Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Job - Cambridge Assessment

I started work for Cambridge Assessment today. They are the organisation that handles most exams for kids in the UK from 16-18 but they do a ton of other stuff.

I was a bit late on my first day because a lady fell off her bike in front of me and cut her chin and hands. She was bleeding quite a bit and was in some shock so we had to get her some medical attention. The poor thing. I told her I hoped it wouldn't put her off cycling but it seemed she was tougher than that. I fixed her bike and put her on her way to work.

I was pleased to join the new media team. They are a pretty cool bunch and do some interesting work. I can't say more because of my contract but it seems like a lot of fun and like I might learn a lot there too.

I Count - Stop Climate Chaos

I quite like the campaigns of I Count - Stop Climate Chaos and the way they are managed. If you want to sign up to petitions agains coal-fired power stations and learn what else you can do, this is a good place to start.

This Video is theirs...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

10 mile Time Trial - new PB even with Asthma - 25:38

I've been wondering for a while how fast I could cycle 10 miles on a less "sporting" (hilly) course.

I've not trained for a while and my asthma is playing up a bit so I wasn't completely on form. Nobody else took water along during the Time Trial and I followed the herd and regretted it about 2 miles in.

I didn't push it as much as I have on previous events but I did catch 2 people up tonight. One of them overtook me again and I took him again and this went on for a while. Such mental games add something to my speed as did wearing a Garmin GPS.

So, the Team Cambridge TT saw a time of 25:38 which works out as an average of 23.41 mph - I'm quite pleased with that given my fitness level but it is unlikely to be quick enough for the National Relays this weekend or my surprise new entry into London Triathlon. Just checking the results I noticed my team mate for the National Relays beat me by 6 seconds and I didn't even know he was in the Time Trial! As Don says, he is old enough to be my Dad - he still kicks my arse!


Thrilled to win Wiggle Competition to Enter the London Triathlon

I've been doing quite a bit of triathlon training this year but have not entered any events yet.

I was buying some Aqua Seal googles for open water swimming from Wiggle recently and noticed they had a competition with entry to the London Triathlon as a prize. All you had to do was tell them why they should give it to you.

Here's what I wrote:
I think I should win the entry because the last event I did in London was the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR). Cycling down Oxford Street naked has left an indelible scar on my memory which I would like to erase by participating in a fully clothed event. I'm just kidding really though because the WNBR was a great fun bike event and protest against indecent exposure to CO2 and car culture. OK, naked cyclists don't buy much from Wiggle but how about it?

I'm thrilled that the folks at Wiggle have a sense of humour and have given me a prize entry to the Sprint Tri on 9th August. Of course what I wrote is not true - I'm not scarred by the WNBR at all. I think it was an excellent event, well organised, well received by the public and well policed (the Police joined us on bikes). I'm not a naturist by any means but I am an environmentalist and strongly believe that bicycles provide part of a solution to the rising cost of Oil, the coming of Peak Oil and our need to get about. The government are even supporting this (albeit not cycling naked) with their excellent Bike to Work scheme, providing an excellent way to buy a top quality bike cheaply.

So, it's not true, I was not scarred but I was indeed naked. Here is some proof, for those and for the people at Wiggle who have a sense of humour. There were about 1,000 naked people riding around London that day in June but I think only one was on a Bike Friday Tikit with a Mohican.

(picture from http://www.nurburgring.org.uk/benlovejoy/temp/lnbr/ )

My club, Cambridge Triathlon Club, has enjoyed much success this year with numerous members completing Ironman Germany, Juliet and Barbara winning the World Champs in Vancouver and with Will Clarke going to the Olympics (and he just won the Elite National Champions too). I'm not sure what they will make of me winning a triathlon entry by riding around London naked but some have suggested that proof might be required (though nobody has yet mentioned me doing an event without the team kit on!).

I was only 40 last week but have already made the Cambridge Tri Club COGS Team (Cambridge Old Gits) for the national relays this weekend. This should be a good warm up for the London Tri sprint.

I'd better do some training.

