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2-wheelin’ with a tree: Cyclists put spin on Christmas tradition




Cyclists, take note: you don’t need a car or a sleigh to lug your Christmas tree home. 

Chris Bruntlett has the photos to prove it.

For five years, the Vancouver marketing guru has been crowdsourcing images from around the world of cyclists who use their two-wheelers to cart home their freshly cut firs.

No struggle to stuff that eight-footer into your sedan. No pine needles sprinkled over the chairs. No fear of the timber tumbling off the roof rack.

Instead, all it takes is a bungee cord, a utility rack and the chutzpah to pedal through the streets with your fresh conifer. Bruntlett, 38, calls the tradition #TreeByBike, and cyclists have jumped on board.

“The amount of creativity and ingenuity, and the types of bikes, trailers and tools that people implement, are really inspiring,” Bruntlett said. “It’s a lot of fun to watch.”

The wheels for the idea went into motion five years ago.

Bruntlett, who runs a marketing firm focused on cycling, came across an ad for a payday loan company showing a man hauling a Christmas tree on his bike, looking miserable. 

“The whole message of the ad was, ‘We’ll loan you money to buy a car, so that you can do the things you need to do, like the rest of civilized society, inferring that only poor people … are the ones carrying stuff on their bikes,” he said.

“We just wanted to show that not only do people do this kind of stuff with their bicycles, but it’s quite a desirable and enjoyable activity if you just show a little bit of creativity.”

Bruntlett and his partner, Melissa, had just bought a cargo bike, which is designed to carry a load. They brought their tree home by bike for the first time that year and shared a photo online. The immediate response inspired them to collect more photos.

Capturing a tradition

The shots prominently feature the Dutch, pictured cycling effortlessly through their bike-friendly streets. Other hot spots include Germany, Belgium, France and the United States.

Some locales are unexpected.

“We’ve gotten photos from remote places like Kazakhstan, which is really mind blowing,” Bruntlett said.

It’s a yearly tradition now for Bruntlett’s family, which include his two kids, aged nine and 12. They bike several hundred metres from their home on Commercial Drive to the plant shop, Figaro’s Garden, which offers a 10 per cent discount to anyone who picks up their tree by bike.

Chris Bruntlett says bike riding home with a Christmas tree has turned into a family tradition, which his kids wouldn’t have any other way. (Chris Bruntlett/Supplied)

The photos have also spawned a community of urban cyclists who share stories about their cities, Bruntlett said. 

“A lot of the time, the conversation is quite serious, in terms of getting stuff built and dealing with the daily challenges of using … a second-class mode of transportation,” he said.

“This is one way to set all of those grievances aside and just have some fun.”


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla




Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm




Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover




KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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