Friday, August 29, 2014

Lubbock Lake Landmark: Be a Tourist at Home!

So, it's a concept that I don't understand, but I am definitely guilty of this one. Why would people drive or fly hundreds of miles to be tourists when they won't visit the tourist sites in their own home town? How many times have you heard that there is nothing to do around here?

My wife and I were fortunate enough a few years back to spend a few days in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And we had a great time! Sioux Falls is a town of a few hundred thousand in a flat area surrounded mostly by plains. They have a very cool arts district. They have an airport. The people are pretty friendly. In essence, it was a town very much like Lubbock, but further north.

We hit every tourist site we could find. We visited a butterfly house, the local nature interpretive center, the local brewery, and the arts district. We ate in local restaurants. And we had a great time! Sioux Falls, in many respects, is another Lubbock.

All this is to say that I am a slacker - I have never visited the Lubbock Lake Landmark. But I hope to fix that problem soon. There are two walks scheduled at the LLL in September, a Walk 4 Health and a Night Walk!


I am hoping to catch the night walk. We have some beautiful nights around here in the fall! And this is a great excuse to get out and enjoy one.

And I am going to hit up the gift shop for Christmas this year. Don't be surprised if you receive a cuddly plush animal from the Mesquite Hugger - they have prairie dogs, jackrabbits, and armadillos, oh my!


PS. Don't forget the Lubbock Downtown Farmers Market tomorrow.

May you enjoy being a tourist in your home town!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Local Wildlife: Lesser Prairie Chicken Conservation Forum & Random Photos

This beautiful creature is a lesser prairie chicken (from the wikipedia article)

I received an email from Julie Hodges today to let me know about a forum to educate landowners on conservation efforts and recommendations for the lesser prairie chicken. As a young kid, I was fortunate enough to see these birds a few times when I was out riding my bicycle and chasing toad tadpoles. I must've been twelve or thirteen. Even at that age, I remember being struck at their beauty and just the oddness of seeing them. Unfortunately, that was the last time I saw a prairie chicken in the wild.

More info here: Landowner Lesser Prairie Chicken Forum (If you register early, there is even a free lunch in the deal.)


And the random stuff:
Here is the reason I envy the offices around here with windows - birdfest!

This little lady was dining near our porchlight last night.

May you and the lesser prairie chicken thrive!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Awesome Toronto Anti-Litter Campaign, Confronting Trashy People, etc.

I share an office with Jennifer. Jennifer is generally mild-mannered and polite in most situations. But there is one thing that sets her off like a three-alarm blaze - seeing someone throw litter out of a car window. She has been known to chase offenders down and give the trash back to them. She has been known to bring family reunions to a screeching halt when confronting the issue, and she has been known to get out there with a trash bag to create her own little neighborhood cleanup.

Keep it up, Toronto!

Well, it looks like Jennifer has a kindred spirit or two in Toronto. This article just showed up on Greener Ideal. Enjoy!

May you not live trashily!


An Age-Old Texas Argument: Tailgate Up or Down?


When I was a kid, my dad would have me jump out of the truck and put the tailgate down before we jumped on I-20 to head to the lake. He explained to me that the tailgate being up caught a lot of wind and made the truck burn more fuel. And he was the smartest guy in the truck, so I believed him.

So, I was shocked a few years ago when I started seeing people argue about this. Gas prices had skyrocketed and everyone was trying to squeeze every last inch out of every tank. The MythBusters crew even did an episode where they tested it and found that mileage is indeed better with the tailgate UP(!!!) I had run across the same findings on Ecomodder.com and a few other places. The smartest guy in the truck took a great fall...

Well, the Ford engineers must've recently had the same argument, so they tested (and filmed) it on the new F150. The tailgate up camp wins again: Which is more fuel efficient, driving with a pickup's tailgate up or down?

Sorry, Dad.

