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November 2016

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How to cycle in the winter — and not slip and die

With winter on its way (or so we hear), many people are preparing themselves to be cooped up indoors for months on end without reprieve. Instead, why not outfit your bike for winter and get some fresh air while commuting to work? Sure, it may seem like a silly idea. Who would possibly want to ride their bikes in the snow, right? While it’s true that winter cycling is a brave adventure, with the right preparations, it can be a great way to get through the winter months. Canada has been lucky enough to get a pretty long fall, so before winter hits hard, prep your bicycle so that you do not slip and die when the snow finally arrives.

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Cycling Gloves.

First and foremost: protective winter clothing is essential to make sure you don’t get too cold while cycling. High winds can be harmful (especially to fingers and toes). A thermal layer for your legs and cycling gloves are the most important pieces of winter clothing you can buy. Cycling gloves specifically are built to be wind resistant, but are still flexible enough that you can still use your hands properly in the case of a flat tire. Wearing layers is the best way to ride comfortably in low temperatures, but at the same time too many bulky sweaters will prevent you from riding properly — not to mention it will cause you to sweat, which will further decrease your body temperature. Instead, look into buying thinner thermal layers that help contain core heat that will still allow you to move easily on the bike.

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Winter tires.

Your next task is to consider what kind of tires you would like to ride with in the winter season. If winter has a light snow fall, it is possible to reduce the air pressure in your regular tires and ride at 50 psi, though this is often considered the ‘poor man’s’ approach and not highly recommended. Instead, I recommend purchasing studded tires or trying out a fat bike for the winter. These bikes have the thickest and strongest tires and will prevent slipping and sliding on the wet roads. Road bike tires, a popular commuting tire that is quite thin, are to be avoided at all costs. If you don’t slide and fall first, your tires will go flat easily in rough winter road conditions. Be sure to get your brakes checked prior to winter riding to make sure you have the best braking system possible for slippery hills.

Fenders, side panels that block the wheels from the seat post, are a must for winter riding in slushy conditions. Getting splashed by snow and mud is distracting and unpleasant. The salt and snow from the roads can get stuck in hard to reach places,which can damage your bike. Fenders can be costly, but the added safety makes them worth it.

Frozen bike chain a.k.a why you need to wipe down after a winter ride.
Frozen bike chain a.k.a why you need to wipe down after a winter ride.

Once you are all set up with your new winter gear and are ready to ride, make sure you have cleaning supplies waiting at home near the door. Wiping down your bike after each ride will ensure it will be usable after the winter season is over. Winter can be really hard on bikes and I recommended not using a high-end bike during the colder months. Your bike chain will rust if you don’t dry it after each ride. Choose a cheaper bike if possible and be diligent about maintaining your machine so that you can keep using it.

Good luck on your winter ride and remember to be prepared and wear a helmet! Extreme winter conditions may seem intimidating for cyclists, but if you take the proper steps you will enjoy your commute. It is refreshing to be outside once you adjust to the cold, and cycling will keep your blood pumping.

What are your winter cycling essentials? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Should you be using emojis?

“He doesn’t use emoji’s when he messages.”

Chaos ensued. Something just didn’t sit right between me and the rest of the members of our sacred group chat; a group chat where my friends come together to talk about the daily occurrences of our lives; any particular emotions that need to be shared; and, the occasional analysis of our current love interests. This, of course, is all done with the excessive use of emojis. None of us could fathom how someone could converse via instant messaging without the use of round, yellow faces. Can the full meaning behind the message be conveyed without emojis nowadays? Think about it, there’s just no way a flirtatious text is complete without a wink or a sideways smirk. It’s just impossible. It’s the difference between ‘want to come over? ;)’ and ‘want to come over?’ 

However, with the new addition of this emotionless man in my friend’s life, all of a sudden, it became necessary to lay back on the emojis. In order to avoid bae from thinking of her as too childish or needy, the teary laughing emojis were replaced with plain lol’s.

And yes, not every lol is followed by a real life laugh out loud. And yes, not every teary laughing emoji is followed by a real life laughter that does, in fact, leave you crying. But sometimes, in order to make up for the lack of face to face interaction – a smiley face is exactly what you need to make the conversation a little more authentic.

