27 May 2009

Video zu Stuttgart 21

April 2009: Politiker unterzeichnen Finanzierungsvereinbarung für Tunnelbahnhof (Stuttgart 21), sowie Schnellfahrstrecke (Stuttgart--)Wendlingen--Ulm.
Mai 2009: Demonstration gegen Stuttgart 21 mit dem Aufruf, das Projekt bei der Kommunalwahl im Juli abzuwählen.

Das alles ändert nichts daran, dass Stuttgart eine massive Verschwendung ist, bei der die Eisenbahnanbindung nicht verbessert wird, sondern verschlechtert! 8 statt (aktuell) 16 Gleise -- das führt zu Überfüllung und verpassten Anschlusszügen.

Hier zwei gute Bilder, die den Unterschied verdeutlichen:
Und ein Video über Kopfbahnhof und Taktfahrplan:

20 May 2009

Ergonomic Revolutions

Six meters per pedal-turn. This is the gearing-specification which I would use to design a single gear bike. Building this today is a piece of cake that only requires basic skills of multiplication and division. Let your wheel be of the twenty inch diameter class, which yields (depending on the tire) about 1.6m in circumference. Add a chainwheel with 52 teeth and a 14 teeth sprocket and there you go: 5.96m of forward motion per one pedal turn! (If you think small is beautiful, go with a 42/11 combination at 6.13m of forward motion per pedal turn.)
And all this is made possible by John Starley's 1885 invention of the bicycle chain! Before the chain drive was invented you would need an almost two meter high wheel to mount a pair of pedals on, so that you move your six meters per revolution. But sitting on such a wheel you wouldn't reach the pedals anymore since they are over one meter away from the seat!
Most Hi-Bi's of Starley's time only had about 1.5m high wheels which was very dangerous for the riders sitting on top of them, but only delivered 4.7m per turn. Starley's "Safety Bicycle" with a chain drive was thus not only safer, but also more comfortable to ride! And, since the bike's engine is a human, being more ergonomic, also made it faster.

Fast forward 124 years. I am riding a twenty-inch bike with 8 internal gears. With a 42/14 tooth combination my neutral gear (which happens to be the fifth) takes me forward 4.85m on each turn of the pedals. If I would ever like to do a ride without shifting at all, my sixth gear gives me just about the perfect six meters of development (that's what we call the forward motion per one full pedal turn).

Interestingly, when I ride in the city, I am only using my gears number four to seven. That's four gears who have an overall transmission ratio of 167%. The surprise here is that this is just about the same ratio introduced by the three-speed gear hubs invented almost exactly one hundred years ago. Unlike modern bicycle buyers who just want the highest number of gears and the most sporty (or sexy) looking bike they can get, the inventors of one hundred years ago apparently thought very well about what was needed for best performance and just built that: Three gears, evenly spaced, 186% from lowest to highest. And those gear hubs were so well-built that many of them are still running Today. Especially in Toronto, you can see a lot of good, old bikes with those hubs on them.

Today, there are only a few people like my friend Kate, who actually know what they need and buy a brand new bike with just those three internal gears. Simple, reliable, ergonomic.

The revolution has happened a long time ago. Anybody joining in?

9 May 2009

bike sharing or bike scam?

Montreal is launching a public bike sharing system this coming Tuesday, and of course Toronto can't do other than imitate them. Toronto's system is planned to launch in 2010.
Montreal touts itself to have an advertising-free solution, but instead they have horribly high prices. They advertise the first 30 minutes to be free, but in fact, users have to pay five dollars subscription fee before they can even check out a bike. How is this tariff supposed to encourage the use of bicycles for very short distances and as a means to bridge the gaps between other means of transport? But that's always the problem with imitations: easy to copy the appearance, but still misses the point.

I wonder why the city blasts itself with fighting for clean air and community service, when in fact, the system is meant to pay for itself, the city doesn't spend a single cent on it! That's a really tough battle for the environment that you are fighting, guys! Private companies do everything for profit, why do we need a city government at all?! ((As a matter of fact, the city still provides the space to put the stations for I don't know what compensation... but still that can hardly be seen as a fight for clean air or commitment for citizen mobility.)

As an extra: This article on Spacing.ca talks about the funny coincidences that have led to the world-famed success of Paris' bike sharing system.

