Saturday, September 30, 2006


The past few days have revealed that I really don't "need" a car, I could have gotten away with a rental, could have saved a lot of money. For instance my carbon savings have been pretty good. I drove to San Francisco yesterday, but took two others. Big carbon savings, went hiking got a lift where we had 4 people total. Big carbon savings. Went grocery shopping and to the library, rode my bike. Hmmm, how much do I really need. Not all things are equal.

Perhaps my car purchase happened in what is called an "unguarded moment", chronology is very simple:

1) Met Chinese Version of Ellen Pompeo (CVEP)
2) Enjoying limited time with CVEP
2) Had no car, competition came in with car (we're not talking about car as status symbol, but car as transportation).
3) Competition moved in, if you are a biologist the term "competitive inhibition" is all I need to say.
4) Self finds self at disadvantage in post mortem.
5) Self finds compelling reason to get car.
6) Conclusion: Non-negotiable, car enters life quickly.

Vain, shallow, as I said unguarded moment. End of Story.

Back to balance.

Miles Biked this Week: 40
Miles Hiked this week: 10 (post elevation change is killing right now)
Miles offered: 100 x 2 people
Miles mooched: 30, plus to others in car
Hours of therapy: 0

Friday, September 29, 2006

New habits die hard...

Well I've had my car for two weeks today, and it's funny but new habits die hard. My car has been sitting in my garage mostly. Which is a good thing and bad thing from a financial analysis. It's good in that I'm not putting a lot of miles on the car, it's bad in that I'm paying for insurance that I'm not using. The net net it's a good thing, my carbon consumption has been very low.

I was on a business trip so that meant my car wasn't getting used, but in the opportunities where I could use my car I'm doing pretty well. I've ridden my bike to work 4 days out of 5 this week, for reasons I'll go into in another post. I've ridden my bike to swimming twice, and even to a social function once. You get streamlined with riding the bike and you just keep doing it. Also, I've become rather addicted to the feel of getting my blood flowing in the morning. And while riding my bike at the beginning was hard, the funny thing is the more you do it the easier it gets. Same applies to eating. Ahh the never ending conflict.

Tonight I'm driving to San Francisco, and I'm proud that I'll be driving 2 or 3 others, reducing the per capita carbon
consumption. We live in the world we live, so we do what we can do. Or at least try.

So I've capitulated on the car, and I'm going to try to use the car when absolutely necessary. Should I rename the blog, LessCarInCalifornia? Sort of lacks the ring, doesn't it. Well chime in on the comments. Have I gone to the dark side? What should I have done? Did I do bad by not going hybrid? Did I do worse by buying new?

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Last week I was in the land of supersized servings and wide swatches of land. In this land of bigness, there was a nice benefit, I was smaller. I don't see the team in the home office much, but everyone was surprised by how "fit" I looked. They asked me what I did, and I told them, I just started moving...on my own power.

The same thing happened to me when I studied in Taipei, Taiwan. I went off a strictly vegetarian diet, stopped "working out" and started walking everywhere. (Like I had a choice). Result I lost 20 pounds. It seems in the 'burbs people go out of there way to get in shape (health clubs, diets). It just happens in places where people walk. Same thing happens when I take long touring vacations where I'm walking around. You just lose weight without trying, even when you're eating up a storm.

If feeling better isn't enough, guess we can always rely on the old standby, looking better. Sports car, plastic surgery, or spending less time in your car? Hmmmm..

Weight still at 188 lbs. But I need some more holes in my belt.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Man Does Not Live by Work Alone...

I've gotten a few people who've asked me why I capitulated and bought a car. After all the pontification, it seems to be a let down. The truth is that I had pretty much got living without a car down, that is I was getting down, since if all life was comprised of was work and buying groceries and running local errands, it'd be great. But unfortunately my life only started with those items and didn't end there.

It was getting harder and harder to maintain a semblance of a social life depending on others. At a certain point reality set in. I seriously debated living a car rental experience, but in the end it became simpler to just buy a car. I also capitulated in a moment of weakness which I'll explain in another post.

The long and short is that man does not live by work and survival alone, and the world I live in here in the Bay Area needs cars, at least occasionally.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Gig is Up!

This post has been long overdue, and there have been numerous reasons. First off is guilt, despite my best efforts I failed to remain car free, nor did i even manage to reuse someone else's car. The second reason was pressure. Good blogging is good writing, and good writing is hard. One has to get the energy and inspiration to come up with an original post, and not just merely riff off something going on in the world. It's not enough just to link to someone else and claim post-dom. I just didn't feel I could get this post right, after all this post renders the tenor of the blog somewhat moot. The third is that I still haven't reconciled that I am part of the car class once again. It's odd that I've actually developed a new habit, which is riding my bike a lot to do things, walking to get around and realized how much of the world I see that way.

So this is where things stand. A little over a week ago I purchased a new car. A little indulgent, but not excessively so. (Again I'm self rationalizing ) I should of bought a hybrid, but I didn't. I should have bought used, but I didn't. I should have blogged the fact earlier but I didn't.

But here's what I have done. First off, I'm still riding my bike to work a lot. In the 5 work days I've had my car I've driven twice. One of the times, I drove just because I drove. the other time, I promised a co-worker we'd head out to lunch and she wanted to see the new car. I'm still riding my bike to run errands. Heading to the library or pool on weekends, I've been able to ride my bike. My sleep schedule has gotten whiggy so I'm even riding in the morning occasionally. I remain committed to mass transit where possible. I'm getting my friends to drive less. In fact one of my friends R just started a new job that is closer and is planning on riding his new bike to work.

So the next few posts, I'm going to talk about balance. The migration to a car was motivated by very personal reasons and that I need to live in the world I live in. I'll talk about some ideas of encouraging others to drive less. The positives of my car free experiments.

So the blog remains more carefree and less carfree, but the spirit still remains.

Monday, September 25, 2006


This past weekend I had a delightful weekend in the Windy City. In my escape from the suburbs I got stuck in a brutal rain storm that even registered Tornado Warnings in Lincoln Park, right in the middle of the city. Wow. It took me 40 minutes to get onto the freeway because of an accident, and another hour to get back to O'Hare to return my car. My friend N. just chuckled when I told her that I'd be there in 90 minutes. Yeah, Right!

Once I returned the car, and took the "El" into downtown it was pure elation. I was able to get on the train for $2, one of the great bargains of the western world and zip past all the people stuck in the rain and on the freeway. In bad traffic, Mass transit wins. I was able to catch up on two days worth of Wall Street Journals and USA Todays. Despite the crowds, if you get a seat, the forced reading time was a sheer job, and punctuated by watching this indeterminate European guy making his moves on two United flight attendants made the time pass by.

I've said that a British accent will give you 10 IQ points in an American company, and I'm convinced it makes you look that much better. I still haven't found evidence to counter either assertion. Needless to say new knowledge, entertainment and transport what more can you ask for.