Moral of the story – if bae doesn’t use emojis, he’s not bae. He’s the coworker whose number you have saved solely so he can cover for you when you’re running late for work. Dump him. Because a lack of emojis in conversation is a little bit like drinking decaffeinated coffee; it tastes the same as regular coffee, but it’s not exactly doing its job of making you feel the way you want to feel.

Energized. And full of life.

Of course, one can argue that not using emojis is a sign of true adulthood. Because only a real adult can understand a group of words without needing a quirky cartoon for added clarity. Emojis, however, are rather helpful in dictating serious conversations. Although, you may want to stray away from using emojis during really serious conversations – such as sending condolence texts with a broken heart when someone’s grandma dies. In that case, give them a call. Or pay them a visit. Making a casserole is also an option. Of course, if you’ve just sent out some passive aggressive texts about some overwhelming issues you’d like your roommate to work on (ie; picking their sh*t up from the living room floor), lightening up the energy with a few kisses and hearts would definitely help make things less awkward.

In an age of social media where miscommunication is an everyday problem for most users, sometimes the best thing to do is give your thumbs a rest and let your voice do the work. Because that’s where the true expression lies. Nothing will hide the bitterness in your voice when bae tells you about his spontaneous lunch date with his attractive coworker. Or the happiness/shock when your best friend tells you she’s engaged. So, maybe you shouldn’t dump bae. Give him a chance! A husky hello is sometimes all you need to get the full clarity of the message he’s trying to send.

But, when you do send that good night text at the end of that conversation; use a heart. You’ll thank me later.

How do you feel about emojis? Let us know in the comments below! 

I got a tattoo alone — and it gave me strength

People are constantly distracted and surrounded by other people all the time — talking, thinking, and spending time with people. Maybe you are collaborating on a project, working with a team, or eating dinner with family or friends. Someone else is always there!! So, let us ask you this: doesn’t it make you exhausted? When are you able to spend some quality time with the one person you wake and go to sleep with? Yes, yours truly!

I asked myself this very question. Though most of these human interactions were special and lovely, I found myself growing more exhausted because I wasn’t replenishing myself with any much-needed ‘me’ time. I decided I was going to take myself on a date. Instead of inviting someone out with me for an evening, I challenged myself to hang out on my own. Though this is initially very uncomfortable, I knew it was necessary.

I embarked out on my own for the evening with no set plan, but I was excited and nervous for the realm of possibilities. I was walking down the street in the drizzling rain, feeling a bit lonely, and I nearly pulled out my phone to call someone to distract myself. I stopped myself just in time, and that’s when something caught my eye; a tattoo parlour.

Right then and there, I knew what to do. I was planning to get a second tattoo on my wrist for years, but had put it off due to financial constraints and fear. With my previous tattoos, I had always brought a friend or partner with me for support and to hold my hand. I resisted the urge to call a friend that lived nearby and forged ahead bravely. I opened the door, linked up with a great tattoo artist and signed the consent.

That’s when the panic set in.

I was alone — who would hold my hand? I almost walked out of the salon right there and then, but a voice in the back of my head said no. I knew I had to stay and do this on my own.

I needed an opportunity to show myself that I could be my own support. I breathed deeply and coached myself through the pain. I told myself I could handle it and everything was okay. I knew that I was capable. I calmed down and in no time, the tattoo was complete and I felt amazing. I walked out of the tattoo place with more than a new tattoo on my wrist. I had a new sense of being grounded in my own life.

We all choose where we go and what we do each day. It may seem like circumstances are out of your control, like you have to spend most of your time living for others, but this is a choice. Supporting yourself through something scary or new without needing another person to be there is strengthening and creates spiritual renewal. So, get out there and take yourself for a night on the town! Start with someone simple like a movie on your own (and a giant bag of popcorn), and work your way up to a dinner out. Then, if you are feeling brave, try something new and fresh solo (as long as it is safe to do alone, no hiking trips up a mountain!).

After I left with my new tattoo, I treated myself to a dinner at my favourite restaurant, which I only attend alone. I make a point to have a secret restaurant that I only go to when I have date nights with myself. It’s a place where I order a meal and eat it nice and slowly. I let my thoughts take over. These nights are always a time of peace and solitude. Find a secret spot you love and keep it for you.

