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

What We Read

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton examines the nature of and our relationship with work – something that most of us will spend a good portion of life doing. De Botton takes a long walk with a man who loves powerlines, he sits with a career counselor through interviews and workshops and follows the death and consumption of a tuna steak. His examination of work challenges us to reflect on why we do what we do – that for many of us we are engaged in something that our sixteen year old selves decided for us – for better or worse!

What we did and how we did it

I was quite unsure of what to do for this book club but one idea came clearly from reading the book. In the chapter on biscuit manufacture, de Botton talks about the way in which meaning is placed in the intangible. That a circular biscuit conveys a particular message to us. I wondered what my work would look like as a biscuit … how would I convey what I did and what it meant to me using cookie dough and chocolate chips? And so our intrepid readers did exactly that. They created a cookie that represented their work.

As I was reading some online reviews about the book and thinking of questions to as the group I though – I wonder what Alain would ask the book club? So on a whim I went to his website, found his email and sent him a note. LO! In no time at all I had a reply and a question to ask book club. What a delight!

And his question was:

I’d ask: what other pleasures are there that work can deliver that are not considered here?
For example, the pleasure of serving. In other words, the question would be about people submitting ideas for imaginary further chapters to the book.

What we Thought

So what did we think? Perhaps it’s best demonstrated in my follow up email to Alain.

Hello Alain!

Well I must say that the Circle of Literary Judgment was very excited to receive a question from you as part of our book club discussion. It prompted some lively banter and here are some ideas that we think are perfect for your next book.

Other pleasures in work include:

  • Mastery “even like a cigar roller in Cuba”
  • Camaraderie, laughter, community and mentorship
  • Ritual “the treat of having coffee at 10:15″
  • Learning, education
  • The variety in simplicity

I’ve also attached a little snapshot of our cookie-making challenge. In competition for the trophy readers were asked to create a cookie to represent and invoke their feeling around their work. Just as ‘Moments’ are for ‘me time’.

You’ll be interested to learn that the winner of the trophy did not make a cookie but rather provided an appropriate accompaniment to our sweet treats – milk of course. You see John is a Career Counselor and as so winningly explained by him, his role is to provide the support and nourishment for our cookie-making endeavors. That is his cookie.

A final note: we received a card from Yann Martel! We had asked him to recommend books for us to read and I would like to extend the same request to you. What books should the Circle of Literary Judgment read next??

Thank you for providing us with such a wonderful book club book!

CLJ

And Alain recommends:

Dear Natasha,

I now have book club envy. Your club looks such fun, I wish I could gatecrash. Perhaps one day…

I’m so glad things went well. In the future, you should read some Norman Mailer non-fiction (Of a Fire on the Moon ideally) or else the whole of Marcel Proust, or else, for a briefer thing, Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal.

I’m so glad Yann was a sport – and thanks so much to you for your kindness.

All best

Alain

The Community Within

Community is living and breathing all around us. We walk though them, work in them, compete as them. Together we are community. If our external community is a living, breathing organism are we not our own living community, and I’m not just talking about eyelash mites.

The human body is a complex thing. As I sit here I can hardly comprehend the information coursing though my body in order to type these words. I’m no scientist, that’s for sure but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that there is something wonderful about this mass of blood, muscle, skin and bones that we call home. And while we might think that it’s all about the neurons firing around our noggin we’re beginning to understand that the heart plays a significant ‘thinking’ role.

The Institute of HeartMath concluded in a recent research study* that “with each beat, (the heart) not only pumps blood, but also transmits patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure, and electromagnetic information through (extensive communication) networks.”

My non-scientific, awkward interpretation of this in relation to community is that an understanding of the communication network within us – between our heart and brain is critical to the health of our external community.

I have recently started meditating and I am slowing understanding that my internal dialogue – the stories I tell myself, the scenarios I create, are clearly linked to how I experience and engage with my community. As I start to feel compassion for myself, I feel a greater ability to feel compassion and empathy for others.

Einstein said (and I think it is worthwhile sharing all of it) “a human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Our environment and our community are revealed as intelligent and through patience we meet the world as it is. Our strength comes from an ability to do this with compassion – for ourselves, and our community.