Later in the weekend, my friend N and I went to see the "25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee" I'll leave the review as simply charming with excessively enthusiastic annunciation. I'll leave the imagery at that. Despite the torrential downpour, to get there we took the Red line and got there faster than if we drove since traffic and taxis were all munged up. Mass Transit wins again.

After a wonderful musical, to come out and see a beautiful night, with splendid company, you can't ask for more than that, but of course you can and that's a perfectly walkable city. So as we strolled South back to the apartment taking a detour through Millenium Park including a jaunt through a prairie garden and across the ribbon known as the BP Bridge. Checking out the Frank Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion. Few things make you feel more alive than absorbing a city on your own two feet.

Sensory Immersion in Motion total emotion...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Are drive thrus the ultimate in laziness?

I'm amazed at how many times i go into a fast food restaurant to see that the drive thru is packed and the dining room is empty. Worse yet, there are plenty of parking spots so it's not like it wouldn't take a lot of effort to park the car and run in to get your food take away.

So what's the deal, do we use the drive thru because we want to save time, or do we do it to save energy. Ours.

I use to live within walking distance of a Taco Bell when I was younger and much more reckless. My friend and I went to make a "border run" and we walked over and the dining room was closed. So we walked up to the drive thru and tried to place an order. The attendant said he couldn't serve us since the only way to get an order in the drive thru was to be in a car. Go figure.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

a trip of a thousand miles begins with a single ride...

Today my loaned bike propelled another person car free. I got an email from a friend that announced to the world (ok a very small, but extremely important subset) that my friend T for the first time during T's time in California rode a bike to work. It only gets better, if you ride to work on "Bike to Work Day" ( they ( feed you and give you a cool musette bag that bike racers grab when they need food.

Only thing, "Bike to Work Day" is in May. You can do it.

Nowhere to run, but then again no reason to hide..

I'm on a business trip and leaving Bay Area reminds me of how the vast majority of the U.S. lives and that's with cars. I've been completely trapped in my hotel, unable to take a simple walk to somewhere. Instead, I've been hopping in my rental (which by the way is a PT Cruiser and a fun car to be seen in I'm still trying to decide if it is a fun car to drive in. Interestingly there are about a dozen in the hotel parking lot which tells me either they are not selling and they are giving fleet discounts, or they just figure they want to give business people something fun to drive since they probably would never but one themselves -- boy have I digressed -- which is completely in character).

One of the few times that I run is when I'm on business travel. I don't have to prep much and it beats the days when I use to try to plan ahead and bring my fencing gear and find a club. Ironically, driving in there are a lot of lovely fields and trees, but there is nowhere to run, the roads have no shoulder and there are no sidewalks. Unfortunately, my hotel is in the middle of a commercial district too. Theoretically I could hop in my rental and drive to some neighborhood to go running. But then that would mean I would have to find a neighborhood. It's a "good" thing that there is a workout room, but the treadmill is brain deadening.

Equally ironic, I contrast that to when I had a business trip that placed me in downtown London and I could run all round the city on sidewalks and into Hyde Park without problem. I could run without a pause and no one noticed me, and the most odd is thing is that people drove on the other (wrong?) side of the road. Look left, look left, look left.

Go figure, go to a city to find a place to run, go to the country and hop in a car to find somewhere to run. The world has gone upside down.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sharing the Wealth....

A few weeks ago my friend T started talking about riding his bike to work, except one small problem he didn't have a bike and he wasn't sure that it was going to work. Well some people have two cars, and at that point in time I had no car. However, for the past 10 years I've had two bikes. In fact one of my water bottles has a sticker that says "My other bike is a bike!"

Since I've been mostly riding my road bike, my little sports "bike" to get to work and around I offered my Mountain Bike to my friend if was interested and thought nothing of it.

Well a few days ago, my friend dropped me an email and asked whether the offer was still good. Of course it was, so I've gone from

1 car 2 bikes to ...

no car 2 bikes to...

no car and one bike,

.... Hmmmmm. I don't like this trend. What's left after that?

Note, though I've noted my issues with the Prius, I was truly impressed by how spacious it is when we were able to fold down the seat and put my mountain bike in without taking the wheel off.

Hopefully bike commuting for my friend is just as addicting as it has been for me. Less car, it's not just a good idea, it's infectious.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Weekend Update...Broncos Win..

Ok, this weekend's Broncos-Chiefs game was a snoozer, a field goal fest. Boring. But we got the score. If the football season remains this painful with my favorite teams, oh never mind perish the thought.

Why do I bring up the football game, but to reflect that I've got the biking thing dialed in. What's left to do? Bike ride to Los Angeles? Ride to the airport (I do entertain the thought since I have to fly later this week)? Day in day out, I can get around to most of my mandatories, like field goals, you can win the game, but it's just not that exciting. What's the offense? So on that note, let's get to the stats:

Saturday: To library and back, 5 miles. (Total: 5 miles)
Sunday: Rode to swimming and back, 6 miles, Went to dysfunctional sports bar to watch sonambulent football game, 3 miles, rode to bike shop for no particular reason, 3 miles, rode to Peets Coffee (looking for excitement and my fix, I ran out the day before) 1 mile. Rode to grocery store 4 miles, Rode home 4 miles. (Total: 21 miles)
Monday: Rode to swimming and back, 6 miles. Rode to work 4.5 miles, (Total: 10.5 miles)

Grand total: 36.5 miles

On the flip side, this car free thing is infectious.... next time.

Segue to a Segway

There's a controversy brewing here in Silicon Valley over of all things, whether Segways (those miraculous two wheeled contraptions that were overhyped but still quite a nifty piece of technology, for those into that kind of thing). The big debate is whether these devices will be allowed on a local mixed use trail known as the Los Gatos Creek trail. Yes we worry about these things.

Apparently, there is a local business that gives tours of the trail on Segways and some of the locals are up in arms. Some people say that they have no role on the trail as they are motorized, and people are not expending any energy while riding these. However, California law (yes there is a law on the books for this) that designates these as pedestrian vehicles so therefore entitled to use of the trail.

Some people have said that these Segways are great replacements for automobiles, others say there are toys. Sometimes they are both. My personal feel is that the trails are meant for human powered movement, because the trail primarily serves a recreational purpose. The argument that anything that gets people out of cars is a good thing, agreed, but no one is driving their cars on the trail (Mr. Ranger excepted of course).

I am agressively ambivalent about this topic, in many ways I'd like to see Segways on the road duking it out with cars on local streets. They take up a lot less space than cars (though those nifty Smart Cars look really fun) but do we really need any other excuse to be lazy. it's not like people couldn't walk on the trail.

For short distances, we clearly need an alternative, but is it the Segway?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Headwinds ahead...

Yesterday I rode my bike home to make an appointment with Mr. UPS man and work remotely. It is definitely starting to get chilly and I rode home entirely in a headwind. Is this an omen of things to come?

The Nod...

Being outside of a car brings certain rituals into people's lives. Maybe it's the force of schedule, maybe habit. The past two days, on the way to work I've passed by the same person riding in the opposite direction and we both give a nod to each other as we pass on our way. It's like we're both part of a public society enjoying the world around us en route to our destination. Perhaps it's the sense that there is safety in numbers. Regardless, it's a shared kinship.

