Sunday, December 30, 2007

Children's Museum

We went up to the Children's Museum in Salt Lake last week. It was interesting. I love going and watching kids play and interact. I also like watching the parents and how they interact with their children. I learn a lot and try to find things that I can do better and things that I never want to do.
We'll start with the things that I never want to do. OK, what this really comes down to is a disdain for portable electronic devices. Lets start with cell phones. Dads were particularly guilty on this one. If you are going to take your kid to the Children's Museum, spend time with your kid. Take the obnoxious blue glowing growth out of your head and interact with your kid. Leave the cell phone in the car, is there really that much that is as important as spending time with your children? Of course if you're a doctor on call, it would be appropriate to have your cell phone, but the conversations I overheard were not medical emergencies. I fear that some fathers think that spending money to get their kids into the Children's Museum is their exhibition of love. I'll give you a hint, it's not the money, it's the time and interaction. While the Children's Museum offers some unique opportunities for interaction and exploration, entrance is only the monetary fee for a positive relationship.

I'm done bashing cell phones... Well almost. My next annoyance was digital cameras, which are often built into a cell phone for your convenience. I have nothing against recording images with a digital camera, but let the kids play! I don't know how many parents I saw rushing their kids around to each exhibit so that they could get a picture of their child posing (pretending to play, but looking at the camera), just to be pulled to the next exhibit to "play". Of course I recognize in this modern age that if there was no picture taken of an event, it never really happened (excuse the sarcasm). Why did you pay to go to the Children's Museum, to let your kid play, learn and have fun, or to get a different back drop for pictures? Just because I didn't like the people posing their children and moving them, doesn't mean that I'm against pictures, see, I even took a couple myself.
So here's the top of Six-Pence's head while he's playing with dominoes at the Children's Museum.
This is the Mugwump building a castle out of giant Legos. Notice the great view I got of the top of his head. No balding yet. Oh, and the giant Legos were really cool, just PLEASE don't get us any, could you imagine trying to store those things?
So what are you supposed to do at the Children's Museum? Here's my opinion... not that I'm opinionated. While I may have led you astray with my comments on cell phones, I don't think that you have to constantly play with your kids at the Children's Museum, especially if you play with them at home. You just have to be available to play. I like to let the kids run free and just follow them and watch how they interact. Often they will come interact with me and then I get a chance to play, but if they want to play with other children, that is fine as well. This works great for the next month, and then we'll have three kids. So how does that work if there are two parents and three kids? Anyway, I think that parents being available to their children is hugely important.
As I was getting the pictures from the Children's Museum, I found some others from a topic that I forgot to write about. Christmas. It was great, thanks to everyone who got us stuff, we appreciate it. This was a wonderful year because we didn't get any electric junk or commercialized toy stuff. I don't mind toys, but when the toys are all based on TV shows or movies, suddenly the toys are no longer imaginative, they are a marketing ploy. Anyway, we didn't get any and we're thankful for that. Here are a few pics.
That is Six-Pence dressed up as a frog. The boys love imagination and dressing up as things. Grammie did a WONDERFUL job making costumes for the boys, they are beautifully made and the boys love them. The only problem is that big brother steals the eye balls of from the frog and then makes the frog close his eyes and run around blind. Grammie is really smart, she sent four spare eyeballs in case some get lost.
The Mugwump can now dress up like a cowboy. While he loves the shirt, vest and chaps, we find him wearing the boots all over the place.
Look at this, both boys are looking toward the camera and one of them is even smiling. These pictures are rare. You can also see the truck that carries toy cars. The boys love that as well. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My favorite Holiday

I think I may have blogged about this last year, but I'm going to do it again because I enjoy the subject. I'm not especially a fan of Christmas. Santa, trees, gifts, lights, and way too much junk food; it just doesn't do anything for me. Oh, and the holiday was supposed to be about Jesus and doing good for one another.

Actually I'll be honest, this is the first year since I was a young child that I've really been looking forward to Christmas. The reason that I'm excited for Christmas this year is the traditions that we've started as a family. Today we spent time making ornaments to take to the local nursing home Christmas morning so that we can spend some time with those who often struggle through the holiday season. We also left our Thanksgiving tree up longer this year so that we can keep in mind those things that we are thankful for, and make leaves for them and tape them to the tree. When we take down that tree, I'll make a list of things that made it on the tree.

So the real reason that I'm excited about Christmas this year is that I don't care if there are any presents under the tree. In years past I have either worried about what I might get or that I might have gotten something else something that they don't like or whatever. This year I purchased very few gifts. Two to be precise. I bought the Mugwump wood and hardware so that we can build a bird house together and I bought my wife a couple of things that she wanted (I won't write it here because she can read). We didn't buy Sixpence anything because he's got plenty and he won't notice the difference. We didn't get our parents or grandparents anything because it would put us in a difficult situation financially and the only ideas that we had for gifts were just clutter. We would have purchased stuff that they didn't really need, they might have used, but most likely would have ended up as trash in the near future. We are trying hard to stand up against that, so we didn't buy anything for a lot of people. That is hard, because when I was growing up gifts were a way of showing love. We most certainly love our family, but we are trying to disconnect the idea of gifts and love. If suddenly tomorrow there were not a single gift under the tree, it would in no way influence my family's ability to celebrate Christmas. We're glad they are there and we appreciate others' generosity, but we would still have the spirit of Christmas without them.

Oh, I was going to write about my favorite holiday. OK, I don't know that it is really a holiday, but I really like the Winter Solstice. I think there is a reason that Christmas is on December 25, just after the Winter Solstice every year. I think that the real reason for Christmas is a celebration of light. Now in the Northern hemisphere the days are pretty short, but night is getting long! Jesus was the light of the world, he brought to this world light and hope for things to come, even for those of us in the darkest of despair. The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year and a changing of trends. Starting now, every day will be a little longer, allowing plants a new opportunity for life that will feed animals and allow them to prepare to produce new life. Whether a religious holiday or simply from a perspective of the seasonal changes, this is a wonderful time for hope and renewal.

As the earth brings forth new opportunities I look forward to opportunities to make changes in my life. This year I'm going to make some changes in the garden to try and grow several new foods. I hope to use planter boxes to extend my growing season. I hope to plant some of the cold tolerant plants from early spring all the way to late fall to see how long we can have fresh vegetables available to us. I want to take advantage of the light given to me. Of course there are also opportunities for personal and spiritual growth that I will be making so that I can better know Jesus and help His children have joy and light in their life.

Merry Christmas to all (Boy, that's cliche')

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Response to Fatty

So I was studying for my last final today and I had about 20 minutes before class. I was sick of studying, so I went to Fatty's blog to see what he had to say. I don't know why I made a link since 98% of the people reading this came from there in the first place. Anyway, my final is done and so I'm free for the evening. I thought I would post pictures of my bike mobiles, along with their attributes.

This is going to be a little different than Fatty's post, because Fatty wrote about his truck that he uses to haul his bike in stuff. I use my bike just to haul stuff or to travel. I didn't get a picture of the fixie, that's sort of the "Geo Metro" commuter bike that isn't pretty, but serves its purpose as a workhorse getting good mileage day after day and never really breaking down. Except I'm going through spokes at a rate of about 3-4 a month.

Next, I have the a picture of the road bikes. Mine is the Mongoose. it's like a mid 90's Camaro. It's not a bad bike, but it is far from top of the line. It serves it's purpose and if the engine were taken care of like it should be it would be pretty fast. Until then, it hangs there waiting to be ridden (the bike, not the engine). My wife's bike hangs next to it, putting mine to shame (Thanks Cathi!). Hers is an old Basso with a real lugged steel frame, fully Ultegra equipped with down tube shifters and all. It's like a 60s Mustang. It's a classic and I'm afraid to drive it. My wife uses it around town on nice days, but it doesn't get the use that it was built for. Some day.
Here are the Mountain bikes. Mine is the Novara. It was a good bike in its day, but needs a bit of a make-over and overhaul. We'll compare it to a 62' Chevy Pickup that has been well used. My wife's is a Schwinn Moab. I'd compare it to a Early 90's Toyota. It serves its purpose well and hauls around the trailer on most of its trips.

