Monday, June 30, 2008

Should green be a vanity trip...

I'm running a bit late with my posts, the main stream media has discovered that green is super relevant and popular with readers which means there are more articles to share and talk about. The downside is that it's hard to keep up with all the stories. I've been sitting on this story from a week ago because I'm not sure how to take it. The story is about the trendiness of the LEED certification for buildings. Hollywood stars are the ultimate marketing machines because for some reason if a star does it, others will follow. As much as I admire Charles Barkley's declaration that he's not a role model, him and others in the public spotlight are. However, the quest for high point values that LEED is based on, hides the real issue. Can we live with less. There is a great quote from the article by actor Pierce Brosnan's architect

For instance, the Brosnans, environmental advocates who admired Ms. Meyer’s house, are now building a home of their own and “really want to do it green,” said David Hertz, their architect. Mr. Brosnan may adopt many environmentally sound building techniques, but he “is not going to live in a 2,400-square-foot home,” the architect said.

And why not? Billionaire Warren Buffet is living in the same house from the 50s.

The different levels of "LEEDness" becomes a marketing badge instead of something meaningful. Another objection I have to LEEDs certification is the cost of obtaining it. The cost of finding someone to verify that you have abided by the point value system prices it out of the masses. And the masses are generating and having far more impact. Certification as market value means it has a price and that means people will try to counterfeit the certification or at least game the system.

LEED lays down some great guidelines, and it's inevitable someone will start marketing their new development as LEED Compliant, sort of the same way we have organic and certified organic. I really don't care as long as in both cases it's true that the principles were abided by.

The other thing that frustrates me about LEED is that owning something does not mean using it. If you get a point for having a bicycle rack at your building, it doesn't mean it's actually being used. The LEED certification also focuses on building of new construction. As an alternative, the U.S. Green Building Council has a list of 45 ways to green the not so new house. This is better since most of us live in existing construction.

All of the items are focused on being more efficient, doing the same with less. There's a lot of simple stuff, sealing your windows, putting in intelligent thermostats, turning off the lights. All without any certification needed.

I'm glad the stars are role modeling in a positive way, and I hope it's in a way that unites us as oppose to keeps us apart. If it's a I'm platinum and you're not kind of keeping up with the Jones, it's silly since it's still consumption. But it's the private acts that are more important.

I think it's Brancusi who once worked on some statues that were to go on the roof of a building. Supposedly Brancusi spent as much time on the backs of the statue as he did the front, even though the backs would not be visible from their perch. His remark, God can see the backs, but more importantly I know.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bicycles are now bipartisan...

A few months ago I wrote about Oregon Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer riding his bike through Washington and acting as an advocate for Bicycle Rights. In a hopeful sign, bicycling has not only crossed the road but also crossed the political aisle as Mike Huckabee has been frequently riding his bike in Little Rock according to this U.S. News and World Report article

He too sees the multitasking benefits of car alternative transportation, even if right now his kids think he looks like a dork. Now I don't always agree with Huckabee's politics, but I do think for a party that preaches the politics of personal responsibility, he efforts to lose weight and now ride his bike to address the larger problems of our society in a personal way that most everyone can emulate should be commended. So if people say riding a bike to get around is a "tree hugger" or dare I use the L-word, liberal, kind of thing. You can point to Blumenauer and Huckabee and say, no it's not. It just makes sense no matter which side of the aisle you reside on.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Just imagine....

What happens if the foundation of everything you've built your life on turns out to be sand. That's the premise of an article that has been going the rounds in my inbox and the blogsophere. The article is about "Envisioning a world of $200-a-barrel oil" and what does that mean for our current way of life.

There are no simple answers, but it's like the weight loss dilemma, how does one become so heavy. One pound at a time. How does one lose the weight, one pound at a time. As we look at the life we live now, we have to ask how long did it take for us to get here. The freeways did not show up one day, the suburbs did not pop up like a pop up book and our cities did not dissolve all at once. Unfortunately while the world around us doesn't jump up and arrive, the same cannot be said for oil prices.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

When elsewhere is here....

The Gray Lady has an article about the new trash laws that are being imposed in Britain about how much and how often you are able to take out the trash. I personally hate taking out the trash, so only being able to do it twice a month seems fantastic. But then again, I try not to create too much trash. Britain is imposing these restrictions because they are running out of landfill space. A history of poor recycling has led to this situation. Contrast this with the Japanese who take categorization of garbage to new heights.