There's something about being human exposed that binds you together. the rest of this post is for N and S who both served time in Boulder, Colorado. A place so beautiful and detached from reality, it's 20 square miles of Disneyland surrounded by reality. A place so fit that you felt guilty if you hadn't completed a triathlon each morning. When I was in graduate school I had the good fortune of living uder the foothills of Chatauqua park and on many mornings i would tromp up Baseline Rd to the park and go for a hike. I 'd often bump into this beautiful dog with his woman, who was almost as beautiful. This is Boulder after all. I never spoke one word to the dog, or her for that matter. By, we'd nod (the Woman and I that is) peacefully at each other and go our separate trails. In that brief moment of negotiation we'd decide our paths, separate and proceed to enter our own worlds. There is that connectedness of being outside of the tin wrap of our cars. Even when I auto commute on a regular basis, I rarely run into the same people or cars each time.

I leave with one more anecdote, and that was when I lived in Denver and would periodically take the bus to work. The same bus, the same schedule, I'd pass the same people each time. only connected apart.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

is there an echo?

Today I went to a barbeque of my swim team, and there were two items of surprise. First I was there, my practice participation has been lacking due to it being morning, and as much as I like riding my bike, it still doesn't go with mornings.

The second frequent surprise was the repeated question, "so did you get a car yet?" and the blank stares when I say "not yet" each time I bumped into someone. Each time it was the first question out of their mouth. Is there an echo? Someone asked the follow up "are you making a statement?" Well yes and no, I'm making a blog.

At this point, I'm not sure who is more uncomfortable with me not having a car, me or my friends. I think they are starting to doubt my mental health a little more than usual. Amazingly, my parents have shifted the topic of attention from when am I am going to get married, to have you bought a car yet? Sort of puts things in perspective eh?

OK, been awhile, so some stats updates, since I've returned the rental car what have I done. I've actually become completely adjusted to riding around town for short trips. So let's make it easy.

Mon Tues Wed Thurs x 4.5 miles round trip for work = 18
Mon Tues Thur x 5 miles for social activities in town = 15

Miles ridden this week: 33
Miles Walked: 3 (getting to rental car, getting back from rental car)

Friend of mine let me commandeer her little Civic so I could practice driving a manual transmission and open the world of possible autos when I capitulate. Happy to say no problem got it down enough to drive to ice cream a few miles away as practice. Now if you have never been to Rick's Ice Cream in Palo Alto, you owe it to yourself if you are in the area.

Damage to Environment: who knows how much carbon I created getting there, not neglible but at least I was carpooling.
Carbon Calories in Sugar eating Rick's Ice Cream: Gazillion
Net Calculation: Environment 0, Ice Cream Kind 1, the trade offs in life are often hard to balance.
Pre Ice Cream Weight: 188 lbs
Post Ice Cream Weight: 190 lbs (I kid you not)

"where do the children play..."

Yesterday, the Institute of Medicine issued a report on the challenge of childhood obesity. At the risk of making this blog any more self confessional, navel gazing, soul searching, tire ironing, I use to be a fatty, ok screw that I'm still fat according to my BMI numbers, but who isn't?

One of points is that we no longer have safe places for children to play. Looking back I realize that there was a huge transformation in the way our landscape was shaped that children are ironically prisoners in their own homes. When I was young, our neighborhood was much smaller and we could ride our bikes to each others houses, the streets were much calmer, and we could own the street. Now I know the NFL doesn't have a "Car" rule, but we had one, any play interrupted by the sudden appearance of Mr. Smith's Chrysler was a do over. Kids don't do that anymore. Our parks are too far to get to if you are young. Our environments are not changing so much in kind but in scale. Later our family "moved up" to the suburbs, and we were far from everything, I spent most of my time waiting for a ride.

Now back to my fatty years, I ballooned when I went to of all places Los Angeles (Go Figure) for a summer to be with my cousins so I could learn Chinese. I went from an active childhood to a sedentary one, and as a consequence became obese in the period of a summer. The causality of it seems laughably obvious. Now everyone lives the L.A. suburban lifestyle, and obesity is a problem for everyone. Unless you live in cities.

The wrong question isn't "why are our kids so fat?" but "Where do the children play..."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Suburban Car Share Alternative...

This weekend I rented a car from Enterprise since I had to cover a lot of ground and carry an equal amount of stuff. The rate was a VERY affordable $15 per day weekend special, and if you don't drive everyday almost enough to entice you to just rent all the time, except past a few days a month it becomes more economical to obtain your own car. The only way it was so cheap was that I was able to pass on the optional insurance due to my current car insurance that had not expired. Otherwise it would have been about $45 per day. So it got me thinking, is there a way to get car insurance without a car?

A call to my insurance agent revealed there is something called a "Named Non-Owner Policy" that provides liability insurance for you as if you owned a car. It's intended for individuals who may drive a company car instead of their own, and need some form of liability protection. The quoted cost is around $250 - $300 per 6 months ($40 - $50 per month), depending on your age and driving record.

So if you don't have a car share near by and need a car for more than 10 hours in a said weekend, you can create your own version of car share. Note that you should probably pick up collision when you rent the car since you will not have any coverage for collision, though check your credit card to see what coverages they offer.

Not nearly as socially progressive as car share, but a way to live with less car.

"drunk with mobility...."

I had a series of errands that I had to run over the weekend, so I checked into renting a car for the weekend, and I rediscovered why people are so addicted to driving. You get so much freedom, you can decide to things on a moments notice and strangely you do do things on a moments notice. You don't think twice about forgetting things, since all you have to do is hop in the car and go back. Weekend driving is such a joy, no traffic, things fly. Ahhh.

My friend had left his chairs at my place, I had borrowed them for a party, and I offered to drive them back to him and he said that's ok, it's clear that you are "drunk with mobility." And yes I was.

Monday, September 11, 2006

"Today is all there is..."

I have a lot to write about, about my weekend rental of a car, which my friend told me made me "drunk with mobility", my capitulation on two fronts of my car acquisition. And the fact that I am still able to be carless when I need to be and more importantly want to be. Plus more and more stats. But that will all have to wait. Instead, I'd like to take a moment to reflect, less articulate but hopefully more heartfelt....


Today is the fifth anniversary of September 11th, 2001. A day, where our generation's innocence was lost. Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of me. I normally don't publicize that day, in fact I've actively hidden it, I've have always considered it to be self centered way of drawing your attention to yourself so I've almost never told anyone about it. I have friends who have actually thought it was on a different day, and I have never bothered to correct them about it.

Since 9-11, my birthday has been an easy one to remember. Some call it the last day of innocence, others simply call it the day before. Yesterday, was an effort in reclamation, it was simply a wonderful day. If you read my blog, you know that I am a sucker for novelty. I am perpetually pushing myself and others to innovate, to be creative. To try to go off the edge. As part of that fun, last year I held a reverse surprise party where I invited my friends, and then told them it was a birthday party surprising them. You can only do that once.

