Amsterdam’s bicycle culture stays in mind

On July 23, 2018 we moved from Long Branch and spent the next three months at rented accommodations across Ontario, and at cities across Europe and Scandinavia. On Oct. 25, 2018 we moved to Stratford.

In the current post, I will share reflections, about what I learned during our recent travels.

A previous post sets the scene:

We have bought a house in Stratford, Ontario

In the notes that follow, I will share some highlights – mainly as a way for me to document some reflections, while they are still fresh in my mind.

Source: Nov. 8, 2018 tweet from Ontario Municipal Affairs @ONmunicipal

I’ve posted this map as a reference, regarding Guelph and Peterborough. Source: Nov. 8, 2018 tweet from Ontario Municipal Affairs @ONmunicipal as highlighted at a previous post.

Over the years I’ve met a lot of people online, who have memories of Long Branch, having lived there in previous years, before moving on. As in any community, some people stay in Long Branch forever; some move on.

University of Guelph

The first place we stayed was at a student residence – a three-storey townhouse – at the University of Guelph. We rented an SUV around this time, which we drove in addition to our small family car. While we were in Guelph, we travelled back and forth to Toronto. It wasn’t a long drive – a little over an hour each way, as I recall.

Five things I recall from Guelph. First, it was great to be next to the Guelph Arboretum. It was a great experience to go for walks and study all the signage, related to the names of trees, and projects that Guelph alumni had completed, by way of making the Arboretum a beautiful resource.

I also remember that a childhood friend of mine, from when I lived in Montreal, studied horticulture at the University of Guelph in the 1960s. He was doing well, in his line of work, when I ran into him in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood around the late sixties. He was on a visit to Vancouver at the time, as I recall. I haven’t seen him since. If anyone can help me get updated, about his whereabouts or life in the years that followed, please contact me.

Hex bar. Jaan Pill photo

At the Humber Fitness Centre in Long Branch, among my favourite exercises has been the Hex bar deadlift. Jaan Pill photo

At the student residence, there were signs up about arrangements for composting, but there wasn’t any composting happening, at the time we were there. I’m hoping that composting will be implemented, or already has been implemented, at the student residences.

The other thing I remember is the fitness centre, located a short walk from our rented townhouse. It was a good place to work out – with lots of interesting machines. With a little help from staff, I was able to get through my usual strength training routines, on the occasions I was at the fitness centre. I think I paid by the week. It didn’t cost much.

I was interested to note there were two hex bars available, for doing the hex bar deadlift exercise. One was for heavy-duty lifting; the other was for less strenuous lifts.

Now, when I had been working out at the Humber Fitness Centre in Long Branch, one day another fitness enthusiast had explained to me that there was a detail, about the hex bar that is available at the latter centre, that I was not yet aware of. The detail in question concerned two steel rods, sticking out from the hex bar.

He helpfully pointed out to me that when the steel rods are properly positioned, on the floor, the hex bar is raised above the floor, in such a way that it’s very easy to add weights to the bar, without a need to hold up one end of the hex bar, with one hand, while adding a weight to the bar with the other. The way I had been adding the weights before was cumbersome, and awkward, as compared to when the rods were used as a built-in stand, to ease the task of loading.

That was a real revelation for me. Now, when I had a look at the two hex bars at the Guelph University fitness centre, I noted that these bars did not have the same steel rods in place. In fact, the way that you added weights, to either end of the hex bar, was really quite complicated. You had to ask one of the staffers, at the centre, for help in adding weights to the hex bar.

This was easy enough to do, and the staff person was pleased to help. Still, I would be just as happy if I had a hex bar with a built-in stand, so that I could just add the weights myself.

No question – when I buy my own hex bar, for doing hex bar deadlifts at home, I will make sure it’s the kind that has the two steel rods sticking out from it, which serve as a built-in stand, to enable me to load the weights on my own.

The hex bar deadlift, in my anecdotal experience, is a remarkably good exercise for building strength. About one session with the hex bar, followed by a week for recovery, works well for me. As I’ve noted at a previous post, the hex bar requires skill, in the execution of the lift. The hip-hinge movement has to be strongly in place, and the back has to be kept in a neutral alignment:

Deadlift – with barbell and with hex bar – requires close attention to proper form

[Update: Truly amazing: On Nov. 29, 2018, at a workout at the Humber Fitness Centre, I noted that the two metal bars, which had served as a positioning stand for the hex bar at that facility, had been removed from the hex bar.]

The fifth thing was that I bought, on sale on campus, a book entitled Philosophical Chemistry: Genealogy of a Scientific Field (2015). The book deals with the role of conceptual metaphor in development of scientific theory, a topic of much interest to me.

Stay Inn and Tartu College

For at least one night, we stayed at the Stay Inn, close to Sherway Gardens and close to the new Farm Boy outlet at Brown’s Line and Evans Ave. The Stay Inn is a place that I remember from the organizing of the MCHS 2015 reunion, that I was involved with – MCHS being the abbreviation for Malcolm Campbell High School in Montreal, from which I graduated in 1963.

The Stay Inn was one of the places where people stayed for the 2015 reunion, which took place at Old Mill Toronto.

What is new about the Stay Inn area is that, since the time of the reunion, a Farm Boy store has opened up at the plaza located a short walk southwest of the Stay Inn.

As well, before flying to Amsterdam, I stayed a week or so at Tartu College on Bloor St. West just east of Spadina Road in downtown Toronto. I had stayed there as a student in the early 1980s, when I spent a year at the University of Toronto Faculty of Education.

At Tartu College, I interviewed an archivist connected with the Estonian archives that are housed at Tartu College. I was interested to learn about the work of Estonian archivists around the world. This note will serve as a reminder to myself to transcribe the interview and translate it from Estonian to English.

When I first began writing these notes, I thought I would be able to cover my three months of travel in just one post but it will take more than one, as it turns out. With regard to bicycle culture in Amsterdam, I will at this point just note that a previous post is entitled:

Astounding Amsterdam bicycle culture, and not quite so astounding (as it was unofficial) Banksy exhibit at Moco Museum in Amsterdam

The bicycle infrastructure that is in place in Amsterdam really made me think – about what is possible, when people work together to make things happen for the benefit of an entire city’s population. What I saw in Amsterdam was truly a revelation for me.

I’ve revised my initial thoughts about the Banksy exhibit – on further study, I learned that what I has seen was an unauthorized Banksy exhibit. The exhibit has prompted me to read extensively about art history, especially as it relates to stylized imagery such as seen in traffic signage and some forms of graffiti; it’s a topic that has been a major focus for me, in my reading and reflections, over the past couple of weeks.

Update

An Aug. 19, 2019 BBC article is entitled: “What’s it like to live in an over-touristed city? Locals explain how the influx of travellers has affected them, how authorities are responding and how visitors can remain respectful of people who live there year-round.”

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