And here's the trailer. It's an old Burley that has seen better days, but still serves its purpose. It hauls the two boys just fine, but our friends generally refuse to ride with us (they say it would be cramped back there). There's plenty of room behind the seat for a diaper bag, snacks, bike lock, tool kit and the cargo that your trip needed to drop off or pick up. When hooked up to one of the mountain bikes, it's an SUB (Sports Utility Bicycle). This isn't a bike, but it's a workhorse of the family. It's a double stroller. It will haul the two kids to the grocery store and one of the kids and the groceries home (The older kid has to walk home). It's nothing pretty, but it serves its purpose. We'll compare it to an old station wagon.
And below is the engine. You see, my wife is beginning to prefer the station wagon over the SUB because at 8 months pregnant her knees hit her belly while she's riding. While I've never been in that situation, I think that would take me off the bike as well. My wife is like a Ferrari engine that doesn't have a good home. It's foreign and a little mysterious, and it has tremendous power that demands respect. I know that it's more of an engine than I should ever be entrusted with, but she's got all of my respect. Powerful beyond measure, but with a simple elegance and grace that makes it oh so attractive.
And how do I haul my bikes? Who needs to haul a bike when you are riding it? It's such a shame to see bikes strapped to the backs of cars. They pass me all the time and I can hear the bikes telling their owners, "Look, he rides his bike".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trouble

This is Wife. I got in trouble today for lack of pictures posted lately, so I'm catching up.

Sixpence recently celebrated his second birthday. Unfortunately, it got him in the mood to open presents and he thinks they're all for him. He'll be disappointed on Christmas.
He requested strawberry cupcakes with pink frosting and sprinkles for his cake. I think he just licked the frosting off.
Mugwump learned about robots last week, so we took some hardware odds and ends we had and he created his own.
We decorated Christmas cookies to deliver to friends. Sixpence liked licking the frosting off the knives, and Mugwump liked putting as much frosting on each cookie as it could hold. This picture is also a picture of me 8 months pregnant. Can't you tell?
Do you think Mugwump had a good time decorating graham cracker houses this week?

Friday, December 14, 2007

All in

I've thought about this phrase quite a few times recently. I like it. I generally think of poker when I think of "all in", it's that point when you have a hand that you want to put everything that you have on the line. The beauty of it in poker is that it doesn't matter whether you have a good hand or not, you can bluff or you could have a royal flush. Going all in simply means that you are putting everything on the line.

So I'm interested in helping the environment, but am I "all in"? Unfortunately I don't think that I am. My family still owns a car (and we will own it until I can convince my wife to sell it). We don't recycle grey water. We don't produce any of our own electricity, and depend completely on incoming electricity and gas for our home. I sometimes take longer showers than I need to since I usually take them at school and I don't have to pay for it.

What does it take to go all in? I want to, but why haven't I if I'm really that interested? First off, it takes a lot of work to recycle grey water and finding alternative means of producing electricity is expensive or requires a lot of work. And we do still use our car occasionally, so it may not be the time to sell it yet.

Oh, but I have plans. The next time we move, we're building a house with solar panels and excellent insulation and grey water recycling and everything else green that you can think of. Did I think I was going to do that the last time we moved? Probably. But last time we didn't have a whole lot of money to work with. Next time will be different.

Why do I put off the major changes that I want to make? This stuff is really important to me, but I just don't do anything except plan. That is one thing that I really admire about No Impact Man, he did it. He turned off the electricity to his Manhattan apartment and lived for a year with no electricity. That's admirable. Why don't I do it? Oh, I'm in a different situation. Local food is hard to find. our house would get REALLY COLD. Our pipes would likely freeze. I'm not home enough and it would be more of a burden on my wife than on my ( I sit in a heated office and work on the computer all day).

All I have are excuses, how do I get rid of excuses and start making a difference with my life?

"I want only to live in accord with the promptings of my true inner self. Why is that so very difficult?" --Hermann Hesse

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Babies

It has been awhile, so I thought I would write. Really I like writing, but it has been a tough semester. Classes are almost over and this is going to be an entry before finals and then hopefully I'll post a little more frequently.

So Emily left a comment the other day asking about my thoughts on kids. I am of a religious persuasion that believes that we, like Adam, were commanded to "multiply and replenish the earth". When you go to environmental websites and the topic of children comes up it is often considered irresponsible to have kids because of global overpopulation and the resources that it takes to support a growing world population.

Here's how I see it. If you read the scripture where Adam is commanded to "multiply and replenish the earth", that is not all that the scripture says. Read it, it's Genesis 1:28, in the very same verse it talks about subduing and ruling over the earth. I recognize that some Christians believe that subduing and ruling over the earth means that the earth is God's gift for us to use. I have a hard time believing that God would like to see us hurting His creation. I believe that when God told Adam to subdue and rule over the earth, He was giving Adam a sort of stewardship, not to destroy the earth, but to regulate it so that resources could be shared and all generations would have access to the goods brought forth by God's creation.

I think that those two commandments go hand in hand. If we do not regulate the goods God has given us, we may not have what we need to raise our children, and He did also command to have children. As we prepare for our third child (expected in late January or early February), this does weigh on my mind. That is a big part of the reason I try to live lightly on the land, I want to leave the earth in good shape for my kids and I believe that God gave me stewardship over the land (along with everyone else who lives here), and expects me to take care of it until He returns. That is a major reason that I do not eat meat. I do not have anything morally or religiously against eating meat, but beef production is a major source of greenhouse gases, and more importantly, if land were used for growing grains and vegetables it would produce far more food to feed the world's people than using the grains to feed the cows that the people eat. Likewise I don't drive often because I know that it contributes to destroying the earth and I want to minimize that. I still have work to do on turning off lights, recycling grey water, buying local organic goods, etc, but I am taking actions to start doing my part.

In addition, I am trying to raise children who will tread lightly on the land. They too will have to preserve in order to enable their kids to have what they need. I am quite proud that my children do not know what McDonald's is. They have not asked for anything for Christmas because they haven't seen the ads. They know that paper goes in the recycle bin under the sink, food waste goes in the compost and non-recyclable stuff goes into the trash. They know they don't need to flush after urinating, but to flush after #2. They are simple things, but they help preserve the earth.

I recognize that with what the world as a whole is consuming, it may be taxing on the earth to have more kids, but I also feel that if managed correctly the earth can sustain us. We all must do our part to preserve the earth that God gave us.

Wow, I don't usually do the religion thing on this website... but I think this is important. So there is the answer to your question Emily.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

reduce

No Impact Man had a link to a little clip that was really good. I don't have time for a post today, but EVERYONE should watch this clip on consumption. Click here for the clip. You should also frequent No Impact Man's blog, he does a great job showing that reducing isn't about self denial, it's about living life fully. I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Busy

All I have are excuses. I want to post, but school is currently destroying me. Only a couple more weeks until the end of the semester and a couple months worth of work to do. So I stay up late, don't see my family and live a fairly miserable existence for two more weeks until the semester is over. Hopefully it was worth it, I think this semester took a year off my doctoral program (not credit wise, but because all of my classes this semester are only offered once a year).

So here's what keeps me sane:
First off, my wife who takes care of EVERYTHING for me, except for my schoolwork. She's amazing!!
Second, my bike ride. Getting outside, breathing fresh air and relaxing everyday surrounded by the silence of nature has kept me sane.