I've spoken about externalities in the past, but this is really a case of making your problem someone else's. As long as my garbage ends up elsewhere, then I'm fine with making that garbage here. But simple geometry tells you that if you keep on filling elsewhere, some day it'll end up here. And here is now.

Now you must be asking, well the world's been around for a very long time, then why hasn't it filled up? Well that's because the that nature makes, nature takes back. We call it the carbon cycle. The question is what make makes, nature often cannot take back, so it gums up the system. What man makes, does man take back? Right now no. The notion of a disposable society may need to be replaced by a decomposable one. Since decomposition is nature's recycling strategy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What happens if we're wrong...

If I was pressed to describe my blog, I'd probably shy away from describing it as a "green" blog, but instead I'd describe it as a blog on human nature and why it's made being green hard. I'm far more interested in how human nature shapes our actions that led us to our current situation. So this post is going to focus on two articles that deal with human nature, and very little with being green. The first is a Peter L. Berstein column in the New York Times about our capacity for risk assessment. It focused on the subprime mess, but we can substitute and either opaque or distant phenomenon, and how we fail to prepare for it.

Bernstein focuses on Pascal's wager, which says you should believe in God because it doesn't take much effort and if you're wrong well not a big deal. But if you bet against God, and you are wrong. It'll be Hell. (sorry couldn't resist). Now much of what we talk about in the global warming debate centers around forecasting. The question is not whether your forecast is right, but what could be the worst possible thing if the forecast is wrong. Now my last post focused on experiments, and part of any experiment is sampling. If you look at Keeling Curve, if you take too small a sample it may look like the CO2 concentration is dropping. But if you take a larger sample it's clearly oscillating, and if you take an even larger sample it's going up. But in most cases in our lives, we rely on maps not the actual world to get around. And maps are approximations, and approximations lead to doubt and that's what the naysayers of global warming focus on that doubt.

Don't focus on the forecast, focus on what happens if you are wrong. Few people live without insurance of some form, so we are capable of doing this. Nassim Taleb calls these crazy unforecastable events black swans. In a risk assessment model, we know what to do, but then again if we were good at risk assessment, I wouldn't be reading about the housing crash.

Which brings me to the next article about human nature by Paul Buchheit of Google fame, and some product called AdSense and Gmail. He's become one of the more interesting tech bloggers and here he writes that you have to understand that people are not rational, but they are very good rationalizers. It's an interesting point, since it means that convincing people they are wrong is going to be hard. But then he also says that understanding this, allows us to make better decision. We can bet rational about our irrationality. Now I'm not sure we can not rationalize this away, but it does enable us to create decision trees that ask, "is it possible that we are wrong" We don't see much of this, that's what makes John Maynard Keynes quote "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" so funny because it's so rare.

It's making me wonder about how can we internalize externalities, since the human condition is to create externalities. You see this in work, people try to push off blame or work. If I can pollute downstream, someone else will deal with it, not me. So perhaps the issue is not making externalities clear, but instead making catastrophes clear. But here's the rub, does making a catastrophe not happen mean that you should have not prepared in the first place.

The irony of life is you get paid more for the fires you put out, then the fires you prevent.

The independent and dependent variables of transit....

If you understand the title, you too were subjected to the tyranny , ehm I mean rigors of a scientific education. For some reason all I remember of my biology education was the endless number of graphs and charts I made where we take samples with different values and see what we got. Yes, we do experiments, and that's what's happening all across the nation right now and in this Wall Street Journal article on individuals trying out mass transit. We have our own little experiment going on, how does mass transit usage change as gas prices go up. For the longest time, we had a pretty flat line, but all of a sudden there was a jump.

Joe White in the article covers the history of the Detroit Mass Transit system and what killed it, he even did a little of his own scientific research with this conclusion:

I experimented with commuting by bus last Friday, and I had the kind of mixed experience that explains why ridership on many public systems is only up by single-digit percentages despite all the gasoline angst. Overall, I had a pleasant, on-time ride and probably did better than break even on fares vs. fuel costs. On the down side, I missed being on my own schedule -- and I didn't really know how to work the system.