Step 1 - 10 mile time trial with Team Cambridge tonight. I reckon I'll use my Garmin GPS to try to keep my average over 22mph. I'd like to make my bike faster and get a solid back wheel and aero-dynamic helmet and all but my mate Chris tells me I just need to pedal harder. This is the fastest course I have ever done so let's see what I can do on it tonight.

Huge thanks again Wiggle folks. I hope you are not expecting a win from me - that will not happen but I'm sure to enjoy it!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Foraging in Cambridge

We awoke with something of a hangover having had Nicola and Arthur over for dinner the night before. My cold symptoms have turned to asthma symptoms and now lung symptoms so I'm not sleeping very well and am getting good at coughing.

We didn't feel up to much so we went for a walk. Just 5 miles at a slow pace along the river. En route we read our wild food books and tried to see what we could find to eat. Quite a lot it turned out:
- Dandelion
- Silverweed
- Common Comfrey
- Chicken of the woods
- Common Mallow
- Hawthorne
- Walnuts
- Blackberries
- Nettles
- chamomile

The comfrey, the silverweed and the chamomile were edible about now I think.

Quite nice to see how much was out there to eat and so close to my door. Mind you, what we found wouldn't have made that much of a meal in a crisis. I think a fishing rod might have been more helpful.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I made it to 40 !!!

I've not been very well for a few days but it didn't stop me making it to 40!

Yolanda has been a bit of a star and encouraged me to invite a few people out for dinner. So a load of us went to the Granta Bar at Cambridge University and had one of their famous £5 curries and some beers. The beer that night was not up to the usual standard by any means.

Huge thanks to all those who came along, even those who defied the present ban! I had a really nice time. It was very nice to see so many people out, most especially of all the most fit looking person there who has been very seriously ill recently and got the go-ahead to have his first beer the day before. I'm really pleased to have such nice friends. It makes being 40 just a number, particularly since I know many people who are much older than me who are much better at sport than I am!

Judith and Hannah brought me a hammock, on behalf of the swimming club, from the ethical superstore. The Hammock is from Traidcraft and those that made it have benefited directly from their efforts earning enough to buy a cart for their bullock and some land.

Earlier in the day my Mum had popped over with some presents. One of which was a vacuum flask which I now keep by my kettle so if I boil too much water I can put it in there for the next cup - very eco! She brought me a nice t-shirt from Fred too.

Yolanda bought me lots of nice things too and wrapped them in newspaper. She even made a card from some recent cycling photos from the WNBR. Excellent - Yolanda knows me very well!

Among the presents are a couple of books on Wild Food and growing vegetables, which I am looking forward to trying out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Google Maps - Very Inefficient Routes - Much longer than necessary

We went camping near Oxford this weekend. I was feeling as though I had a cold coming on and so decided to motorbike it over there rather than ride my bicycle (though I had found an excellent Oxford to Cambridge Bicycle Route).

I had a look at Google Maps for directions. I put in my postcode in Cambridge CB4 1UD and the destination postcode SN7 7QJ.

The route that was returned was 147 miles and had an estimated time of 2h 40m. The route was M11-M25-M4 and quite easy to follow.

This route struck me as much longer than it should be. I dragged the route around to find something a bit more direct.

I quickly found a route, via Bletchly, that was 103 miles and had an estmated duration of 2h 46m.

So, Google's default route is 44 miles longer and saves only 6 minutes (it is also an extremely boring route). This 44 miles is more than a gallon of petrol even on my motorbike.

I would have thought that Google's directions could be tuned to provide more economical route options, especially given challenges we are facing with climate change and rising fuel costs.

Google are changing their directions to incorporate new route finding options but have not get addressed Bicycle Routes, which is what a lot of us really want them to do - see the petition.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ironman Switzerland - Entered

I was a bit disappointed that I missed out on Ironman Germany this year when so many of my friends did it. We tried to get more organised for next year's events and it nearly worked. Despite being quite a big event with a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run, these events sell out within hours. I tried to get into Ironman Austria but messed it up. I managed to sneak in to Ironman Switerzland next year. I will need to do some serious training now - it's quite a bit harder than a half ironman.

