Archives : July 2003

2003 July 2

Beautiful day IX

Today's ride:

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/02 Trader Joe's (Arlington Heights) 14.7 km 38:20 23.0 km/h 412 km


In honour of Canada Day (though personally, I think the old name "Dominion Day" has rather more character -- and okay, I'm a day late), the Globe and Mail has just run an excellent 12-article survey of modern Canada. The better pieces include Part 3, "The fusion generation", about the multiculturalism of Toronto of the 135 languages:

"One of the beautiful things about living in Toronto or Canada is that we're so accustomed to racial diversity that it's so normal," Mr. Fatah said with conviction. "I met these two gentlemen from Manchester last weekend at my party and they're like, 'What is amazing is look around here, you have Asian, black, Indian, Italian, Greek, Jewish, Canadian, you have all these ethnicities, everyone is partying, no one is segregated to their corners. In England you'd never see that, people are so segregated and split up, and it's by their own choice that they keep to their own. Here everyone talks to everyone and that's a beautiful thing.'"

and Part 6, "Not very Canadian", an almost suspiciously counter-stereotype look at the differences between Canadian and American attitudes, though I can't help feeling it rings true:

This, too, produced striking differences. One after another, the young Americans said they are not loyal to their country -- of the 10, only four said they are, and one of them, 28-year-old Jake Altimus, made it very clear that his national loyalty is trumped by his loyalty to his state: "In my heart," he said, "I live in Virginia."

The Canadians all said, without reservation, that they are loyal to Canada. In individual interviews, this came out dramatically: The Canadians, regardless of their political beliefs, are flag-waving patriots. The Americans are much more reserved about their national identity -- family, church, corporation and pastimes are far more likely to draw their loyalty.

(My suspicion is the reporter found this reservation by choosing a sample that skewed upper-middle-class, who tend to be anti-war and more disgruntled than usual these days. Still, the point is, the same sample in Canada is rabidly patriotic, and there are other interesting contrasts in the article.)

But by far the most striking piece, to me anyway (because I had no idea), was Part 5, "Changing native history". Saskatchewan, it turns out, is in the middle of a massive demographic shift that may actually give it an Aboriginal-majority population by mid-century. The thought is mindblowing:

In fact, many of the wise elders of Saskatchewan -- both native and not -- take the view that the very prosperity of this beleaguered Prairie province rests in the hands of this new generation of aboriginals.

There will be implications for all of Canada in this. There will be a joyous stretching of definitions; a painful sharing of wealth; a gradual chipping away of stereotypes, hatred and bigotry. Once one of the provinces is run by aboriginals, what is to stop an aboriginal man or woman from holding the highest offices in the land?

I think it's an incredibly inspiring thought, a Good Thing both for the dignity and prosperity of the Cree and other First Nations, to have control over what no one can doubt is a real government, and for Saskatchewan, to have a rising, energetic population with something to prove, one not tempted to flee for the prosperity of Toronto or Vancouver.

Thanks to AccordionGuy for the link.

A mention of Sanford Fleming in the twelfth article, "The great lone land", prompted a bit of googling, on account of there's a Sir Sanford Fleming Park, a.k.a. the Dingle, off Purcell's Cove Rd on the way into town from where I grew up. I'd always kind of wondered who he was, but never quite enough to really figure it out; now I have. He's more impressive than I thought, being both the initial surveyor for the route of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, and the Father of Standard Time. That's a hell of a legacy -- in fact, it's not easy to think of much more permanent marks on the globe one man can make, than to have defined the lines of the time zones. I find myself feeling guilty -- even traitorous -- for not having known this about a fellow Nova Scotian.

(And furthermore, Fleming designed Canada's first postage stamp, the three-penny beaver. One has to love the three-penny beaver.)

This commemoration might have been better saved to mark Halifax's Natal Day, but I'll just use it while I've got it handy.

2003 July 3

More Canadiana

MOST telescope: Canada's first space telescope is now in orbit. The epitome of "smaller, faster, cheaper", it's the size of a suitcase and was built for C$10m. Its mission, if I'm reading the press releases right, is asteroseismology, which means studying individual stars for pulsations and resonances that can give clues to their internal structure; it should also have a chance to spot extrasolar planets.

Vancouver 2010: The 2010 Winter Olympics have just been awarded to Vancouver. Yee-ha!