6 May 2009

life goals and self-worth ~~~ memories from Taiwan

When you think about whether you are successful, whether you are a good individual, whether you are proud of yourself, what are the things you look for, what are the MEASURES that you judge yourself by?
I would guess that for most Western people what they want is the respect of their peers and most people think that financial independence (i.e., having a proper carreer) and a similar life style (i.e., consumption) are the way to be accepted. Increasingly there is also a trend of people identifying themselves with their looks, which can be seen in the rise of beauty surgery. I recently came to think about the cultural difference of life goals and self-image, when I saw a documentary about Africa that stated that for many Africans the number of children they have is the most important thing in life... (which is probably part of the reason that economic progress in African countries is so slow compared to many Asian countries).
Thinking about all this I remembered my (and fellow traveller's) experience with Taiwanese people. It seems that for the Taiwanese, learning is a central part of there self-esteem. In Taiwan you find people working sixty hours a week, but still taking time to study. One of my class-mates (Indonesion of Chinese descent) worked seven days a week to earn money and still came to take classes five days a week. Our teacher, her age not much short of retirement, is still studying for a graduate degree.
Additionally I noticed that while in the West, many things involve quite a lot of technology, in China many things involve a lot of skill. Technology can be bought, but skill has to be aquired.

When I think about my own life, I find that I am also very much attracted to learning and improving skills. I am among those who don't need an iPod or iPhone, who are still working with a five year old computer.
What I value in myself and what makes me happy is what I know and what I am able to do. In that sense, I am a little Taiwanese myself.

5 May 2009

Motivationsschreiben einer Freundin

Einfach nur, weil sie es so schön geschrieben hat:

Oktober 1999 war ein kritischer Wendepunkt in meinem Leben. Denn zu dieser Zeit begann ich meine Ausbildung zum Englischlehrer und fing an, Deutsch zu lernen. Anfangs betrachtete ich das Deutschstudium lediglich als eine persönliche Herausforderung. Jedoch mit fortschreitendem Studium wurde mir mehr und mehr bewusst, dass ich nicht einfach nur eine Sprache lerne. Vielmehr erlangte ich neue Erkenntnisse und Einblicke in ein Land gefüllt mit Kultur, Kunst und Geschichte.

Deutschlernen und Lehrkarriere erlaubten es mir, nicht nur die Welt mit einer neuen Perspektive zu betrachten, sondern auch mich selber. Ich bin der Überzeugung, dass man jede einem sich bietende Gelegenheit nutzen sollte, um sein Wissen zu erweitern. Ferner bin ich stets auf der Suche nach Möglichkeiten, die mir helfen mein Potential auszuschöpfen, meine Ängste zu überwinden, meine Grenzen auszuloten und dazu beitragen, mich als Persönlichkeit weiterzuentwickeln. Das Studium an der Sun Yat-sen Universität und im Ausland ist nach meiner Meinung bestens dazu geeignet, all dies zu erreichen.

3 May 2009

little wolf's amiable altriusm

There is a bicycle with a flat tire in front of little wolf's house. Little wolf sees the bike every time he comes and goes and he is said that the bike sits there broken. He well remembers the time when the bike was in good shape and apparently used by somebody since it used to be locked in front of the house and occasionally absent from its parking space.
Little wolf tried to inflate the bike's tire to make it happy again. But the tube didn't hold the air. So little wolf decided to change the bike's tube. He didn't know how to get the bike's hub gear control box out of the way so he asked me about it. I am already familiar with Wolf's extra-ordinary altruism, but I was still surprised. I told him, that he shouldn't start messing with other people's bikes. I don't think he would break anything, but I was concerned that the bike was already abandoned, the owner having moved away. Also, Wolf admitted himself that once the bike is repaired, since there is no lock any more, it might just be stolen! On the other hand, it often happens that bike owners are too apathetic to repair their bike after a damage or vandalism and would just continue riding it after it being magically repaired. (Incidentally, said apathy sadly also concerned my own sister and her bike...)
With all those arguments going back and forth, we had a very heated debate about it, because he insisted to repair this bike whose owner he didn't even know. It is a lady's bike and we were make jokes about the owner being either a hot blonde or a grand ma who can't ride anymore now.
Since our discussion was so entrenched, I asked around among the other friends present at our get together. After a short explanation, they voiced the opinion that Wolf should just do what makes him happy, no matter whether the bike will be stolen afterwards or be vandalized again. Was was instantly convinced, not so much by the argument, but by hearing some trusted third party's opinion. We explained little wolf how to take out the wheel with the gear box and ask him to keep us updated about the bike and its story.