That last line really resonated with me, since I myself have been doing a little research about the mass transit system here in Silicon Valley. In the past, I've focused on the light rail system and generally been frustrated with it since it tends to go out of the way to get to places and takes a lot of time. I proved my point by taking an hour to get from work to a happy hour I was attending 20 miles away. Two hours out and back, a quarter of a work day. It wasn't a total waste since I did meet an interesting man with an Italian bicycle, and I would have never expected that.

The next week, I decided to give the bus a try in order to meet a friend for dinner. I cheated since I rode my bike to one end of the bus route, which allowed me safe portage of the freeway and the intersection of death. I hate this intersection in my car, I would not even consider it on my bike, and then hopped off about a mile from my destination. I have to say it worked out pretty well. Being stuck in rush hour traffic I did no worse than my car would have been, ok a little more. I was considering taking another bus home but was close enough, and there was enough light to safely make it home. However, the route I was considering on the El Camino Real is the busiest route in VTA, the 22 and runs every 15 minutes. I had to plan for my trip.

Some observations from my field studies in mass transit;

- Our transit system is really a class system (gasp, this is America there is no class system). Buses are generally taken by people who have no choice. Whereas Train systems are generally taken by people who either choose not to have a car and live an urban existence, or people who choose not to drive. The bus system in suburban areas are basically service of last resort. I think much of the uncomfortableness of riding the bus by many is shattering the illusion of a classless system and confronting our country's inequality.

- Route location matters. This is a no brainer, but where a route serves many constituencies and businesses the liveliness of the route contributes to it's attractiveness. Busy routes get more routes in a virtuous cycle. We are seeing this in our airline system as distant off the beaten track airports are losing their air service.

- Frequency matters, but only if the route location is well chosen. The Light Rail is a farce, often being unsed. The exception was close to downtown San Jose, where it picked up. Light rail is fairly frequent but the bad route placement makes it unusable. I'm not sure if Santa Clara country was trying after the Portland Model of build the rail system and development will follow, but Portland also took advantage of a more tradition hub and spoke feeder system. Regular trips to nowhere aren't helpful.

- The First and Last Mile matter. Much of our development takes us off the main arteries, this may be a consequence of zoning, land values or just plain luck. But mass transit works only if approximately end to end service is possible. A friend of mine who lived in Paris once told me that the Metro was designed to have a station no more than 10 minutes walk from any place in Paris. I've solved much of the end points problem with a bike, but the gas crisis is forcing more people with bikes onto mass transit taking up available bike space. Folding bikes may be a solution.

We use to live in denser cities with usable mass transit, the victory of the car changed the nature of our cities into suburbs. The question is with the apparent (and I say apparent, since electricity may prove viable alternative to powering cars) decline of the automobile change our communities again. The experiment goes on, who knows when the next jumping point is on the graph.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"I want to say one word to you. Just one word."

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Just how do you mean that, sir?

I mean it's out of control! This past weekend in the New York Times Magazine an article titledSea of Trash about an remote shoreline in Alaska that has piled up with trash over the years and one man's symbolic effort to clean it up. The volume of plastic trash everywhere is unbelievable, but conceivable when you think about everything that has plastic in our lives. A lot of this plastic ends up floating into our oceans and creating literal islands of plastic.

As imaginable as that is, I was struck by a post by green blogger Arduous on discovering her Body Shop face wash was full of plastic microparticles that is causing all kinds of badness in the oceans to our sea life as they get consumed all throughout the food chain. It's disappointing that this facial watch came from the Body Shop which has powerfully developed a brand of being socially conscious when biodegradble alternatives exist. More greenwashing?

Perhaps this is a casualty of selling off to the highest bidder, thinking that the money made can be put effectively to use. However, as Yvon Chouinard has noted, it's not about making money that environmentally conscious businesses make, but making a model that works for others to emulate.

Plastics and synthetics are truly amazing inventions, but their durability is now their weakness as they never disappear. When all else disappears future archeologists will know us by our plastic. Is this what we want to be remembered for?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Speaking about the new economy....

It's hard to believe that there was once a time where shopping was a chore. It was something that was done to replenish the larder, but it wasn't a source of entertainment and leisure, nor was it a form of therapy. Commerce is no longer something that happens in the other, but instead it's what water is to a fish. Think not, try to think of the last time you spent a single day not buying anything (and when you were sick in bed doesn't count), pretty hard. If you think one day is hard, imagine a whole year. After you're done imagining go visit Arduos Blog for the chronicling of one woman's attempt to not buy anything new for an entire year.