Today, I want to write about my bike ride home last night. I was riding along the same road that I take every day. It parallels the railroad tracks and it's pretty dark, except some faint city lights coming through the train (and my incredible new headlight, but it doesn't point toward the sides). So I'm riding along and I see this little wave of shadows that seems to be following me, just off to the side. I put it off as the dancing shadows from the train that I often see. Then there was a truck approaching from the other direction with his headlights on and it changed the shadows a little so that I looked over and could see the silhouettes of about eight deer that were bounding along side me. At first I was thinking how cool it was that I was riding with the deer. Then I though about the oncoming truck and the fact that they could be started and turn right in front of me. That wouldn't be good, so I came to a stop, and luckily so did the truck. The eight deer passed between me and the truck and bounced off into a field.

That is why I ride my bike, because I get to ride with the deer rather than being afraid of what the deer will do to my car when I hit a it. I get to experience my commute instead of being a passive observer of an outside world.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Parenting

I'm going to start with a story and then I have a couple of questions about parenting.

Today at Church was that day that the children did the presentations. They had musical numbers and little talks prepared, it was really cute. The Mugwump was the star of the show, he sang louder than the rest of the kids combined (or at that point do you call it screaming?). Anyway, he was into the music, he would sing and if he ran into a note that he liked where he knew the words (OK, it rarely lasted more than one word), he would stick with it for a while and make sure everyone knew that word. Sure, the rest of the choir moved on, but really that didn't matter because the only person you could hear was my son belting out the words he knew at the top of his lungs. Well, that's not completely true, because he belted out the notes if he didn't know the words. You know what I'm talking about, you do the same thing while you are singing along to the radio and you don't know the words, you start da da da-ing along. So did the Mugwump. At the top of his lungs. It was really cute.



The best part was that when the Mugwump got all excited with the singing, Six-pence would hear him and make sure that everyone knew that was his brother. Then we had our kids, the Mugwump belting out a song in the primary chorus and Six-pence chanting his name from the front row of the congregation. You would have thought it was a rock concert had we not been in the church. I was proud of both of them. I like that they aren't reserved and that they are happy to sing out in the front of a large group.

So I've got a couple of parenting questions. I'll start easy and get progressively more difficult. The last one should really be a blog of its own, but I'll put it out there and see if I get any comments first.

First question... How do you get a four year old to wipe for himself? He's potty trained (during the day anyway) and he rarely has accidents, but after he poops, he sits on the toilet yelling, "I need to be wiped!" We've talked to him about this and suggested that it would be far easier if he were to just do it on his own, but he says he's not going to until he's 5. I know I can just put up with another 6 months of wiping for him (and that's probably how things will end up anyway), but I was wondering if there were any other suggestions out there.

Second question... How do you teach a four year old to spit? He's doing well with brushing his teeth, but when it comes time to spit, he sort of does a congested elephant thing that takes a whole lot of effort, and very little comes out of his mouth (except noise, there's plenty of noise). This is actually a step of progress, he used to just swallow it and refuse to spit, but then we threatened to make him brush with baking soda if he didn't spit. He didn't spit and he got the baking soda. Talk about good spitting, that kid was able to get every bit of the baking soda out of his mouth with good productive spits, but when we use toothpaste, he's back to the elephant thing. Any suggestions?

Third Question... So I came home the other day and the Mugwump ran out to meet me with a spaghetti server and a chop stick and showed me his "bow and arrow". "Such a creative little boy", I thought. Little did I realize that this kid could actually shoot the chopstick with the spaghetti server. So I'm watching him use this thing and he puts the chopstick through the hole in the spaghetti server and then pulls on the chopstick a little creating some pretty good bend in the spaghetti server. When he lets go, the chopstick shoots through the air, right at whatever he was aiming at. So if that didn't make sense, I just ran downstairs and took a picture of the setup in case people didn't believe me, you can see that below. So here's the question... We aren't big fans of weapons in our home, and normally I would discourage the use of a bow and arrow, but this setup is so ingenious, I have a hard time discouraging his little creative mind. So what do you do, encourage the creation of highly accurate weapons, or discourage a creative developing mind?


OK, final question... This is the one that I could do an entire blog about. I probably should put it off and give it its own air time, but I have time tonight so I'm going to do it now to add to the world's longest post that only two people will actually read the entirety of (Thanks Mom). So my wife is doing a home-school thing with the Mugwump. He loves learning and it's going well.

Last week the lesson was safety, so my wife got some DVDs from the library about child safety. We previewed them and were sort of split on the talking to strangers issue. On the one hand, you want your child to be safe and there are some bad people out there, so prohibiting your children from talking to strangers is a good way to help assure that your child doesn't get abducted. On the other hand, in watching the DVDs, it seems like they aim to make the children scared of adults they don't know or who aren't on their "safe list". Not all adults are bad. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the vast majority of adults would not harm a child, even if they were alone with the child and nobody would ever know what happened between them. There are only a relative few wackos in the world that would actually harm a vulnerable child. In teaching children to fear or distrust all adults, are we creating a society of distrust? Would our communities be safer if we knew everyone on our street and had relationships with them so that we recognize when there's someone around that doesn't belong? Wouldn't teaching my kid to trust better accomplish the goal of building community than teaching him to distrust all adults?

Sure there's a middle ground, but I still think the point is valid. I like it when my kids approach the people walking by our house and start a conversation with them. I think it's friendly. I also think that it's safe while my wife or I are sitting there watching them. I think it is a way of building community, which is desperately needed in the world. Of course my children are taught not to get into a car with a stranger or to take candy from someone they don't know, but I think that we need to learn to trust and to be friends. I think the key is to teach kids to think and make good decisions for themselves (and then supervise them until they are old enough to make those decisions).

I may come back to that point sometime, but for now I'm going to conclude my longest ever blog entry.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The light...

Don't tell Mr. Potasky about these photos. I did take photography class in high school. I really liked the class and did quite well in it, but I will introduce you to some mistakes today. Someone has asked about my light and hub. This will be my last post about it because my next post needs to be about parenting, I have lots of questions.

So the hub is the top of the line Shimano dynamo. It's got a name made up of nothing but random numbers and letters so that nobody will ever remember it. It's a step above the Nexus (I think that is what the lower quality model is, but I also think of shampoo when I see that word). The SON hub is a step above the Shimano that I got, but I was unwilling to pay a lot of extra money for a little better performance. In reality, I can hardly tell that there's more resistance, but I like to blame my slowness on the drag of the new wheel, I know I was faster before the new hub... although it still takes about 45 minutes to get to school every day.

The light I got was a D-lumatec, or something like that. I had a few criteria that I needed 1) I wanted an LED, 2) It needed to be bright enough to see the road and 3) it needed to have a capacitor so that when I came to a stop sign my lights wouldn't go out. This light has all three things and I"m extremely pleased with it. I can finally see the road! I took some pictures to show how bright it is, they didn't turn out that great, but I"m posting them anyway.

Above is the inside of our back door illuminated by my old light.
Above is the inside of the back door with the new light. You will notice that the door handle is all blurry like it was a long exposure with a moving camera. It was. You see, in order to "turn on" the new light, you have to spin the wheel. In order to spin the wheel you have to pick up the front end of the bike. So it took two people to take this picture and still my "tripod" was not stationary (that was my wife's fault, I'm sure).Did you know that there was a feature somewhere so that you can turn pictures sideways... I should try it sometime. Anyway, you can see the old light on the handlebars and the new light is mounted behind the front brake caliper. Neither of the lights are on, but if you take a picture using flash into a reflective material it creates a bad picture, as you see above.
I really wanted to show what it looks like to be riding with the new vs. old lights on the road. This was my first attempt at taking a picture while riding (remember that to stop would mean that the light goes out except for the standby light which is not as bright). Well, somehow in taking the camera out of my pocket I pushed some buttons so that when I took the picture I saw in the viewfinder the camera was counting down from 10. So I aimed up the road, but by the time it got to 3, I noticed a car was coming... that was sort of awkward. Oh, and the flash was on. So this is what you see with flash photography with the new light and an oncoming car. It really isn't a good representation of what you really see.

