Thursday, September 28, 2006

Motorist , you have been yellow carded

Interesting idea for motorists that take cyclists /pedestrians for granted . The idea is that you throw this Yellow card on cars that play foul . As the author puts it
Subversive intervention via businesscard-sized magnets,
The text from the yellow card :

Magnetic Yellow Card

"This magnet was tossed onto your car by a cyclist who felt that you might have been driving in a way that could have endangered their life.
They chose to toss this magnetic note because it can neither damage your automobile, nor affix itself to rubber or glass and will therefore not affect your driving. It serves to warn you.

With thoughtful contemplation and reverence for humanity, we can adjust our behavior to allow for all people to live life.

This is a yellow card, let’s please not let things get to Red."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Map bike routes

A few days back I discovered a googlemaps enhanced site that allows you to map your bike routes. It's appropriately called Bikely . One can keep track of bike routes , add tags , discover more routes added by others . You can see one of the routes I created here .

An excellent new feature that I noticed today is that the site can create elevation graphs of the route from USGS data .

Now this bonecrusher ride may not be that much of a bonecrusher but the graph showing a 10% grade towards the end makes it pretty pretty. The ability to upload a gpx file file from your GPS receiver and download your route as a gpx files makes this utility doubly cool . One can also hop over to the topografix site to download a free GPS utility to make it more useful .

Monday, September 18, 2006

Monsanto and the axis of evil

Saw an excellent documentary a few days back called the Future of food which provides an in depth look into genetically modified food and the nexus that big companies , specifically Monsanto in the film , have with the highest political levels.
Genetically modified food and Monsanto go hand in hand as Monsanto developed genetically modified food for the first time. Monsanto started as a chemicals industry with a number of patents to their name including saccharin and agent orange . Their foray into the food industry began with Roundup , a broad spectrum herbicide . Soon after Monsanto got into genetically engineered seeds which were engineered to withstand Roundup . So in principle if you sprayed a field of Monsanto cropp wtih Roundup , everything else but the crop would perish . In principle this sounds great (i.e if you are willing to have copious amounts of herbicide in your food ) , to a certain extent it works as well and then things start to get dirty . It begins with the patenting of GE (genetically engineered) seeds . Once Monsanto holds a patent on it if John Doe wants their product he has to pay for it . Traditionally farmers stored their own seed , ready for the next planting but the patent Monsanto holds makes them buy the seed everytime they plant .Replanting the seeds would lead to John Doe being sued . Then it gets dirtier . If a few seeds find their way to a field which doesn't plant Monsanto , Monsanto can come and claim that the the farmer is using their seed illegally , which means fines , penalties etc . And's whats more , since the crop is indistinguishable from traditional strains even the seed for subsequent years can be contaminated and hence it is not possible to keep your own seed .
All through this Monsanto is helped along in its goal by dubious judgements in the highest courts of law , the whole issue of testing the crop is circumvented by employing ex employees of Monsanto in the role of the watchdog . John Ashcroft , Donald Rumsfeld are a couple of names among many others that crop as being direct beneficieries of Monsano largesse , either in ways of election funds or being employees of Monsanto at a certain point in history . To quote Sourcewatch

"The connections between Monsanto and the new Bush administration are also very solid. G.W.’s pop, Bush Sr. appointed Clarence Thomas, a Monsanto attorney, to the Supreme Court. Thomas played a key role in the selection of G.W. as president. John Ashcroft, the current attorney general, was the top recipient of Monsanto contributions when he recently tried to get reelected to the U.S. Senate. Donald Rumsfeld, the current secretary of defense, was president of Searle Pharmaceuticals, now owned by Monsanto. Tommy Thompson, now the secretary of Health and Human Services, helped the biotech industry by getting the state of Wisconsin to set up a $37 million biotech zone there. He received $50,000 from the biotech industry for his reelection campaign. The current secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, was on the board of directors of Calgene Pharmaceuticals, an affiliate of Monsanto. Recently, Linda J. Fisher, a former Monsanto official, was nominated by Bush to be second-in-command at the EPA. She was Monsanto’s representative in Washington from 1995 to 2000 and coordinated the company’s strategy to blunt resistance to genetically modified food" [1] ( See also GM lobby takes root in Bush's cabinet (,3604,431727,00.html). Other high level government connections include Stansfield Turner, former Director of the CIA and member of the Monsanto Board [2] ( and Earle H. Harbison former president of Monsanto and CIA officer for 19 years [3] (

Definately a must see .