If you have personal time, you will learn to really love yourself — there is always time for that.

Canada and the U.S protest oil pipelines in our waterways

Mixing oil and water has never been a good idea, and oil companies should remember that rule of thumb. The thought of another pipeline blowing up in a fresh water source in North America leaves many environmentalists shuddering in fear — and for good reason.

People are joining together to demand that the Canadian and US governments put an end to this practice. Oil pipelines are coming under fire this week with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation protests in North Dakota and the Kinder Morgan protest at Parliament Hill. Social media has blown up with over one million people “checking in” to Standing Rock on Facebook to show support for the protests and deter police from trying to gain background information about protesters on social media and knowing who to target for arrest at the protest. On a slightly smaller scale, but nevertheless equally important, was the protest north of the border, in which over 100 protesters gathered in Parliament Hill and 50 were arrested for storming the fences to demonstrate that this pipeline is not wanted in British Columbia.

The Dakota Access pipeline is a project that is set to be built near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and crosses under the Missouri River. The pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of crude oil and any oil spills would leave the reservation without clean water. In April 2016, a few representatives of Standing Rock Sioux Nation set up camp to block the pipeline from beginning construction on their land, and in the last few months the camp has increased by the thousands. The police have made several arrests and the tension is escalating at Standing Rock, but the protestors continue to protect their land.

Across the prairies and into Canada, the Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline transports 300,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to British Columbia and Washington. The new leg of pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby would increase crude oil transport to 890,000 barrels per day, a formidable number. The National Energy Board (NEB) approved the project with 157 conditions. Though the federal ministerial panel is conducting a series of public consultations about pipeline, the time is prime to protest Kinder Morgan because the federal government is set to end public consultations and make a final decision in December. Among many other protesters, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has strongly opposed the proposal. The expanded pipeline goes right into Vancouver at the Burnaby Chevron Refinery and if an oil explosion occurred, it would be dangerous to local residents and would cost millions in repairs. Ocean tankers having more access to increased amounts of oil is dangerous for the ocean if a spill were to occur as well. Robertson also argues that the pipeline threatens the green sector, a growing industry in Vancouver. Protestors crossed the fence to gain Prime Minister Trudeau’s attention and were subsequently banned from Parliament Hill.

Both demonstrations show a growing concern for the devastating environmental effects of oil spills in waterways. The public outcry against pipelines is the result of years of unkept promises by oil companies, who all say they will protect the waterways and then claim little responsibility when detrimental oil spills occur. This was certainly the case in 2010, when Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline burst in the Kalamazoo River and leaked thousands of gallons of oil into the river, contaminating the water source and  harming wildlife. Enbridge has another pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac that was built in the 1950’s and is growing old, heightening the threat of it breaking down. If this pipeline were to burst, it would spread oil into the Great Lakes, the largest fresh body of water in the world, at a rapid rate.

Building pipelines under water requires a lot of maintenance and the threat of leaking oil is consistently an issue. Alternatives to oil pipelines needs to considered because the threat of environmental disaster is extremely high. Furthermore, the ability for oil companies to carry unprecedented levels of the product is unsustainable and dangerous because it allows them to exploit the earth to an even larger extent.

The solution — end the reign of oil.

Currently oil is a necessity for the transportation sector. Instead, more sustainable technologies need to be embraced. This can include biofuels and electric vehicles. Biofuels are made most often with ethanol, and are highly available because they are made most often from corn, a common North American crop. This form of renewable energy has a closed carbon cycle where carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is recaptured by the plant material used to make the biofuels. It is then used to produce more fuel.  Cars can use biodiesels, which are a bi-product of biofuels. Another alternative is embracing electric vehicles that would make cars fuelled with oil obsolete and are a step forward to being rid of the dirty product.

On Nov. 5, protestors are joining together at Queen’s Park to peacefully march for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and call to everyone who cares for land and water to unite with them. The march will stop at TD Bank, RBC, and Scotiabank, companies that are funding the pipeline, and then end at the US Consulate. Protests will be happening worldwide to honour the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. The time to act is now before all of our waterways are contaminated. Putting in an effort to end pipeline use is the only option for a healthy future living in North America.

