Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Leaves

I raked up my leaves weeks ago. I made one big pile, let the boys jump in it for a bit and then I distributed the pile under the new fruit trees in my yard. I guess the way I look at things is that trees drop leaves for a reason. The leaves compost and make good soil, so why don't I make piles under my trees to improve the soil. It seems a lot like how mother nature would do it.

So I haven't put any leaves in bags or anything. It is now the time when neighbors are putting their leaves at the street to get picked up. So I asked my neighbor if I could have his leaves. He thought it was a little weird, but we've got chickens in the backyard and giant rain barrels collecting rain on the sides of our house. He's used to weird.

The neighbor even loaned me a giant drop-cloth to pile the leaves on and drag them to my house. It worked great. I had a huge pile of leaves over to my back yard in 4 trips. As I was dragging piles of leaves across the street, I got two comments. One was from a lady that asked, "What are you doing with the leaves?" I responded that I would use them as compost. She was OK with that and said that if I wanted to clean up any more leaves and haul them away she had some in her yard that I could have. As much as I like the idea of using the leaves, I declined her offer.

The second comment that I got was from a teenaged kid. He asked, "Are you keepin' them?" I answered, "yes". He continued, "For what?" I said that I would let them rot into dirt and plant a vegetable garden in my yard. His final response, I think meant that he was OK with the idea, but the nouveau slang was beyond my understanding.

It strikes me as peculiar that people don't understand that we would keep the leaves that fall from the trees. It's like the leaves are nothing but a burden. As if the tree spends lots of energy through the spring and summer just to produce leaves to drop and annoy the person who has to clean them. How do people not think of why the leaves would be dropped. How do we not think of an alternative short of cramming them into plastic bags and sending them to the dump?

I'm excited to be using mother nature to prepare my garden for next year. I have a long ways to go and will need all the help I can get. I might as well find help with lots of experience and inexpensive materials.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Losing Nature

While I have been pleased with our move to Kentucky, there is one thing that I've recently noticed that I miss. I have lost a feel for nature in my life. When I was in Spanish Fork commuting to Provo daily I was on my bike outdoors at least 2 hours every day. I was acquainted with nature. I knew the phase the moon was in. I knew the direction the wind was coming from. I was getting a feel for the weather brought by different winds. I felt at one with nature. I felt like I was part of nature.

Here in Kentucky we've been blessed with a home close to my work. I only commute for about 15 minutes each way, and most of my commute is through the city. I don't have time to see the moon. I'm in well lit areas so I don't see the stars well and there is virtually no wildlife between home and work.

It may sound like I'm complaining that my commute is too short, but that isn't entirely true. Sure, I wish I was riding my bike more, but it's not like there is a shortage of roads here. It wouldn't take too much effort to add some distance to my morning and/or afternoon commutes. It wouldn't take much to get out into the countryside and see some beautiful stuff, but I don't because I don't have to.

This turns more into a frustration with myself. My job is to encourage and help people to make changes to improve their health. In most cases that means weight loss, but not always. Here I am struggling to make a change that I feel is important to be made. Sure I would rather be home with my family and when I get up early I don't like being dead tired when I get home. ... And I'm supposed to be helping people make changes in their lives.

Whenever I think about riding in early it comes down to the fact that I don't have a locker at work. Showers and lockers are available, but only for day use. I wouldn't be able to keep anything overnight. So I would have to keep stuff in my bag which makes the bike ride less attractive. Then I would have the fear of having super-wrinkled clothes all day. And when you get to work all decked out in spandex and shoes that you can hardly walk in, how do you look professional as you enter the building? There is the list of excuses that I have. None of them are that great of excuse.

It would seem that I would need to exercise to help with my personal weight maintenance, but that doesn't seem to be an issue. Last week I dropped below 140 pounds without any effort. In fact, I am now making an effort to eat more so that I can stay away from the emaciated look that accompanies my weight loss.

This week I'm going to work on refinding nature. I want to experience the moon and stars again. I want to feel the different winds and be able to tell what that says about the weather. I want to know about local wildlife. I don't care what I can learn on a nature walk, I want to know the places on the road to expect to be buzzed by an owl or come toe to toe with a skunk. I want to know the animals that are out and about in this area. I'm on a search for nature.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No, my kids don't want it!

Please leave me alone. Let me change that, I want this to be more direct and sound less like a request and more like a command... LEAVE ME ALONE!

To the bank teller: No, we don't want the suckers and really it would have been better had you not offered us the suckers because now my kids are going to be whining about not getting suckers for the next 10 minutes. Maybe you want to have them for those 10 minutes, but whatever you do don't give them the sucker because it is bad for them and we don't live like that.

To the Sunday School teacher: While it is great that my kids are memorizing scriptures, can we encourage them to do that with out bribing them with junk that makes them wild and unruly, contributes to obesity and makes them think that food is a reward for good behavior. Let's find a way to encourage our kids to be good because it's the right thing to do, not for sweets. We can even call it 'being Christ-like' because I don't think Christ was bribed for his behavior.

To The Home Depot: OK, popcorn is better than the pure junk they get elsewhere, but really I would like to choose what to feed my children. I would choose a low fat, low salt diet and your popcorn was none of the above. When I need your help making my kids sick, I'll ask.

To the random lady who gave my kid a piece of candy to calm him down: Thanks...I think. He cried even harder when I took the candy away from him. I would far prefer he cry than deal with the consequences of him eating the candy. You see his crying was short lived, but after the sugar and artificial junk in the candy he will be unruly for quite some time and it contributes to poor health for the rest of his life.

Unlike most people, I'm trying to raise healthy children. I want them to eat right and not be loaded up on junk food. I believe in moderation with junk food and in my opinion a moderate amount is only slightly different than NEVER. I want them to have a good relationship with food. That means that I don't want them to think of food as a reward or something they use to comfort themselves. Food is something that you eat in order to give you health. How about if you be the parents to your children and I'll be the parents to mine.

Thank you

(FYI, this stemmed from nothing anyone who reads this blog does, this was just a thought that seems to drift in sometimes.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Food storage

One of my goals would be to grow most of our food so that we could store it and eat it through the year. We have a LONG way to go.

Last weekend we bought 2 bushels of #2 apples and made apple sauce, dried apples and apple pie filling. We'll spend ~$100 on fresh fruit now so that we can have it for the rest of the year. Frankly, I'm not really a fan of canned things from the store, but things that I can myself are pretty good, although I don't think it's possible to can green beans or peas and ever have it taste right.

People question the nutritional value of canned or frozen produce. Actually, it's not bad. Put it this way, fresh produce that is in season is the best. But what about in the winter? Is it better to get produce from half way across the country or even the world that was picked well before it was ripe and shipped for several days, or produce that was picked fresh and canned or frozen? I would argue that there could be more nutrition in the canned or frozen variety... well there could be, but not necessarily true. That is why I can my own fruit so that I know what is in the can (or jar, as the case may be).


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Chickens

A couple of weeks ago weird things started happening in the chicken coop. First I noticed some very large poop on the roof of the hen-house. I explained to myself that an interested animal could be watching from the chicken wire top on the coop and the poop just falls on through.

Then I noticed that the stick that I use to prop open the hen-house had fallen to the ground. The stick isn't huge, a chicken could surely bump it off a ledge, but it's kept in a spot that I don't think the chickens can get to. Maybe they could. So I was able to explain away that curious happening as well.

