Monday, April 30, 2007
I have been doing pretty well with my bike commuting. Aside from a couple of snow days and bike repairs I have commuted by bike every day. Up until we left on vacation I had more miles on my bike for the year than we had on the car. I was quite pleased with our fuel budget that we set at $50/month and we never came close to that.
That all changed. Our vacation put around a thousand miles on the minivan putting me way behind in cycling miles. I don't know how far behind I am and frankly I don't think I want to know. We spent hundreds of dollars on gas. I feel like a recovering addict that just went back for "one last" hit. Don't get me wrong, we're back on the straight and narrow. I took the bus this morning and picked up my bike at the bike shop (I needed a new rear wheel built up) and my wife rode her bike to do the grocery shopping this morning. Still the big car trip is tough to swallow.
Was it worth it? Yes. I got to visit my mom and my boys were able to spend time with their G'ma. Additionally, my wife and I were able to go on our first "date" without kids in many years and we were able to go to one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Family relationships are one of the most important things in the world and they need nurturing.
Do I wish it had been different? Yes. I wish I hadn't had to put those miles on the van or support the oil industry, but I did. I wish family lived close enough that we could ride our bikes to visit. We currently live in Utah and have parents in Colorado, Arizona and Washington State. If we want to visit family, we have to drive (or fly, but that's even worse). Alternatively, family could come visit us (which we would love!), but it still has the impact on the environment, even if the miles don't accumulate on my wife's car. I wish family all lived within an area where we could use bikes, buses or trains to visit, but they don't and it's still important to visit.
Despite my disappointment in having to do a lot of driving, the vacation was a lot of fun. I'll post pictures soon and tell a little more about the hike we did. I should be posting more frequently now that my killer semester is over. Now I'm teaching two golf classes and working on things that are more at my own pace so I should have time to do the important stuff like blog.
Today I'm going home at 1 in the afternoon to help my wife unpack and weed the garden.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I found the word technology in a dictionary and it said that it was the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area. So if we are learning that less is more, is a step backward a technological advance?
I taught a lab during my masters' program where we looked at ventilation. We used two different devices to measure some parameters concerning the lungs. One device was a large upside down bucket looking contraption that's rim was submerged in water. As you blew into the tube, air entered the bucket and and moved a pen along a scroll of paper that was moving at a known rate. From that you could figure out how powerfully a person could exhale. (Although I described this as a bucket, it was a calibrated piece of equipment designed for this purpose, probably 50+years ago.)
The second device used to measure forced exhalation was a hand held electric gizmo that you blew into and it spun a fan that was hooked to electrical components that could translate the spinning of the fan into an exhalation rate. In the lab reports that I graded, most students said that the electronic gizmo was better because it was more precise because it gave a digital readout.
I couldn't believe it. Every piece of data we collected as a class showed that the electric thing was more variable and less precise than the older contraption. Just because something is newer, or has a digital readout, does NOT make it better. I thought it was neat how the archaic contraption could actually collect the air I exhaled and I could see the mechanics of it moving. I did not understand the electronics and it didn't work as well. I think a move to the archaic system would be a step in the right direction.
Writing papers for classes, professors often require that the papers be published in the last 10 years. Why? Was science different 15 or 50 years ago? Most scientific findings are the same as they were 50 years ago. We still use a lot of information from Galileo and other scientists from centuries ago. Newer is not better.
I am not against technological advancements. Development is good, but we need to look around and make sure that what we had before isn't better than what we have developed. Is a car really better than a horse and buggy? Is processed food really better than whole foods? Is windows Vista better than DOS? Is high definition television better than B&W? Is television better than imaginative play and meaningful conversation?
The world is a complicated place, why don't we make a technological move toward simplicity.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
One simple thing that I really like is that people on my blog call me "sans". When I came up with the name of the blog and my email address I was thinking that I could use the French term for "without car" (although it is also an English term) since I started writing when I sold my car and started using my bike as my primary mode of transportation. It seemed fitting. Now when the Internet world addresses me as "sans" I feel that it better represents what I'm really about. I'm not against cars and I don't think that bicycles are the answer to everything. I am about simplicity and doing "without" extras in life. Yes, the car is one extra that I'm doing without, but so are television, movies, fast food, a big house and all sorts of things. My wife and I spend a lot of time finding additional things that we could do without.
I was on my way home last night and I was passed by a guy on a big motorcycle out for a ride with his girl. I didn't think much of it, but with the appropriate string of events, this guy and his girl became the source of a lot of fun for me. The motorcycle got stopped at a couple of lights and I was able to almost catch it. Then, the guy had to wait to turn left at an intersection that I was able to follow him through with much more momentum than he had. So this tough guy on his hog got passed by a scrawny kid in spandex riding his bike. I even had the time to turn to his girl and say hi. She was nice and responded with a big smile. The guy wasn't smiling.