And while we are on the subject of saving fuel, here are the 109 hypermiling / ecodriving tips ... from the Ecomodder forum. My two favorites are at the bottom - numbers 106 (Drive Like You Pedal) and 108 (More Bob Marley and Less Megadeth).

May you get more miles out of whatever it is that gets you around.

PS. In researching this article, I learned that there is a band who call themselves "Tailgate Down." But you will have to go find them for yourself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Recycling: The Reverse Pepsi in Fort Worth!

A little over a week ago, we moved our young'un into a TCU dorm. It was one of those crazy days with people directing traffic and orienting others with where to park and where to get this key and that permit and...and...and... There were lots of pillows and Ikea boxes and only one screwdriver, and it fell apart.

Let's go back to the young'un. She has been fairly gracious about putting up with all the tree hugging and organic foods and all that, but she has never really embraced recycling. She made a cursory effort here and there, but just as much ended up in the trash can as in the recycle bin. A little frustrating to be sure.

So we moved her into the dorm on Saturday morning, and by Saturday afternoon, she had become a dedicated and hard-core recycler! Pepsico accomplished with one big, blue, tardis-like box in the dorm lobby what we had not accomplished over several years.


You get a recycling card and swipe it each time you go to recycle. You get points for each item you recycle, and you can redeem those points for stuff. That's where we messed up - we should have paid her to recycle! Thank you, Pepsico, for encouraging our little horned frog to develop recycling as a habit!

From what I can glean from their website, TCU is the only school in Texas participating in this program.

If you want to learn more, check out the program at this website.

If you are a K-12 educator, be sure to check out Pepsi's program for your little learners to become engaged in this very worthwhile effort.

And, if you want to learn about programs to start or encourage more recycling in your community, check this one out.

May you find a way to teach your young'uns to recycle - if they have not already taught you!

More Texas in Eco-News, and It's Great News!



In the last decade, it has become difficult to watch nature documentaries. You are watching along in reverie for the first two-thirds, and then you get the message. And the message is very simple. Nature is grand and glorious and staggeringly beautiful, but we had better do something soon because human beings have screwed it up royally and this majestic ________ you have been watching is almost extinct because of our greed, selfishness, and naivete. Once in a great while, there is a glimmer of hope at the end, but it usually just ends in gloom and doom.

The Texas news (from two different sources) in this post is one of those glimmers of hope.

From the Treehugger article:

A unique partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Conservation Fund and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has created an incredible opportunity to help rehabilitate the Gulf region. Using fine money resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the group has stewarded one of the largest single conservation investments in the history of Texas: the acquisition of Powderhorn Ranch.

And, in case you want to see the area for yourself (from the comfort of your media device,) here is the Texas Parks and Wildlife youtube video of the Powderhorn Ranch. Click here.

So, why am I so excited? First, it preserves an area where wildlife, the land, and the water can heal and thrive. Second, it is mostly funded by fines from the biggest eco-disaster the Gulf of Mexico has yet experienced - the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. From a horrible disaster comes a glimmer of hope.

From the Laura Huffman in the conservationfund.org article:

“The Gulf of Mexico is the hardest working body of water in the country, but it desperately needs nourishment. We have steadily stripped away its natural defenses, endangering wildlife, nature and the millions of residents who live in coastal communities,” said Laura Huffman, Texas state director for The Nature Conservancy. “This investment in Powderhorn Ranch protects the best of the last coastal prairies left in Texas and stitches together a network of protected lands that are vital to the resilience and health of the Gulf Coast.” 

Thank you to all of the groups who have worked so diligently to make this happen!

May the glimmers of hope overwhelm us!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Copenhagen Wheel vs. FlyKly (The versus week continues!)

The Battle of the Self-Contained, Electric-Assist Bicycle Wheels!

Riding the bike to work this morning was tough. I have come to learn that the bike is an amplifier. If it's hot outside, the bike makes it hotter. If there is a gradual incline, the bike makes it a hill. A hill becomes a mountain.