Shopping is part of our reason for existence in our modern world, now that most of our "necessities" are taken care of. Or that's the premise of Benjamin Barber's Book Consumed covered by the Independent.

Barber's premise is that marketing has really focused on infantilizing us, placing us a in a state of arrested development and constant stupor for wanting things now. Convincing us we need everything. The green marketing machines doesn't get off so easily as Barber explains:

Hyper-consumerism is a major contributor to environmental problems, yet so-called green marketers are as guilty as your average marketing man. "Don't fool yourself," warns Barber. "Green consumerism is still consuming. The simplest way to go green is not to consume, or to consume less, but these people want you to consume their way, because if you stop consuming they don't make any money."

I've always been big on the experience economy, since it tends to revitalize larger swaths of the economy instead of the mass production economy where one individual can service numerous people. While service economies tend to focus on one at a time. That's why I'm big on the food industry, oh and because I like to eat.

Our wants are bigger than our needs, and it's bigger than the resources available. Ironically, those wants are bigger than the amount of time we have to enjoy them, so they don't get enjoyed despite our acquiring them. Lest you think that's too depressing, it's instructive to learn about Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, a carpet manufacturer who had what he called a "spear in the chest" moment when he realized that he had to reimagine his carpet business in terms of cycles not transactions. Coming up with innovative solutions such as leasing his product instead of buying it, promising recycled disposal with free pick up. Paul Saffo futurist explains.

It’s an old example, but look at Interface, the residential and industrial carpet company. It bugged founder Ray Anderson that his product was getting thrown out whenever anyone remodeled. So he wrote his 1-800 number on the back of his carpets. “Call us, we’ll pick it up.” Installers loved it because it eliminated dump fees. Customers loved, it was environmental, etc. So Ray takes it a step further: He stops selling carpets and starts leasing them. Now he says, “We’ll charge you if you don’t return it.” So people start replacing only the damaged parts, like corners that were stained. Guess what this inspires? FLOR tiles. Suddenly Ray isn’t in the carpet business anymore; he has innovated a whole new consumer line of “beautiful flooring.”

Economies are by definition transactional, but how they are transactional is still an open question in this new world of ours.

The rise of the green economy....

The LA Times Money and Co. Blog has a posting on the need for individuals with green skills to meet the growing green tech sector. In the past few years, so much of the focus has been on "high tech" which can really be read as "internet tech" with the rise of Google, Facebook and mySpace driving much of the attention. In silicon valley there is a lot of desire to apply information technology to become green. My suspicion is that this affection for information technology as a solution more has to do with seeing everything as a nail when all you have is a hammer.

Contrast that with our current problems which are more physical than mental. It is an all too real reminder that the real world trumps the virtual one. Looking at a menu is not the same as eating the meal, a long distance relationship is not the same as a touching right now relationship. We're dealing in the realm of laws of nature, and that means physicality.

An irony of the clean tech economy is that most of the jobs that are currently being needed are industrial in nature observes post author Edward Silver:

The good news is that the greening will be energized by the basic skills many workers already possess. Hybrid thinkers aside, the effort to extend public transit -– taking big bites out of oil consumption and tailpipe spewing –- will rely on engine builders, welders and dispatchers. And you can’t stand up a wind farm without a cadre of machinists, construction workers and truck drivers. Sustainability is largely an industrial, and indeed, agricultural, enterprise and the nation’s achievements in those areas are epic.

Atoms do win over bits, especially in the area of resurrection.My mother's laptop just died, and almost all of the components in it are good except for one small component that has turned it to a large paperweight. It's not clear that it will be possible to replace or repair the laptop since all the components are specialized and were predicated on disposability. I've asked my mother to see if we can the replacement part, probably on the order of a few dollars if and only if it is available. Electronic parts have the equivalent state of being out of print.

Mechanical items can generally be recreated, or jury rigged around. It's possible to take an old machine and get it working in some capacity. Don't believe me, just check out the old cars in Cuba that are still running despite the lack of any replacement parts due to the embargo.

We have assumed that the mental economy is the future, but the ability to physically manipulate things and shape things is a skill that was assumed to be part of basic literacy. Students of all levels would take shop, and that's no longer true. It seems that the only places where physical and mental dexterity are at a par in this modern age is as a surgeon or a musician.