So, I turned the counter thing off and the flash off so I could really get a good picture while riding with the new light. I should have waited for the passing car to get further ahead of me, but you can see the glow of the light in front of me, that's the new light with like a 30 second exposure, handheld on my handlebars while riding down the street. Riding with it, it seems a lot brighter than that. I'm not going to try any more to get a picture to compare the two lights, I am admitting defeat and leaving it alone.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Let there be light

Last night I finished truing the wheel and I got it all set up so I could use it on my ride in this morning. For the first time in the year and a half I've been commuting, I could see the road while i was riding at night. Now I can share some of the stories that I was afraid would upset my mother and grandmother because the problem has been cured.

For example, there's an area on my commute where I ride through a sort of swamp land next to the railroad tracks. It's on a road, but there is no development around so it's pretty dark. There also aren't any trees, except for a section about 400 meters long where there's a canopy of trees over the road. So on my commute I can sort of see on the open road (at least distinguish road from not road), and I usually ride right on the yellow line because that's the only part of the road that isn't black. The section that goes through the trees has no yellow line and the shadows from the trees make it so I can't tell road from not road. Luckily, there are a couple of street lights at the other end of the trees so I have something to aim for. So you go under the trees and it's like riding through a pitch black tunnel, you just shoot for the light at the end (and that was with my old headlight on). Today, for the first time in the dark, I was able to see the road I was riding on. I think this will be a good change

The other part of the ride where I have been a little nervous at night is at an intersection in the country with no lights around. Like I said before, I generally just follow the yellow line, because I can see it. At the intersection, the yellow line goes away, I have to turn left and hope to find the yellow line for the other road without riding into the ditch that I can't distinguish from road. Luckily I was batting a thousand and had never ended up in the ditch, but this morning I could actually see the road as I went through the corner. Oddly enough, i think i was able to take that corner faster today that I have previously. I'll write more about the new light when I have a bit more time, but as a preview, I love it!

On a completely different note, The Mugwump made a funny comment last night. He was sort of being a pill, and he wanted Mom to come in to the playroom while he got his things out of the dryer. She was busy, so I went in to help. He looked at me and said, "Dad, I love you, but I want someone pretty in the room, that's why I need Mom." They're so cute at that age.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The hub is in.

I got my hub yesterday. really I should be studying or writing a paper, but I'm excited to build a wheel. Anyway, someone commented that s/he wanted to know about the setup I would be running. I'll get some pictures when I get it set up, but until then I want to get some facts straight.
1) Sheldon Brown knows almost everything there is to know about bikes and has an incredibly informational site.
2) Peter White knows almost everything there is to know about bike lights and has the best site on the web for bike lights.

So while there are some rumors out there about generator hubs blowing up lights, I really don't think that is the case any more. technology has come a long ways and I think the new lighting systems are pretty good. I'll post more about what I got when I get it up and going.

I still feel like a complete traitor to the racing scene. I hold in my hands a really heavy hub that doesn't spin very well at all and I'm excited to put it on my bike. I feel like I should be making fun of the guy who bought it... Except that would be me.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What to write?

First off, I have had good intentions of blogging more frequently than weekly, unfortunately 14-18 hours a day at school have made it so I neglect the blog a little. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll be back to a more frequent schedule.

I had all sorts of wonderful ideas for a blog this week, but then my wife went and gave me no choice but to blog about her. So here I was, I had a HUGE test on Tuesday that I spent a little time studying for. I had a 12-15 page paper due on Friday in my first ever Civil Engineering class and I was running a little behind in my progress. I finished the test on Tuesday morning and stayed on campus until late Tuesday night. Wednesday is my light day at school, so I knew I had to put in some solid hours on my paper so that I had time to get it done. I went to my classes in the morning and was sitting down, getting started on the paper when I got a call from my wife. She needed me to come home. Why?

Really this should be a long story of what happened, instead it's going to be short, because not much happened. My wife was coming down the stairs. She didn't fall, she didn't trip, she just stepped wrong and heard a loud POP and felt a lot of pain in her foot. Then she hopped around and screamed until she got the chance to call me.
This is a photo of my wife's foot. Notice the bruising. She really got some nice color. It was pretty. So I offered to drive her to the OR, but no, she wanted to wait and see. I did some tests prescribed by the athletic trainers at school which suggested there could be a break and an x-ray was needed. Apparently, part of the peroneal tertious tendon pulled a small piece of bone off. My wife got a boot and that's about it. Final diagnosis: Fractured foot.

I had a racquetball student this year do the same thing. She broke her ankle going down the stairs. When she told me she actually made up a bunch of stuff involving being chased by a dog to make the story sound better. We need to come up with something better.
So I came home and spent the afternoon with the family instead of writing a paper.

The paper turned out fine and I enjoyed the time with my family, but it sure made Thursday sort of rough.

On Friday my dad and step-mom came to visit. We had a great time and enjoyed their visit. Six-pence is going to turn two next month, so we decided to have an impromptu birthday party for him. He liked that. He insisted on wearing his Halloween costume to open presents, and we insisted that he remove the costume to eat dessert. Here are some photos.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What do you do?

I'm currently spending my "free" time helping with a study that has followed about 250 women for the last 9 years. Each of these women comes in and we bombard them with tests. Anyway, rather than just testing them in silence, I like to ask questions and get to know them. The questions I usually ask is quite simple, "what do you do?" You see, this is a way not to offend (or at least that is the goal). Many of the women who come in do not work outside of the home, and it gives them an opportunity to say what they enjoy doing in life. Others have a job, and that is generally what they say they do.

When you ask people what they do, they often first think of their job. Is that really what defines you? Is that the most important thing that you do? How would someone respond if they asked what I did and I told them that I was a father and husband. They would likely assume that I didn't have a job, yet being a father and husband are my most prized responsibilities and quite frankly one of a select few areas where it really matters whether I succeed or fail.

This brings me to another identity crisis, one that is cycling related. I started my cycling career as someone who did long tours and then by the time I was a teenager I had started racing. I have identified myself in the "racer" crowd for the last 10 or more years, although I haven't really raced in quite some time (like 8-9 years). I look around at cyclists, and the groups associated with cyclists and I feel that I belong in the racing group, sort of as an exception because I don't race. I certainly don't belong in the MTB group or the tri group. I am a commuter, but that always brings to mind old guys on goofy looking relaxed bikes designed for comfort and not speed. I don't race, but that doesn't make me slow. Anyway, I like to be thought of more as a racer than a commuter, even though I don't race. I also have a tendency to make fun of those guys who don't race but think of themselves as "racers".

So here is what I've been dealing with for the past couple of weeks. I've decided to get a new light for my bike. The one I have is fine, but I can't see that well with it and something brighter would allow me to better miss the potholes on the roads I travel. The problem is that "racers" don't have lights, they weigh too much (that's why I currently run a really lightweight light... that and because it was cheap). More important to me now, is conserving the environment and making choices that will be a good use of the natural resources. So the obvious choice would be a generator hub. Perfect would be a generator hub combined with a high powered LED that is actually focused a little to make it so you can see with it. I've done the pricing, and I think that the generator hub is going to be the way to go. This is in COMPLETE violation of my desire to be thought of as a "racer"! Those hubs are a source of both weight and friction!

So why do I want to be thought of as a "racer", even though I haven't raced this decade and why does this light mean such a move to "the dark side"? I don't know. I think it's about image. It's who I am and who I want to be. I want to be a racer, but I also want to conserve resources. My two ideals don't mix so I have to decide. So doing something for the environment is more important to me than maintaining my image. It has really surprised me how hard it has been to give up my image for what I really believe to be more important.

So what do I do? Or better yet, what do I want to be known for doing? Exercise physiologist... no. Father and husband... YES. Cyclist... no. Someone who acts to preserve the environment... yes. Blogger... no. Christian... YES. ... and the list goes on.

So what do you do?