*R. McCraty, M. Atkinson, D Tomasino, & R.T. Bradley, “The Coherent Heart Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order, Institute of HeartMath, pg.50  http://www.heartmath.org/

A Vancouver Transportation Story

For my post this week I was originally going to write about the concept of reputation, with a particular focus on Lebron James and his classless, drunk-on-ego Superfriends performance (filtered nicely through the thoughtful lens of two heroes, Alexandra Samuel and Steve Nash). And then I was going to argue that rural living is superior to urban living in every way. And then I was going to discuss the ridiculousness of how 90% or more of medical, financial, delivery, and professional services operate on a 9-5 time line, which is exactly when most of their clients are working.

But that all changed after an epic 99 B-Line bus ride from Commercial Drive to UBC.

Here is the Cast of Characters who made up our commuter community today:

The Bus Driver of Bus Number R8061: a fortysomething man clad in a hipster hat and in possession of a pocketful of righteousness.

Broadway Bike Rider: a woman dressed all in black, wearing a helmet, fearless, full of conviction.

Jack Sparrow with a Bicycle: nice guy, we chatted logistics as we put our bikes on together at Commercial Drive (mine went on first because I was getting off at UBC)…and he looked like a pirate.

Thoughtful Young Commuter: glasses, short haircut, clever looking backpack: everything about the kid looked smart.

Engaging Senior Citizen: a very “big picture” thinker who tried to find common ground amongst our Wednesday morning commuter community.

The Chorus: the background opinions and verbosity that echoed the primary dialogue and also piped up to fill the heavy silences.

It happened exactly like this, more or less:

Suddenly, there was a fierce braking by the driver followed by a long, loud, incessant honk of the horn (not me, the bus’s horn).

“You’re in the middle of the lane!” said the Driver.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” said Jack Sparrow. “What are you doing?! That was not right. You’re only a foot and a half away from her! Jesus. You could’ve killed her.”

“She’s gotta share the road,” replied The Driver.

The Chorus: “What happened? What happened?”

“She is sharing the road,” spat Jack Sparrow.

“She’s in the middle of the lane. It’s a bus lane,” spat back The Driver.

“You might not agree with what she’s doing,” piped up Thoughtful Young Commuter (TYC). “But that’s no way to deal with it. What if your brakes failed? Hell, what if one brake failed? You would’ve run her over.”

“Look. Right there. It says ‘BUS AND BIKE LANE’!” pointed Jack Sparrow.

The Chorus: “Did you see it? Did you see it? Should we just call Translink or the police, too?”

The bus pulls up to the stop sign.

“Hey! You can’t take up a whole lane. It’s for buses,” The Driver shouted out the window to the Broadway Bike Rider (BBR), who was on his left. “Share the road.”

The light turns green and the BBR sped out in front of the bus. As she rode, the BBR pointed to the “Bus and Bike Lane” signs that dotted the street every 15-20 meters. Interesting.

Honking continued.

“They shouldn’t have a shared bike and bus lane. It causes problems like this one right here,” the Engaging Senior Citizen (ESC) contributed to the discussion, which was very lively at this point.

“Fine, honk at her when she’s 100 meters away, that’s fine,” Jack Sparrow was coaching The Driver on proper techniques. “Keep your distance. Fine. Let her know you’re coming and use the other lane to swing out and go around her.”

“She’s not sharing the road,” repeated The Driver.

“Look, she’s allowed to ride three feet from the curb. It’s her right,” said TYC.

“Okay, here, look to your left. Just pull out into the next lane – even just a little bit – and pass her. See, it’s just that easy. No need to act the way you’re acting, man.” The Driver was steering, but Jack Sparrow was pretty much driving the bus.

Red light. The doors fly open and the BBR finds herself – yet again – to be the target of The Driver’s verbal barrage.

“This is a lane for buses. You can’t ride in the middle of it. Get out of the road before something bad happens,” yelled The Driver.

“The sign clearly says it’s a bike and bus lane. We share it. You can go around me easily,” yelled back the BBR.

“So share it,” retorted The Driver.

The Chorus: “Why isn’t she riding on tenth? It’s a bike street. This guy is an asshole! I’d be riding in front of the bus too if he tried to hit me. What? Do you want to get run over by a bus?”

Dramatic re-creation of the Character "Jack Sparrow...on a bike"!

“There shouldn’t be a shared lane for bicycles and buses,” offered the Engaging Senior Citizen. “It doesn’t make any sense. Especially on Broadway.”