The green economy is going to be a trade off of different capabilities, perhaps the development of our physical one will be walking instead of taking a Segway.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What are you doing to fight global warming?

What a hostile choice of words, isn't it. Fighting global warming. But then other words seem to be just as belligerent such as "Combating global warming" or "tackling global warming". I have to admit it does have those nice action verbs that jump off the screen. Perhaps a different tack such as "living more carbon efficient" or "recycling our better goodness" But I digress, the reason for the headline is that is the headline from the "Freakonomics" installment that asks a few noted individuals what they are doing to fight (the NYT's word not mine) global warming. Some highlights;

Yoram Bauman, environmental economist at the University of Washington:

Top of the list: One year ago my girlfriend and I started shacking up together. (Yes she told me to say that, and in all honesty it probably is the most important thing we’ve done.) Just for the record though, I think she’s going too far in arguing that she should get carbon offsets for taking birth control pills.

Ed Begley Jr.

Saving energy and saving money — I can’t think of two better reasons to do this. Another thing I’m doing now is riding my bike again. Two years ago I got so busy with TV and the theater that I stopped riding my bike. Now, I have a new hybrid electric bike from IZip called The Express and I’m riding it multiple days per week as transportation, as well as for fitness and for traffic reduction here in smoggy and congested L.A. I’m really committed to riding a bike again and I hope I’m leading by example and more people will follow.

John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist.

How concerned are you about global warming?

I think about climate change in the same way that I worry about my house catching fire. Even if I am not 100 percent sure that it is going to happen, its ramifications are awful enough for me to justify spending a lot of “insurance” money now to stop it.

So I'm going to change the conversation to "what are you doing to fight global warming?" to "what do you do to live more cleanly?" Why? Because global warming, resource depletion, pollution, everything are byproducts of being wasteful. If CO2 gases are responsible, why are they produced? They are produced as a waste product of releasing energy from hydrocarbons? And we're not off the hook since we create CO2 by breathing it out, it's a waste product so why do we want to put more in the atmosphere for us to breathe. Yes plants close the carbon cycle.

For instance, if you mostly drive on suburban streets and freeways, having a faster car or a bigger car does not move you around any more quickly than a smaller car. If a base car gives you 25 mpg and you drive an SUV that only get 12 MPG. With respect to getting you from point A to point B any faster. It doesn't work out. If you need to make an aluminum can, it take less energy to get the aluminum from an existing can (and cheaper too) than from mining bauxite.

So let's as the question, given the same outcomes, what are you doing to live more cleanly? Here's a few things...

1) turning off most things while I'm gone.
2) riding my bike for short trips, difference in time is usually 5 - 7 minutes.
3) Using the library more often.
4) buying used (which oddly a lot of my "used" stuff is brand new"
5) Reusing containers when possible
6) carpooling whenever I can convince people.
7) taking mass transit whenever possible
8) reusing my mug at work (note why don't you use disposables all the time at home, but at work when they give it to you, you do?)

Economist love efficiency and we're suppose to pursue it, what are you doing to live more cleanly and efficiently?

Thursday, June 19, 2008


In a variation of desert island discs known fabulously to all music fans, Dave Bruno of San Diego is asking what would you live with if you could only have 100 possessions or the "100 Thing (sic) Challenge" as featured in Time Magazine

It's an interesting exercise to do mentally, if not physically. I personally have lots of stuff, much of it dumpster dived (their mostly books, isn't it odd that books were once the most precious of possessions and not mass production delegates them to the landfill. Words are priceless in so many meanings of the word these days). There is the physical need for things, clothing, shelters, sustenance, transportation, communications. And there is the emotional value of things as well, what is trapped in memory is recovered in stuff. Photo albums, wedding gifts, child's first bronzed shoes.

Things that I know on my list would be my laptop computer, my bicycle, clothes, my favorite pots and pans, toothbrush (would that really count as an item?), bed (could I sleep on the floor?). Do we live in a just in case world, a just in time world, a buy and throwaway world, a recycle and reuse world.

The limiting of stuff asks not about value but more about utilization. If you have a lot of things, but others are using your things. Does that count? Stuff translates into time, either giving it to your or taking it up. And while we can always get more stuff, we can never get more time.

A Maltus Moment....