Here is more on Monsanto at sourcewtch .

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pay by mile and Congestion Pricing
From a recent article in Sightline :
Oregon -- often considered a policy innovator among US states -- is in the middle of an experiment that could eventually lead to a repeal of the state gas tax.

Oregon's transportation department is recruiting volunteers to test a system that would charge people based on how far they drive, not on how much gas they use. The trial will test two rate structures -- some participants will pay a flat rate of 1.2 cents per mile, while others will pay a variable rate depending on whether they're driving during rush hour; a control group would continue to pay normal gas taxes.

The author goes on to say that the real motive behind it is that as people start using more fuel efficient cars the tax revenues from the gas will drop and so the need for an alternative way of raising revenue . I am not so impressed by this line of reasoning . After all the people who choose to use SUVs are not going to let go of them either because of the increased cost of gas . Its more of a status symbol , they migght choose to have a hybrid as well if that is what is considered fashionable , but as we know , thrift doesn't remain in fashion for long stretches , it soon becomes cheap .
I also feel that pay by mile is also more appropriate as it penalises somebody who drives further, occupies the road more leading to more congestion and slower traffic movement and arguably pollutes more .Road use should be treated like any other service , use more , pay more . A 'hummer' in any case is going to pay more either in the way of energy taxes or tax for mileage . The unfair part in this scheme is that a hybrid and an SUV are treated on parity . But here we can have a fee structure that awards bonus miles to fuel efficient cars .
The system is planned to work establising a network that tracks movement of the vehicle . This ,besides the fear of big brother watching over you , allows for congestion pricing . Congestion pricing is a sytem of regulating traffic wherein the price of use of the roads depends on how congested the roads are , it can be either paying a premium to drive during rush hour or pay for access to congested areas as in London. The system fully developed can monitor distance and when and where the vehicle was used .

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ascii bike art

Sweet ascii art here .

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Monday, September 04, 2006

CFL s and the mercury risk

A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), also known as a compact fluorescent light bulb or an energy saving lightbulb, is a type of fluorescent lamp that screws into a regular light bulb socket or plugs into a small lighting fixture.

In comparison to incandescent light bulbs, CFLs have a longer rated life and use less electricity. In fact, CFLs save enough money in electricity costs to make up for their higher initial price within about 500 hours of use.
Source Wikipedia.

The only catch is that CFLs have mercury in them . As long as the bulb doesn't break and is recycled after use , all is well . But what happens if the bulb breaks and/or is not recycled and is thrown into the garbage on it's way to the landfill ? Mercury as we know is dangerous when it finds way into the waterways and is converted to it's methylated form . This is taken up by small fish which are eaten by progressively largeer fish , gradually concentrating the mercury . In it's concentrated form mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin . So I was a bit skeptical about CFLs until I came across this. . The highlights of this article are

  • The mercury in a CFL is no threat to the environment unless the glass is broken. For a basis of comparison, there are about one to three grams of mercury in your average home thermometer. It would take between 250 to 1000 CFLs to equal that same amount.

  • The highest source of mercury in our air comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal. A CFL uses up to 75% less energy than an incandescent light bulb and lasts up to 10 times longer. A power plant will emit 10mg of mercury to produce the electricity to run an incandescent bulb compared to only 2.4mg of mercury to run a CFL for the same time

So all in all CFL seem to be safer to use , much better if we have a mechanism to recycle the CFLs .