(the poor ladies in my study have no idea what question they are answering)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Family

I used to do these family posts weekly. Now I sort of do them weakly. I'm going to work on that. I like giving updates about the family, but the problem tends to be pictures. The best part of the family blogs is pictures and our home computer was on the fritz for some time. It's all better now (and I happened to bring my computer home for the weekend). Now we need to get back in the habit of taking more pictures.
This is a picture of the Mugwump with the carameled apple that he made. I don't know what we did different than they do at the fair, but boy, the caramel on those things was as hard as a rock. You sort of had to suck on it and let it soften up before you could get a bite. Then you could never get a bite that contained both apple and caramel. Isn't that the point?
We really don't have the money to go to Theme parks and other such things, and really it's not one of our priorities. This year, for the second year in a row, we attended Hee Haw Farms where they have a sort of harvest celebration with pony rides, free candy, corn cob guns, a hay ride and a big box full of corn to play in. Really it's a lot of fun. The only reason we go is because we get free tickets every year from our mortgage broker. I don't know why our mortgage broker sends us free tickets, but hey, I think it's cool. Oh, and the picture is of Six-pence on the pony ride.
Of course the Mugwump had to do the pony ride as well. He got to ride on the big pony, and he did it all by himself.
Do you know what I hate about digital cameras? If the sun is at your back, you can't see the little screen. And then when you take the picture, the screen goes blank for several seconds while the camera thinks about taking the picture. The result is pictures like this. Sure it looks like it's a picture of the boy in the orange shirt with glasses, but I don't know who that is. If you know him, feel free to download the picture. Really the picture is of the boys in the cow barrel. This is just a little train of barrels made to look like farm animals that is pulled around by a tractor. The boys loved it, and they didn't even stand up or start crying during the ride, which I was a little worried about as they disappeared into the dried up corn.
And here it is, the picture of the century... or at least the last two years. Both of the boys, facing the camera and smiling. And they're not even fake smiles, it looks like they're actually happy (which they usually are). How did we get such a picture, you may ask? Well, they were sitting in a box and having a great time with the lid closed (the lid was on the side). So we opened the box really fast, and the camera thought fast enough to get the kids while they were still smiling and surprised that the box opened.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Reporting bad drivers

In my last post I mentioned that I occasionally call the police on aggressive drivers. This is true. Someone in the comments sections asked me to expound. I don't have a lot of time (which is why I haven't written in awhile), but here's what I do. This is sort of a touchy subject for me because my main goal with my involvement with cycling is to make it safer for cyclists and a big part of that is improving cyclist, car driver relations. If you have any input in the matter, let me know.

The commenter (Chad, I think), said that he had called businesses about business cars that have been aggressive. I've done that too, and I feel that has been a worthwhile use of my time. I would also like to point out that I try to give compliments as much as I call to complain. For example, I pass through the industrial area of Provo every morning as the Provo city drivers are arriving at work or leaving for the days tasks. It only takes one bad pass and I'll make a phone call, yet I am passed by several Provo city trucks every morning and have NEVER had a bad experience. Which is more deserving of a call, one bad experience, or hundreds of non-experiences. Anyway, I called Provo maintenance people and got in communication with the right supervisor and personally thanked him and his drivers for being nice. Now I visualize in my head the supervisor sharing this call with his employees in a complimentary fashion and the employees reflecting on that as they pass me or any other cyclist. I think that helps car/bike relationships more than any call to complain.

Right, I know, the comment was about calling the police, but I wanted to put the most important point first. So if I think that complimenting is more effectively reaching my goals than complaining, why do I call the police? First, I think calling the police makes the police aware that I am a cyclist and I care about their enforcement of the law. Secondly, I want the passing motorist to know that I'm paying attention and can get their information easily enough. This is the one I wonder about though.

OK, I'm going to go through my procedures first. #1, I never call the police unless it was an aggressive maneuver that put me in danger. So I call on intentional close passes when there are no other cars around (being buzzed). When I'm on a road where there is not room for a car passing me to give me the 3 ft required by law and not collide with the oncoming car it often gets dangerous. In this case, I don't mind getting passed, but if I see an oncoming car, signal for the car behind me to slow, see the driver thinking and then trying to squeeze through, I will call the police. This is probably the most frequent reason for my calls (and I am generally positioned in the middle or to the left edge of the lane so they don't try to get by). The point is that I don't call when someone makes an unintentional mistake or is just obnoxious blowing their horn or whatever. I call when someone makes a premeditated decision to drive aggressively in a manner that puts my safety at jeopardy. I also only call if I get a licence plate number.

So when you call the police you talk to dispatch and report what happens. Then they contact a police officer who will have an officer call you back. Then you get to talk to an officer and explain the same thing to him (they've all been men so far) as you did the dispatcher. The officer will want to know if you want to press charges. I never do. I let the officer know that I just want the driver to know that their maneuver was dangerous and illegal and that my life was endangered and I'm a human being who does not want to be killed by a motorist. Besides, from what I've heard, pressing charges doesn't do any good in these situations because it ends up being your word against the driver's (if you got a physical description of the driver) and they generally don't work out. Normally the officer tells me that they will contact the person and have "a talk" with them. Do they actually do it? I don't know, I've never followed up. I have asked the officers if they feel that what I'm doing is a reasonable use of their time. They have always answered that they thought it was. They want the streets to be safer and that talk should help that come to fruition... in a very small way.

Are these reports working to improve cyclist/driver relations? Ah, here's the big question. I'm guessing that the driver is not thrilled to hear from the police about their bad choice. Then the real question becomes, will this improve their behavior around cyclists or cause them to hunt us down? I really don't think they're going to hunt us down, but I don't know that it will make a drastic improvement in behavior for the majority of drivers. But I do think that call raises awareness which is good, especially among the police that are out there day in and day out.

Let me know if you have a different opinion, I'm looking to do the best for all cyclists, but am not certain on this one.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dinner

Last night at dinner was quite insightful. To start we asked my older son to say the prayer. At four years old he often has phrases that become a regular part of his prayer. We're not all about memorized or repeated prayers, but I'm especially fond of this phrase that he has adopted into most of his prayers these days. He says, " We're thankful that we have everything that we want". It's so profound, we really do have everything that we want. Not only are our needs met, but we've got what we want. I'm extremely grateful that my four year old recognizes that we have everything that we want... I hope that I can better recognize that myself.

During dinner I told my wife that I wanted to cut my hair. First of all, my sideburns were reaching a length where they could be combed back over my ears and secondly the hair on my neck was beginning to overtake my collar and blend in with the hair on my back. And then there's the real reason I wanted a hair cut. Because my hair is getting greyer and that is less obvious when it's shorter. I reluctantly told my wife that I wanted hair cut to hide the grey, fully expecting her to reassure me that my hair really wasn't that grey. Instead she said that it looked, "distinguished" and suggested that I wait to cut it. Ouch. There's nothing like kicking a guy while he's down. OK, I really don't care that my hair is getting grey, but it sure is a constant reminder that I'm not getting younger. Well, it was a constant reminder until I cut it really short last night so I didn't have to see the grey anymore.

Last night for dinner we had burritos. Since I entitled this blog dinner, I figured I should mention that.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Division

I am on exactly two email lists. You know the type, you sign up because it is a topic you are interested in and you want to be involved with the virtual conversation. Then you are suddenly inundated with emails (or digests) of these conversations that you can eves drop on. In the last few days both of my email groups have been arguing. Actually they both argue quite frequently. It's interesting, you sign up to interact with people of similar interests, and then you end up reading about this group with similar interests arguing.

Like I said, I subscribe to two lists. The first is on simple living. That group seems to be made up primarily of women. This group has a problem because everyone takes offense at what others are saying. I don't know if offense was intended, but tempers flare and people virtually stomp off.