One day I found big animal poop inside the hen-house. I had to face the facts, something big was getting into the hen-house. I needed to first figure out what it was and second take care of it if it was something that shouldn't be in there. At first I figured it was Oreo, the neighborhood cat that doesn't actually belong to anyone, but everyone seems to feed. The poop was rather catesque, but seemed a bit big to be cat poop. It was also curious that none of the chickens had been killed. Well, we lost one quite some time ago to what I figure was a raccoon that stuck it's arm through the fence because I found the dead bird in the fence in bad shape, as if attacked by a cat or raccoon (I hadn't assumed Oreo's innocence in this matter either).

The next morning I went out there early and when I opened up the coop I found two baby raccoons camped up on a ledge inside the chicken coop. That was bad, but I needed to get to work. So I left. Besides, I didn't know how they got in there.

The next morning I woke up early and took a broom out there. The raccoons were there and there were actually three of them. I jabbed at them a bit with the broom until I got them to leave in an attempt to figure out how they got in there. The first one slid out before I could see how. The second one went right through the links of a chain link fence. I thought from the looks of it that there was no way it would fit, but it slid right through. The third one tried to slide right through, but seems to have gained a bit of weight since getting in and didn't make it. I opened the door for him and let him out. Here's a picture of the size of the raccoons and the size of their poop.
That afternoon I bought some chicken wire and wrapped the bottom of the fence in it so the raccoons couldn't just slide right through.

The next morning I went out and while they had already left, they had dug a hole under the fence and spend the night with the chickens. I put some wood and bricks down to stop them from getting in. I don't remember which morning it was, but one day I got a couple of good pictures of the raccoons in the hen house.


The next morning I found that the raccoons had been there again. I had done a poor job of blocking their passage way. I blocked the passage better and hoped for the best.

The next morning I went out and they had not gone under the fence, but they had still gotten in. I did a little looking and figured that hey must have climbed through the fence onto the roof, so I put some chicken wire up behind the hen-house thinking that if they were unable to step through onto something, they wouldn't be able to get through. I was wrong.
The next morning I went out there the raccoons were in there again (actually there were only two this time, I don't know what happened to the fat one that didn't fit through the links). I thought for a moment. Eventually these things would get big enough that they couldn't get through the links, but by that time I would guess they would realize that they had it pretty good with food, water and shelter at their fingertips. I was afraid that they would do anything to get in there, even if I wrapped the entire coop in chicken wire. The other option was to really get rid of them. So I went and got the only weapon that I had, a pitch fork, and I fatally wounded the two raccoons.

I say that so simply, but it really bothers me that I would do something like that. Sure, I took on the responsibility of protecting chickens, and that may have been the only way to protect the chickens (really I have no idea why I still have 9 chickens). I'm not the violent type that can kill an animal with a garden utensil... Yet I did. Now I find myself thinking about it a lot and feeling really bad. Additionally I will find myself tempted to tell the boys to stop playing violently, but I can't say it, not after brutally murdering animals in my back yard.

So the raccoons have been taken care of and nothing has been in the coop for the last two days (except the chickens). On to brighter subjects, I have a fun photo of Shack mowing the lawn.

I find it interesting that people will tell me that I need to be careful with the real mower because kids could get hurt... THis from people who use a gas mower because it's safer? Anyway, my oldest is the only one who is strong enough to make the blades move and he knows better. There seems to be a perseption that old technology is worse and more dangerous when in fact that isn't always the case. My mower cuts grass better than a gas mower and I have no reason to believe that it's any more dangerous.

The last video is one taken this evening of the Oldest child chasing the chickens trying to get them back into the coup. I let them out for a little foraging in the yard and they loved it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reverend Billy

I posted a bit ago about my desire to be a pastor of my own little non-denominational cult. While there is some truths that provide the foundation for that post, I recognize that I will likely never be a pastor because it just wouldn't work for me. I'm OK with that.

I have, however found the church (cult?) that I want to follow when I grow up. This guy has some really disturbing things. I use that word 'disturbing' quite literally. I don't think he's a psycho or anything, but what he does disturbs me.




It disturbs me because I don't think he's psycho. I have a really hard time finding things that he says that I don't agree with 100%. His irreverence toward something sacred doesn't sit well with me, but I am not convinced that he's being irreverent. I think his message is all there; What would Jesus buy? He calls the playstation, nintendo wii and other such products 'the devils of today'. I can certainly see how that is the case.

OK, exercising the cash register was a little weird. I think this guy speaks truth, but for some reason I have judged his attitude to be irreverent. Maybe it is my attitude that is not open enough to accept someone speaking from the heart in his own style.

And so this guy disturbs me. On the one hand I can't handle his irreverence and on the other hand, I suspect that he is being completely reverent and serious in a way that I am unable to understand.

OK, it also disturbs me that he has put out a movie that he sells... that seems like a difficult product to promote.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Family stuff

I'm excited about my next post. It will be a bit of a spin off from the previous one, but first I have finally recharged the battery on the camera and will now proceed to download pictures and maybe a video or two.

The three boys sitting and eating on a hike.

Shackleton conducting a symphony of wildflowers.
This kid's faces never cease to surprise me. I have no idea what he was doing.

This is Caden with one of his chicks (they are much bigger now). He's very proud that he's big enough to hold them.
This is one of those accidental photos that really turns out well. OK, it's a mediocre photo at best, but look closer and see if you can find the humor in the newspaper.

OOh, and I have some video.





Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I want to be a preacher

I really enjoy my job and what I get to do for people, but that doesn't mean that I don't think about other opportunities. For example, someone commented to me a while back that they thought I would make a good preacher. This was a real compliment coming from a preacher who I respect and admire a lot, but I'm not so sure.

The biggest problem with me becoming a preacher is that my religious views and church affiliation are with a church that has an unpaid clergy. It's very difficult to support a family with a full-time voluntary position. So I couldn't really be a 'preacher' for my church and I believe in my church so it would be a little weird to be a preacher for a different church.

Hold on, I've really thought about this. My desire to be a preacher doesn't revolve around the religious aspects. I really like the idea of being able to dedicate my life to helping people in need. I could spend my days in nursing homes visiting people who are lonely. I could prepare a speech once a week to provoke thought and encourage people to improve their lives and be kinder to those around them. I could help people work through the darkest, most difficult times of their lives, providing them with random acts of service and organizing or helping them find the help that they need. I could be paid to give hugs and love people. That's my dream job.

I've thought about professions that sort of mimic my dream job, but nothing quite fits. I could be a counselor, but the whole idea of someone paying me to talk with them and serve them somehow defeats the purpose. I could go into nursing or elder care (which I have done and very much enjoy), but you don't get the time that you need to dedicate to the people. It's all about solving the health problem and moving onto the next patient because the more patients you can see the more MONEY you can make. So the fact that what they really need is someone to talk to doesn't matter. The profession tract doesn't seem to fit what I want to do.

I've also thought about starting a sort of company being a preacher for those who don't have a belief system. That wouldn't compete with my beliefs and I could give an inspirational thought once a week on Wednesdays and go around to my non-believing congregation providing service through the week, helping them with whatever they may stand in need of, loving them and giving them hugs. I think it's a great idea, except that I have my doubts about how the finances would work.

In a regular church people pay a tithe or something like it to the church so the church can provide a building, services, etc. If I were a non-church preacher, I think I would have a hard time convincing people to give me 10% of their income. The rich people would figure out that they would have better results for less money with a shrink and the poor people wouldn't be able to pay me enough to support my family. Maybe I'm just being pessimistic, maybe I should give it a shot.