The Cambridge Triathlon Club are pretty cool - the Ironman seems to be the most popular event for them now. Nice to have some crazy training partners!

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Bike (Bike Friday Tikit) was thrown off a train!

I don't know what is wrong with my country. I cycled for an hour across central london last night because getting the metro (the Tube we call it) is a nightmare even with a folding bike. Riding across London is much more fun and is faster than the metro. We even have nice cycling maps of London now thanks to TFL. At night the Night Rider headlamp is great too - I think cars sometimes think I'm a motorbike because the light is so bright. It's actually quite enjoyable cycling across London.

I arrived at Kings Cross Station and got on a busy Train from London to Cambridge. I had to put my folded Tikit in the doorway next to a folded wheelchair. There wasn't much room to get out of the train door but it wasn't terrible (the train was generally packed). My folded Tikit is standing up much better now it has the rear rack on it, which helped a lot with making it take up space.

During the journey I had the last seat available in the carriage, unfortunately next to the Window with the guy next to me mostly asleep. It made it hard to leap up to keep a good check on the Tikit but I kept an eye on people getting on and off the train to ensure they had room. When we pulled into Baldock, 2 stops before Cambridge, an old bloke shouted, 'whose bike is this?' and then 'I'm going to throw it off the train'. You know what, as the doors opened he picked up my Tikit and hurled it out of the doors onto the Platform below. I am still angry about it - what is it with people?

I've made a report to the Police who are checking CCTV coverage to see if they can pick this old guy up for Criminal Damage.

Sadly my hyperfold bike is looking a bit bent and sad now. I think the stem is a bit bent and the front chainring is quite bent making is hardly ride-able. I'll have to get it to Chris' Bikes to see if they can straighten it out.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Apples from New Zealand, Transition Towns and Peak Oil

I've started to get involved in the Transition Towns movement. In some ways, Transition Towns is so broad that it is difficult to define - it encompasses a lot of initiatives. That could seem a bit diluted but in this case it is a positive thing because it shows there are lots of things we can do, as a community, to increase our resilience to Peak Oil.

Here's a nice explanation:
A Transition Initiative is a community working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:

"for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?"

To me, Transition Towns are about RESILIENCE and that is really the point.

My current employer gives out free fruit, a nice perk for staff. I grabbed an apple and noted, with some disappointment that it was from New Zealand. Now I have absolutely nothing against NZ - I love the place. But really, we can grow bloody apples RIGHT HERE. Do we need to find the most distant place on Earth, grow apples there and then fly them here? This makes no sense to me at all.

In the future, we in England will not be eating apple from New Zealand. There is no way we can sustain that. How do we ensure there is not a great big BOO HOO when we can't get apples from New Zealand? Well, perhaps we should plant some apple trees here. The local council has planted nice 'clean' trees along our roadsides. They produce no fruit, no nuts and no firewood so we buy all that from Tescos, who fly it all in from New Zealand. How about local councils planting fruit trees and nut trees so we can eat what comes off them? We won't then need to charter a flight of Apples from New Zealand in order to eat apples.

I need to stop ranting. The point is that Transition Towns is all about finding creative ways of us still managing to eat apples when flights get prohibitively expensive. Well, of course, no just apples, everything!

Some locals are already doing stuff in this direction, for example, we have a Trumpington Community Orchard project in Cambridge.

Just stop and think for a minute. Imagine gas is $9.13 a US gallon and not $4 a gallon (actually that really is the price of petrol in the UK). What effect is this going to have on the economy? Are we still going to fly apples from New Zealand? What if we get no more apples from New Zealand - how will we survive? What are we going to eat locally? What did our ancestors eat?

Monbiot pointed out this week that Peak Oil is now forecast to be around 2010 - that's 18 months away. This might be a good time to start thinking about it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Finally found a better route for a lunchtime run

I've been running out with a map for while and finally found a decent route today.


I think I can refine this a bit more but unfortunately it would be a bit shorter. I'll keep running with my map!