Monday, December 22, 2014

The finite pool: I stopped being a mesquite hugger recently...

...for a little while.

"Finite pool of worry" - that phrase showed up in an MH blog post recently and its truth and application has haunted me since.

Around noon on December 8, my mother phoned and told me that my older brother had died (unexpectedly) in his sleep. At that moment I stopped being my mesquite-hugging self. My finite pool of worry flooded everything in its path.

The finite pool idea is actually very simple - a given person has the capacity to worry about a limited number of things - when that given number is exceeded, things fall off the list or the person has (in antiquated terms) a nervous breakdown.

Want to learn more about the pool? Click here: Center for Research on Environmental Decisions

So, for several days, I quit worrying about clean water, fracking contamination, coal-based pollution, fossil fuel pollution, climate change, and the futility of giving a damn about sustaining a liveable planet when most of my neighbors will not let such worries enter their finite pools.

People brought plastic cups, styrofoam plates, and disposable everythings over to comfort my family in our time of grief, and I hardly raised an eyebrow. My pool was filled with the the three most important women in my life, an autistic six-year-old, and the gaping hole where my older brother had been. There was grief. There was the need to rearrange our lives and to find a way to care for the people around me while keeping them from hurting each other in their grief.

Lots of recyclables went into the dumpster. Lots of unnecessary trips were taken. A neighbor was kind enough to buy my mother a new Keurig coffeemaker. But my pool was still overflowing and there was no room to protest.

My pool is still overflowing. I nearly had a breakdown in Target yesterday when I saw a display of Dallas Cowboys stuff - I always bought my older brother a Cowboys shirt for Christmas. My new list of worries has had me pondering what needs to go, and this blog has been close to the list. My green projects have been on the list too. Electric scooters and aquaponic greenhouses take time and money that won't be available, and the desire to pursue those will just lead to frustration.

But being a mesquite hugger is back in the pool. I am ready to give a damn again. I am ready to keep learning and writing and striving for betterment. And I would like the opportunity to share those things with you.

May you swim strongly regardless of what is in your pool.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I found my new dream electric vehicle - move over Tesla

Let's be realistic here - I am a middle-age/middle-class guy living in a middle-of-the-road town. I'd love to have a Tesla, a Leaf, a MiEV, an I3...but  the budget at the MH house just doesn't support that kind of dash. Even the Fido (still one of the coolest production vehicles we've seen) is a wee bit out of the budget for a guy paying for this middle-class life. So I am always on the lookout for electric vehicle companies that do fall in the budget.

One of the most successful electrical vehicles around is probably one you give little thought to - Razor. Yep, Razor - the people who put out thousands of little electric scooter and motorcycles into the hands of thousands of little people (and occasional overzealous adults - ask some time about my wife's adventures on a Razor Pocket Mod Scooter).

Well, today I saw a promo video for the Razor Crazy Cart XL. WOWSER!!!!! I want one! I signed up to be on the email list and I am shaking on the inside! Fester, Knippa, Grizz, Swartzy, Peaches, we have found our rides!

May we all have that much fun working in a warehouse!

Copenhagen Wheel, Flykly, Daymak, GeoOrbital - Add the Evelo Omni to the list!

So none of those other powered bike wheels tickle your fancy? Check out the Evelo Omni Wheel. This one is a front-only, 36 volt, 350 watt, pedal assist - no throttle, guaranteed to ship in March 2015, 26" or 700c, powered bicycle wheel. It has a few different battery options, ranges from $999-1499, and it comes in Apple's favorite color - white.

Want to know more? They have a slick and informative website.

Evelo Omni Wheel

I learned from the website that I am too big for their wheel -  if you and your bike together weigh more than 250 pounds, you too are out of its range, but Evelo will sell you a complete bike that's well suited to persons of our size for a little over $2000.

May you enjoy the ride, regardless of which wheel you choose.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"The problem is...we're human." Joe Hanson

A YouTube video showed up on Grist today: Why People Don't Believe in Climate Science. It's a little over 7 minutes and it explains a lot about the ways our brains choose to deal with or not deal with threats.

I watched a little bit and shut it off. I am a victim of my own "optimism bias" and I have a "finite pool of worry." I kid - I watched the whole thing and enjoyed it a great deal. And now I am armed with phrases like "optimism bias" and "finite pool of worry." And I have a better understanding of the community around me that wants bigger trucks, more beef, and more trainloads of coal to power our stuff. What I did not gain is an understanding of what to do.

For now, maybe it's time to hang up my keys and get back to pedaling. Please flip off the lights on your way out.

May we work together for better.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lubbock on a Bike: No Love from the Mayor

An article in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal this weekend has had me thinking about bicycling in our town. In the article, cyclists were minimalized by our mayor, Glen Robertson. "...cycling is a niche issue that concerns a small segment of the population." I also learned that the mayor feels that bike lanes are a waste of money. (To be fair, though, he was elected through a campaign based solely on saving money for our citizens - not on improving life, health, or safety for those who live here.)