Poor Thomas Robert Malthus, the 18th century economist that supposedly has been proven wrong over and over again. That populations can grow forever before collapsing. The naysayers at the alter of technology always believe that technology will cure all. I'll grant that technology can slow things down, but Malthus was only taking about mouths to feed, but the ability to consume at a geometric rate of population growth.

Unfortunately, what afflicts us is the exponential growth of desire. We not only have our needs growing faster, but our wants are growing even faster. Bigger homes, bigger cars, bigger stomachs. The oil crisis is a manifestations of all those biggers, not just mores. And that's the joy and torture of being human. Today, listen to your casual conversations either your own, or when eavesdropping. How many of them are about buying things beyond needs? If anyone wants to share their experiment findings, please put them in the comments.

The Malthus moment is not an outstripping of need over availability, it's the explosion of want over need.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Capacity...I need more Capacity.

Tonight I attended Caltrain's Open Comment section on the new bike plan and it was a contentious evening as bicyclists pleaded for more bicycle capacity on trains, and Caltrain trying to find ways for bicyclists to leave their bikes at the station. I don't envy planners who have to figure out how to handle the increased capacity required as more people move to mass transit to handle the high price of gas. If you are interested in the new bike plan, be sure to check it out here.

And it is only going to get worse, as the remote exurb model predicated, no make that demanding, cheap oil to make sense goes out of fashion, and urban living become more and more cost prohibitive. Living next to rail lines and mass tranist becomes increasingly popular or so observes an article from the Wall Street Journal. And many of these people are buying these places and losing a bit of mobility (housing mobility that is) our mass transit systems are going to have to figure out how grow the systems without big jumps in funding. Even with the increased fare load, mass transit receipts still only pays half way.

One solution, the universal 9 to 5 is going to go away, flex hours are going to be the norm. We not only have to deal with peak oil, we've got to deal with peak time. Dang my brain hurts, time to go to bed.

Guess it's all about bragging rights...

Ahhhh Hollywood, it's such an easy target. Creating movies that glorify such unwholesome materialism! Even when it's in the cause of being green. The LA Times (the poor LA Times, any reporters still have a job down there. I feel for you, fresh out of college I wanted to be a journalist too, but sold my soul to the high tech world so I could ride my bike to work -- I hope we find a way for good reporting to survive) features hollywood stars falling all over each other to get the latest hydrogen cars so they can be oh so greener than thou. Tell you what, take the bus.

Take director Paul Haggis (director of Crash) despite his count this, FOUR, One, TWo, THRee, FOUR Priuses is sicking his agent to get a hold of hydrogen powered car. Hey driving it might be eco, but making it and shipping it probably wasn't. Or take actress Joely Fisher who drives a loaner BMW 7 series (a boat if there ever was one) converted for hydrogen fuel. So complex you can't even fill it yourself.

Never mind that it gets just 130 miles per tank and can be filled only by a trained professional, who takes it to Oxnard and refuels it with liquid hydrogen cooled to 423 degrees below zero, a round trip that can take three hours. The sedan comes with a feature that's worth the hassle: "Bragging rights," Fisher said, laughing.

Geez, didn't Hollywood one upsmanship create the other big ecological problem of plastic water bottles. Well that's the premise behind Elizabeth Royte's new book Bottlemania: How water went on Sale and Why We Bought it". It's amazing how through mass marketing and hollywood role model behavior something so fundamental and democratic in the form of universally available water became an environmental wasteland of empty plastic bottles and wasted fuel to move water from one part of the world to another.

And for what? Bragging rights!

Lest you think I'm only picking on Hollywood. Just wait when I start chronicling the bragging rights of the digerati. And their suppose to be educated. Let me just say, when was a 767 meant to be a "private" jet. I rest my case.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Get on the bus, you're going places.

This is the third and final part of a multi-part series on tips to become someone who uses Mass Transit

6. Clothing

Dressing appropriately for mass transit can make a big difference. Making sure you have something for the sun or rain can make the wait more bearable. With the advent of more casual workplaces, we can dress more practically, and spend less time signaling with our clothes. (You ever wonder how much of the crap in our lives is meant to signal for you economists and signify for you po-mo-donistas, how incredibly wonderful we are. How I am so wealthy, have so much taste, will be better in bed because I have certain things.)