This morning, a breeze became a wind. Each time I turned south or rode into an open area, the wind started pushing back. There was no coasting to be done. The twenty-five-minute ride became a thirty-two-minute ride. And the trip up the stairs to my office...

Those extra seven minutes gave me extra time to think. Lots of questions pedaled around my brain:

Who can I call to pick me up?
How committed am I to this National Bike Challenge thing?
Whose idea was this anyway?
When are the FlyKly and the Copenhagen Wheel shipping?
Is this what fall and winter are going to be like?
Does Cinnabon deliver to moving targets?
Is it time to order an electric bike kit?
When are the FlyKly and the Copenhagen Wheel shipping?
Should I look for a job closer to home?
Isn't "telecommute" a beautiful word?
Why is that woman in the Tahoe laughing at me?
Does this mountain bike tire make my butt look bigger?
When are the FlyKly and the Copenhagen Wheel shipping?
Which one should I buy?
Will I spend the whole winter waiting for a wheel that ships "this fall"?
Should I just spend the money on a lesser bike kit that is currently available?
Which of them should I buy????!!!!!

Obviously, I came up with no answers while riding. All the oxygen was going to my muscles, and the brain is a little iffy even when there is plenty of oxygen.

Much later, after catching my breath, I typed "flykly versus copenhagen wheel" in the Google box. (I never use caps in the Google box.)

And an article popped up.

I had already been leaning toward the Copenhagen Wheel. It had four advantages for me:
Like Howard Wallowitz, it graduated from MIT.
I heard about it first.
It is 48V/350W instead of 36V/250W - refer back to the "classified as obese" blog entry.
I can sell more advertising space for West Crust Pizza on the Copenhagen Wheel.

Then I read the article. The writer of the 3-part article turned out to be a much bigger fan of the Copenhagen Wheel, the company's approach to building, testing, and customer service, and to their chances of continuing to evolve and improve their product.

If you always wanted to learn more about these two competing products, check out the article on solidsmack.com for more details.

May the challenges of your commute not be amplified.

Lubbock Downtown Farmers Market: Weekly dose of good humor, but no goat to promote!




You know the drill - It opens at 9 and the good veggies and baked goods are gone by 10:30.

Nobody mentions promoting goats, but I will be swinging by the WCF booth for some good humor.

Wolf Creek Farms - 
Tomatoes (green and red), cherry tomatoes, slicing and pickling cucumbers, Holland white cucumbers, homemade laundry soap (don't forget your empties for your $1 off), and our weekly dose of good humor.

And the C: A&B booth to find out how to pronounce "Capirotada".

Chocolate: Above&Beyond - 
7-Up Pound Cake, Philadelphia Jewish Apple Cake, Black Bottom Cake, Peach Cobbler, Pecan-Peach Cobbler, Blueberry-Peach Cobbler, Capirotada (with rum soaked raisins and apples), Fig-and-Raspberry Cobbler, and Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler.


And, of course, I will stop by the Solar Chef booth to see if Janie will give me yet another free cookie from the coolest off-grid oven in Texas.

As always, tell them the Mesquite Hugger sent you!

May your body be as healthy as the stuff you put in your belly!

Tar Sands vs Electric Car: Practical Math



A quote from the Mark Brook article linked below:

It appears that using natural gas and grid electricity to produce oil instead of applying it directly to our transportation needs is like feeding bread to a cow instead of grain. Yes it works, but it is an unnecessary and costly waste that only the baker benefits from.

Let's make it clear. I am a big fan of electric cars. I am also a big opponent of tar sands extraction and transportation. And the two concepts are absolutely linked. The environmental destruction that accompanies tar sands extraction and transport is massively greater than any other form of petroleum extraction we have yet put into place. And the fallacy that running a pipeline from Alberta to Houston will provide America with wealth, prosperity, and energy independence is a very sad joke that has been told by Canadian businessmen and corrupt American politicians. The pursuit of cleaner forms of transportation offers us some hope for continuation of our species on this planet. The expanded pursuit of tar sands bitumen offers us a quick buck and a cancerous and asthmatic early grave. And the use of imminent domain to force Americans off of their land to benefit a Canadian company adds a great deal more bitterness for me.

