Friday, July 29, 2016

A Different Climate Change: Friday - Move

It's Friday and you're still here? Thank you!

Kylie and Mattie are the two dogs that wandered up a while back  and eventually convinced my wife and I that we were there theirs. Most of the time, they bring a lot of joy to our home. Occasionally they bring a lot of destruction. They've even trained us to a point where we can choose joy or destruction.

They don't look much like Tasmanian devils...

If we take time to play fetch or take the girls for a walk, we choose joy. If we think we are too busy or too tired, we choose destruction (and sleeplessness).

Find it here

It's true with me too. Over the last few years, I have become an avid bicycle commuter. And life has been better. There is more joy and less self-destructive behavior when I ride often. There's also more stamina, more energy that I can use to stay caught up, to share with others. Movement gives me strength and resilience. Time on the bike gives me time to think and to solve problems rather than stew in them.

Find it here

This paragraph is where I will resist going on about metabolism, endorphins, and free radicals. There is a lot of research out there touting the health benefits of regular exercise. Just know that exercises helps you to be better prepared to face the world's problems.

Find it here

Move more. Turn off the screen for a little while  and get your blood pumping.  Work hard and tire   yourself out. Going to bed tired is so much better than going to bed wired. Let exercise be the first domino to fall in a very healthy chain reaction.

May you be healthy enough and strong enough to help others be strong enough and healthy enough.

[ To be fair, fetch and walks do make days better for humans too.]

Thursday's Topic: Be Quiet

Wednesday's Topic: Share

Tuesday's Topic: Appreciate

Monday's Topic: Smile

Sunday: Intro

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Different Climate Change: Thursday - Be Quiet

If you're just now joining us, this is number 4 in  5-part series. Unlike our normal focus on literal climate change, this series deals with ways to reverse the climate of fear and hopelessness that has been growing in our culture. Today's topic -  three times to be quiet

Be Quiet and Appreciate the World Around You

Mailbox guardian
4 o'clocks

Once in a while the yellow pops up.
You may see pics on this blog of bugs and flowers and lizards. If I had a longer lens you'd also see a lot more birds. If I had more patience, you'd see pics of the foxes in my neighborhood.) We have sparrows that nest in a cranny in a funny crook of our house. We have starlings nesting in a hole in one of our backyard elm trees. Few things feed my soul more than sitting on either porch with a cup of coffee and marveling at how much nature exists in our little slice of suburbia. No one ever says that Lubbock is a beautiful place, but it's pretty easy to find natural beauty here if you just sit quietly and watch.

Be Quiet and Work on You

The good life!

This one goes by many names: self-reflection, meditation, prayer. A rose by any other name... For me, it's reading, writing, and prayer. It's where I look at what I've been doing, what I need to do, and what I did stupidly and never need to do again. It's also where I refine the MIWB (Man I Want to Be) idea -a future ideal that I can strive for. It keeps me on track.

It helps me to be more empathetic and aware of those around me. Sometimes it helps me to be less of a moron. I have to be deliberate about it - to set aside a time and a place and to set aside other distractions that keep me from focusing. If you have no similar time in your life, try it. You may be surprised at what it does for you.

Hold Your Tongue Until It's Needed


This is a tough one, especially if you want to steer away from platitudes. Think before you speak. [SnagIt!] Ask yourself a simple question before you open your mouth: What effect will my words have? Will your words make the situation better, worse, or neutral? Is there a better way to get your message across? Will your words  produce positive change or just make a bad situation more volatile? Sometimes volatility is productive, but there are a lot of voices these days screaming hatred and doom. What are your words contributing to our cultural climate?

May you find some quiet and may we all benefit from that silence.

Tomorrow's Topic: Move

Wednesday's Topic: Share

Tuesday's Topic: Appreciate

Monday's Topic: Smile

Three Days Ago (Sunday): Intro

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Different Climate Change: Wednesday - Share

[Blogger note: please tune in next week if you are looking for bikes and electric cars. Thanks!]
This week's series is a little different from our normal Personal Carbon Reduction stuff. In light of living in interesting and often disturbing times, I decided to focus on our society's emotional climate. It's hard to watch the news or listen to co-worker conversations or log into your favorite form of social media without getting depressed. Rather than whimpering in a corner and hoping it'll go away, I thought it'd be more fun to become an everyday warrior and battle it. Today's episode deals with ways to share.
This looks interesting

Scenario 1: De-Clutter

Go home and check out all of your stuff. And really look at it. (Many of us no longer see the stuff that surrounds us.) Look with a specific thought - is there something there that you no longer use or appreciate, and do you know someone who would? Could it help someone get to a better place?