I have concluded that the next best thing is working at a non-profit gym where I get to serve people of all financial backgrounds and help give them the tools to improve their health. I really do love the people I get to work with, but hugs aren't exactly appropriate. I still wish I could go to homes and provide help as needed. I actually get to deal a little with people's hard times and help them through it, but not nearly to the extent that I wish I could. (Surprisingly, personal training type jobs are ~50% cheerleader, ~40% counselor and ~10% knowing something about exercise and being able to help people improve their health.) So if you have any ideas on starting "Sans' church", let me know.

As soon as we get the battery in the camera recharged I will post pictures.... I think

Saturday, July 4, 2009

dirty animals

I'm excited about my chickens. First, I think chickens were the next step in our sustainable lifestyle. I just hope I don't kill them. One thing I'm really excited about was their coop. I built the coop from an old picnic table that came with our house. We had to buy some things to complete it, but the picnic table was almost completely recycled into the coop. I wish I had taken pictures to show how.

Tonight I want to blog about dirty animals. When I tell people that we got chickens, I often hear that they are dirty, stinky animals. While I'm not going to deny that, I would like to put it into perspective.

Let's compare my chickens to the people who walk their dogs in front of our house. My chickens produce A LOT of poop. All of that poop can be composted into some of the best fertilizer possible for my garden. I get some leftover wood products as flooring, the chickens poop in it, I let it sit for awhile and compost and then I put it on my tomatoes and it helps them grow. The people with the dog, on the other hand, carry around a plastic bag (a petroleum product), wait for the dog to poop, pick it up in the plastic bag, carry it back home and put it in the trash. The trash man then drives his stinky truck to their house and takes the dog poop with the trash to the dump where it very slowly rots along with the other municipal waste that pollutes the dump.

The only thing that makes cats any better is that the owner doesn't follow the cat around waiting for it to poop. The cat goes to the litter box and does his thing in peace. Still the owner will eventually gather the cat poop in a plastic container and send it for a stinky ride to the dump to rot.

Even cats and dogs that live outdoors and don't have humans that collect their bodily waste don't produce anything of worth (like fertilizer or eggs).

So I've been thinking about this. Chickens are considered 'dirty' animals, but for some reason cats and dogs aren't. Yet when you look at what is done with the animal byproducts it really seems that cats and dogs are far dirtier. So what gives, why is there a discrepancy?

Ultimately my ideas turned to the separation of people from consequences. I'm thinking that if dog owners had to compost the animal waste and make it useful, they would find their animals to be dirtier. Since they are able to contain the mess in a convenient petroleum product and send it away they then don't have to think about it. It is more difficult to get the chicken mess sent away, therefore the chickens are considered dirty. It's not that the chickens themselves are really dirtier, but rather the mess is more difficult to get off the property.

Interestingly, that is the same reason that people still buy eggs from a huge chicken farm and meat from slaughterhouses. If they really had to experience the consequence of their actions, most would not want to participate. If they had to see the living conditions of the chickens or cows that are used to mass produce their food, they would recognize the real cost of what they are eating. I think we would have more vegetarians in the world if people understood their impact on animals.

It sounds like I'm going to burst into some PETA type rant and I'm far from that, but I also know there are serious health ramifications in eating products raised they way our mass produced animal products are raised.

I'm still going light on the computer, but I am back... sort of.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'm out

I just started a new book called, "Better Off" It's about an MIT grad student that moves into a 'minimite' community. He has no power, relies on his garden and land to provide food and money to support him and his new wife. I love the idea.

The book is extremely well written and unlike most 'anti-stuff' material, the guy doesn't come across as arrogant or holier than thou. At least not yet.

So far my favorite part of the book was when he described the coming of technology. It began with Locke who philosophized a lot about ownership and possessions. The idea of ownership and having something that others do not almost gives that 'something' a persona. That 'thing' is now prized as would be a relationship it is something special and different. It's something that I have and you don't and it makes us different.

As technology grew and these 'things' grew persona, they did not really play by the traditional rules. The author sites a couple of guys were were harshly punished for destroying a piece of machinery that had replaced them on the farm.

This technology was something that the land owner had and used exclusively. He didn't let others use it because it was his. This technology stole from the two men their livelihood. It stole their income and self-worth. It left them with nothing, including no skills to find employment because technology had taken it. So they destroyed their boss' technology so they could have what they felt was rightfully theirs, their jobs.

Had the two men injured someone who had stolen from them they would have been able to make a plea for self-defense, but because it was a machine that plays by different rules, that almost seems an inapplicable plea.

We have Deified technology. We have placed it above the law and we spend most of our waking hours (and in many cases sleeping hours) worshiping it. Technology has become the god that we don't understand, yet that we depend upon completely. It's a true crutch in a world that often considers religion a crutch.

Some of those ideas were the authors, others I expounded on. If you really want to know what he said, read the book.

Here's where I'm going with this. I think it is time for me to take a leave from the internet. Honestly, this falls on my wife's birthday (tomorrow) and that is not a coincidence. I will spend at least a week away from this blasted computer (although I still have to use one at work). I haven't been blogging a ton recently, so I have no idea when I'll be back. I would still like to post pictures and express ideas here, but I want to spend less time surfing and otherwise worshiping a god that I don't believe should have any power in my life.

So ultimately as a birthday present to my wife I'm going to spend more time building relationships with family and less time doing whatever it is that I do on the computer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

new stuff

We made some new friends and our friends are getting chickens. The way it works out, they are getting way more chickens than they actually need. So they will be giving us some chickens. I will be working on a chicken pen here shortly.

I also wanted to post a video for your viewing pleasure. Or at least so that you can see what our boys do. If you're interested.

Certifications

Yesterday I went to an all day training to be certified as a SilverSneakers instructor. Since I don't think that it's possible to fail, I guess I passed the course. I can now teach classes that are branded with the SilverSneakers label.

I think this is an interesting process. I have all but a PhD in exercise science, yet I had to take this class to be able to teach a senior exercise class. Does anyone else see some irony in that? I feel qualified to help create the SilverSneakers program, yet I have to take a class to teach it. I'm really not bitter and I actually don't feel like I should be teaching the classes anyway. I have all the knowledge that I need to teach, but I lack rhythm. Apparently rhythm is important if you are going to teach an exercise class to music.

Anyway, the point that I want to make goes well beyond SilverSneakers. My master's degree was an exercise physiology, nutrition blend. I was actually only a couple classes short of a combined degree. I opted not to take the classes because it would have prolonged my time there and it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Taking the classes and then pursuing a RD would have been beneficial, but it requires a long unpaid internship that was not feasible with a family. So I have more bookwork education than most dietitians, although I am lacking the internship (and that certainly is important), yet I am not able to give nutritional counseling because of liability concerns.

I had a client at my health club who had blood sugar levels that would skyrocket after exercise. She says that it baffled her doctors and I found the cause. That is more specifically my area of expertise than most doctors are educated. Yet, I can't provide council or advice because I'm not an MD and I don't have the appropriate certifications. It's a liability issue.

I understand the need for certifications, but frankly, I think they are absurd. It is as if our society encourages people not to think for themselves. You have to go to an "expert". But I am an expert in some fields, except I haven't paid the money to get the certifications that "prove" that I'm an expert.