I should mention that my wife has absolutely nothing to worry about, but I really felt that experience was a lot of fun. Can you imagine taking your girl out for a ride on your motorcycle and being passed by a guy on a bike who turns and says hi to her? I am sure that everyone involved knows that the motorcycle is much faster than the bike, but with the timing of how everything worked out I got to demonstrate to a couple of people that bicycles aren't as slow as some people thing.
Monday, April 16, 2007
In addition to a high fiber, low fat, low cholesterol diet, a caloric deficit will decrease cholesterol levels. Recognizing that my dietary changes would likely have a minimal affect on cholesterol, I decided to gain and lose a little weight. So I gained two pounds during the semester and then in the last few weeks I lost that weight and a little more.
It worked, my end of the semester cholesterol was 75. Unfortunately my HDL (good) cholesterol also fell a little, but I think I'm still healthy.
The point-- I remember reading an article about how the Atkins diet lowered the cholesterol levels in those who ate that diet. I wondered how a high fat, high cholesterol diet could lower cholesterol in your body. The reason is that the caloric deficit (the act of losing weight) was more powerful than the really bad diet. The problem is that people on the Atkin's diet will eventually stop losing weight and they will then have major issues with cholesterol which can be deadly. Don't take everything at face value, there are a lot of people out there to market to you and try and persuade you with a little less than the whole story.
Friday, April 13, 2007
This week I worked on our garden. I'm usually not a very proud person, at least I hope not, but I am really proud of all the work we got done this week! Even with two "helpers" digging holes where I didn't want them and tramping on the strawberry plants.
Our neighbors took out their front sidewalk and I took advantage of the opportunity to get some free pavers! Using the recycled concrete chunks, I put in paths through the side yard.
We also dyed Easter eggs last week. The Mugwump had a good time with it. I don't quite agree with the whole egg association with Easter, but it is fun for the kids and we learned about mixing colors.
The closest section is going to be corn and sunflowers, with the idea of a fun forest for the kids to run through. The next section has desert fire (another freebie this week) and dahlia bulbs planted. We'll add tulips, daffodils, crocus, and whatever other bulbs we can find this fall. The last section has strawberries and onions in it. I am hoping that we get to eat some of the strawberries and that the neighbor kids and the birds don't beat us to them!
We had fun this afternoon enjoying the nice weather. We built a little homemade swing in the backyard - I don't think it'll get used much as we have a park just a couple blocks away (with swings that I am not worried about crashing down on my kids!), but it was a fun little project, and I got to climb the tree. Mugwump asked if he should wear his helmet to ride on this swing; I told him it probably wasn't a bad idea!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
I am also going to make some analogies to other aspects of life. My intent is not to offend or upset anyone, but I want people to know my feelings.
The last couple of weeks have been rough. I've been leaving the house at about 6 each morning and there have been many evenings I don't get home until well after 9 or 10 (11 on occasion). I was riding home one night and it was nearly 10. Of course it was dark, but I had my bright clothes on and my obnoxious flashing lights so I was seen. Actually I think I'm better seen at night with my blinkies than I am during the day with my bright colored clothes.
I was riding the same route I take every day and a big dually diesel pickup pulled up next to me. He saw me, he even moved a little into the next lane to avoid hitting me. Then he got up along side me, slowed down and nice and slowly pushed me off the side of the road with his diesel behemoth. It wasn't a big deal, the ride got a little bumpy over in the gravel and pot holes, but there was no harm done. Then he slowed a little more so that I was really close (and so that he could could accelerate more). He accelerated. When you accelerate in a behemoth diesel, it lets out a huge cloud of black smoke. It filled my face and lungs. His attempt to spray gravel at me was pretty weak, but the exhaust in my face and his (I'm assuming it was a guy) intentions really hurt.
As soon as I could breath again I gave chase to the pickup. I can often catch cars in the city when they have to stop at stoplights and such. We were on a little country road 3-4 miles to the next stoplight. I didn't catch him to get his plate number. I wonder if that is "assault with a deadly weapon"? It should be. He certainly assaulted me. And a vehicle is certainly a deadly weapon, although getting hit would cause death more quickly, exposure to ambient air pollution (mostly caused by cars) is also closely related to death.