Find it here

Scenario 2: Surprise!

What unexpected thing can you do for someone around you? Who around you is down or hurting or struggling? What simple gesture can offer that person hope or relief or thankful surprise? What skill or talent do you have that can bless someone else? What resource do you have access to that they do not?

Here you go, SG!

Scenario 3: Time

I get it - you're busy. We are all busy. We choose busy-ness and then we lament our busy-ness. So, here's a tough question - who around you suffers because of your busy-ness? Whose life could benefit from a small amount of your time?

Scenario 4: Mirrorizing

Let's turn it around a bit. What could someone do for you to help you through dark times? What would strengthen you, lift you up, and help you carry on? Now, who around you could benefit from the same?

Simplistic? Maybe. Ridiculous? Probably. Unrealistic? Definitely.

May you find your own ways to offer hope and resilience to those around you.

Tomorrow's Topic: Be Quiet

Yesterday's Topic: Appreciate

Monday's Topic: Smile

Three Days Ago (Sunday): Intro

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Different Climate Change: Tuesday - Appreciate

Now that's a pothole! (Find it here.)

Years ago I took a motorcycle safety class. One important lesson I learned there is how NOT to hit a pothole. (Potholes are bad enough for car drivers, but they can be downright deadly for motorcyclists.) The trick is simple - don't stare at it. Instead, you should direct your eyes to the path that will help you avoid the pothole. It's true - if you stare at an object on the road, your bike will head straight  for that sucker. It's amazing how valuable that simple lesson has been for me.

[Blogger sidebar - we still need to fix the pothole, but we have to make sure the pothole doesn't take us out first. More about that later this week.]

So, now it's time to answer a question: What are your potholes?

For most of us, the pothole list is easy -  the things that make us angry, scared, nervous, depressed, worried...

Now that you have your list - quit looking at it. Don't ignore it; don't act like it's not there. But don't make it your only focal point.

Instead, take a little time each day to focus on what you appreciate. Whether that means counting your blessings, spending time with good people, meditating, praying, or looking at the way light filters through willow leaves; be sure to temper dark times with uplifting moments. Consider it vitamin B for the brain.

May you keep the shiny side up and thrive to fight another day.

Tomorrow's Topic: Share (and de-clutter)

Yesterday's Topic: Smile

Two Days Ago (Sunday): Intro

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Different Climate Change: Monday-Smile

We have the ability to impact our environment greatly. For the usual topics of this blog, it's pretty simple. The more we pump nasty chemicals through our cars and factories and power plants, the more we create a nasty world in which it is harder and harder to survive and possibly thrive.
For this week's posts, the more we pump hatred, isolation, and nastiness into our society, the more we create a nasty world in which it is harder and harder to survive and possibly thrive. If we want the world to change, we need to change our behavior.

I drink coffee with a guy called Grizz. Grizz is magic when he smiles at strangers. Everywhere we go, he meets people. His smile makes people feel welcome. And he doesn't discriminate. There is one criteria for getting a smile from Grizz - you must be breathing. (I think he's prejudiced against the dead, but that's a topic for another time.) And life has been better since I have known him. We have grand adventures that usually begin with him smiling and offering a few kind words.

Unlike Grizz, I very seldom know what to say to people when I first meet them. But it really doesn't matter. Say hi and smile. Smiles change people. It's amazing. Most of them smile back. Some of them look at you like you're crazy. Some of them look at you with suspicion. Me, I like all three responses. Whatever it is, it takes that person out of their own thoughts for just a second. My hope is that they see some dorky guy acknowledging them as another human being who deserves a little respect and recognition. My hope is that they have a better day because I smiled at them.

So let's start this week simple - smile. Add to that simple acts that offer kindness, respect, and dignity to others. Be aware of others. (You may need to pay a little less attention to your phone.)  Make a conscious choice for better. Do not sit around (or jump online) and complain unless it is a precursor to positive action. Open a door for someone. Say "Bless you" to a stranger who sneezes. Wish a stranger a good day, especially when you see that they are not having a good day. Offer kindness with no strings and no expectations. If everyone is wandering around thinking that humanity is going to hell in a bucket, do something to prove everyone wrong. 

Need a more specific example? Buy someone an unexpected taco. I tried that a few nights ago - that $1.79 plus tax brought a lot of happiness for several people. Kindness has ripple effects.