Therein lies the basis of certifications. it's all about generating money. Before yesterday I knew a lot about exercise in seniors and I knew that I didn't have any rhythm. After paying money to take an 8-hour course I didn't learn anything new about exercise in seniors and I still don't have rhythm. The only thing that has changed is that I have less money and they have more money, therefore I am highly qualified to teach a class that I wasn't qualified to teach before.

Same thing goes with the RD. I was unwilling to provide free labor for the beginning couple of months of my practical learning, therefore I am not qualified to be a dietitian. Honestly, I feel that my knowledge base is insufficient to provide in depth nutrition counseling, but I know my weaknesses and I know that I could obtain the needed information without doing an unpaid internship. I will never by an RD without giving them that money.

I by no means think that I have the appropriate education to be a medical doctor, but there are areas in which I have done more study than most family practice MDs. Insulin resistance happens to be one of those areas. Most doctors don't know that glucose can get into muscle cells in complete absence of insulin through some mechanical mechanisms. They don't know the role of insulin and the insulin/glucagon ration on hepatic cells, and muscle cells.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rain Barrels

I've recently installed rain barrels on our house. There is one connected to each of the downspouts on the front of the house. I thought it was a phenomenal idea; the barrels collect rain from the roof so I can water the garden when it gets dry. Not only that, but I don't have to mess with the downspouts that dump water next to my leaky basement.

Thus far it hasn't been a complete success. I have two 55 gallon rain barrels that collect the rain from just the front half of the roof. On the first night after installation it rained. I was really excited as I heard the big storm that night just knowing that my barrels were filling with water that I could use in the garden. Both barrels overflowed that night.

That was a pretty big storm, so I was excited to have some rain stored for the dry days to follow. Except the following days weren't dry. It doesn't take much rain to overflow an already full rain barrel.

So the rain barrels overflowed for a bit, thereby allowing the water to collect right next to the leaky basement (which hasn't leaked for us yet). Then one day it was dry! I took my watering can and filled it up from the rain barrels. (I installed spigots at the bottom of the rain barrels so that water removal is easy). It didn't take me long to note that a 1 gallon watering can doesn't empty a 55 gallon barrel very quickly. I need a bigger watering can. I got a little bit of water of the barrels, but not nearly enough. They both overflowed with the next rain.

At this point I was getting pretty worried about our basement leaking. We've heard that it does and I know that if I dump enough water right next to the house it will leak. So I drained the water from the barrel that I was worried about well away from the house. Luckily that wasn't a difficult process. It hasn't rained since. So now things are looking like they'll be dry for awhile and I've only got half the water I could have had.

I've been considering options for the future. I could buy more barrels and hook up several barrels in tandem to collect more rain water, but that would cost more money. Those barrels aren't cheap even though they we've found a good place to buy them used. The less expensive option would be to simply install an overflow pipe that directed the water away from the house. That would be cheap and easy, but I'd be missing all that rain water.

I think I'm going to have to buy more barrels anyway because I currently only have one compost bin. If we keep adding stuff to it there is no way it will ever finish composting. If we stop adding things to it we won't have anywhere to put our compost for at least several weeks.

We'll figure something out.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Research

I have some experience in academic research. I've published some papers and been to some conferences. I've read tons of papers that others have written and quite frankly it's nearly impossible to determine if the paper you are reading has any merit at all.

I've worked with some incredible scholars who are full of integrity. They conduct research following the scientific method and they try to draw conclusions and make inferences from the data collected.

The majority of researchers I have worked with have an agenda. They know the results that they want to find before they conduct the research and they design the 'experiment' to provide the results they want to see. It is easy to overlook large bodies of contradictory evidence when you don't want to see it. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to conduct non-biased research in an area where you have strong opinions.

Why does it matter that most research is not actually research, but rather a bundle of money spent to build the ego of a guy who is able to design research projects that 'prove' his opinion. As a person who looks for primary sources for information, this is a concern of mine, but for the average consumer, it really doesn't matter.

You see, most people wait for the watered down version of research. They wait for a journalist to read a research article, dumb it down and input his/her own biases before they read it. By the time 'research' reaches the public it may not even resemble truth.

I was once interviewed by a popular magazine on some research that I had conducted. I was glad to see that they took the time to email me and verify that what they had written agreed with the research that I had conducted. Most journalists don't do that. It is important to note that when the journalist wrote me, he had completely misinterpreted the research I had conducted.

There we have it; we use second hand information that is generally misinterpreted from primary research that was conducted to build the ego of some researcher. And what do we use this information for? We use this information to make some of the most important decisions of our lives. We decide what is healthy and what is not and we rely on this information to help us in virtually all aspects of our lives.

No wonder the Atkin's Diet seemed like a good idea. Here, I'll give you a specific example. I've seen it reported that the Atkin's diet has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Did you also know that any diet that puts you in a caloric deficit can improve cholesterol levels? Did you know that in the study on the Atkin's diet that subjects were given fishoil supplements? Did you know that fishoil supplements have been shown to improve cholesterol levels? By putting all of these things together in the same study, the study doesn't really show anything. Yet, most of us have heard that people on the Atkin's diet lower their cholesterol levels.

There is good research out there, it is just difficult to identify. In fact, I have found researchers that were reputable and whose work I trusted, only to find some complete junk science that they had conducted that made me distrust everything else they had published.

This is part of the reason I dropped out of a PhD program. I don't like the dishonesty in science. This is also important when it comes to global warming research and research on genetic engineered foods. Did you know that because Monsanto has a patent on many genetically engineered strains of vegetables, you cannot conduct research without their permission? It's not even possible to get unbiased research on many strains of genetically engineered foods.

Those are my thoughts on research.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Progressive

I was out mowing the lawn this afternoon and a lady walked by with her kids. She looked at me with my reel mower and said, "doing things the old fashion way?" I didn't hear her, but my wife responded in the affirmative. I noticed that a conversation had taken place, so I inquired of my wife. She told me that the lady thought I was old fashioned.

I thought mowing with a reel mower was progressive. I sometimes like to think that I'm progressive. I told my wife that. In all of her wisdom she responded, "You are progressive, but nobody knows it yet".

I actually do think of myself as progressive and I think the next step is a step back. I see people dependent on their cell phones and other electrical devices and I don't think those things are helping society. The step forward, the progressive step is a step away from dependence on unnecessary technology.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Free stuff

People like free things, it makes them think they are getting something for nothing. When will people recognize the cost of free items?

I organized a health fair and made sure that all of the 'vendors' had some sort of screening or activity beyond giving out brochures and stuff. People seemed to still just want the stuff. I've been to health fairs and conventions before and I have gone home with stuff. I never look at it again. No matter how good my intentions, the pamphlets in the bag never get read.

While it is possible that I'm the only person who has that problem, I expect that many trees are thrown away or recycled at conventions and health fairs. The 'free' stuff that people take is certainly costing somebody something. It costs the company. So why does the company give it out?

I would assume that someone somewhere did the math and decided that 4 out of every 100 people who take a brochure will buy something (I completely made that number up, it could very well be 96 out of 100). It is therefore worth the trade-off. The four people that buy something pay for the 100 pamphlets to be printed. It's a numbers game and it's worth the waste.

There has to be a better way.

There is an interesting phenomenon with free services. I work in a health club. We have exercise classes that cost money to take. They are generally popular and people pay for them and attend. We also have free classes, but they never progress, they stay at the same level so that anyone can drop in and participate. We have tried to make some classes free, but still allow a progression through the class. We had people sign up for the classes, even though they didn't have to pay. At the end of the 8-12 week sessions, only a few people would continue to attend the free classes.