Bruce Rolston gets coldblooded

A realpolitik thought like a bucket of icewater in your face:

Random Iraq Occupation Thoughts: And by putting tens of thousands of American service people in harm's way in Iraq, if nothing else the Bush administration has provided a far easier-to-reach target for the global terrorist than any target in the U.S. would be. Bush's accomplishment, if nothing else, is to take the war out of Manhattan, and back to Afghanistan and Iraq... where it can simmer, with a steady drip drip of military casualties, for several years, if need be. Speaking in the most ruthless terms for the moment, that still counts as a success. Lots of leaders through history would have loved wars that promised to confine their fatal effects just to their willing military volunteers, and some foreigners.

I have no response to that.


Whoo. Like Pierre Trudeau, I have taken my walk in the snow, except for the snow part. No snowflakes to draw my destiny in the air, just a gorgeous clear blue sky for my walk down to the river, where I sat on a dock while I psyched myself up. This is what I get for contemplating independence on Canada Day, rather than Leap Day.

I had thought this time might be less gutwrenching than last time, but I was wrong. Every bit as much of a roller-coaster. My sense of self isn't as much on the line as when I left academia, but there are more than enough other things that can go wrong to keep me alternating between exhilaration and terror.

I keep running into stories of people who've been out of work for months and years, technical people. This doesn't help. The economy may be on an upswing, but so is the unemployment rate. Gah.

No, wait. That's good -- it means I'll have no trouble hiring good workers. In any case, if you wait until it's obvious that it's a good time, the time will already be passed by.

Well, I'm not done tomorrow. I've got a couple of projects to finish up with Orange first, and then formal hoo-ha with the INS. But I'm committed. Soon enough, I will be Colin Roald, Entrepreneur, and then we'll all see if I've got what it takes to make it stick.

I'm psyched. I have never regretted my last step off the cliff -- I can't see myself regretting this one, either.

(Note: More details in the fullness of time, When They Can Be Told.)

2003 July 5

Moments that hang in time

I watched 1776, the musical, with Michael and Nomi again yesterday. There's a scene towards the end, after they've finished calling the roll on the independence vote, and suddenly it's over and it's passed, and John Hancock sits there a moment with a perfect gutpunched expression on his face. It's over, and he's won, and what the fuck have they just done?

Yeah. I'm with you, buddy.

(The movie is actually quite good, but would be better if it was shorter.)

2003 July 6

Beautiful day X

The National Weather Service claims it's still 91 F at Logan, right on the water. I assume it has to be at least that hot up here in Somerville/Arlington, but the humidity is only 35%. It was a very comfortable afternoon for a bike ride -- I even made good time.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/06 Lexington VFW 22.0 km 55:08 23.9 km/h 440 km
New record by almost a minute.

2003 July 7

Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle

Was this the best superhero movie ever? I think I could be entertained defending that argument over a beer. Certainly it's a superhero movie, anyway. You've got the production values of X2 combined with the panache of Batman: The Movie (1966), and all the characters are in catsuits. Word.

2003 July 8

European sports week

I find myself watching European sports this week -- the Outdoor Living Network (the Unpopular Sports Network) is showing round-the-clock coverage of the Tour de France, interrupted only by the Running of the Bulls. Apparently they run the bulls every night of the Fiesta de San Fermin, so it's on every night this week at 7:30.

Okay, so there's not much to be said about an event where the report reads: "Three gorings and a serious head traumatism in the second running of the bulls" . . . "something that is not unusual," except the obvious comment that maybe Europeans are not so soft as American rednecks like to think they are.

Meanwhile, the Tour de France is strangely not so different. The finishes of stages (at least the flat ones) seem to involve a few desperate breakaway riders trying to stay in front of a massive implacable pack, and spectacular 60-km/h crashes in dense traffic -- it's a hell of a sight watching a bent bicycle pinwheeling eight feet into the air. And Stage 1 ended with a fifty-bike pile-up, riders going down like dominoes. One survivor of that actually broke his collarbone and is still in the race, the madman.

But honestly, it's the rest of the race that I like watching. Like a long nordic race, there's something soothing about watching long lines of athletes metronomically coursing across pretty countryside. Yes, they may in fact be travelling 50 km/h and up, but often you can't really tell. The race is just a colourful snake winding through the countryside, with announcers nattering on about one rider or another, and couple time-differential numbers in the margin: gaps between the leader, breakaway group one, and the peloton. Hypnotic.

My only real request is for the riders to lose those godawful hornrimmed sunglasses.

By far the best ad for the Tour goes: "Time waits for no man . . . so it must be hunted down, and beaten."

2003 July 9

Morning ride

I rode out with Molly and David and Carl this morning to the far side of Lexington. A good morning for it, missing the rain, and having people to talk to made the ride seem pretty quick, even if I was still a little too groggy when I left the house to remember to bring water with me.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/09 Minuteman past I-95/beaver pond 31.2 km 1:27:36 21.4 km/h 471 km

2003 July 11

Pride and Extreme Prejudice

Oh, my god. USENET isn't dead yet.