Road Rage: Lubbock cyclists decry lack of safety

I have been a bicycle rider all of my life, but somewhat recently I turned into a bicycle commuter. I live in the center of town and my home is located five miles from my office. In case you are familiar with Lubbock, my commute requires me to cross Indiana Avenue, 50th Street, Quaker Avenue, Slide Road, and Loop 289 South. People who know my commute refer to me in terms ranging from brave to suicidal. I am surrounded by people who would love to ride, but they are too scared to ride in this town.

USDOT Survey: How Bike Lanes and Paths Make a Difference

I love riding and the benefits of riding; however, I am a fearful man and I have learned the most dangerous obstacles in my commute:
  • unleashed dogs
  • mothers in GM SUVs
  • men in F250 Ford trucks
  • anyone driving an Escalade
  • people who roll through stop signs
  • anyone on the phone while driving
And it is very clear that most of these resent my intrusion on their territory.  They bark, honk, flip me off, and occasionally swerve at me.

Outside of these groups, though, I find most of our drivers to be friendly and courteous. Protected Bike Lane Statistics

Memphis Ave south of 50th St
(You can see where the lane/stripe ends)

No stripe

I do not feel welcome on our streets. I do my best to stick to our infrequent bike lanes and nebulous bike routes. (If you are wondering about the difference, a bike lane has occasional signs and painted lines, a bike route has occasional signs only. In Lubbock, bike lanes are suspended as they near busy streets and public schools.) I mostly use the lanes and routes located on Flint Avenue, 42nd Street, and Memphis Avenue. (If you would like to experience the challenge of maneuvering a Lubbock bike lane, try crossing 50th street at Memphis on a bike. It's like being a mouse at the cat farm.) I try to stay on residential streets and avoid school traffic. I do my best to follow traffic laws and to be courteous, and I never ride in traffic on busy streets. I even use bike lights and a helmet. I love my wife dearly and want to return home safely to her every day.

Cyclists, please be safe out there and watch out for yourself.

May you live in a place where your elected officials view you as something more than an insignificant niche.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Want to stop smoking? Buy a Leaf!

Okay, I read the title of this article on and my brain went into gear. How would driving an electric car encourage anyone to stop smoking?

  • Would the driver think Well, my car does not smoke, so neither should I?
  • Does the Leaf not have a cigarette lighter or ashtray installed?
  • Do the Leaf owners start hanging out with a different group of people who shun smokers?
  • Do electric motors emit some type of EMF signal that stifles the urge to smoke?
  • Is it some subliminal thought that one should not smoke near a pile of leaves due to fire hazard?

Finally, I broke down and read the article. The solution is quite simple and practical. You will have to read it for yourself here:

How to Quit Smoking: Buy an Electric Car

May your vehicle foster better health habits!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Walking this Morning

Saturday morning walks to coffee are among my favorite times. This morning was a chilly one, and the sun was just rising.

May you know beauty today.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mountain Bike Your Way to a Great Commuter!

FrankenHuffy in mid-evolution

One of my first electric bikes was a Huffy Cruiser. It started life as a single-speed, coaster-braked, white-walled, beach cruiser. This might shock you, but it was electrified on a budget, so I tried to retain as many of the original parts as possible. Including the big, fat, white-wall tires.

But those tires were not really up to the stress of a heavy bike with heavy batteries and a really heavy rider cruising at almost 20 miles per hour. So, I saved up a little money and bought some skinny tires that ran much higher air pressure. The ride became much rougher, but the bike handled better, gained about 2 mph in top speed, and went from a five-mile range to a six-mile range. Man, it was an impressive upgrade!

And I learned a valuable lesson - skinny tires = more efficiency. And that is important for non-athletic types like me.

Then I started looking at hybrid and commuter bikes with drool on my cheek, but my cheapo conscience kept seeing dollar signs instead of the freedom of the open urban road.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this summer. I found myself at a garage sale with a bunch of bicycles at really low prices. Hidden at the bottom of the pile was a Motobecane mountain bike with a flat tire and a beer cup duct taped to the handlebar. I brought it home, replaced the rear tube, and started riding it around. And I liked it.

An inexpensive mountain bike on Craigslist today

So, I started riding it to work. Then I replaced the tires (one at a time) with skinnier tires. and I went to a slightly taller handlebar. And I added some lights. After a few commutes, I joined the National Bike Challenge. I rode a lot throughout the summer. (And there were some big health benefits in all that, too.) One day I parked the mountain bike next to a hybrid bike at a bike rack. And they were very close to being the same bike. I had about $70 in mine by that time.

Another inexpensive mountain bike on Craigslist today
All this is to say that if you want a hybrid or a commuter, you might want to grab a used mountain bike. Especially if you already have one lying around. I have been extremely happy with mine, and it's a pretty easy conversion. If you are on a tight budget, you can even do it in stages.

If this idea tempts you, here is a great Byron Kidd article to help you get started:

Convert Your Mountain Bike to a Road Ready Commuter

May you and your wallet be happy with your bike!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lubbock: We want a playa-lake island for Christmas!

