TDU Roundup

January in Australia, for a club cyclist at least, means a pilgrimage to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under. I hadn’t been for the last two years, so I was overdue a visit this year and when Stu said he was going down for a half-week, I was in too.

The usual protocol is for our club to ride around 100km per day, stopping at the occasional bakery to refuel and intersecting with the race route to watch the pros in action. Depending on numbers, we usually have more than one bunch, with the fast bunch doing a few more kms (up to 130) and the slower bunch doing 80 or so. Everyone rides the climbs at their own pace - whether that’s all-out to see how fast you can go, or a comfortable effort - and we re-group at the top.

Usually I flit between the two groups, riding at the front of the slow group, or hanging on to the fast group, but this year it became apparent from the first climb that I was the tail-end Charlie on all the climbs, even in the slow bunch! Not enough hard training in the last few months, or really any training at all.

Sure, I’d been riding a few times a week, but not really following anything structured that you could call a training plan, and now my lack of fitness was revealed 😁 Unfortunately there was only one bunch this year as numbers were down, but I managed to find one or two others each day who were around my pace and happy to do a few less kilometers and it all worked out in the end. I’ve ridden those roads enough times to know my way around, so my preference is to let the main bunch do their own thing, rather than me holding them up. Sounds altruistic, but it’s actually me being selfish and not wanting the pressure of trying to keep up! The Adelaide hills are still a great place to ride, even if most of your club-mates are on a different route.

Bushfire aftermath at Cudlee Creek

A few days before Christmas, a bushfire broke out in Cudlee Creek, an area we habitually visit, and riding through there this year was eye-opening. The scent of smoke was still in the air, more than three weeks later, as we rode down roads surrounded by burnt trees and slopes, marvelling at how houses had been saved despite being surrounded by burnt-out land and then being reminded of the toll these fires take by the occasional ruin of a house that couldn’t be saved. One thing is certain - the Country Fire Service did a really good job under pretty testing circumstances.

Thanking the Country Fire Service

The Gig Economy

The New Republic has an article on the gig economy, titled ‘The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare’ looking at the effects of companies like Instacart and Uber classifying their workers as independent contractors to get around labour laws.

Rideshare gig drivers have reported earning so little that they resort to sleeping in their cars during off-peak times so that they don’t have to waste time commuting to higher-earning areas when they start driving the next day. Most gig companies don’t offer reimbursements for expenses like gas, parking, or tickets. Nor do they provide adequate insurance to cover wear and tear on personal vehicles, or hikes in data-usage plans for workers’ smartphones.

All the risks and expenses are shifted to the worker, with the compensation for the job being driven lower and lower.

These broad structural conditions of inequality have accelerated thanks to Big Tech’s penchant for skirting labor laws, such as the minimum wage, through classifying its employees as contract workers. When Cotten first started as an Instacart shopper, she did well, earning up to $22 per “batch.” However, Instacart soon flooded her region with new shoppers, which drove down her wages to as little as $3 an order. The added competition meant that if she couldn’t work, someone else was there to pick up the slack.

Sounds like globalisation in miniature. Instead of your job going to China or India, it just goes to anyone in your area who’s willing to work for a lower percentage of minimum wage than you are.

The Sinking Dutch

Interesting article on how extraction of water to drain peatland over many years is slowly sinking the Netherlands.

In 1953, the Netherlands experienced a flood that killed more than 1,800 people. That disaster led to the development of the Delta Works, a hugely successful series of national construction projects that created the world’s largest storm barrier.

“The problem is that we’ve been very good at adaptation to land subsidence,” says Erkens. “But all we’ve done is adaptation. We haven’t done any mitigation of land subsidence.”

Floods are catastrophic events that make the evening news and require government inquiries, but the slow drop of the ground level doesn’t draw the same attention. As a result, few people have been aware of the growing crisis, including Niezen, who didn’t give the subsidence problem much thought until she became an alderman.

But now more people are noticing. “Climate change was a game changer,” says van den Born.

Particularly pertinent now that Australia has experienced months of bushfires and our climate-change-denying Government is suddenly all talk about ‘adaptation’ and less enthusiastic about ‘mitigation.’

Colour Theory Nonsense

A detailed look at how Swedes, and now many other nationalities, got caught up in the pseudo-scientific Colour Theory of personality analysis put forward in Thomas Eriksen’s Surrounded by Idiots.

Despite the use of colours, it turned out that the “Surrounded by …” books were not based on Myers-Brigg. Instead, they built on another personality theory, the so-called DiSC model. The most noteworthy outcome of a search through the academic literature on this model was that, despite the fact that the test had been around for fifty years, there was in principle no research on whether or not it worked.

Despite Eriksen having no qualifications, and the theory itself having lain dormant since the 50s, with no supporting research, the book has gone on to sell more than two million copies world-wide, simply because no-one bothered to factcheck when it first came out.

In the age when anyone can publish their views online, the very institutions which we are meant to trust — -publishers, broadcasters and newspaper editors — -have to fight harder than ever to maintain their own trustworthiness. If they lose that trust then the very existence of democracy and the open society is at risk.

First Paper Linking CO2 to Temperature

Pretty cool.

Here’s a copy of the first paper linking CO2 to increased atmospheric temperature, published by Mrs. Eunice Foote, read before the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1856!

That was three years BEFORE Darwin published On the Origin of Species!!!

The receiver containing the gas [CO2] became itself much heated - very sensibly more so than the other - and on being removed, it was many times as long in cooling.

An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as increased weight must have necessarily resulted.

On comparing the sun’s heat in different gases, I found it to be in hyrdrogen gas, 104°; in common air, 106°; in oxygen gas, 108° and in carbonic acid gas [CO2], 125°