Jane Austen's The Terminator, starring Emma Thompson.

Also, this is unrelated except in spirit, but: Wushu Ping Pong, or, Table Tennis in the Matrix.

2003 July 13

There may be no such thing as a tail wind

. . . but damn, you can sure feel a headwind. Lots of people out on the path today. I'd say they were conspiring to get in my way, but that would just sound cranky, and anyway, I set a new record by almost a minute.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/13 Trader Joe's (Arlington Heights) 14.6 km 36:17 24.1 km/h 493 km

2003 July 14

The Pirate Movie

Everyone I know seems to just call it "the pirate movie," which is fine by me. Saw it last night with Elizabeth. Arrrr! This movie buckles a large amount of swash, and buckles it good and proper. Undead skeleton monkeys rule.

If you wait all the way through the credits, incidentally, there's a fifteen-second stinger that's kind of cool. Movies these days seem to be starting to include extra scenes designed to be watched only by ushers.

2003 July 20

That's it, then

It's a weird feeling, shutting down a computer for the last time, as if I was killing something. Well, strangely final, anyway. I was surprised by how I felt on Friday, like my gut hadn't kept up with my brain, and couldn't believe what I was doing. I've been thinking about quitting and starting a business for months, and I decided to do it weeks ago, and have had the final day on my calendar likewise, and yet I still feel caught somehow unawares.

When I resigned from Stanford, I expected a wrenching transition, because I was turning my back on an academic career that I'd spent my whole life working towards. And yet, I was swept along by events and kept so busy, first with the Ars Digita boot camp then the immediate job offer, I hardly had time to feel anything but exhilarated. This time, I thought it would be easier. I wasn't giving up a way of life, just a job I wasn't that fond of anyway, but it's hasn't been -- it's been much harder, and I'm not sure I can put my finger on why. Security, I suppose, is a big part of it. Intellectually, I've very deliberately given up my security -- rationally, I'm convinced I won't regret it, however this turns out -- but emotionally, I guess it's a different matter.

Also, and maybe this is more important, I'm realizing that I've fundamentally committed myself to a fight with the world. For at least the next few months, I'm going to have to live every day convinced that I'm right and the rest of the world is wrong (because if a dinner club is such a good idea, why doesn't it exist already?) It's going to drain a lot out of me -- it's doing it already: I think this is why I've spent so much time lately re-reading Pratchett novels that I've read twice already and laying on the couch watching the Tour de France. It's like comfort food, requiring no initiative since mine is all already booked up.

Friday morning I talked with an accountant about things like choosing to be a corporation or an LLC, and whether I ought to register in Massachusetts or Delaware. She was reluctant to express an opinion about my particular situation without knowing a lot more about what I planned to do, which is fair enough, I suppose, but I kept at her with the questions I wanted answers to until I got them. I felt right executive doing it, too -- it seems important not to let advisors set the agenda, or at least, without understanding why. I didn't want her to tell me what to do; I wanted her to explain things, so I could make my own decision. The buck stops here. I think it was my first real action as a businessman.

It looks like the somewhat unfashionable S corp is probably what I need. Pass-through taxation is an advantage in the first year, and it's easily switchable to C status if it turns out I need it. Also, I need to look into whether the E-2 visa requirements will allow my investment to be a loan, or if it needs to be a purchase of stock.

Competitive? Me?

It's amazing how having someone to chase can let you keep up a pace you'd never manage on your own. Coming back today I had not one but two good rabbits to chase -- other bikers, I mean. The first one kept me up at 33-35 klicks for six or seven minutes, until we got separated in a big crowd of slow people and I was unable to catch up again; the second one I eventually passed and managed to leave behind.

Because I made a short detour over my usual Lexington ride, technically this is a record time for the distance, by half a minute or so. It is, of course, not in my nature to concern myself with technicalities like that. Nor is it in my nature to feel smug that I blew by a couple of girls riding a noisy gas-powered scooter thing, early in the ride.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/20 Lexington VFW 22.4 km 55:24 24.3 km/h 521 km

2003 July 22

Lexington VFW

It started to rain on me, but it only lasted about thirty seconds. I don't know if I've ever seen such a short shower -- and it wasn't just mist or spitting. It was big raindrops, but only about a hundred of them.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/22 Lexington VFW 22.1 km 55:44 23.8 km/h 543 km

2003 July 23

Switching gears

It's probably unsurprising that it's taking me a while to wrench myself around to putting in solid workdays on planning for Eden. Not only am I having to get used to keeping focused while sitting at home, surrounded by distractions, but I've got to re-acquaint myself with keeping focused at all. Orange hasn't exactly been a disciplined job for me. I've got to retrain myself. I know I can do this -- I just need to get back to it fairly quickly. The sooner I can get my plans written and new visa application submitted, the sooner I can legally get to the real work, which is the part I'm actually looking forward to.