People don't value free things. I think we should start charging for things that used to be free. No more freebies. Pay for plastic bags at stores. Pay for brochures. Pay for samples at Costco. These things don't have to cost a lot, maybe even just a few cents, but putting a cost to them will reduce waste. And yes, taking a sample that you don't need at Costco is waste, you just happen to be using your body as the garbage can.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lots to post about

I think regularly about things I want to post, but I just haven't been taking the time to post recently. Part of the problem is that I am fairly certain that I have lost 80% of my readers (I used to have 5, now I'll be lucky to have 1). The other part of the problem is that I haven't really had the time to develop the thoughts. It seems that I am preoccupied.

One thing I thought of posting about was a the ice cream truck idea that my oldest son put together. In short, the neighbors gave us a tricycle that has a little basket on back for our youngest son. Our oldest son thought this looked like it would make a good ice cream trike and prepared to go sell Popsicles in the neighborhood. He persisted, so we put the cooler in a trailer and gathered the other kids on bikes and went around selling Popsicles. It would have been a fun little post, but I couldn't figure out the point that I wanted to make. (Believe it or not, I try to make a point with what I write.) We sold 7 popsicles (after many failed attempts) at $.50 each. The boys got to split $3.50 for their ~2 hours of work. They feel like the richest kids ever.

I've thought about posting about my new job which I love, but I don't feel that it is appropriate to post about your employer on a private blog. I'm not an official spokesman and I certainly have opinions so I feel it's best leaving professional and private life separate in the blog world.

On a similar note, I have thought of posting about the doctoral program that I left. I have been enlightened about the volume of 'politics' that occur at Universities and am gravely dissappointed. Maybe someday I'll expound, but not now.

I could write about cycling, but I have a 3 mile uneventful commute every day. I've gone on a couple of Saturday morning bike rides with friends, but they have been generally uneventful.

The topic that has really been dominating my thoughts sort of flirts with many of the areas I've thought about writing about. We are attending a new church congregation and it is in a quite affluent area. The people are very kind and we have been treated great. It is one of the nicest congregations I've ever been in. I just don't feel like I fit in. (Granted, I haven't felt like I fit in anywhere in the last several years.)

I doubt that we make less money than everyone else in the congregation, but we certainly make less than most. I know this because most of the people in our congregation live in houses that cost over half a million dollars.

The amount of money people make has been on my mind. It shouldn't be, I really don't care, but it is. I have had lots of really good friends who make far more money than me and it generally doesn't bother me. I think the feeling of not fitting in comes through conversations that I have with people. Typical conversation will inevitably lead to someone asking what you do for a living. I work for the YMCA.

In the beginning I said that with nothing but pride. I work for the YMCA. I love what I do and I get to make a difference. I am passionate about what I do and feel that I really make a difference in the lives of real people who need help. (those previous links were to the same video, this one is also good.)

It didn't take long for me to notice similar responses to the fact that I work at the YMCA. They seem disappointed, or surprised that I would 'settle' for a job at the YMCA. I enjoy what I do, I just don't make a lot of money. Why does it matter how much money I make? Evidently it matters some because either people have made a big deal of it or I have perceived them making a big deal about it. (I should emphasize that nobody here has been anything but kind. I just spend a lot of time feeling judged.) Unfortunately, I have started talking about my degrees to 'prove' that I'm above a YMCA job.

That last sentence is really what confuses me. I feel that I do find myself talking about degrees in order to prove something, but I don't hold a lot of value in the PhD that I didn't finish (that's why I didn't finish). I also sometimes find myself thinking that I'm 'above' a YMCA job. I love what I'm doing. How can I be 'above' the job that I love? Oh the hypocracies that I have to live with.

I went for a bike ride the other day with guys from my new church congregation. It was good. They make more money than me, but we got along fine. They invited me to do a ride in a couple of weeks, you know, the type of ride that you have to pay to do. I said that we couldn't afford it, but thanks for the invite. That was sort of true, but not entirely. We could afford it, but we choose not to so that we can stay out of debt and spend our money on things more important to us like our garden or savings. Anyway, the guys I was riding with decided they would offer to pay for me to do this ride. It was a kind and generous gesture, but I would feel bad taking money to do a ride that I could have afforded but chose not to because we have different priorities. I actually have a prior engagement that day, so it doesn't really matter, but it's an interesting discussion.

Overall, everything is going great. I love what I do and it provides enough money that I don't have to worry about it excessively. I have an incredible family and the greatest wife possible. Life is good. I will try to return to blogging as I have more time, I still think it's good to stay on top of my writing abilities.

Here are some pictures of the family for those who may be interested.

What an excited little boy! I'm not completely sure where his clothes are, but we've got about 50 pictures on the camera of this little boy with no shirt. Someday we'll get him dressed.
He's still excited and still doesn't have a shirt on. Notice the dinger on his forehead. He was pounding on the screen door, which he likes to do, but the screen door wasn't latched so he did a header out the front door, down a step and onto the concrete. As Homer said, "He took the earth full on the forehead." I'm going to post a video from a few days earlier where this dinger was far worse. Six-Pence certainly likes that his brother had a birthday. He got to eat cake. We didn't get many pictures of the birthday boy. He was making awful faces and then we ran out of batteries.
Something certainly seems to be good.

Here's the birthday boy. The Mugwump turned six. This is the only picture where he's not making a ridiculous face at the camera, largely because you can't see his face. He enjoyed the cake and his birthday.

Here are the videos that we've recently made. Be careful not to play the first one at high volume or CPS will come take your kids away, there is a lot of screaming. The second one is just documentation of bad manners. I don't know where he could have possibly picked up that habit.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

I want to post today on Mother's Day. Frequently, people get their mothers flowers for Mother's Day. While that is nice and all to get your mom something pretty, really I think it's a bad idea. Why would you get your mother something that is pretty for awhile and then wilts and dies? I just don't like the symbolism there.

You can get your mother a potted plant or tree that will live on for some time. That's pretty good symbolism and a thoughtful gift. But I have something better. I think you should get your mother a cow. (I'm currently envisioning my mom receiving a cow and figuring out what to do with it since she lives in a motor home).

Hindus worship the cow as a symbol of maternal nurturing. Think about it, the cow provides milk for sustenance, power for work and dung for fuel. When cow dung is burnt it releases a natural mosquito repellent and the ash makes a great fertilizer. For many of the Hindu people the cow nurtured their life more than almost anything else; just like a mother. So I think you should get your mom a cow for mother's day.

Oh, and don't get her a card. We don't need to support Hallmark in any way.

I recently heard a story on NPR that was wonderful. I think you should read it. (I tried to find an MP3 version, but failed).

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there. I even think higher of mothers than I do of cows. Thanks for nurturing the world and making it a better place.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Buying new furniture

We bought a futon about 4 years ago that we have used as a living room couch ever since. We now have a family of 5 and just one couch. While I really like the futon, the whole family barely fits on it. Then if we have company someone has to sit on the floor. We decided that it's time to have real living room furniture.

We had a couple criteria for our furniture. We wanted it to be green. I haven't got a clue how to decipher what goes into furniture as far as chemicals etc, so that was going to be tough. The other major criteria was that the furniture had to fit me. You see, when you sit on a couch with your knees against the couch, your hips are still several inches away from the back of the couch. Most couches force you to slouch. That drives me nuts. So I had to find a couch that would not force people to slouch in it, but would still be comfortable.