“[INSERT SEVERAL EXPLETIVES HERE],” expressed Jack Sparrow. “You’re encroaching on her! You’re pushing her against the curb!”

Sure enough, the 99 B-Line was inching ever so slightly on an angle towards the curb. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a cyclist on the sidewalk – on the wrong side of the road – weaving through pedestrians. A wry, ironic smile creeps across my lips.

“Do you understand what you’re doing?” asked TYC. “What do you think this is doing to the rider? She’s getting scared. You’re making her an enemy of buses. Stop it now. You’re already in enough trouble. Just stop it.”

Exiting Chorus Members on their phones: “Yeah, the bus number is R8061…”

“You need to get out of the bus lane!” chided the unrelenting Driver, mostly to himself, as the doors were now closed.

“[INSERT MORE EXPLETIVES]!” Captain Jack Sparrow was getting close to vigilante justice. “You’re a terrible person and I hope you lose your job for this.”

Away went the BBR, ahead of the bus, continuing to point at the bus/bike lane signs. The Driver, as he held down his horn, moved out around the cyclist, back into the bus/bike lane, and continued along Broadway (later he would produce another long, angry horning, but it was because of a confusedly-parked driver and, folks, that’s another story for another time). The Driver – clearly – was having a very  bad day.

THE END

Vancouver is an interesting place to cycle (and, apparently, take the bus!). In the past year the city’s built landscape has changed a fair bit because of the bike-friendly creations on the Burrard Street Bridge and the Dunsmuir Viaduct. These things are supposed to make cycling safer. And we’re supposed to be future-living in the world’s greenest, most bicycle-oriented city. Or at least that’s the idea.

In the past few weeks one of my pedaling friends was hit by a car and another was hit by pavement after avoiding a car. This year I’ve seen half-a-dozen sprawled-out, injured cyclists at the horrible Clark-and-Tenth intersection, too. And then there’s Kurt Heinrich, whose casual cycling through stop signs and traffic lights has earned him over $300 in tickets. I confront annoying sidewalk-bike-riders on Commercial Drive nearly every time I go outside. And then there’s this – the above tale of a very overzealous bus driver. No matter how you spin or slice it, cycling is a messy business here in Vancouver.

So there it is. This story is just part of the larger fabric. And I bet ten more just like it pop up in your lives by the end of the week.

-  JCH

Cars and Community Planning … in a roundabout sort of way

A recent run-in with the pavement got me thinking about bike commuting in Vancouver, indeed anywhere in which the car is king on the roads.

I went end-over handlebars and broke my elbow, an accident that would have been considerably worse if I hit the car I was trying to avoid.

Two things struck me (ok three if you count the ground!)

  1. People in this town don’t understand roundabouts
  2. Significant change is needed to make our roads safer and more accessible for non-car transit. And this is some thing we should aspire to (… that’s 4. I feel like I’m in a Monty Python sketch)

When it comes to roundabouts, unless there are traffic control signs, these are uncontrolled intersections … so you’ve gotta remember three things – yield to traffic on the right if the other vehicle has arrived first or at the same time, yield to traffic already in the roundabout to your left and NEVER come to a full stop in a roundabout (unless traffic conditions require it). Come on peeps … it’s that easy! Making our roads safer for riders however will take a little more work.

It’s about choice – easy alternatives

Creating real and workable alternatives is our first priority. With more bike paths, public transit, walking routes, pedestrian and bike only streets we create real alternatives and these also need to be CHEAPER. Policy and legal changes would help with bike focused road rules. What about GPS-enabled information about transit times … make it real-time and real-easy!

If it made more impact on our wallets we would think twice about taking the car everywhere. Increase the cost of the car, gas, insurance and parking. But an interesting thought strikes me. How does making cars and car ownership more expensive impact our community? By making cars and car ownership more expensive, driving becomes accessible to a privileged few whose wallets are large enough. Unless a working family or single mum are within walking distance of schools, child-care, stores and community centers they are penalized because they cant afford to 1. live in a service appropriate area or 2. afford a car.

Following in the footsteps of friends to the south the creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods is such a thoughtful and simple way to challenge how we plan our urban environment. Take the car out of the picture by making it so much easier, nicer and cheaper to ride, walk or take transit to your local neighbourhood – which has everything you need. Support those who work outside their neighbourhood with integrated transit systems.

I wonder when we’ll finally turn that corner and the car will no longer be king of the roads. What a day that will be!