An open letter to Santa or our wealthy Dickensian benefactor:

One of my foibles as I get a little older is a deeper and deeper appreciation for birds, pretty much all birds. From house finches to great blue herons, I am a fan.

I used to work across the street from this playa-lake park:

And every day my office mate and I would take a walk around the park. It became our park. Some days we would carry bags to pick up trash. Some days we would fish during our lunch hour. Some days we would take cameras and binoculars to check out the new ducks and shorebirds that had stopped over.

The frustrating part with the shorebirds was in knowing how much it disturbed them when we walked around the pond. There was nowhere for them to escape people (and dogs and cats) and still be at the pond.

So we speculated a plan. We needed an island where our visitors could hang out in relative peace. A few parks in town do have islands, and the birdlife thrives in those parks.

We actually came up with two plans - the public plan and the stealth plan. The public plan involved the city council and an indiegogo campaign. The stealth plan involved my old canoe and some construction site castoffs. Neither plan actually got off the ground, snagit!

I recently found an article on Grist about a Scottish company, Biomatrix Water, that thinks like we do - that adding islands to existing bodies of water can be very beneficial, but they are looking on a broader scope. Their islands benefit birdlife, but they also improve water quality, reduce pollution, support fish and plant life, and reduce algae blooms. Lots of benefits from a very simple structure.

So, that is what JG and I want for Christmas - a couple of Biomatrix Water islands. She wants hers in Jan Jennings Park, I want mine in the un-named park at 78th and Orlando or Remington Park, or both :-).

May our migratory friends find a light on at the inn.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Instructables Contests: Green Energy and Indoor Gardening!

Artist's rendition of the killer in question - buy here.

I did a little refurbish on my Instructables aquaponics setup over the weekend. To be honest, I do very little with it. It plugs along pretty successfully on its own, but I needed to condense tanks a bit - one of the playa-lake perch refugees had gone on a killing spree, so it was time for some changing, and I wanted to make arrangements to share the light with some potted cherry tomatoes.

As does seemingly everything, it got me to thinking. This time I was thinking about Instructables.

So I swung by the Instructables site and found a few contests that I thought would interest you too.

And there's lots of good news. First, they are both still open for entries. Second, they reward people for doing things that dorks people like us like to do in our spare time anyways. Third, you can win cool stuff like electronic gizmos and home aquaponics setups! Fourth, Instructables is just plain cool.

So go build something and get it posted, you lazy hippie wonderful inventor!

May you gain fame and prizes for doing cool and productive stuff!

PS. Here is my own Instructables project blog post: Personal Goal Accomplished - Aquaponics

Selective Morality

Joe and I were talking this morning over a cup of joe coffee about a gun incident in a local business yesterday. That lead to a discussion about police (both the positive and the negative) and then to selective morality, the law, and the government.

A few examples:

Speeding - at what point do you feel the need to back off, and is it because of the law, the fine, or the danger?

Taxes - would you pay or take cash in a business deal to avoid paying taxes?

Retail - if a cashier gives you too much change, will you make an effort to give it back? How much effort would put into giving it back if you did not tealize their mistake until you were home?

When is it okay to lie? Is it okay to lie?

Cell phone use in the car...

This could go on all day.

And ecology questions could go on all day too. When I ask these questions of myself, I often come up lacking.

I drove to work this morning in my small pickup. The weather was cold but very clear - little wind and no precipitation. The heater blowing on my toes felt pretty wonderful. I have a perfectly capable bicycle in the garage and there is a bus route near my house that goes very near work. I know without a doubt that burning gasoline is destroying our ability to survive on this planet, and it is happening at an alarming rate. But my toes are warm and my bones ache less than they would have.

I occasionally regularly purchase drinks in styrofoam cups.

I am pretty lazy about recycling paper and cardboard.

I purchase electricity made in a coal-fired plant.

I don't (yet) compost.

This could go on all day.

May you like your answers to questions like these.

(Thank you for reading this far! No links + no pics + self examination = very few readers.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Copenhagen Wheel Update, Plus Fun with Captioning

"It's a robot, but it's also a vehicle."

"We are building in more testing time to ensure the best possible product."
Let's hear it for the (Green?) Motor City!
Video here: Fall 2014 Copenhagen Wheel Update

Now go back and watch it again with the Closed Caption option - it's much more fun! Here is my favorite sequence:

"... riders pedaling very naturally. We've redesigned the housing of the wheel using exotic...

...alloys instead of aluminum."
"...production will ramp up in the spring."
May you find humor while waiting...and waiting...and waiting.
I am sure it will be worth the wait, but I have real sympathy for those who sent in their money back in 2013. May their spring be glorious!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Lubbock Mini-Post: Giving Tuesday 2014

As I mentioned in a post last week, tomorrow (December 2) is Giving Tuesday. Just in case you find yourself with a large (or small) pile of money to give or you have time and/or skills to devote to others, here are a few local organizations for your consideration:


May you be blessed with neighbors who choose to give.