We went to several stores looking for the perfect couch. Couches that fit real people don't seem to exist anymore. We therefore looked at used furniture places. This also helped us find 'green' furniture. We ended up at Habitat for Humanity. And we happened upon an Amish made couch and love seat. Evidently they were custom made and painted black, but the buyer changed his mind. The Amish store that made them does no carry painted furniture, so they donated the furniture to Habitat for Humanity. This was a $3300 couch and love seat that was drastically reduced at a second hand store. With that said, it was by far the most expensive furniture in Habitat for Humanity.

I was extremely grateful today to be able to not only get new, green furniture, but to be able to make a substantial 'donation' to Habitat for Humanity. I got a couch that fits real sized people that is really well built for less money than a new living room set that they have at the stores. It's not very often that I feel good about spending as much money as we spent, but I feel really good about it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

pictures

I'm going to post pictures. I'm glad to be back on my bike commuting daily. It feels good and now I'm exploring a little to find longer routes so I can get a little more distance in. I work at a gym, I would hate to have to work out there as well.

I also recently built a compost bin for the back yard. We got a used syrup barrel, probably from Pepsi. I drilled some holes in it, stuck a big pipe through the middle and stuck it on some 4x4s secured in the ground. The thing doesn't look great, but it works just fine.

Now for pictures.

This is the Mugwump and Jaguar on a hike that they went on this week. Kentucky is really a pretty state. It is extremely green!
This is Six-Pence making a fabric collage. He was pretty proud of it.
My wife took the boys to an activity where they were allowed to paint a car. It is unclear whether Jaguar got any of the paint on the car, but he had a lot of fun.
I wasn't overly excited to find that the little one can climb. This is a bridge over the creek by our house. While he certainly couldn't climb over the rail, it makes me a little nervous that he can climb it at all.
The Mugwump wants to grow long hair. It got pretty shaggy, but he let us cut the sides so it looks a little better. I think I need to go do haircuts right now. Mine is getting to the point where I have to pat down parts that stick up if I don't take a shower. That has to change, so I'll shave it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Keeneland

My wife was out of town this weekend to attend a homeschooling conference. While she was out, I got some great weather and lots of time to spend with my three boys. We're new to the area, so I really don't know the things to do in town, but I do know that the horse races are on at Keeneland for the month of April (and October, but we haven't been here for an October yet).

So we walked to the bus stop and caught the bus to Keeneland for a day at the races. Actually, I just thought it would be fun to let the boys see the horses.

In many ways the races were just as stereotyped, but in other ways I was shocked. I had imagined Keeneland as a place of fancy dresses, big weird looking hats and money. All those things were true. Most people were dressed up. I don't know how to explain it. I dress up on occasion, as does my wife, but this was different. Lots of pastel colors, lots of bow ties and lots of women in dresses that didn't require a lot of material. It wasn't formal wear. It wasn't something you would see at church or a wedding. It was different. Maybe I could just call it 'uppity casual' except that the people wearing it seemed more like they were pretending to be uppity than actually having money.

I think this idea of people pretending to be uppity was where my shock came in. I expected to be among rich people in a new social situation fancier than I'm used to. That is a part of horse racing. I've seen it in the movies and I expected it. What I didn't expect was the poor behavior. When I think of the wealthier parts of society, I think of people who have been well educated and know how to handle themselves in social situations. I think of sipping wine and having intellectual conversation. I think of well mannered people being entertained while they try to make a buck betting on horses.

In reality, what I found was the most foul mouthed, rudest group of spectators that I've been around. Don't misunderstand, hockey fans can certainly be drunk and rude, but it's almost expected. They also seem to be able to control their language around kids. I was expecting far more from the horse racing crowd. In my short time there, I had at least a half dozen people spill beer on me or my kids and I can't even begin to count the vulgarities being yelled in the area. Horse racing doesn't all take place in one location. First you have to walk to the ring where they show the horses and then you have to walk back to the track where the race occurs and then back to the ring in preparation for the next race. There was almost as much pushing and shoving as you would see at a European Football match (that's an exaggeration, but there was still no way to navigate with three kids). I was disappointed to say the least.

I wonder if it has always been that way. I wonder if the fan base of horse racing has always 'pre-gamed' in the parking lot to get drunk before the races. I wonder if there was a time when the wealthier people were really there hanging out in their fancy clothes rather than a bunch of college students who had been to Good Will and gotten outfitted in way too much pastel. Or has it always been a place where classes mix and get drunk together.

Anyway, the boys and I enjoyed one race and then we went and walked around in the barns. It was nice to see the grungy working folk. I felt better able to relate to them, although I doubt that I spoke the correct language. A gentleman invited the boys to pet his horse and we got to look at lots and lots of horses in their stalls. I think the barns were the best part of the day.

Then we caught the bus and returned home. It was a full day on the town for $7. $1 each way for the bus and $5 admission for the horse races. And I didn't have to fight traffic for a single moment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

pictures and video

If all goes well, I'll be providing a variety of photos of the family and recent home improvement projects.

Let's begin:This is the new play thing in the basement.
The Youngest, Jaguar.
Middle kid, he wasn't as photogenic as he usually is.
Mugwump, the oldest. He still needs a haircut.
It's amazing how much fun can be had with a box.

Now I've got some videos that FINALLY finished uploading onto youtube.







Thursday, April 9, 2009

Blog posts

I haven't posted in awhile. I've been trying to think of things to post, but haven't been able to. I ride 3 miles to work every day and 3 miles home. It's an easy ride and the drivers are wonderful so it has been thus far uneventful.

I love my job and am engrossed in helping others. The only problem with my job is leaving. There is so much that I want to do that I have a hard time getting out the door. People want to work with me early in the morning and late in the evenings and I have a hard time saying 'no' (I'm getting better).

At home I have tons to do. We have cleared some small unhealthy trees to brighten the yard, dug three raised beds, planted a variety of fruit trees, berries and grapes and been otherwise occupied in the yard. I built my wife a pantry for the kitchen last weekend (all except the making it look nice part). I have lumber in the garage to build the boys a really cool play thing downstairs and I hope to complete that this weekend.

I have completely lost track of most of the blogs I used to follow and I now toy a few minutes a day with Facebook, although it doesn't do much for me.

Now comes the question. Am I not thinking of blog topics because I'm so busy and actively involved in life that I don't need to blog as a means of distracting myself? Or am I so consumed with life that I don't allow myself to think deeper about things that are really important to me and spend time dealing with those thoughts in a blog?

I think it's an interesting irony that I have overcome my inability to find a blog topic by blogging about why I can't find a topic. I'll stop now and post pictures soon. The three people that still read this only come for the pictures anyway.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Irony

I've already posted about the geographical irony here in Kentucky. I'm still riding my fixie and it's only 3 miles to work now. I still have more elevation change in that 3 miles than I did in my 10-12 mile commute in Utah. I figured it would be flat here, but I was sorely mistaken.

Today I recognized some more irony. The drivers here are great. Sure, the locals complain about them, but that's what locals do. In two full weeks of commuting and several long commutes from our apartment up north, I have not had a single encounter with a motorist. I haven't felt threatened, I haven't had anyone pass closely and I haven't been honked at. The commute here is through the downtown area, so there is a lot of traffic, wide multi-lane roads and fast speed limits. When I signal, cars yield and allow me to cross lanes of traffic to get into the turn lane. It's a great place to be on a bike, even though the roads are narrow and congested.