The goal is not to change the world with a single smile. It is to start a wave of smiles that sweeps through a lot of darkness. You may not have the ability to solve everything, but a smile is a big step when so many people are lost and hurting.

May the little things make big differences.

Yesterday's Intro

Tomorrow's topic: Appreciate

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Different Climate Change: Intro

Normally, this blog is loosely related to man-made climate change and ways to limit its impacts on our ability to survive and possibly even thrive. This week, however, I want to encourage you to battle a different type of climate change - the rise of hatred and fear.

Racism, politics, terrorism - all are powerful forces in spreading panic, fear, and isolation. If you add to that our growing dependence on electronic media, it's really easy to lose sight of the blessings that surround us and sink into despair.

Take a deep breath.

This week I want to offer a few steps to get started - not because I am any kind of expert but because I have been working on those steps for myself. Lately I've been in a blogger funk. It's been a little hard to stay excited about the latest electric bicycle or the amazing things people are recycling when every day you learn of a new mass shooting or act of hatred carried out on the world stage and dissected over and over on the news or whichever form of social media you depend on.  So I have dropped back to about one post per week and I have struggled to write those.

So let's start over.

Hi. My name is Daniel and I am an eco-blogger. And I don't want to isolate myself from the world. I want to work back toward hope in dark times. And I am inviting you to go with me. Here's the list:

Monday - Smile (at others)
Tuesday - Appreciate
Wednesday - Share
Thursday - Be Quiet
Friday - Move (Not to a different town)

It won't be anything amazing or revolutionary, but it will be an honest approach, and that has to be worth more than grumbling and pointing and crying. (There will be plenty of time for those later if you find that you miss them.)

May it be a good week for us both and for those who cross our paths.

As always, thank you for reading!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Fossil Free Friday Random: Electric Postal Trucks?!!!

Postal Truck as Solar Electric Surf Wagon(?)
They're like twins - right? (Find it here.)

It started, as many FFF posts do, with an ill-advised trip to Craigslist Land. That trip unearthed a $400 postal Jeep, which prompted a group email to my vehicle-mad-scientist buddies. (Me, I have wanted to build an electric rat-rod postal Jeep as one of my 400 dream projects.) One of them responded with an article stating the USPS will soon retire the Grumman LLV postal truck fleet. That made me dream of Econolines and VW Microbuses and KurbWatts and then I googled "custom Grumman LLV" and...well, it just kept going from there.

This one is cool - love the ladder
Looking good in red
In all my searching, I found another thing I really like - an infographic. I love infographics, and I like them even better when they make the case for electrification - bright colors, cool graphics, compelling statistics - what more could a Mesquite Hugger want? Be sure to check this one out!

See the whole infographic here
Where is all of this leading? Nowhere really - just another cul-de-sac on the road to electrification. But it does give a great run-down on the practical side of using electric vehicles for fleet operations. If you work for a company that has a local fleet, it's well worth the read. Heck, you may find a way to save lots of money AND create a healthier world!
May you enjoy the ride and may it be green!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Climate Change and Depression? Kick it in the Butt with Peer Pressure

On the days I ride the bike to work, I pass a house with a big old Chevy diesel truck idling in the driveway. There's never anyone in it or near it. It's just sitting there burning fuel and polluting the air. I pass idling empty cars all over the place, but this one is remarkable in its consistency. Keep in mind, this is happening in July - not December.

Not this bike, but you get the idea

Sometimes I also see a pseudo-jet-powered bicycle buzzing down 47th Street. Some guy in town has strapped a 2-stroke leaf blower to the back of his old Huffy cruiser. He scoots by loudly and slowly in a cloud of blue smoke.

And I wonder about these two pollution factories. Do these people actively want to destroy life on Earth, do they just not give a damn, or do they not believe they're hurting anything?

And it depresses the tar out of me! It definitely negates any positivity created by my bicycling and composting and recycling and running around the house turning lights off.

Yes, I know where I live. I am in West Texas where it's guns and beef and diesel and God-sponsored politicians wealthy from oil and lobbyists. There is little room for a mesquite hugger here. And it gets really depressing. Combine that with consistently record-breaking weather and people running around everywhere killing each other - this is not a great season for joy.

So, this morning I found myself googling climate change depression. I found lots of stuff - lots of depressing stuff and Naomi Klein quotes. I also found an article, Depressed about Climate Change? Good. Here's How to Take Action, that offered some hopeful advice. I needed some hopeful advice.

