Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Boulder pickup lines and the Nobel Peace Prize

Cycling is not a past-time in Boulder - it's an obsession. A way of life, as you will. This was exemplified by a dinner party I went to: of ~25 people, I was the only person who didn't ride a bike (I walked). The conversation was centered around bike rides, bike trails, bike gossip, and, of course, the show-offy-remember-when-I-crashed-on-that-hill tales. Mountain bikes and road bikes. Both are acceptable. There were occasional deviations from bike talk - they generally went to the world of snowboarding or backcountry skiing.

The pivotal moment of bemusement for me was, upon being introduced to someone new and explaining that I had just moved to Boulder, getting immediately asked the question 'so are you here to race bikes or just to ride them?'. The concept of moving to Boulder independent of bike riding was a foreign one - so foreign that it wasn't even an option. I answered with the only response I could come up with: I moved here for a job - but i ride my bike to work every day. Apparently an unexpected and rarely-received response. The resulting conversation was surprising, yet exemplifies this town:
As soon as I explained what I do, my new aquaintance (a phd biochemist turned bicycle courier) leapt into a highly interesting and intellectual discussion of Lovelock, climate change and the Gaia hypothesis.

And on that note, and as part of my immense pleasure over this year's Nobel Peace Prize, I must digress from Boulder to America in general... I heard about the Prize in the middle of last week's conference in the Netherlands. There was considerable excitement and pleasure, and much discussion as to whether or not there would be an impact on US politics (general skepticism on the part of those of us living in the US).

However, I noticed on CNN world (the only english tv channel I got there - tv! a concept. hadn't seen one of those in months...) some interesting discussion. A Republican spokeswoman was on, talking about how this was the Nobel committee being political and trying to get attention, and how they had contrived the award to Al Gore merely to get publicity. Because that makes sense. Of course the Swedish, non-profit, committee is using their announcements purely for political gain. (Note the dripping sarcasm). This woman made no sense, but true to CNN's "unbiased reporting, so we'll give everyone equal time, no matter how little sense they make" policy, she received global attention. Of course, the response on the CNN website was immediate and fascinating. Fortunately, they announced posted comments, and a distinct trend emerged: American audience members (embarassingly from California and Colorado - ouch) wrote in to agree with this Republican spokesperson, while numerous people from around the world (Ethiopa to the Netherlands) wrote in to condemn this politicezed opinion, and to support the IPCC and Al Gore. I think it was probably more a commentary on who was watching CNN, rather than the global distribution of opinions on global change, but interesting nonetheless.

Of course, Stephen Colbert feels that his own Nobel Prize was unfairly robbed, but did point out that there was a Republican (senator? congressperson?) out there who, in a single interview, pointed out that a.) terrorists have received the Peace Prize in the past, so there is no honour in receiving it, and yet b.) if he had received the Prize, he would have given it to the US military who deserve the Peace Prize. !?! Ah, the logic of politicians never ceases to amaze me...

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