In Utah County, Utah (one of the most religiously oriented counties in the US) I was honked at at least weekly. I felt threatened every few days and had some serious close calls that were obvious intentional acts on the part of the motorist. I was intentionally shot by a shotgun while on a bike ride in Utah. I had things thrown at me on more than one occasion. Ironic that I feel safer on the roads of Kentucky than I did in Utah.

I realize that I've only been here a short time, but I feel that I've had enough interaction with cars that I've really been treated well considering the time period. I'm looking forward to some longer rides in nice weather.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dilemma

We have a wonderful new home that we love. Sure, it has it's issues, but we love it. The boys are enjoying Kentucky. They say that it's creaky (that refers to our house), but I think they may mean that it's creeky (that refers to the abundance of creeks in the area).

The only thing that my middle son wanted with a house was an umbrella. We tried to explain that we would not be getting an umbrella with the house, but he didn't get it. So we look at this house and what do we find in the rafters of the garage but a large umbrella. So my son gets what he wanted out of a house. He got a house that came with an umbrella.

So here's the dilemma. We have a large oak tree in our yard. It's a beautiful tree. It shades the south side of the house which would be good for keeping it cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. I also like trees because they change CO2 into oxygen. That's important seeing that CO2 is now considered a pollutant. The dilemma arises in that this great tree also shades the vast majority of the back yard which we wanted for a garden area. So do we cut down the tree and grow others in different places and have a garden or do we keep the big tree and sacrifice our garden.

We have a little time to decide because I don't know how to cut down a big tree. Especially not a big tree in close proximity to houses... like mine.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

misestimations

When we moved here I anticipated riding my bike every day. It is about 20 miles to work, which is not a super long bike ride. I generally don't have a problem averaging 20 mph if it isn't all uphill. I figured that I could do the commute in a little over an hour and it wouldn't be too bad.

Upon arrival I've determined that Kentucky is hilly. I am still commuting on my fixie and the hills are killing me. Not only do I get bogged down on the way up, but I can't spin fast enough on the way down the hills to go as fast as I should be going. In the end my 20 mile commute takes an hour and a half or more. If I take into account the time it takes to change clothes for the ride, it's nearly a two hour commitment each way to commute. That's more time that I'm willing to dedicated. I have a family that I'd really like to see. Commuting by bike transforms an 8 hour day into a 12 hour day. That's not OK.

The obvious solution would be to get a new bike. I've thought of that. I don't ride a fixed gear because it's a fad. In fact, I have the world's dorkiest fixed gear. I have the elegance and simplicity of a fixed gear with a lighting system powered by electricity generated from the front hub. I am considering getting a new bike, but I don't want to be rushed into it. I also want to have enough money to get what I want. My fixie was the perfect bike for my previous commute. The route was flat, the destination was a madhouse where I liked having a cheap bike that couldn't get too beat up, and I enjoy riding the bike. We are moving to the city soon, and I think my fixie may be a good choice again so I'm not getting rid of it yet. And since we're in the process of buying a house, I figure that a new bike purchase isn't a top priority.

I feel bad for misestimating. I really wish I didn't have to commute by car to work, but when I weight things out, the time with my family is more important.

P.S. Our house in Utah (the one we sold) closed yesterday and we're hoping to close on the house in Kentucky next week (the one we're buying). We are extremely excited about the house that we found and are looking forward to settling closer to work (2.8 miles instead of 20.7) a playground, a grocery store and everything else that we need.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Some things never change

I am really enjoying Kentucky. The people are great, I have never felt so welcomed anywhere I have lived. I have, however, noticed that somethings never change, no matter where you go.

Jokes about the weather have been the same almost everywhere I have lived. "You know what they say about Kentucky (or Colorado, or Utah...) if you don't like the weather, just stick around 10 minutes and it will change". This joke gets old, especially since the conversation already isn't going anywhere once you've started talking about the weather. You see, the weather changes everywhere and it changes frequently. That is just how things work. To be fair, I don't remember this being said in Washington or Oregon. That is probably because it would give people unrealistic hope that it would stop raining.

"Kentucky (and Colorado, and Utah, and Washington, and Oregon) has the worst drivers I have ever been around." I've seen grown-ups really argue about this. "People where I am from drive a lot worse than people where you are from". It's right up there with, "My dad can beat up your dad". Everywhere you go, some drivers are good and some drivers are bad. Everyone has moments of inattentiveness, some just have more than others (like those with cell phones surgically affixed to their heads). Sure some cities have more 'bad' drivers than other cities, but not every city is the worst. In fact, I would estimate that only one city has the worst drivers. (I make that estimate based on my understanding of superlatives used in the English language).

OK, I'm done venting about little inconsequential pet peeves that I have. If you can explain either of these things to me, please do. I'll be back to talk more about the house we're going to buy sometime this week... Things are looking good.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A new house

We put an offer on another house this week. We like this one better than the first one. We have decided to go with the house in the city. We found the perfect house. It is 2.8 miles from my work, which is a little disappointing because I was hoping for a slightly longer commute. I can live with it though because I can commute year around without any issue. The house is on a quite street, it's just off a somewhat busy street that is the main feeder for a subdivision, but the street that it sits on is a dead end street with only a dozen houses on it. The house is .4 miles from the nearest grocery store and there are sidewalks the entire way and you never have to cross a major road. It has a fairly small yard, but it backs up against a park with a creek running through it so the boys will have a place to play. I've been warned about the neighborhood, but am not concerned. It is not far from some rougher parts of town, but the night we looked at the house there were young families and single women walking on the streets well after dark. The concern that people have expressed has to do with cultural diversity, and based on what we saw at the local grocery store, it was more culturally diverse than other parts of town, but I don't see that as a bad thing. In fact, I want my kids to associate with various ethnic groups and know that we are all the same.

The house itself is bigger than we really need, but I like what it has. It has four bedrooms, but only one bathroom (my wife says that is OK because she's the only girl, the rest of us can go outside if it really becomes urgent). Most of the home has nice hardwood floors, but the upstairs bedrooms are carpeted and quite spacious.

The basement is enormous. It has a perfect mix of finished and usable for storage. It has an 'unfinished' laundry area that could also serve as a mud room (it has an outside entrance). The finished portion of the basement is far from the nicest basement you've ever seen, but it will make an incredible playroom for the boys. The basement may also serve as a makeshift bedroom on special occasions and when the attic rooms get too hot during the summer.

The kitchen is OK at best. It needs a new refrigerator and dishwasher. The cabinets are not great but all is functional. With a remodel it could be really nice. The bathroom is similar, it needs work but it's currently functional and it could be made quite nice with a little work.

Best of all, Lexington allows chickens in the city as long as you aren't breaking any of the nuisance laws.

It's at the edge of our price range, but it's the perfect house for us. Had someone else done the fixing up, we wouldn't have been able to afford it.

If everything goes as planned, we should end up with this house. We have come to an agreement with the seller and now we just have to go through the purchasing process (and our house in Utah has to successfully continue going through the process).

This buying process was enlightening. We avoided the 'bad parts of town' because we wanted to feel safe. While on the one hand, that is logical, if every good family avoids the 'bad part of town', that part of town will never get better. (I'm assuming that we are a 'good family', when in fact many may consider us the crazy people with 3 wild kids and chickens in the back yard). Why don't people buy houses with hopes of improving the neighborhood through their presence? If people made a serious effort in that regard and cooperated with other families in the effort, it could make for an extremely good investment.