Yesterday I ran across an article on autoblog.com that caught my interest: Tar Sands vs. EVs.

That article lead me to a more detailed hybridcars.com article that is very informative and enlightening on the subject: The Oil Sands’ Surprising New Nemesis: Plug-in Vehicles.

This is not an environmental article aimed at Mesquite Huggers like me. This article is purely and simply math. How much energy (including electricity) is consumed in producing tar-sands gasoline vs. how much energy is consumed to travel in an electric car.

(Infographic from the article)

So, even for those of you have no desire hug a tree, it makes more financial and business sense to operate your car on locally produced electricity than on that nasty stuff that is destroying our environment for everyone.

May you travel greenly, cheaply, and happily.

PS. I am very fond of a number of Canadians and several Canadian exports. (Bieber and the prime minister, however, are not included in this list.)





Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lubbock Local Wildlife: the Jumbo Tadpoles update

Things be happening!

8-21-14 This is Bob.

8-21-14 This is Ribbert.

8-9-14 This is Tanya's hand and a random tadpole. Bob and Ribbert looked like this on 8-9.

May August be a transformational month for you too!

A Tale of Two Electric Cars - Is the day of commercially available EV here?


 (First and foremost, John Santini, you and your creation rock! I am impressed with what you created and with the accomplishment of actually making it happen. Your car is infinitely cooler than the MiEV.)

For many years now, if you wanted a decent electric car with some real-world performance, you most likely would build it yourself. A few viable options have been available here and there, but very few. If you want to see lots of examples of these homebuilts and the ingenuity involved, follow the links at the bottom of this page. I visit one of those pages almost daily. In the last few days, John Santini's "the project" has caught my eye.

John's car can be found on evalbum.com.

If you have any interest in EVs or in fabricating your own car, you owe it to yourself to check out the photos and the text. This thing is impressive! He used great components and built a very capable machine.

Now, let's look at some down and dirty stats:

Money invested (so far): $23,000
Seating capacity: 2
Top speed: 75 mph
Range: 90 miles (at 50mph on flattish ground)
Time to build (so far): 3 years

Just for the sake of comparison, let's do a quick websearch for a Mitsubishi MiEV for sale. The first site that popped up for me was cargurus.com. (I picked the MiEV because I am interested in owning one, and I am cheap, and I have made no progress in finishing my own EV project. A Nissan Leaf might have been a better comparison.)

You can quickly determine that a lightly used 2012 Mitsubishi MiEV will bring somewhere around $12,000.
(Depending on where you live and what incentives are available, your cost for a new 2014 model should be somewhere between $12,000 and $17,000.)

Money invested: $12,000
Seating capacity: 4
Top speed: 81 mph
Range: 62 miles (most drivers report numbers closer to 72)
Time to build: not applicable - just jump through a few hoops and buy one.

Can the average Joe take three years and $23,000 to build an electric car?

Can the average Joe get a loan for $13,500 (taxes, delivery, etc.) to buy a late-model car?

Will the average Joe laugh as he cruises past the gas station and the oil-change place?

We keep rolling closer.

May you laugh as you cruise past stuff!

To see more cool homebuilts:
evalbum.com
diyelectriccar.com

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Texas in Eco-News this Week

Just bringing together a few things I have run across this week for you locals and semi-locals.

Texas messes with Texas, pits landowners against pipeline-builders (Keystone XL)

Joel Kotkin thinks you want to live in Houston. Here’s why you don’t. (Suburban vs. Urban)

Spur Coming Up! (Spur Tiny House Pessimism)

Texas couple builds 100 sq. ft. tiny home for $7,000 (Snagit! That thing is tiny!)

Code 3 Hillbilly Emergency (From SmallTownTexas) (Aquaponics and herpetology!)

May you have plenty to talk about around the coffee maker this week!