Yesterday, I held another party, with a theme of food and implicitly friends. Again no mention of my birthday, but I didn't completely shirk from it when it was brought up. We all gathered in my apartment and the patio and feasted. But the goal was the same for me, to honor those who matter to me. I didn't get to spend as much time with them as I would have liked, but I was glad that I saw many of them, for first time in over a year in some cases. Thank you.

So today, I hope you took a moment to remember not only those who passed, but those who are still walking side by side with us and say thank you. Joan Didion once said that she believed in using the good silver because today is all there is. Remember to bring out the good silver more often.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Negative Split...

Today I went swimming for the first time in a long time, two reasons. It's a Sunday so practice starts later and second I had a car to get there. I also had to drop off the club newsletter that I edit. It's been about a month and I've gone swimming about 4 time, done a one mile open water swim. The lack of practice has definitely impacted my upper body conditioning, but I am losing weight, still in the 186 - 188 range depending on the hour.

Has the trade off of cycling and walking, with swimming resulted in a negative split in my general health?

Miles driven: 8, carried lots of stuff for a bbq today. Semi-auspicious day today. Perhaps the last day where we could imagine our innocence?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The changing face of China

The Economist magazine this week has a special report on global warming, which is alarming, no so much in what it says, but the fact that it says it at all. Like McCain's conversion to the possibility, and the plausibility of global warming, a member of the opposition (now I use this loosely, The Economist is perhaps THE best and most sensible media outlet that exists in the main steram media today) acknowledges the threat. And if that threat is plausible, how does one act?

In one of the articles it talks about how China will become the number one emitter of greenhouse gases by 2015.

in 1999, I had the opportunity to travel to China and backpack in the rural areas. During that time especially in the big cities, I was in Beijing, I remembered what a freeway was, it were paths full of bicyclists. The opening line of the article in The Economist was this:

"THE few remaining cyclists in Beijing risk death one way or another. If the city's 4m cars, jammed onto the multiplying ringroads and flyovers, do not get them, the polluted air will. It is so thick that you cannot see the sun, even on a sunny day."

Now much of the pollution in Beijing can be attributed to electricity production, but the same observation hit me when I was in Beijing earlier this year. The counterpoint to Beijing in our modern era may be Amsterdam, where bicycles remain a staple of life even in a developed country. The could be part of the Dutch psyche, but it examines what is possible. However, bicycles are not much loved or loved too much in Amsterdam, where they say the average bike has been stolen five times.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Discovering Traffic Again..

Today I walked 2 miles to the car rental place and I capitulated because this weekend I have a huge number of things to pick up for a party and I am test driving cars in earnest to make my final decision on purchasing a car.

Miles Walked: 2.25
Miles Mooched: 0
Miles Driven: A million (probably 35)

I learned that weekends you can rent a car really cheaply at Enterprise for $14.62 per day over the weekend. That is amazingly cheap.For me to do carshare, I'd have to find a liability policy for rental only.

The other thing I discovered was that I hate traffic. During rush hour, I've been able to go on side streets on my bike and it took about the same time. Now getting home way after rush hour, it was nice to not have to worry about riding in the dark.

I have to say it is strangely odd driving again, I covered a huge amount of territory my world is larger and in many ways with fewer constraints. Every trip I took was over 7 miles today. My goal is to keep trips < 3 on my bike unless I am getting a lot of stuff. We'll see if this is a successful midyear resolution. Too tired to be coherent. May edit later. If not, let this be a record of the impact of fatigue on blog posts.

What does a car say about you and dating..

My friend and I are having a spirited discussion about what kind of car I should buy, and he's made the point that my research choices are all over the map. Which they are. We also discussed but not in these particular words debated whether a car was plumage like a peacock's tail, and is it a good signal for the capabilities of a mate to women. Later a series of article links were sent that if you studied evolutionary biology make perfect sense (Melvin Konner's "Why the Reckless Survive" is a non-technical introduction illustrating the same evolutionary ideals, or go rent "Baby it's you") . If you can "afford" the expensive car even if it bankrupts you, you at least appear that you have the means. You must be a good catch, works for gigantic antlers, works for a M5. Here are some interesting links that were traded...


Are these good signifiers, is it shallow, or is it just common sense. How does that answer influence going carless?

Charlie Rose Interviews Ted Koppel with an interesting Car analogy

Charlie Rose interviewed Ted Koppel and the episode aired on Thursday September 7, 2006. Koppel has a report on the Discovery Channel this weekend about 'The Price of Security" and he uses some strong language about freedom, in it he acknowledges at the risk of analogizing, and not wanting to go down that path, that we have a fundamental relationship and identity tied to the automobile, and we're not giving that up. He also posited that we lose 40,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries a year, every year. When we are faced with that fact, we shrug and say that's the price of driving. If we cared about those deaths, we could by eliminating cars. He uses that to illustrate that our freedoms have costs, and that we shouldn't be so willing to give them up. It should be on Google Video soon.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Daily Stats and Deciding on the Impact you have...

Yesterday, I had to go to an early evening meeting up in Palo Alto. I had made a call to a friend to see if I could get a ride with her if she was heading up. But I hadn't heard from her, so I had to make a decision. I had the option of dialing in and using a another dial up trunk, or I could ride my bike up 6 miles, 12 miles round trip. I also had to factor in the fact that I would be riding home in the dark which may introduce some risk. Dialing in meant using up funds that could be used for scholarships. I was attending a board meeting for a non-profit. So what was the impact of my decision. Do I go for my personal convenience at the cost to someone else and dial in, or do I get on my bike and go.

I decided that some exercise was in order and I did feel guilty for using a trunk that I absolutely did not have to, so I ended up riding my bike.

Miles Ridden: 12

But this got me thinking as to what were the choices and consequences of my choices of transportation, and I thought back to a blog post my friend Ted had made on his blog which explores what it takes to create a complete society. He makes trade offs between getting a hybrid, vs not getting a car among other things. I've been wrestling with those same questions. Originally I thought my next car would be a hybrid, but to be honest I've driven the Prius and I'm not a big fan of the rear sight lines. I had considered a Civic Hybrid but the wait times are bit prohibitive. I also wondered does it make sense to buy second hand, again reminding me of another post Ted had made concerning the priority implicit in the popular phrase "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle" I've tried to reduce, now looking into used cars, I'm hoping to reuse.

If you try to look at the whole system, your brain hurts. It reminds me of what the urban planner Peter Calthorpe said "The problem with holistic thinking is you have to think about everything, all the time." The danger in all this, is that perhaps it's too much analysis, but is the greater danger that there isn't enough?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ten Tips for Carfree or Less Car Living

The past few weeks have revealed to me that it is possible to live carfree. However it is not without its challenges and adjustments. I've compiled the following tips based on my experiences to help others make a carfree life possible.

In full disclosure, I am in the process of moving from a carless existence to a less car existence. But I hope my discipline and the revealed benefits to health and personal energy will motivate me to only use a car when absolutely necessary. Stay tuned as I describe the choices and decisions I make about transport in the future.