The sociology of neighborhoods fascinates me. I really wish that racial diversity did not make people think an area was 'bad', because I don't believe that at all. On the other hand, I have to consider the racial diversity when I buy a house because of what other will think and how it will influence the resale value of my house. It's unfortunate.

So we have started the process of buying a house, and we're excited to be closer to everything.

Here's a video I found that is completely unrelated, but I thought it was funny. And we need a microwave, that's the connection to my post on a new house, it doesn't come with a microwave, so we need one and this video is about microwaves.

Monday, February 9, 2009

60 mph

Before leaving Utah I never drove over 60 mph. I know that fuel economy is based heavily on how we drive. I drove like a little old lady and could get nearly 30 mpg in our minivan. Since I didn't drive much, I felt really good about driving slow and getting the most out of the miles I put on the car. In fact, before leaving Utah, I didn't ride alone in a car more than once every 8-12 months. Every mile on the car was done taking several people somewhere (thus the car was necessary).

Today driving home I found myself going 75 mph in a 70 mph zone (please don't report me). I know that I'm still far from being a dare devil or a thrill seeker, but that is uncharacteristic of me. I should be driving 60mph with really slow accelerations to improve gas mileage. It is even more important now because I drive alone every day. My gas mileage has gone down to 20mpg here in Kentucky.

My driving habits are a little dorky, but I'm OK with that. The question that arose in my mind as I was driving was, "why have my driving habits changed? Why am I allowing my gas mileage to plummet when I know the changes that I could make to improve it?" The answer... I want to get home to be with my family and if I drive faster it will make a difference in that aspect. That really pulls me to live closer to work.

Here's the issue. I know that I've blogged a lot about this and nobody probably cares, but it's on my mind so I'm writing about it. Crime in the parts of the city that we can easily afford is bad. We looked at a house (that we actually liked a lot) that was in our price range, but near a not so great part of town. A little research on line revealed that there had been a shooting at the end of that street last month. I can't live in a home where I don't feel comfortable taking a walk at night. That criteria pushes us into nicer neighborhoods which cost more. By the time we're in areas where we feel comfortable, the neighborhoods are these monstrosity things without sidewalks so we still can't walk anywhere. Why wouldn't I want to live outside of town (but still within cycling distance) if my family can't walk places anyway? That is the attraction to contributing to sprawl. Even though it's against everything I believe, I see no attraction to living in a huge non-walkable subdivision.

We're still looking for a place. We've found some places in town and we've found some places in the country that we want to take a closer look at. I'm really attracted to the city at this point (as long as we find the perfect house that is walkable and is close enough to a park that the kids can play outdoors).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Decisions

My wife asked me today what my dream house would be. She found her dream house. It looks like a barn and costs twice as much as we could get financed. Actually I like the same house that she does, but it's not necessarily my dream house. I don't think I have a dream house. I have a dream. I dream of living a sustainable life. In fact, I would love to be able to live without going to the grocery store. I would like to grow my own food, get around under my own power and provide services that would benefit those around me.

At this point in my life that dream is not feasible. In fact, I think that dream would only be possible if I didn't have to work. Quite frankly, I like my job and don't want to leave it. What I do is a service to those who need it and I love doing it. So my dream house isn't even the most desirable thing for me right now.

I still haven't gotten to the part where I figure out what my dream house is. At this point my dream is to take a big step toward being more sustainable. I would love to commute by bike as I did at my last job. I would love to have a big garden. I want chickens. I think it would be fun to have goat instead of a lawnmower. I want to reuse gray water. I want to collect rain water from the roof. The thing is that I can't do it all. We had already figured that.

I can afford to do more of the things that I want to the further I live away from work. I cannot, however, commute by bike if I live too far out. The question becomes which is more sustainable, to live a long ways out and commute by motorcycle while making big steps to make my home sustainable or living in the city unable to afford to make the changes I want in my home and commuting by bicycle.

I really enjoy commuting by bicycle and would like nothing more than to continue, but I also want to learn how to do other things sustainably. I want to learn how to raise chickens and run a sustainable home. I think that education would be priceless and it would be nearly impossible to make that happen in the city. I would be excited about the opportunities of country living, but it would cost me my bike commute. The education that I need to reach my ultimate goal cannot reasonably be attained in the city, so I'm really leaning toward living far from the city and commuting. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A new house?

We've been looking for a house. I think it's been a solid two and a half weeks now, so we're ready to buy something NOW! While patience may be a virtue, it doesn't happen to be a virtue that my wife or I were endowed with.

We've looked at things a long ways away and they offered quite a bit of land and quiet living. We looked at houses close to town and they were sort of walkable, but lacking character or were in bad parts of town.

Over the weekend we found a house that we got a little excited about. It was a little house on 1.5 acres 25 miles from my work. It wasn't walkable. It wasn't particularly quiet. We couldn't have chickens, and the neighbor's driveway went right down the middle of the property. In a lot of ways it was a good compromise (it was the first nice house we looked at), but in other ways it compromised everything that we were looking for.

Today we were going to look at two houses closer in. One was an inexpensive home in downtown Lexington. It was a small house on a small lot where we would not have had room for a garden. It was walkable to almost everything, but my wife went to the nearest grocery store and found that it was not in a great part of town. She came home and did some searching to find that there had been a shooting at the end of the block a month ago. We opted not to look at that house, even though it did look like a cute house with a lot of things that we wanted.

The house that we did look at today was fairly close to work (9-12 miles by bike, depending on the route). It is not on a big lot, but the neighbors used to have chickens (therefore I figure we could too). The house is OK; it needs paint and moldings and some cosmetic stuff on the inside, but the kitchen and flooring are really nice. It also has this fun little bonus room. The house is being advertised as a 3/4 bedroom, 2 bath house. How can a house have 3 or 4 bedrooms? Well, it has two traditional bedrooms that are fairly small, but sufficient. It has a third bedroom, the master bedroom that has an attached bathroom as well as an attached bedroom. So you have to walk through the master bedroom to get to the fourth bedroom (that does have it's own closet). While it's a little weird, I like the idea of my wife and I taking one of the smaller bedrooms and giving the three boys the two rooms to use as a sleeping quarters and a play room. If I were a kid with two brothers, I think it would be cool to have a bedroom attached to a playroom away from the rest of the house.

So we like this last house. It's not really walkable to anything, but it's quiet and I would be able to bike to work. My wife would probably have to drive with the kids due to the distance and narrowness of roads in the area. I think this is a far better compromise than the others that we've looked at. Give us another day or two and we might even put an official offer on the house.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Trivia answers and more

Heffalump was correct on the trivia question, but failed with the bonus question. 'Minding your p's and q's' refers to movable type. Printers would have young boys come in the evenings to put the type away and they had to pay special attention to the p's and q's because the type was backwards and they could be easily mixed up.

The bonus question asked which rack they were on. Of course the letters were on the bottom rack, or in the 'lower case' because nobody could get an upper case P and Q confused even if they were backwards.

OK, onto videos. First, we'll excuse my wife for taking videos sideways. She didn't mean to, but it fit in the viewfinder better. There are some disadvantages to having a still camera that we use for videos as well.

The first video is of the new 1 year old in the house walking. The second is a video of the older boys putting the recent ice storm to good use.





Maybe I'll post some pictures too.
Look, the birthday boy wanted to share his cake. Actually he likes sharing most things that he has put in his mouth and drooled on for awhile.

Has anyone told him that his face could stick like that?

Nice tongue