Is the government scared of an informed youth?

*UPDATE: Since the publication of this piece, Women’s Post has been contacted by Paris Semansky, Senior policy advisor to Premier Kathleen Wynne, via Twitter. She insists the provincial government is not considering cancelling civics classes and will be keeping it as a distinct mandatory course in high school. Women’s Post will be keeping this piece online as it does represent an important discussion about youth involvement in politics, but note this update as you read.

 

“Today’s youth are too apathetic and lazy. They don’t care about politics. They don’t understand how their own government works.”

I’m a millennial, and despite my intense interest in the news, my teachers and political leaders often told me that I was not doing enough. My generation, they said, was too apathetic. They didn’t vote, they didn’t get involved, and they simply didn’t care. And whose fault is that, they would ask? Entirely yours, they would say.

It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated high school, and those statements are still thrown in the face of young people across the country. It’s not a politician’s fault they can’t engage with youth, right? These kids spend too much time on Snapchat and not enough time reading the newspaper, ect. ect.

But then, after all of the nagging and the finger pointing, the Ontario government has the gall to consider cancelling civic classes.

Civic class represent a mandatory half credit in Ontario high schools, and is paired with a half-credit “careers” course. It teaches the basics — how our government works, how to vote, and what people’s rights are as a Canadian citizen. The careers course, on the other hand, essentially teaches kids to write a resume and not to chew gum during a job interview.

These are two integral and important classes, classes that should not under any circumstance be dismissed. In fact, I would argue that each course should be a full credit. Kids should be taught how to budget, file their taxes, and negotiate a sale. They should be taught how to submit a deposition to city council, hold a legal protest, and where to find information on the bills being discussed in question period. They should be taken to see question period!

And yet media sources report that the provincial government is considering removing these critical classes from the high school curriculum. How much do you want to bed that they will still blame kids for not understanding how their own government works?

The province has a right to be scared. Civics is breeding a new generation of informed citizens, kids who understand that they don’t vote for a leader of a party, despite what every political campaign tells them. These kids understand that most promises are smoke screens for hidden agendas. They get it! They ask questions. They are skeptical!

And that’s a scary thought. All of a sudden, MPPs have to focus their political capital on a generation they previously ignored. They have to pretend to care. Their career could depend on the vote of a single 18-year-old entering university for the first time.

No wonder the province doesn’t want to invest in informed citizens. An informed citizen is dangerous to the entire political system. An informed citizen will vote, take part in the discussion, and advocate for change!

It’s much better to just knick that pesky habit before it even develops.

 

civics

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Flanagan

Jennifer Flanagan, co-founder and CEO of the non-profit Actua, was exposed to science and technology at a young age, more so than other young girls in her class. Her father and uncle were both engineers, and as she says, “kids that grow up with engineers or scientists as parents are typically the ones that pursue it themselves.”

Flanagan’s plan was to go to medical school, combine her love of science and her affinity for helping people into one career. But, all that changed when she saw a poster on the wall asking the following question: Do you want to start a science or engineering camp? Her answer was a resounding yes.

That small group of students started up a few camps locally, but soon the model spread nationally among engineering programs at different universities. As of 1994, the camps had a policy for gender parity, with an equal 50 per cent divide between girl and boy participants. “That was unheard of,” Flanagan said.  “It was controversial, amazing, and it worked.”

The programs became more popular, and eventually the students started to receive funding from university chairs and Industry Canada. And that’s how Actua was formed — a national charitable organization that engages young kids and marginalized communities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). “We [engage] about 225,000 youth a year – that includes a huge focus on those underrepresented audiences, or the hardest to reach audience in Canada,” Flanagan explained. This includes a program called InSTEM, a customized, community-based educational program that engages First Nations, Metis, and Inuit youth, as well as a digital literacy program that transforms young people from passive consumers into real innovators capable of using and creating future technology.

Twenty-five years later, Flanagan is just as excited about her role in Actua as she was when she saw that poster on the wall. She says she has seen progress since the program went national.