#1: Live close to your work or have your work be close to transit.
#2: Live in moderate density, places where mixed zoning is supported.
#3: Come up with a self sufficiency pack.
#4: Have lots of good friends.
#5: Be prepared to sweat (at least at the beginning)
#6: Use time opportunistically
#7: Remind yourself of the money you are saving.
#8: Consider human locomotion (bicycles, scooters)
#9: Augment with carshare, rental car or taxis
#10: Be proud, you're doing a good thing

Tip #1: Live close to your work or have your work be close to transit.

If there is one thing that you must do to make carfree living possible is that you should live as close to your work as is reasonably possible, or have your home and work be accessible to major transit lines. This may be a stretch with average commutes regularly extending to 30+ miles.

To be honeset, without either, it is almost impossible to function carfree. If this is not possible you may have to consider a new job, telecommuting or some arrangement that makes transit possible. Note it is not uncommon for biking distances to be 10 - 20 miles. It is also best to have a job with a regular schedule and showers if you choose to bike or jog.

Some companies support their own version of transit to make this possible. Google for instance has Wi-Fi enabled buses between San Francisco and the Google campus in Mountain View. Yahoo soon followed suit. Cisco has shuttles between their main campus and the BART on the East bay (Oakland area). This is not limited to the Bay area as some suburban campuses in the Chicago area have shuttles between train stops and the office parks. If your employer does not have such a program, ask. Otherwise they won't know there's demand.

Tip #2: Live in moderate density, places where mixed zoning is supported.

One of the things that has made a car necessity has been the excessively restrictive zoning laws that don't permit mixed zoning. Ironically, the laws designed to make neighborhoods more neighborly have done the exact opposite. If you look at movies, or even the Simpsons, one of the staples of the community contact is the neighborhood bar (Moe's) or the Mini-Mart (Apu's) where people congregate and foster relationships. This is present in the form of grocers that stock the essentials, but also make it possible to actually cook more since the cost of going to the store is vastly reduced. I have friends who do their grocery shopping at Costco, but one item, 10 items or a frat party is at least an hour affair.

So if you live in moderate density you'll be able to function in your day to day. Also, the cost of items at most small shopettes is competitive with the big grocers. Milk for instance on my benchmarks is $2.19 vs. $2.49. I save that in the gas I don't use and I even get a little exercise. For big loads, it still helps to go the big grocer. For those occasions, you can ask a friend or get a taxi.

Tip #3: Come up with a self sufficiency pack.

Being a transit commuter or bike commuter requires that you be relatively self-sufficient. Items that I have found indispensible, and I will admit these are indulgent in some regards.

1) Mobile phone - This is essential since your plans will change, you will have to be able to coordinate these changes.
2) Transit schedules for your mostly traveled routes - Because transit in most suburban areas is infrequent, the penalty for remembering the wrong time or just missing a train or bus is huge. We've experienced it when we miss a connection when we fly, same thing just you never leave the ground. If you have a Treo or Palm device the following are nice:
a) In the S.F. Bay Area, Caltrain ( packages a small application with the current schedules of all trains.
b) Many bus lines will have spreadsheet files that you can put onto your device with schedules for each route. Santa Clara county provides bus maps that can be placed on a PDA. (, but less convenient than what Caltrain offers.
3) A music player - iPods are wildly successful in NYC and with good reason. Just as music makes your driving commute more pleasant, it does the same for mass transit. DO NOT USE AN IPOD WHILE RIDING A BIKE.
4) A book, paper work or flashcards - You will most likely have some free time if you are mass transiting. What you have lost in a few extra minutes of time, you have gained in functional time. Aside from Miles from the movie "Sideways" doing crossword puzzles while driving is not recommended, but on a train is entirely fine. It is a great way to study a language too. If you have a MP3 player, sites have spring up offering free short language classes. Just go to your favorite search engine and type in 'LANGUAGE OF YOUR CHOICE' pod. For instance Spanish can be subscribed to at Spanish Arriba (feed:// and ChinesePod ( for Chinese.
5) A bag that rides over your butt - If you are in motion, you are expending energy (what do you think happens when you burn gas in your car?) and you'll need to cool down which means you sweat. Well a bag acts as a jacket keeping heat in, so if you have a backpack it'll just make your back sweaty. If you're riding a bike, I recommend paniers or a rear rack. If you are walking or biking, messenger bags are adjustable and can be placed where you don't sweat as much.
6) miscellany - water, energy bars, change and other items are nice to have as well.

Tip #4: Have lots of good friends.

The truth is that you are going to be an oddball, a very cool, hip and fit oddball but an oddball nonetheless, and if you don't live in a relatively hip place where people will come down to you to hang out, you're going too have to rely on the kindness of your friends to pick you up for social events. They may not pick you up at your house or work, but they will generally meet you half way at a mass transit stop.

The key to make this work is attitude, remember that you are not just getting a ride from a bus driver you are getting quality time. It is a great way to get to know your friends better. Be sure to show your thanks by covering the first round or fresh baked goods.

Tip #5: Be prepared to sweat (at least at the beginning)

When you start going carless you are going to find that your body is going to hate you. The inertia that's been your fat ass is now being moved by ONE Person Power instead of 165 Horse Powers, and chances are your engine is a little weak from non-use. Add to the fact that fat is insulation, chances are you are going to be hot and you're going to sweat. Get use to it at least at the beginning. You'll have to excuse yourself when meeting people that you need a few minutes to cool down and compose yourself. Most people will be intrigued by what you are doing.

If you stick with being carfree, you will start finding yourself sweating less over time, and you may actually find yourself with more energy. When they talk about a New York City pace of life, it's not because they're all driving. It's because they're all walking. Chances are your clothes will start to feel looser, though you may gain weight as your muscles develop.

So when you're starting to go car free

1) Leave a few extra minutes to arrive early for cool down and to freshen up.
2) Add a few synthetics to your wardrobe that can be found at hiking and camping stores. They'll be lighter and breathe. Don't worry styles have improved and varied so you won't end up looking like Rick Steves all the time (not there is anything wrong with that look). Since after all what are you doing but street hiking.

Tip #6: Use time opportunistically

Your commute and transport time will change not only in duration and timing, it will change in character. Now you will be capabable of truly multitasking, not just talking on the phone. These times instead of being moments of boredom can be used to do the following:

- to rest and recover
- get some small chores done such as balancing your checkbook or paying your bills
- catch up magazines
- plan the day
- if you have access to wireless internet, either via your cell phone or mobile wifi check your email. I have successfully instant messaged with people on Caltrain via my computer going through bluetooth to my phone. New EV-DO and 3G networks will allow reasonable download of email. If you are fortunate to have a Motorola Q or Blackberry device.
- Exercise (comes for free)

The best thing to do is to use the time to do anything that you would do normally, and getting it done while commuting means your other time is free of that.

If you have a hard time using your new found time, there is a cult, ehm I mean system known as "Getting Things Done" by David Allen that is highly recommended. If you are in technology or business, the secret handshake is to say "GTD" and if they respond you know they are member of the tribe. Though to be honest sometime the best thing in life is to "Get Nothing Done" or GND.