The rest of the ride home I was mad and depressed. What had I done to him? Nothing, except there are many cyclists on the road that don't follow the rules and make drivers mad. He may have been retaliating for that (in which case the "cycling world" may have deserved it). But I personally had done nothing to this motorist. I was doing the exact thing he was doing, trying to get from point A to point B by a means that is faster than walking. Additionally I was trying to get exercise and save the planet from pollution by taking my bike rather than another form of transportation. I have dedicated my life to that goal. I am pursuing a doctoral degree in exercise science and focusing my research on city planning that will help people be more active and less polluting. Exercise and a clean environment are a central part of who I am trying to be. This driver violated everything that I stand for in a very big way. Although there was no physical injury, I have a hard time recalling times I have hurt worse than that night.
The ride home from there seemed to take forever. I thought a lot about that driver. Although his actions were intentional and aimed directly at me personally, there are how many people on the streets every day contributing the same deadly gases and particulate matter to the air I breath? Are they not also taking a direct stand against everything I stand for?
Here comes the analogy. It may seem like a big step, but it was one of the first things I thought of upon arriving at home. The feeling that I had of being completely violated by a person taking intentional steps against things that are a central part of who I am were quite similar to the feelings that I have every year at Christmas and other occasions throughout the year. I am trying to make the smallest impact as possible on the earth. I am trying to teach my children the value of nature and relationships and people rather than stuff. That is a difficult in a world where advertisements are nearly impossible to avoid.
This is hard to say because it is contrary to the beliefs of many of my family members and friends who are very important in my life, and whose generosity I appreciate immensely, but I have to say it so that they can better know who I am. Every Christmas I feel like I just got my face filled with diesel smoke. I stand for simplicity, yet we get packages from all over the country filled with stuff that we have successfully kept out of our home the rest of the year. We love the thought, we appreciate the generosity, we recognize it is "just" tradition, but it goes against those principles that we cherish most in our lives. It should be known that we don't have anything against gifts (although it wouldn't be the end of the world not to get gifts). It is "stuff" that we have a problem with. Plants for our home or garden, donations in our name to charitable organizations, or toys that the boys could go give to those in need would be gifts that really meant something to us.
I think that part of the problem is that we have two kids that are the only grand kids and great-grand kids for all but one set of great-grandparents. Around New Years, my wife and I contemplated sending a letter to all relatives saying that we were going to do a gift free year as a way of showing our kids that life isn't about material gifts. We didn't, in large part because our relatives are distant and gifts are ways that our kids can remember them and we think that's important. One of the big things that I struggle with is the fact that I don't get to buy my kids gifts. The Mugwump is at a point where I can see that he should have a certain toy that I enjoyed growing up. I know that he would enjoy it and it would be less than $10 for me to get it for him. It would be a meaningful gift given to fill a known void that would provide a means for us to play together. I won't buy it, for the same reason I have restrained from buying him a gift the last four years. He gets enough "stuff" from everyone else and he doesn't need any more. Besides that I know that we don't have anywhere to put it. I wish I could have that opportunity.
Besides my religion and my family, today I have written about those things that matter most to me in my life. I hope that nobody took offense. I would also be interested to know what others who try to live simply do to combat this problem.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
I was telling my brother-in-law about a study I was in recently. I was instructed to come to the study well hydrated, so I did. Upon arrival I voided my bladder and was then given a bunch of water to drink. I then had to sit for 75 minutes before I voided my bladder again, this time the sample would be collected. After 75 minutes I REALLY had to go. I grabbed the beaker and hurried to the bathroom. I filled the 500 ml beaker and had to cut it off, take the beaker back and ask for another before finishing the process. The conversation continued and we eventually moved on to other, less interesting, topics.
I eventually had to leave my family in order to go to class. I said goodbye and was about to leave when the Mugwump had something to say. He asked, "Daddy, are you going to go cut your penis off again?" I didn't have the foggiest idea what he was talking about, since as far as I knew, I had never cut my penis off before, nor do I have any intentions to cut it off in the future. I thought about it for awhile and eventually my wife had to explain it to me. I then had to explain to a 3 year old that I had never cut my penis off, and that it is an expression used to say that you stopped urinating when you still had to go. I sure hope I didn't mess up my kid for life.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
The boys sure like stickers. This is Six-Pence with fish stickers all over his face.
The boys got to go to the Children's Museum in SLC this week. They really enjoy that... Thanks G-ma.
The Mugwump on a horse. It wasn't a real horse, but he liked it.
The Mugwump is now able to give Six-Pence a ride on the tricycle. This may be a disaster waiting to happen, but so far they both enjoy it.
The white grid are the planks to the garden and you can sort of see the trellis that will house our climbing plants... we hope. You can also see a corner of what will someday be a lawn. Right now it's brown dirt.