The rest of the article offers a  great deal of insight into climate change inaction, but this paragraph really hit home. So, if you see me trying to use positive peer pressure on my social network, you'll know what I am trying to do. Does anyone know Jet Bikerson's Twitter handle?

May you influence positivity and not give in to depression!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fossil Free Friday: Cargo Bike Dreaming (Again)

Personal Carbon Reduction = the Big Goal.

For me, finding ways to not burn gasoline is a big big big part of that goal.

So let's talk cargo bikes. Who needs a pickup or a minivan when you have a cargo bike?

Recently I learned that my favorite cargo bike can be had for much less money than I had thought.

Yep, the Yuba Mundo V4 7-speed can be had for $999. Let me try that again. The Mundo has been the cargo bike by which I judge all others. When I look at building my own or buying a conversion kit or finding a used cargo bike, I always look back at the Mundo and sigh.

Yep, the Yuba Mundo V4 7-speed (a very basic model) can be had for $999!!! (That's more like it.)

That means that the Yuba Mundo can be bought (and DIY electrified) for about the same price as a RadWagon. Oh snap! For less than $1800 I could have either one parked in my garage.

The RadWagon came on the scene about a year ago and has held my imagination since. In many ways it's a Mundo clone, but it's a Mundo clone with a whole lot of cool add-ons and a pretty low price. It's $1700 but it seems to be on permanent sale for $1600. See those disc brakes? See that 48 volt, 750 watt electric running gear? It's a whole lot of cargo bike for the money.

The next one in our affordable cargo bike dreaming is a bit of a (very desirable) dark horse in the category. (I think it's the small wheels.)

For a few hundred dollars more than the RadWagon, you could park a Juiced Bikes ODK Utility Bike in your garage.

Ladies and gents, this a cool machine! This bike is known for being easy to handle, easy to load, and built with very high-quality components. It is also known for its incredible electric range. The base model is rated at 40 miles and that can extend up to 82 miles at a price ($3200) that is still considerably less than most electrified cargo bikes.

Ok, I can see that you're starting to squirm a bit - $3200! Yep, that's getting way out of the Mesquite Hugger (Cheapo) price range, so let's get back down to Earth.

Let's look at turning an existing bike into a cargo bike.
Option 1: The Xtracycle Leap
Ross Evans and the crew at Extracyle redesigned their FreeRadical concept and came up with a kit known as the Leap. Take the bike that you already have, buy a $600 basic kit, combine the two, and you have a pretty bulletproof longtail from the people who defined the category. If you want to add some accessories, there are a few more kits to get you going, but the basic kit will definitely get you started.

Option 2: A Very Exciting Newcomer - The Lift (What is it with the four-letter "L" words?)

Something new and green out of Colorado, the Lift is in Kickstarter mode right now, and it's doing well. I am normally a longtail cargo bike fan, but this product has me seriously questioning my bias.

Why do all cargo bikes look better with a dog in the pic?
The Lift is a Bakfiets-style cargo bike kit that is easily installed or removed from your existing bike. It will retail for $900, but you can Kickstart a Lift into your possession for $750. Early reviews are very favorable and they have easily reached their KS funding goal with time to spare. Be sure to watch their video showing the 60-second conversion - just wow!
Condo is not so sure about the Lift...

...but Kylie (and Mattie) are all about it!
So, there you have it. My top contenders in the cargo bike dreaming campaign.
May you find yourself dreaming of ways to get off the (exhaust) pipe while enjoying the ride.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tesla Supercharger in Lubbock, Texas!

Don't you love misleading titles?

It's really exciting to see this Tesla charging station graphic...

...until you realize...

 ...that you live here.
Have heart - the public charging stations are getting closer. (And there is that one at McGavock Nissan.)
May we all get a charge soon!

An E-Bike Success Story - Me

A University of Colorado at Boulder electric bike study has been making the rounds lately:

The New York Times - The Surprising Health Benefits of an Electric Bike

Treehugger/Lloyd Alter - Let's stop bashing the e-bikes; they are still better than driving.

It's had me reminiscing. My first legitimate e-bike was a Currie EZip Trailz.

I loved that thing!

Let's rewind a bit. Back around the time I was forty things were not going so well. I weighed about 275. I had high blood pressure in a big way. I traveled a lot and I ate out a lot and I did not exercise. One day the dog got out and I thought I would die after chasing her for less than half of a block.