Tip #7: Remind yourself of the money you are saving.

A trick that people trying to quit smoking use is to keep a change jar full of all the money that they would have used on cigarettes. They keep adding to it to illustrate the cost of their smoking. Similarly, you are changing habits and if you believe in homo econimus maybe that's enough motivation to see you through. These are some of the ways that you'll be saving money:

- Paying less for gas
- Paying less for insurance, be sure to check if you insurance company offers a low mileage discount.
- Not paying for health club memberships. Did you ever find it silly that people will drive around looking for a better parking spot at the health club so they can go in and run on a treadmill?

You will be paying more for mass transit, so the bonus is really there is you don't have a car. However, even if you simply reduce the miles driven you improve the sales value when you trade or sell your car, or extend the life of the car tremendously if you are one to drive a car into the ground.

Tip #8: Consider human locomotion (bicycles, scooters)

The are multiple goals of being carfree, so if you don't ride a bike consider doing so. You might even consider getting a Segway human transport, but to be honest the only people I see with them around here are middle aged men with sports cars in their garages and guts around their bellies and could use a little more walking. Some people have successfully used scooters of the Razor variety to get around as intermodal. If most of your travel is local, consider getting a scooter of the Vespa variety.

Tip #9: Augment with carshare, rental car or taxis

Let's face it, there are going to be times that you need a car of your own. When you do consider that you will have these means of getting a car.

- Carshare if you are lucky enough to have one in your area. Look at flexcar, city car share or zipcar.
- Taxis can be used to get from place to place and need to take things, though it does add up if you use it a lot.
- Car Rental, Rental car companies Enterprise and Budget have affordable day and week rates that are comparable to carshare rates.
- Consider having groceries delivered when you need a lot. Check online for free delivery codes.

Tip #10: Be proud, you're doing a good thing

If you are deciding to go carfree, carless or even just less car, you should congratulate yourself and be proud. These are the reason why:

* You're going to get some exercise and if you do it a lot you are going to be a healthier person, you're going to look better and you are going to have more energy. In a country where health care costs are skyrocketing in tandem with obesity rates. An occasional walk in the park sure beats vacuuming adipose out of your ass. Imagine what would happen if our health insurance premiums were tied to our BMI scores?
* You're going to help reduce our dependence of foreign oil. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you stand, the net net is a good thing for all involved. Whether you see it or not, someone is keeping the Maleka Straits and Suez Canal open for your Volvo, BMW, Ford or Hummer.
* You're going to be reducing carbon emissions. Who knows if global warming is for real, let's side step that debate for now. However, in general, efficiency is something that is pursued according to economic theory. Efficiency is almost equivalent to productivity. So regardless anything that we do to use less fossil fuels, means we'll be more efficient. Doing the same thing with less. End of story. If you do believe that there is a climate crisis visit or calculate how many trees you can plant to offset. Go Carbon Zero (
* You're going to reduce air pollution. If cars are SO innocuous, why don't they run the exhaust pipe through the passenger compartment? Water purity is measured in parts per million of toxins and contaminates (it's not pure water) and we talk in acceptable levels of toxins. Less toxins better, the same can be said for the air we breathe.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Another one rides the bus..."

Today I did something new, I rode the local bus. In my 6 years of living in Silicon Valley, it is the one form of masst transit that I have not taken...until today. It happened that my destination was downtown, the transit center where I walked to on Sunday. So we can do some comparisons.

Pure Walking: 28 minutes, free, 3900 steps. 1.58 miles
Riding the bus: 15 minutes (2 min to bus stop, just by my apartment; 13 minutes on bus). 100 steps, $1.75,

Time saved: 13 minutes, 3800 steps saved, $1.75 spend
Verdict: Was it worth it, probably not.

Day stats:

Miles walked to destination: 0.5 miles
Miles bussed: 1.58 as the crow flies,
Miles Mooched Home: 2 miles 4 - 5 miles of route. I went the opposite direction to return where I was.

Quick observations:

- Very few people use the bus, 3 - 4 people total. One was from out of town, the other was grocery shopping and upon getting off gave the groceries to what appeared to be a blind woman.
- I wonder if people read on the bus, people on the bus don't seem to have much with them. I had my messenger bag, I always notice on the subways around the world, people are always reading.
- For short distances, it doesn't make much sense to take the bus. So the trade off is time vs money vs getting some exercise.
- Caltrain seems to have the most affluent demographic, BART is a mixed demographic, Light Rail is mixed demographic one step even lower, then there's the bus.

"You do adapt...."

Also yesterday, I was talking to a friend R. to get advice about what kind of car to get and he made point that people will judge you by the car that you drive, and there are really three types of cars out there:

1) Neutral - This car is a car, it does not say anything good or bad about you, it just validates yourself as part of society. i.e. you are not poor or can at least afford car payments. Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Minivan I suppose, Chevy whatever, basic, solid transportation. You get the idea.
2) Statement Making - This car makes an impression, a Range Rover, Hummer, a sports car, a Beamer, a Ferrari. This car is meant to say something about you. What that statement is subject to interpretation.
3) Negative - This is a beater, something old, maybe running, has a cough. It says uh oh when you pull up in it to pick up a date. (The implication being, remember who's still single.)

I said I really would not get a car if I had car share, and we went on the topic of he was amazed about how long I had gone without a car. I said that it's getting easier, and oddly I feel more healthy and full of energy. Now psychologists have studied how people adjust to circumstances, and it turns out that we adjust pretty well. If you get a new BMW, the joy wears off as you get use to it and it doesn't make you any happier, they call this "hedonic adaptation". On the reverse, you also get use to bad things as well. People who become injured seriously recover and function and are generally the same level of happiness before the accident.

In the end I said, it's a bit of a pain, but you adapt, but then reading this article in Slate, then again maybe you don't.

Height, Weight, Hair Color, Car....

OK, I'm taking a day, no a week off from work, which means I just have a ton of other work that my over-committed self has managed to pick up. So most likely the only commute is between my refrigerator (ice cream on demand -- count it!) and my computer.

Yesterday, I went and test drove a VW Passat Wagon, a very nice car. It is very tempting. I rode 3.7 miles, and I asked if he needed anything, like my drivers license etc, or did he want to ride along while I did the test drive. He sort of looked at my bike and went, well normally people have cars to leave. I gave him my drivers license and under my breath said a little prayer that I would not get pulled over. ("Yes Mr. Officer, I really do have a drivers license, and I'm actually test driving this car..." and I can see the officer's eyes roll). It's amazing that here in California, and most of the U.S., we think of the car as an attribute of the person, like hair color, eye color, etc. You just have it, it might be different, but you have it.

Total Miles Driven: 7.4
Miles Mooched: 2 to pick up a pizza, got to practice driving a manual again.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rebound, Recap, Readout....