PS. Here is another tiny house website  with an article about Spur: http://tinyhousebuild.com/tiny-house-friendly-town/

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Another Mesquite Hugger Milestone: the 300th Post!!!


First and foremost, THANK YOU! For everyone who takes the time to read this blog, thank you! Thank you! Thank you to the loyal readers who read every post, and thank you to those of you who just pop in once in a great while.

Second, I apologize. I apologize because I am being lazy on this post - we are having a flashback post today. I have picked 5 of my early faves and the one that explains what headed me down this environmental path. I hope you enjoy them (and this blog) as much as I enjoy writing it.

Number 3: That prairie dog just said you're fat!

Number 8: Professing vs. Practicing

Number 9: Hang Time! (Or Who Needs Fluffy Softness?)

Number 10: Mesquite Beans!

Number 19: How far do you live from _____?

 Number 24: 11 September 2013 - Brace yourself - it's a long one and there are no pictures or links.

May you have a better day!

PS. If you have comments, requests, etc. that you do not care to post publicly, please shoot me an email: spraycan440 at gmail.com

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fun article titles to tell us that the 'burbs are killing us fatly

In case I have not mentioned it before, I am overweight. If you subscribe to those ideal weight charts, I am about 80 pounds overweight. My Body Mass Index is about 35. That qualifies me for the designation of obese. Hand in hand with that is the fact that without taking a pill each day, I have high blood pressure. It is probably not a coincidence that I have spent my life in the suburban wilds of West Texas.

The gist of these articles is that urban areas require more walking than suburban areas; therefore, urban areas force people to be healthier. Or maybe the opposite of that - we suburbanites do not walk enough, so we are overweight and more prone to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. For us suburbanites, that's the bad news.

Do we look fat in these suburbs?

Just living close to Walmart makes you fat.

These articles hit close to home.

But there is good news.




Yes, I am probably oversimplifying a bit, but tonight I plan to take the hounds on a long walk. Tomorrow, I plan to ride the bike to work. And I am inviting you to join me. Let's be better than the limitations of where we choose to live.

May your body carry you to better health. And may your car (and the air you breathe) get a little rest.

Backyard Chicken Class tonight in Lubbock! 8-18-14

You might need a bigger backyard!
(Find this and many interesting images at johnperlock.com - roller derby fans will like this site, Rusty!)

I am sorry for the short notice, but I just ran across this very interesting class that is happening downtown tonight. Thanks to the Avalanche Journal. You can learn a lot from an Aggie!



May you have the best of cluck in your backyard roost!

Bonus Aggie joke:
Why are Aggie farmers always unsuccessful in raising chickens?
They always plant the eggs too deep.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bicycle Friendly America: How Bike Friendly Is Your Town?


The League of American Bicyclists. You may remember them as the group that organizes the National Bike Challenge. (And, yes, I am still at it. I will post another update at the end of this month.) The league has many tire irons in their fire.

One of those is the Bicycle Friendly America program. In their words:

The League’s Bicycle Friendly America℠ program provides a roadmap, hands-on assistance and recognition for states, communities, universities and businesses. The BFA program is a tool for states, communities, business and universities to make bicycling a real transportation and recreation option for all people.

I was reading over a BFA brochure today and found a community scorecard. Sure, this little survey is not as much fun as learning which Star Wars character you would be or how compatible you are with different types of pets OMG - not Jar Jar Binks and a teacup chihuahua! How can this be?!!! But, I thought you might lke seeing where your town fits in.


The entire brochure can be found here:

http://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/BFAbrochure2013-rebrand.pdf

May your town and your bicyclists be mutually friendly!

Lubbock Electric Drivers - Get Together?



National Drive Electric Week is coming up - September 15-21. If you go to that first link and look at the map, you will notice a big honking gap in the map over West Texas and all of New Mexico. We are an EV wasteland.

Motorcycles:
I did ride the electric motorcycle to work this morning. I have never seen another street-legal, electric motorcycle in town, but I hear rumors that there is another Zero lurking about.