About that time, Best Buy figured out they should not be in the electric bike business and they had some great close-outs. The EZip dropped down to $150, and I bought it. And I loved it!

My commute to and from work became my favorite time of the day. Instead commuting straight down Indiana with all of the other lemmings in our shiny metal boxes I became a Roger De Coster hooligan wannabe flying down back streets and back alleys and past parks at a blazing 14 miles per hour!

[To be fair, it was a really crappy e-bike. It had two really heavy batteries (with very little power) mounted on the back. It had a geared and brushed motor (that howled like a banshee) also mounted on the back. And it had really weak spokes. If you combine that combo with a heavy guy sitting toward the back, you might have a problem. I kept tightening spokes on the rear wheel until one day I tried going up a curb and demolished the rear wheel. I ordered a new rear wheel, but someone broke in and stole the bike before the wheel arrived, snagit!]

FrankenHuffy 2.1
Along the way, I found myself enjoying life a little more and losing a little weight. So I built myself a scary electric Frankenbike and kept riding. And I started using a regular (non-electric) bike for shorter trips. A few years ago, I joined the National Bike Challenge. The NBC did not count miles ridden on an e-bike back then (they do now for pedelecs) so I started commuting on a non-electric bicycle.

Fast forward to now. The past few days have been record-breakingly hot and extremely windy. And I have ridden my bike to work. I am now at a point where I am not winded when I get there. Where I don't feel the need* for an e-bike. I weigh about 240 these days. (That number would be even lower, but I have not become a give-up-the-donuts-success-story yet.) The blood pressure is under control.

I bike about 45 miles per week, climb lots of stairs, and walk about 8 miles per week.

And the revolution started with a highly enjoyable (but very poor quality) e-bike I picked up off the discount rack.

May you find that thing that kicks off your revolution for a healthier self and a healthier planet.

As always, thank you for reading!

* I do feel the need for an electric cargo bike to help me say no to the truck and to the gas pump, but that's another blog entry or ten.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Saturday Ramblings: July 2016

I opened the Bible to Daniel this morning. I wanted to see a man living faithful to God and self in the midst of an overwhelming culture, a man who rises above being enslaved and having his identity changed. I am seeking a role model. I need a role model.

These feel like dark times.

Yesterday morning started with a dark conversation with a close friend. This was followed by a dark conversation with my boss. Then a co-worker came over to tell me of the violence in Dallas.

My lens is now much darker. As the temperature rises, so do violence and hatred.

In my better moments, that has me praying and seeking role models like Daniel and Gandhi. In my weaker moments it has me seeking distraction like electric cars and cargo bikes.

May our legacies be defined by our better moments and our pursuit of peace for all. May we not be derailed by bullets, anger, or modern distractions.

May you know peace.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Saturday Minipost: Artwalk while picking up trash

The sidewalk chalk prophets are at it again. I was stumbling to coffee this morning working on neighborhood beautification when I found some art.

Bikes make smiles - Cars blow smoke and run over flowers

I saw my friend Carla yesterday. She just retired and took up morning bicycling. As she told me about it, she smiled, she laughed, and her eyes twinkled. Happy pedaling, friend(s).

May you find art wherever you stumble and may you smile, laugh, twinkle, and breathe easy while sharing healthy pursuits.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Fossil Free Friday: A Vintage Electric Motorcycle (story)

Sometimes you run out of inspiration. No new electric vehicle news has gotten me all hot and bothered this week. I thought about doing a story on vintage VW Beetle electric conversions, but it looked a little overwhelming, so I went to the expert - I googled "electric car Lubbock" to see what popped up. Shockingly, I found a lot of pics and posts from a dork called Mesquite Hugger. So I kept looking and stumbled across this rather intriguing photo:

That EV grin existed way back in 1970!

The photo came from a small newspaper from Moraga, California (a little bit east of Oakland). The article in the Lamorinda Weekly is from 2012 and tells about a local high school team that built an electric motorcycle and competed in a cross-country challenge - The Clean Air Race of 1970. They built it using a Honda motorcycle chassis powered by a 1928 Dodge starter motor. And they successfully travelled from Massachusetts to California. How's that for a cool high school experience?

You may be scratching your head wondering about the Lubbock tie in. (I did.)

"In Lubbock, Texas Muir said they slept behind some bushes near city hall."

Mystery solved. Inspiration gained.

Big fairing - check. Peace sign - check! EV grin - absolutely!
May your Friday be fossil free and may your grin be contagious!