This post is the last post out of many in a series. If you have not read the previous posts, I suggest starting at the beginning at The Benchmark Experiment

If you are playing leapblog, welcome back, hope you enjoyed lunch as much as I did. And I can say with absolute authority that fresh Tim Tams with Peets is as clear a proof of God as one can muste. I worked up an appetite getting to lunch, and I've worked up an appetite writing this series of posts. Midnight snack time.

I ended up getting a ride back home continuing turnabout (if that doesn't make sense go to the bottom of here for an explanation. making it a round trip. The ride counts in my Miles Mooched, and took 15 - 20 minutes to get home. (I forgot to set my stop watch for the ride home, poor experimental technique, maybe explains why I got rejected by grad school). So now that I've rebounded back home, let's recap.

Getting There:

Miles Walked: 2.75 (53 minutes)
Miles Trained: 9 - 10ish (15 minutes)
Time Total: 1 hr 8 minutes (68 minutes)

Getting Back:

Miles Mooched: 11 - 12
Time Total: 18 minute (approx.)

What's the readout say....

1. For longer distance, transit penalty is substantial, 3x the time of a car. With intermodal it may have been 2x the time of a car. But that assumes service times are minimal.
2. Urban areas tend to be multimodal. You walk down a street in NYC, Boston or Paris or any similar city the streets and the sidewalks are busy and alive. In the suburbs you end up with a monoculture, the streets are alive. But there is no prana or life, just function.
3. The Paris goal of a Metro stop within 10 minutes makes sense. Any longer on a hot day you get gross from the heat, any longer on a cold day you get too uncomfortable. This means that stops between intermodal should target 0.75 miles between stops or density centers.
4. Distance creates two overlaid cultures, it's like wondering what is happening in Kansas when you fly over the the country. Or more accurately not (wondering that is).

Later that day, I test drove a Mazda 3, and ran errands that would have been impossible without a car.

Miles PseudoMooched: 40.
Plus 14 real mooch miles to get home from my friends house.

Time to play leapblog...

This post is one out of many that you have may have caught midstream. If so, I suggest starting at the beginning at The Benchmark Experiment

leapblog |ˈleep ˌblog | noun 1. The practice and or game of jumping between posts of multple blogs to simulate one big post.

Well, it's been awhile since I had a chance to catch up with E. and also acquire my contraband. You'll have to hit the back button to return to the next post, so it's not technically correct, but look for the Third of "Three More Reasons to Love Sunday" it's time to play leapblog.

Learn to Read a Map...

This post is one out of many that you have may have caught midstream. If so, I suggest starting at the beginning at The Benchmark Experiment

Ok, I'm at the Santa Clara CalTrain station, right across from the soccer nee football fields of Santa Clara University. If you watch movies, it should be oddly familiar as the same fields where the movie "Bend it Like Beckham" finishes. I know the road known as "The Alameda" is just around the corner. Time to bold, I have 15 minutes to make it to Queen of Sheba....

Damn it's HOT! There is very little shade, the road I'm walking next to is 2 lanes in both directions and I and one other person are the only ones walking. Frighteningly, he looks more sane than I am. He appears to be walking because he has no choice, I am walking in this heat because I chose to. I remind myself that I had an offer of a ride and I turned it down. There are cars passing me in both directions, they are oblivious to me, or saying to their passengers lock the doors, there's someone walking he might be dangerous. I find a more amenable song like Missing Person's "Walking in LA" but don't have it on my iPod. Nobody Walks in LA, the same could be said of Santa Clara.

Wait, I see another person on the sidewalk, and he has headphone on. A kindred spirit, no wait, he's holding a big cardboard arrow advertising aparments. I approach him and he stops me, "you have a cigarette?" I say no and he has no need for me, he returns to his see saw signing, I look at my watch and go where is that restaurant?

5 minutes later, another guy with headphones and a big cardboard arrow advertising homes for sale, an upgrade. They must issue the headphones and sign together. No request for a cigarette. Now at this point, one wonders did I misread the map, it only looked like a few centimeters on the map on the computer screen, I've driven this road and it didn't seem that far. I turn the corner and my heart sinks. Highway 880, it's on the other side of the freeway, I've totally misunderstimated the distance. I look at my watch. In 35 seconds I will be officially late. I consider calling to explain the situation, but instead turn up the iPod, if she calls to ask where I am I need plausible deniability, and if you can't hear the phone ring, you can't answer it. Oh and I start walking faster.

Six minutes later, I see the restaurant and I see her car, she comes out to say perfect timing. I am officially 6 minutes late, but by the 10 minute rule of fashionable lateness I am ok. I am a sweating mess, it's hot. I want air conditioning. We go eat.....

Time: 24 minutes
Distance: 2856 steps, 1.2 miles, I must say that pedometer is incredibly consistent.

Train(ing) time....

If you are hitting this posting in the middle of a stream, I suggest starting at the beginning at The Benchmark Experiment"

Ok, I'm on the train, iPod is still going strong. Panic sets over me, did I remember to charge the iPod. A quick glance shows the battery has four, count them, "THERE ARE FOUR BARS", panic subsides. I start reading an article about TJ Rodgers of Cypress who is investigating alternative energy sources. He doesn't give a rats ass about saving the earth, but he is into freedom, and he's into markets. I am with him and against him. Architecture impacts needs, Another post.

Jot some quick notes of ideas for future posts. I've started filming with my camera, moments outside while passing on a train. Today is no different. There is something about trains and motion, peace and reflection, rhythm and rails. Think Bronski Beat "Smalltown Boy", think "Risky Business", think the people behind me are totally obnoxious. They later get busted for not having a valid ticket. I just saw "Crash" and the line "You embarass me, and you embarass yourself" comes to mind.

Santa Clara station in view.

Elapsed time: 15 minutes
Distance: 10 miles.

Car Free Karma....

If you are hitting this posting in the middle of a stream, I suggest starting at the beginning at The Benchmark Experiment"

I have some time, but decide it's best that I get my train ticket, quickly jot some numbers and stop my watch, no fair tracking time just waiting. I go to the ticket machine and use my credit card to get a ticket and when I reach down to get my ticket and receipt, there is some left over change, $0.30. Score.

But wait it gets better, I turn around and on the ground, is a dollar bill just sitting there. I kid you not. Now, is this some karmic balance in action to encourage me to stay car free. It's nice, but I need a little more incentive. Hint Hint.

I have my ticket, I have 15 minutes, I have a farmers market with lots of free samples. Time to FEED.

Net Total: 1 basket of amazing strawberries, half pound of karmic paid blue lake green beans
Steps: 573 steps

Trains, here time to hop on.

Sometimes a nice set of wheels helps.

I take a nice walk, the streets have decent sidewalks and are shaded in Mountain View, which is a misnomer, coming from Colorado there are no mountains, and there is no view. But there are trees and in the heat, and in my medicated condition I am grateful that I am unlikely to sunburn. I stop at the end of the street and note that it's 907 steps to the corner grocer and 8 minutes. I keep that in mind and move on, I have a train to catch.