Bicycles:
Once in a great while, I see someone riding an electric bicycle, maybe two per month. (And I look closely for those.)

Cars:
I see more and more Leafs and Volts, but they are still rare enough for me to notice them. I occasionally see a Ford PHEV - the Fusion or the C-Max. There was a Wheego on Craigslist a little while back, but I never actually saw it. And there's the guy with the really cool electric Opel GT I saw cruising on Milwaukee Avenue once.

1973 Electric Opel GT

Overall, though, for a population center of more than 300,000 people, Lubbock has very few electric vehicles on the streets. And the only "public" charging station that I am aware of is at the local Nissan dealer.

So, when I read of electric vehicle get-togethers, I think, "How much gasoline would I have to burn to take my EV to an EV rally?" Hmm...It feels like some purpose is being defeated on that one.

So how about it?
Electric Riders/Drivers, does anyone want to get together in September to swap stories and admire clean green machines? Nissan, Ford, or Chevy dealers, would you like to invite us over for a cup of coffee and a no-pressure test drive? Or, more realistically, Keith, would you like to borrow your wife's electric bicycle and meet up for a cool beverage some evening?

May the EV revolution be lead by you, and may it be televised!

AutoblogGreen NDEV Story

Seriously - watch The IT Crowd already!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Epic Electric Bike Rides (Not Me!)

(Photo from the HuffPo bonus link)


I keep running across the story of Cathy Rogers, who recently completed a trip from Seattle to DC on a Pedego electric bicycle. I keep bringing her up in conversations, and the people around me keep asking for details. Since my brain has retained very few of those, I thought I would post the story here.

http://www.eveningsun.com/local/ci_26273846/crossing-country-her-electric-bike-ride

And that story triggered a reminder to myself - I still haven't seen Kick Gas, a documentary that follows people road-tripping on/in various electric vehicles.

Kick Gas on Greencarreports.com

While searching for that one, I was reminded of the Euro e-bike tour on Electric Bike Report. (I love EBR!!!) Here is the first installment:

European Electric Bike Tour: Not All Who Wander Are Lost – Part 1

Sigh. May you live the dream cleanly!

Bonus Link: HuffPo article about e-bikes

Tadpole Update: 8 Days & No Tail + Jumbo Tadpoles

We'll start with the incumbent - in 8 days it went tailless!

8-12-14

8-12-14

8-4-12

8-4-12

Last weekend Swartzy and I went back over the pond and caught a lot of tiny carp and bluegill. While we were there we met a unicorn - a young lady tromping through the mud carrying a styrofoam cooler, a fish net, and a Nikon. She was out doing the same thing we were, but taking much better photos than we were. I borrowed a few to show y'all. If she doesn't mind, I will feature more of her work here. She has some great shots of local flora and fauna. (Hi, Tanya!)

She directed us to a spot with some really big tadpoles. We brought two home, and I hope to share photos of them as they develop. For now, though, I will share a few of her images from that visit to the pond.

This frog made a huge splash!

Who needs Shark Week when you have beasts like this a few blocks from home?!!!


May you find time to see the something more than a TV or a phone this week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Recycling Ideas: Let's Get Rolling - Tires, that is

In case you are tired of all the tires we have lying around:

One of my office mates is driving her Tahoe around with four tires in the back hatch. Why, because she is very thrifty and the average disposal fee for getting rid of old tires (when purchasing new ones) is a little over $9 per tire.

Some lovely trucker dumped 15 semi truck tires at Grizz' hobby shop, so they are stacked up out back.

Lubbock Power and Light customers are allowed to haul 4 passenger car tires per year per household to the city dump. Be sure to take your utility bill with you.

But, wouldn't it be better to find something useful to do with these used tires that seem to overwhelm us these days? Instructables to the rescue!












And here is a cool Autoblog article about others who are recycling tires.

May we all tread a little more lightly!

PS. If anyone local is interested in 15 free semi truck tires...