“Big evidence of that progress is Actua,” she said. “When I first started doing this work, we had to convince people it was important. A summer camp was one thing, but no one saw the link to the future work force or economic development.”

More woman are getting involved in certain science, like medicine for example, but Flanagan says there is still a void in research and in technology-based industries. “Whether its health-based research that’s skewed because no women were involved — it affects research outcome. It’s really important to have those voices at the table. And so, that starts really early. Talking to girls – telling them that they can do science and we NEED them in science. We need to make sure women are designing the world of the future.”

Flanagan is working with a team on a special project meant to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary next year. Actua is building a “Maker Mobile”, a mobile workshop that will travel from one end of the country to the other in just over 18 months, stopping at schools and community centres along the way. “A maker space is a workshop that is filled with technology tools that allow you to build prototypes or allow you to build products,” Flanagan said. “We are celebrating past innovation by building skills for future innovation.”

The idea is to inspire young people to not only learn more about science and technology, but also to inspire them to innovate. The maker mobile will empower these young people and shift their attitudes. Too often, people tell kids to pay attention to math and science so they can do great things in the future, Flanagan explained. Instead, why not encourage them to do great things now?

“Today’s youth are incredible innovators already. They are amazing problem solvers and have natural abilities with science and technology.”

Flanagan’s passion often follows her outside of her work with Actua. She sits on the board of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, an organization that has a wide mandate, which includes empowering women, helping them escape violent situations, and ending poverty.

“The work with the Canadian Women’s Foundation is so fundamental — doing work that is creating the first generation of women free of violence requires more passion. The work that we do, engage girls in science and technology goes far beyond knowing there is enough female participation in these subjects. It’s about raising confidence.”

Flanagan is also a finalist for the Social Change Award for the 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. She is reading a newly released book called “Girl Positive”, which tells the story of hundreds of girls across North America and finds out what they need, something Flanagan says is critical reading for parents and policy makers.

 

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Should Toronto use tolls to maintain transit network?

The City of Toronto has completed the first round of negotiations with the province over funding for the Transit Network. Staff will present their updated financial report to a special executive committee meeting Tuesday afternoon for approval prior to the November city council meeting the following week.

The report outlines the funding model for the various elements of the Transit Network, including the amount of money being provided by the Ontario government. As of Nov. 1, the province has offered $3.7 billion for Regional Express Rail (RER) and $7.84 billion for Light Rail Transit (LRT).

The biggest blow to the transit-funding model is that city council will now be responsible for the day-to-day operations or maintenance of the Finch West, Sheppard East, and Eglinton Crosstown LRTs. These are projects that will be built by the province and Metrolinx; yet, Toronto residents will be on the hook for its maintenance.

Aspects of SmartTrack will be covered under the provincial funding; however, it will not be enough. The federal government has said they will make a contribution — but there has been no firm commitment yet. In the meantime, the city will have to come up with other ways of finding revenue to pay for the project, as well as the maintenance and operations of the network once it is complete. This could mean raising property taxes, something the city has promised not to do.

But, why should Toronto residents pay for all of these transit plans when they benefit the GTHA region in its entirety? Maybe the more economically feasible form of revenue can be found in the use of tolls, something that everyone entering and driving in Toronto can contribute to.

If drivers were asked to pay a toll when using the Don Valley Parkway or the Gardiner Expressway, a lot of these funding problems could be solved. First of all, tolls would encourage more people to use the new transit network, thus freeing up the roads and alleviating the insane gridlock Toronto faces on a daily basis. Second of all, the money collected from these tolls could be funnelled directly into a transit fund — to be used in conjunction with the money collected from fares, ect. — to pay for the daily operations of these projects.

On Tuesday’s meeting, staff will be recommending that city council approve the current funding model and authorize further negotiations and agreements with the province, Metrolinx, and other agencies in order to gain extra funding for SmartTrack.

But, I don’t think Toronto should hold its breath. It’s time to come up with some realistic solutions to the transit-funding problem instead of hoping that other levels of government will bail us out. Embracing tolls is the logical solution — but is there someone brave enough to say it on the council floor?

The city has until Nov. 30 to finalize financial arrangements for SmartTrack to keep the provincial deadline.