The past couple days haven't been a total waste, mind you. I'm just not keeping up with the aggressive schedule I set.

I've had at least one inquiry about what the hell I'm up to -- I forget sometimes that not everybody knows yet. I'm working on a plan for a restaurant dinner club for singles. You'd sign up for a meal someplace interesting, and sit down with five other people you didn't yet know -- three men, three women. It's the most natural and civilized way to get to know new people, around a table with good food and drink. It's something like what these people do, except I believe I can do it for a lot less than a hundred and fifty dollars a month -- and that doesn't even include the food.

2003 July 24

Switching gears, bis

Well, it's 1:15 am and I'm thinking that maybe I really ought to stop working and go to bed. I guess I found a groove today after all.

Motivational speaking

Joey deVilla makes some prose beg for mercy. Bastard prose. It deserved it.

Bring it on: The other thing to keep in mind is that life, as The Stranglers song goes, shows no mercy. Sooner or later, you're going to be sitting in the back of the Metaphorical Pickup Truck of Life and realize that there's a guy in a Pikachu costume smoking crystal meth in the driver's seat. His foot is jammed hard on the accelerator pedal, he's drenched in sweat, he has the look of death in his soulless eyes, he's slashing his own leg with a stilletto knife and screaming "PAIN WILL BRING ME CLOSER TO FATHER!"

Lesser people -- those who can only thrive when the cards are dealt in their favour -- will curl up in a ball and wait for the truck to eventually go off a cliff or slam into a bus of orphans and puppies and explode John Woo-style.

Those who know that winning isn't in the cards you're dealt, but how you play them, would hop over the cab and onto the hood, Indiana Jones/T.J. Hooker style, smash through the windshield, pummel the driver into submission and bring the vehicle to a complete stop. And then take everyone out for ice cream afterwards.

I hope to be one of those people.

This is his way of putting a really bad date into perspective.

2003 July 25

Dude! You sook.

Funniest line of the day belongs to Andrew Northrup:

Also, because we killed them instead of taking them prisoner, we will never learn the answers to such important questions as "where are the WMD?", "are they hidden in your beards?", and "why did Saddam name you in Pig Latin?"

Lexington VFW

> smoke record
How can you do that?
> roll record
You spindle the record into a tight cylinder.
> light match
A match flares to life with a puff of sulfurous smoke.
> smoke record
You inhale deeply, and feel the knowledge of the secrets of time and space coursing through your bloodstream.
> exhale

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/25 Lexington VFW 22.0 km 52:43 25.0 km/h 569 km
That, boys and girls, is a new record by more than two full minutes.

2003 July 27

Lexington VFW

So I tried a sprint on the bike path, just to see how high I could actually get the speedometer on straight level ground: 40.5 km/h. For reference, the riders in the Tour de France sustain more than fifty for an entire hour-long time-trial.

Of course, they have better bikes.

I don't know if it was the sprint or going out without really having had enough breakfast, but it kicked my ass. I rode the next twenty minutes feeling like Andre the Giant had just dropped an elbow in my stomach. Still and all, my end time was not as bad as I thought it might be -- would have been a record if I'd done it before Friday's ride.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/27 Lexington VFW 22.0 km 53:55 24.5 km/h 591 km

2003 July 28

Future perfect

I can't believe I'm trying to write financial projections for 2008. Just 2005 seems inconceivably far away.

2003 July 29

Trader Joe's

It felt like a good fast ride, but I can't tell because my speedometer crapped out. Is the battery really dead? I sort of expected one of those watch batteries to last forever, and this one was only three months old.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2003/07/13 Trader Joe's (Arlington Heights) 14.6 km ? ? km/h 618 km

2003 July 30

Having fun

Buying stuff is kind of fun. Have just bought a laptop on ebay, a router, a printer/photocopier, a USB cable, and some blank DVD+Rs -- woo! Have finished a draft of my business plan, but it definitely needs a second one. I'm feeling much more up than I did a week and a half ago when I was finishing up at Orange -- then it was all butterflies and what the hell am I doing? Now, I'm just enjoying doing it, and looking forward to getting to the actual work part.

I am going to have to schedule more social events into my life, so I don't go caveman.

2003 July 31