I turn the corner and dodge a dicey intersection, of air lock quality, a stop sign and stop light in quick succession. Like a canal lock, you enter one, to wait for the water to rise and let you go. Keep walking quickly. Stop lights are responsive here, you push the pedestrian button, the light changes. i do love Mountain View, it has wonderful public services that serve, um the whole public. Google, you chose your headquarters well.

I'm keep moving at a reasonable pace, checking out the tunes of my iPod, music does make the walking go well. I'm thinking of other posts including what things are essential to carry. iPod is there.

I've established visual contact with my destination, and suddenly a set of wheels turns onto the sidewalk, and I see ahead a man in a wheelchair moving towards downtown as well. Sometimes a motorized set of wheels can make a difference. I share the sidewalk with him as he looks fully in control, in contrast to some of those on the road and move past. In life you realize what we are looking for is a sense of freedom, and it comes in many forms. I'm grateful, I'm look at my watch and I realize that I am almost there, the train station is in sight and surprise, the farmers market has moved to the train station parking lot.

Elapsed Time: 28 minutes
Distance: 3297 steps, approx 1.5 miles

I look at my watch, I'm early.

On your mark....

If you are hitting this posting in the middle of a stream, I suggest starting at the beginning at The Benchmark Experiment"

Starting Point: Apartment
Ending Point: Mountain View CalTrain Station

It was a nice day, I'm under medication so unfortunately I have to dress a little more covered than I'd like to. Long pants and long sleeves, but it's a warm day. I know that I'm going to be getting a ride back, so riding my bike is out of the question. So I'm walking. It's important to bring some key things:

1) Pedometer
2) Stop Watch
3) Watch so I don't miss my train
4) iPod, I have a feeling I'll be walking a lot and the train needs a soundtrack
5) Field journal, my incredible Moleskine Cahiers, obscenely expensive notebooks but worth it and my Zebra Pocket Pen.

I have a rough idea that it takes about 30 minutes for me to walk downtown from a previous dinner. So I give myself 45 minutes before my train.

Ready, Set, GO!!!

The Benchmark Experiment

On Sunday, I was to meet my friend E or E is for Eating to catch up on her adventures in Australia and acquire the contraband of Tim Tams. I don't have a food blog, and I don't have time to start one, so I'll do my best to stay on topic. Today I'm be putting together a series of posts about the different segments, tracking in detail how long and far it took me to get to our lunch appointment without using a car and the observations I made.
I'll start from my apartment and end at Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant.

So here we go....

Sunday, September 03, 2006

May the sails conceive in the gust of wind...

I really can't sleep right now, too much on my mind, but nothing in particular. I received a call from a friend who along with another friend are on a road trip. he recounted how he had a dream of me chronicling the vegetarian challenged road trip of S&S (this is for your S&S, you might even get a rule of 4s from me, oh never mind, you aren't reading this blog. you read my other blog, oh screw it I'll double post this one.) on a blog and in that dream he had this conclusion that I am an alien. I told him i feel like I am becoming an alien, but not quite one yet. So it was wonderful to pass the phone along back and forth between s and s and find out about their journeys across the land.

I stumbled across the audio story of the Matt Gross who wrote the Frugal Traveler column for the NYT and it was quite touching. There was a farmer who drew a map of his life as it emanated from an apple tree, and at the end in explaining his life added Matt's name. The multimedia can be found at

There is a joy in travel, and there is a wonderful joy in traveling with good friends, with the strange conversation that only white line fever can bring out. S&S, safe travels, good food, amazing stories and may the sails conceive with wind of the wild.

For that a car does belong in our mythology, the sails and the rails and flying among the quails...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What on Earth!

The Canadian Film board use to sponsor some great animation, Including a whimsical mocumentary told by martians as they observe our planet. The animated short What on Earth! is a fantastic look. I'll let the description from the Canadian NFB speak for itself:

This film shows what many Earthlings have long feared (and what Martians might logically deem to be the case)--that the automobile has inherited the Earth. An animated film, it shows life on Earth as one long, unending conga-line of cars. The Martian visitors judge them to be the true inhabitants of Earth, while we seem to be parasites infesting the autos.

Available at Amazon.

It's not so bad....

Today was a crazy day, perhaps, it illustrates that we can live car free in many ways if we choose our community well. This morning I had to run a series of errands starting with the following, I'll do it Internet Maps Style

2.5 miles/ 15 min to library to return DVD to avoid late fee before library opened.
0.5 miles/ 5 min to breakfast
0.5 miles / 5 min to library to pick up reserve from library and DVDs for long weekend
3.0 miles / 15 min back home

**** Craigslist, called to find out about a car in Mountain View. Agreed to ride over to look at car.

2.0 miles / 15 min to private party

**** 15 minutes later, find out car has been sold in the 45 minutes it took me time to do a carfax and the ride over. I do not want to go into this. Got a text message about lunch. Called back and agreed to meet in downtown Mountain View. 10 minute bike ride.

1.5 miles / 10 min to lunch

**** Lunch

3.5 miles / 20 min back home

**** Craigslist, call used car dealer

2.0 miles / 15 min to user car dealer

**** test drive a few cars, embarass myself with manual stick driving skills. need more practice.

2.0 miles / 15 min back home

total miles: 19 today. Is that right. I probably lost at most a hour over the course of the day vs. driving. Traffic lights are a pain for everyone.

Conclusion, in city traffic you don't save much time, but you do expend a lot less personal energy, but it must have been weird seeing a person come up on a bike to test drive a car.

Conclusion 2: I'm coming close to capitulating not so much that I can't live without a car, but I can't live a life in the world we live in here and now. At first it took a lot of energy to get on the bike, but as I've become able more use to the process, it's become easier to transition between bike and road. I've figured out which bag works wonders and the Timbuk2 has been AWESOME. You can go car free, it's completely doable but at a cost that you live a separate world from everyone else. But like the world of Batman Begins, there's the world above and the world below, it just happens that there's the road of the highway and everything else.

Friday, September 01, 2006

MSN Has A great collection of Hybrid Articles

As I research my different cars, I've stumbled to find that MSN.Com has a good collection of articles on Hybrid Vehicles. In addition to the usual hybrid talk it has an article on of all cars, which have the best mileage. A big surprise is that the VW TDIs score very well.

good stuff...

Another day of boring stats....

I've had a friend in from NYC (what a great place to be car(e)free), so my stats are sort of skewed.

5 glorious miles biked -- I so want to play tennis -- Agassi Rocks (non-sequiteur, let's see if this skews my Google AdWords, note not a violation of the TOS, so don't give me a hard time).
20 miles drafted in a car -- went to meet one of my friend's friends had to drive there (2 people in car)
9 miles double draft in a car -- all of us went to see Factotum, good performance by Matt Dillon.
20 miles cab service by my friend dropping me back off home. This is a true Mooched Miles.

VERDICT: 50 miles of car driving in a Day, OUCH!!! If everyone drove 200 miles.

Labor day weekend sales on cars, decision time rears its imperative head. Alas the experiment seems to be coming to an end.....Will update models and observations during shopping via email phone posting. Experiment in mobile blogging. To be carefree is try anything at least once, including food! Check the other blogs.