The other list I subscribe to is related to cycling. This group seems to be primarily men, probably a little younger than the simple living group. These guys also bicker quite frequently. Most recently the argument has been over bike lanes (or were they bike paths? Evidently that is EXTREMELY important). Everyone in the bike group seems to stick around through the arguments.

Like I said at the beginning, I subscribe to these things because I want to be in contact with people of similar interests. Why do other people sign up for them?

So here's my point, I feel like the people who I look up to most in my life are people who drew people together. Christ, inviting Jews and Gentiles alike to be good. Gandhi, easing the tensions between the Hindus and the Muslims. Martin Luther King Jr., easing the tensions between blacks and whites. The list could go on, but the point is that leaders bring people together.

Now I'm going to talk about me. When I'm on my bike, I'm often over-taken with feelings of "cyclists vs. motorists" (or is it bike drivers vs. car drivers to appease the bike email group). I don't like that feeling. I really have a lot in common with those driving cars. We are both out to get from point A to point B. We both would like to do so in a timely manner and safely. We both have the same set of roads to use. We would both find it inconvenient and time consuming if we collide. So why the major hostilities between the groups? Why are we divided? I don't want that feeling, but there it is.

That brings up another point. In my commute there are regularly people who are quite aggressive toward me. I don't like that and I feel endangered at times. I generally memorize the licence plate number and call the police when I get home. Does that enlarge the divide between cyclists and motorists or is it a way of expressing that I'm a human and don't want to be hurt while riding to work? Deep down, I feel that call to the police is good because it raises awareness, but really I wish I could talk to the people and express that we have a lot in common and it would be nice if we could work together.

I see this division arising all over the place. Democrats vs. Republicans. Hunters vs. Environmentalists. Cyclists vs. Motorists. Mt. bikers vs. Hikers. The list could go on forever. While I realize that people are different, and I think that is good, I think this divisive behavior is really bad. I look back at key moments in US history (this isn't my strong point, so don't be too critical) and the "glory days" were those times when people came together. The Boston Tea Party, The Revolutionary war (well, we didn't really come together with the British in those events, did we), and fuel rations during WWII are all examples of a people coming together to fight a cause. Currently it seems that people are drawing apart, arguing over causes and I don't think it is helping anything.

So how do we grow together as a people? I have a novel idea, be nice to people. I really think it would work. Serve people. Show people that you care.... Why has that become a difficult thing to do? or has it always been hard to do? One thing I've noticed in my phone calls that I make when people are aggressive toward me on my bike. When I call to complain about aggression, it is usually countered with defensiveness and sort of sets the people back. On the other hand, when I call to give compliments, it improves relationships. I wonder if I could call the police and ask them to compliment a driver with a certain licence plate number? I think I'm going to try that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Simple pleasures

I wanted to write more frequently about things I'm grateful for. Today I've been thinking of talking with people of similar interests. I'm sort of a loner. I always have been, so I'm OK with that. While I've always seemed to have ideas that differed from the mainstream, I am currently living in a place where I feel really isolated. There just aren't many people around who share similar ideas with me. That's fine, I can get along with a variety of people, but there is nothing like sitting down and talking with someone who really understands you. Someone with whom you have a lot in common and you can share ideas, express concerns and simply dream together.

When I thought of writing this post, I was thinking of a few people around town who actually share similar interests as myself and the blogs that I occasionally visit that help me feel that I'm not the only one in the world with environmental concerns. Having written that first paragraph makes me extremely grateful for my wife and boys. OK, I don't have much intellectual conversation with the boys, but I love going home to a place where my ideas are readily accepted and we can share hopes and dreams. Even the boys express their dreams of having a horse (I sort of hope they outgrow that) and living on a small farm with animals. The Mugwump is afraid of cats and dogs, but wants a horse and chickens. Six-pence doesn't really talk yet, but he has certainly mastered the word banana. If we had a banana tree, that kid would be in hog heaven.... So much for eating locally.

So thanks to all who share similar ideas and dreams with me, it helps me keep my life in perspective. I suppose I'm also grateful for those of differing views who help add variety to the earth and force me to think about what is really important to me and why.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

God recycles

This isn't supposed to be irreverent, so please don't take it as so, but the human body is one of God's greatest creations and yesterday in a class we learned the price the body pays to recycle. This entry may take a little biochemistry background to understand, but I'll do my best to make it so all can play along. If you get lost in the biochemistry, the last paragraph is where I finally get around to making my point.

We need energy all the time and glucose is generally known to provide a considerable amount of that energy (we're not talking about fat today, but I know that it plays a huge role as well). To give us energy (ATP), sugar (glucose) goes through glycolysis which changes it from the 6 carbon glucose to a 3 carbon pyruvate molecule. We get a couple ATPs for every glucose molecule that goes through glycolysis. The body can either change pyruvate to Acytl CoA to enter the Krebs cycle where it will yield LOTS of ATP, or it can be converted to Lactic acid (you know, the stuff that makes your muscles burn during high intensity exercises). Previously it was thought the only time that pyruvate went to lactic acid was during high intensity exercise, but they are now finding that at rest, a considerable amount of pyruvate changes to lactic acid (in my field we call that exciting research, do you feel yourself getting excited?)

Lactic acid breaks down almost immediately to lactate and a hydrogen ion. We're going to forget about the hydrogen ion for the rest of this post. What does lactate do? It has always been considered a bad thing, why is it being produced by muscles at all times? It turns out that lactate can enter cells and ultimately the mitochondria where it is transferred to pyruvate, Acytl CoA and goes through the Krebs cycle. So we now have this lactate stuff that can go anywhere in the body and be used as fuel. At rest, 20-30% of all energy comes from lactate, and it is preferred over glucose as a fuel source. (This is another point where you are supposed to be excited).

During times of rest when lactate is especially high (like right after exercise), lactate is the preferred substrate for replenishing glycogen stores. This is the part where I have proof that God recycles. Instead of using glucose that is floating around in the blood which would take no alterations to be put into a glycogen molecule, the body chooses lactate to make glycogen. That will cost the body 6-10 ATP! (remember we only got a few ATP from converting glucose to lactate). So the body uses the stuff just sitting around to make new glycogen and prepare for the next exercise bout. Not only does our body recycle the lactate, but it goes through a great expense to undertake the recycling process. Why were we designed like that? I don't know, but it certainly seems to me that the One who created us didn't want to be wasteful. What are we doing to the earth that He created for us?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Family

It's that time of week again. Not that I've been consistent about it at all....Sans has been sick all weekend. We won't go into any nasty details. Mugwump is his usual happy-go-lucky self, and Sixpence is full of smiles and mischief, like always. Here are some pics of some of the things we've been up to lately.

I took the boys on a hike (OK, maybe we've been on a few in the last couple weeks - I can't resist!) and we had a great time. This was before they started using themselves as bulldozers on the dusty trail.
OK, so it's not the best picture, but I couldn't resist putting one in of both boys dressed up.


Last week we learned about construction, so we used gumdrops, marshmallows, and toothpicks to build things. Mugwump built a bridge, a tower, and here he is working on a house. He learned that gumdrops make the best structures because they're not as flimsy as the marshmallows. Sixpence just ate lots of marshmallows.

Can you tell he's having a good time? I am so grateful (thinking of Sans' last post) for my happy, healthy kids who (most of the time) get along with each other. They're awesome!


- TV Free





Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gratitude

OK, I was on a role moving toward how bikes were going to take over the world and leave automobile drivers in a crumpled heap, begging for mercy, but I decided to go in a different direction. I was over at No Impact Man and he had a wonderful blog about gratitude and I want to copy it. Normally I don't like it when people sort of copy blogs, but his entry made me take a step back and think of what I'm grateful for. It's a rough semester and at times I think I would be grateful for a lot more if I didn't spend 17 hours a day at school staring at this stupid computer. So I'm going to take an opportunity every week to make a short list of things that I'm thankful for. And frankly, this is completely different than No Impact Man's blog because I"m not grateful for his wife, daughter or dog, although I'm sure they're wonderful.

My wife who is supportive even after she spends the entire day with no help with the kids.

The time that I get to spend with my boys when I get home from school. It's not a lot, but I'm REALLY grateful for those moments.

Venus. It's super bright right now on the Eastern horizon every morning on my way to school. It reminds me of the eternities and my place in this world.

The owl that buzzes my head every time I forget to look for him on my way in to school.

The rabbit that runs across the road when I ring my bell.

An idea for a dissertation topic that is both realistic and something that I'm excited to do.

An endless list of things I'm thankful for. I could go on forever, but I'm not going to... I have to save some for next week.

What are you thankful for? I know that not many people read this blog, but I want all of the lurkers to post at least one thing you are thankful for. You can do it anonymously, but one of the greatest things I'm thankful for is positive people in the world. Even when life is hard, there is a lot to be thankful for. Share it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The fall of a king

My last post involved a video of water buffaloes versus lions and the intent was to demonstrate that just because the lion has always been "king" doesn't mean that it always wins (if you haven't watched it, you should, it's a good one). There is power in working together toward a good cause. Here is another youtube clip. While NYC might be considered "wildlife" this is a clip cyclists taking over the city. It's called critical mass.

I do want to make it clear that I understand what critical mass has come to be (a sort of anarchist party revolving around smoking pot and getting drunk), and I don't support that. I support the principle. In fact, it took a little searching to find a video on youtube that didn't include cyclists being rude and destructive. That's unfortunate.

The idea that if enough people are bound together for a good cause (less cars, more bikes), they can disrupt the norm and lead toward change. For an even better example of the power of numbers, visit Vertigo, he had a great post today of a video from Amsterdam.

Some day I'll figure out how to embed video. I did it once before, but whenever I try now, it seems that youtube won't let me. Oh well.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Power in numbers

Busted. I got caught wasting time on You Tube. So the result is a great video about the power of numbers. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself or your kids. To watch the video, click here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Half-empty optimism

I went to a talk over the weekend on transportation. Blah, blah, blah. It wasn't interesting. The speaker said one thing that caught my attention. She said that parking lots can be found half empty.

That got me to thinking. I have always liked being a "glass half full" type of guy. Why? Because I like to be seen as optimistic and I like to think that I really do want to see the brighter side of things. But wait, isn't it better if a parking lot is empty? That means people didn't drive there, and that would be good.

This opened a huge can of worms. Have I been tricked all this time? (I think I have). Is this whole "glass half full" bit all about more being better? I think it is.

I always see the metaphorical "glass" as being full of water. Water is good and people don't drink enough, so more water is better. But what if that "glass" is half full of kool-aid? Really there shouldn't be any kool-aid in there at all, that stuff will kill you. So in that case, wouldn't it be optimistic to think of the glass as half empty?

So here it is, I now see the glass as half empty and I'm optimistic about it. I think the glass is full of stuff and I don't think that having more of it is going to be better in any way. In fact, I want less. I want to rely less on the stuff in the glass so that we can live in a sustainable world. I am also optimistic that we, as a society, can think outside of the box and make change toward being better. Minus is the new Plus.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A good use for money

For the second time this week, I left to go home, only to find that my bike had a flat tire. Tuesday was a puncture, yesterday I had a little hole in the tire which caused the inner-tube to pop. Because of the size of the hole in the tire, a new inner-tube would not have fixed the problem (the tube sort of leaks out of the hole and pops). I needed to fix it, but I didn't have a spare tire with me, only tubes. I had heard of using dollar bills before, but I had never actually seen it done. So I pulled out my wallet and grabbed a one dollar bill and put it inside the tire, over the hole. I then put in a new tube and it worked like a charm. In fact, i didn't have a chance to change the tire last night, so I'm still riding on it.

I was also proud of the tube I put in. It wasn't a new tube, I went through all of my new tubes on Tuesday when I ended up staying up late fixing inner-tubes because they all had holes in them (there were 5 that I fixed that night). During my inner-tube repair marathon on Tuesday, i ran out of patches. Of course the patch kits come with plenty of vulcanizing solution (some people call it glue, but really it isn't), but not enough patches. So I cut up an old inner-tube and used those for patches. You see, that is the beauty of vulcanizing solution, it isn't glue, it actually melts the rubber on the inner-tube and allows it to dry and chemically bond to the patch. If I use an inner-tube as a patch, then, theoretically, it should work. As I already said, I'm still riding on last night's repair job, so using an old piece of inner-tube works great for patching punctures.

Now I'm going to try to stop getting flats, I think that would work far better.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Preschool

I wrote the most incredible post yesterday... and then Google ate it. Come on, I expect that from Microsoft, but Google? Anyway, I'm going to try again. This one will likely be shorter because I'm lacking on time.

I saw this picture over at no impact man and thought it was quite fitting. So I've been watching my kids and thinking of their interactions. The one thing that brings me the most happiness and pride in my life is to see them sharing and interacting. Really, it happens sometimes. Seeing the Mugwump (older child) take Six-pence (younger child) a toy or water bottle and just give it to him. You ask why he did that and he responds, "because it looked like he wanted it." Those are the moments when it is great to be a parent. Sure, I live in a home where the kids spend plenty of time fighting over toys, water bottles are access to a kitchen chair, and those are the moments that bring me the greatest headaches.

So sharing, that principle that most emphasized in preschool is really what brings me the greatest happiness. Looking beyond my kids, those moments when someone stops to offer me a hand with a flat tire or invites me to share a meal with them. Those are the moments that mean the most to me. Yet what happens after preschool? Kids don't need supplies in preschool, everything is provided and everything is shared (that's how I remember it anyway, and I went to A LOT of preschool). Kindergarten, on the other hand, you have to have your OWN supplies and we have our OWN desk and we start in with ownership. By high school, you have your OWN locker to store your OWN stuff and your OWN parking spot to park your OWN car. Why do we move away from sharing? (To be fair, I had to share a locker in high school, but I did have my own parking spot).

So what could we share now? How about a lawn mower and garden tools, or even tools in general. How many times have you gone for a walk around the block and noticed everyone using a hammer at the same time? Couldn't the block all share one or two hammers? Why do we each have our own? Lawn Mowers are a little different story because everyone mows their lawn on Saturday morning. Couldn't we sort of stagger that and share a lawnmower? I'm impressed on our block, the neighbor kids mow several lawns in the neighborhood so they can save up money. I think it's great, that way the neighbor kids have one lawnmower and they mow many lawns. Realistically, we could just share the one lawnmower. Could we also share a car? I know that my family could, if we found the right family to share with, but it would take a little planning.

So why don't we share anymore? I'll give it to you in one word... Inconvenience. I'll give you another word that comes to mind... Greed. Right, we need to have our own lawnmower, otherwise we couldn't mow the lawn on Saturday morning when we normally do. We might have to wait to mow the lawn or actually communicate with others in organizing when we will mow the lawn. That would be completely unacceptable (I'm not sure why, but it seems to be). Imagine if we shared all garden tools amongst a small group. That group would be forced to communicate with one another. We could build bonds among our neighbors. Sure, when Dave up the street decides to use the pruning sheers to cut wire, the group gets upset because he has ruined the sheers. But you know what, that doesn't have to be the end of a relationship. We don't have to hate Dave because he broke the sheers, the sheers are replaceable and we can teach him about wire cutters. That's another thing I like seeing my kids doing, solving problems, why don't adults do that any more? I'll give you another word to think about... Pride.

So I want to talk about that picture. Let's look at the big picture (not the picture at the top of the page, but the metaphorical picture). There are things that we are forced to share. The air, the land, water and public space are all great examples. If we don't share nicely it leads to problems. It leads to bigger problems than we expect. For example, I don't like it when passing motorists use the air I'm breathing to exhaust their cars. That makes for air that is hard to breathe. I know, I'm the only one inconvenienced by that... I'm sure the driver of the car didn't mind at all (that's why all cars should be exhausted into the driver's compartment). Let's look at the bigger picture. Did you know that car exhaust is closely linked to cardiovascular disease deaths and asthma? Do you know any children with asthma? Do you have any loved ones who have died of a heart attack? Do you know that your driving contributed to that? If we continue to "progress" by increasing streets and increasing driving, we may see that picture at the top of the page.

Sorry that turned into doom and gloom, I have a different perspective. Get out and enjoy nature. Do your best to share it with others. One of the best way of doing that is sharing resources. Sure it may be less convenient if you don't have your own, but consider it an opportunity to get to know someone better.

Friday, September 7, 2007

6-pence

First off, thanks for people who took the survey. Evidently I have more than 2 readers, I have about 14 that took the survey before I gave it to Fatty who got me hundreds of responses. If you have contacts with anyone who you think would be willing to post the survey, please contact me. The more people who take it, the better. And if you would like to take it, click here.

Now I want to talk a bit about my younger son. We call him six-pence... or was it sick-spence. Anyway he is about 20 months old and he's really developing in character. I've just got three examples of this guy making me laugh.

1) This morning I was eating breakfast and Six-pence wandered out of our room (when did he get there?) with half closed eyes and a head bobbing around like it was going to pull him to the floor and back to sleep any second. I saw him coming, so I picked him up and tried to get him back to sleep. He started screaming because that wasn't what he wanted. (He communicates quite well for not being able to talk.) So I put him in his high chair, thinking he might want to eat with me (he likes to eat). He sat there with a bobbing head and half closed eyes while I finished my breakfast. Then he got out of his high chair, went back into our bedroom and fell back asleep with mom. Evidently, I needed company for breakfast.

2) Yesterday Six-pence expressed that he was done eating by squirming around and not eating any more. So my wife got him cleaned up and put him down. Then he was hovering around his chair screaming. So my wife puts him back in his high chair. He didn't eat, he just made another mess and expressed again that he was done eating. Again my wife cleaned him up and put him down. Yet again he hovered around the high chair screaming. So my wife handed him his plate, which he took over to the dishwasher and put it in. Then he went off and played happily. (somehow the part where he smeared the ketchup and mustard all over the front of his shirt missed the story). So whatever you do, don't neglect your children by not letting them clear their place.

3) I don't know that the story will do this justice, I think you had to see the look on his face, but I'm going to try anyway. In our house we don't really use matching bed sheets. Whatever is on top goes on the bed. That means that I use a green pillowcase and my wife uses one that is grey with blue stripes. Coincidentally, Six-pence uses the other pillowcase from the set my wife's is from, so they match. Except my wife usually has an additional pillowcase over hers so you can't see the blue and grey striped one (it's the really soft pillowcase I made her for Christmas last year). Anyway, it was time to launder the soft pillowcase, so she took it off. Six-pence had been playing in our room and knew that "his" pillow was in there. We went through the bedtime routine of brushing teeth, stories, scriptures and prayers. It was time for the horse back ride to bed, but Spencer was screaming and pointing toward our room. He went in and got my wife's pillow and took it back into his bedroom. When he arrived he noticed that his pillow was already there. The look on his face was priceless. He knew that he had just gone to get "his" pillow, how could it already be there? It's so much fun to watch them learn.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Transportation survey

I noticed that I haven't been writting as much as normal. That is probably why my readership fell by 50% (from 4 to 2). So the reason that I haven't been writting is because I have been busy. Busy with school, work, home repairs, etc. Yesterday I got approval to officially start the survey that I've been working on for quite some time.

If you are over the age of 18 and work outside of the home, I am interested in why you choose the modes of transportation that you choose. Please click here to take the survey. This is the first place I'm posting this link, but I intend to ask many others to post it as well. If you are interested, feel free to post the link on your blog, but first, if you could let me know (anonymously) that the survey worked (or didn't) that would be great. I may also be contacting you shortly to ask you to post this link

In a couple of days I will post again about something a little more interesting.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Being wrong... or unsure.

Do you know what I hate? Being wrong. Do you know what I hate even more than being wrong? Having others know that I'm wrong or having it pointed out to me. Some people seem to be OK with this. Some people have this ability to even admit that they have made mistakes and to tell others about them. My wife does this. I admire her (and anyone else who is able to openly admit mistakes) for being open and confident enough to admit mistakes. I wish I were more like that.

The other day I was doing something in the driveway and a neighbor from down the street approached me. We really don't know this particular neighbor all that well, so as he approached I was sort of excited to talk with him. Well he came to tell me that my chestnut trees were dying because I wasn't watering them. Then he left. As far as conversations go and getting to know neighbors, it was an utter disappointment. In fact, it sort of made me mad.

This is the point where I want to defend myself and say that I wasn't wrong... but I don't know that would be totally truthful. We have three chestnut trees in our yard that have always turned brown (and quite sickly looking) well before fall arrives (like June). I was of the impression that this was due to a tree disease, but I could be wrong. It could also be due to a tree disease that could be virtually eliminated by adequate water. In the end, I am pretty sure that watering the trees more regularly (or at least a couple of times) could have helped the trees.

So I was wrong, but I had some reasoning behind it. Unfortunately it is reasoning that I'm not completely sure about. For starters, the chestnut trees are horse chestnut trees, so the nuts are poisonous. What good is a poisonous nut? Then when the nuts fall, they fall in a spiky shell that stays in our yard leaving it quite inhospitable. As my wife and I talk about fixing up our house, we talk frequently about the yard. We are currently working on killing weeds so we can put in a front lawn. While I don't especially want to waste water on a front lawn, it will make the house look better, and the odds of us moving within a few years is pretty high. So I'm going against what I truly believe in order to improve resale value. I'm a sell-out and I hate it when I do that. If I were to really want to have grass somewhere, it would be in the back yard where my boys would be more likely to play in it. We haven't started that process because of the spiky things that make the back yard extremely painful to walk in. Since there is no grass in the back yard, we certainly haven't been watering it. And we haven't been going out of our way to water the trees (whose roots are under the "lawn" in the back yard) because they are the problem with the back yard. So the trees are dying.

Here's another issue that I have. Trees are essential for consuming carbon dioxide and cleaning pollution out of the air. I am all for trees and not depleting forests in order to maintain the air quality in our environment. I am also aware that imported trees often consume far more water than their native counterparts, which contributes to the drought conditions we are experiencing and plummeting water tables. So what is worse, wasting water to keep the trees healthy, or letting the trees die and wasting big carbon dioxide consumers that are needed in the area? Frankly, I think that I should be conserving the water and that people should drive less and use less electricity so that we didn't have the air pollution problems, but that's not our current situation, is it?

Earlier this week, my wife asked about my ultimate life, where we would be and what we would be doing. I told her I didn't know... and I still don't. Here's the thing. I am studying how the built environment influences transportation habits and health of a community and the members of that community. Sprawl is destroying the fabric of America and I know that it needs to change. But then when I think of my dream life, I think of living sustainably off the land. I want to live off the grid with a big enough garden and other resources (a pond?) to provide for all of life's essentials. I am also a realist, so I want my sustainable farm to be close enough to a city that I could haul my goods to a nearby city in a trailer pulled by my bike. If I needed to have a job, I would be able to ride my bike to it. This is the definition of the sprawl that I am battling to prevent. Does it make it OK for me to want to sprawl because I want to ride a bike and sell produce to the city, but it's wrong for my neighbor because he wants to drive a car and have a big lawn? I don't know the answer to that, but it doesn't feel right. Ideally, cities would all be relatively small and compact, yet surrounded by small farms providing local food to all the members of the city. That's just not how things are.

I think that being unsure may even be worse than being wrong. I try to live according to my conscience, and I know I make mistakes. Sure I'm ashamed of those, but even worse is not knowing the path I should take because of the imperfect world in which we live.