If possible dress comfortably without lots of flowing things to get caught in doors, down stairs, etc. If you can wear a cotton poly blend, it'll wick away the perspiration of living while you run to catch the train.

If possible wear sensible shoes to move from place to place. This is so obvious and has been so well proven by the lovely New York women who get it right away. I mean, investment bank directors bring their work shoes and wear trainers, sneakers, or whatever you want to call them on the subway. It's amazing how many billionaires including the mayor take mass transit in New York. Shoes chosen well will never let you down. If need be, leave a pair of dress shoes in your office. I do.

Rockport and Patagonia make great dress shoes that are walkable. In silicon valley where it's a little more casual I prefer Merrel moccasins which almost look like dress shoes until you look closely, but sometimes a fake is as good as the real thing.

One last note on clothing, choosing the right weather gear. Depending on where you live, bringing a collapsible rain poncho or umbrella to get to the station and back is something to think about.

7. Emergency money.

Sometimes you need a ride because of an emergency, or you need to work late. If all else fails, have some cab fare to call a private car to send you home. This should be a last resort, if you need to do this too often you are probably doing something wrong. But for all other times, sometimes you need to grab a cab and it might hurt ($60 plus from San Francisco), but you got to do what you got to do. Mentally prepare yourself.


Using mass transit for your commute or your errands will almost always take more time than automotive equivalent. Though in rush hour, you'd be surprised when the train beats the freeway. On the 101 between San Francisco during rush hour, the status signs on the freeways will display the time on the freeway versus the time taking the train, and where the next Caltrain stop is. But I digress, mass transit involves some additional time, but with some planning you will still be time ahead.

So get on the bus, you're going places.

Earlier I mentioned that most of this article was drafted on a Treo smartphone while riding between the train between San Francisco and San Jose. Here is the first draft phone version to show what can be done.

tips for mass transit

there's a lot of good intention in the world, just like there are a lot of good ideas. i occasionally work with entrepreneurs and i find what stymies people is not the idea, but how to implement the idea. a patent is worthless unless you or someone can implement it. a good intention requires an effort. but what effort?

I'll be interspersing my comments on the news and eco-news. with some how to guides on eco-friendly alternatives. the first in the series is will concern using mass transit.

1. survey your options. the key to using mass transit is knowing what's available. most transit sites have detailed information on their websites. you'll be surprised how often a means exists. also sometimes non-intuitive routes make more sense.

the other day i was coming back from san jose. originally i thought light rail would be faster, and in fact that's what google transit recommended. but upon further investigation taking a full local bus would be twenty minutes faster because it was direct. this was a saturday so traffic would not be a factor. result i decided to ride my bike all the way.

one time i was trying to get to denver from a snowed in atlanta (not a typo) and the storm was crippling much of the US. no direct flights to denver existed so i asked the ticket agent could i go west to a hub and connect through there. i ended up via chicago and home earlier. i think the la and sf hubs would have got me in faster.

these worked b/c i had an understanding of the system. i really do fear that gpses as making us stupid.

2. invest in a great bag.

my plane trip transit adventure worked because i had no checked in bag. people often use their cars as lockers (i know i do) well a good bag is your new locker. it should be comfortable and light. pass on frilly options as they pray on on our, "i could see using that" meme. yeah you might use it 2098.

think light and most frequent functions. timbuk2 and crumpler get it. but as they become mass market they are getting north faced bringing out feature laden crap. if you can find a made in usa timbuk2 on craigslist snag it.

if you plan or need to carry a laptop. think two things. padded sleeve and one pouch for ac adapter. everything else is noise.

i mention timbuk2 and crumpler but any good bag can meet your needs. if you don't need much a "fanny pack" will do. they key is that it works with a capital W for you. you are likely to spend more time with this bag than your s.o.

a friend of mine is a yoga instructor and she carries all her apparatus in a rollerboard she takes on the subway. she'll tell you it's a pain. but what are the alternatives.

a. water pouch

3. think like a chess master

quiz: what are you doing when you are stuck in traffic.

answer: nothing

mass transit will have hiccups. just like life. be sure to carry one or two things you can do while waitng. a book, a podcast, a daytimer.

one of the great things about London is that people read there. it makes for a very literate city. move time becomes done time.

4. invest in a smartphone and a data plan.

our lives are increasingly electronic and digital. today's smart phones with a keyboard (virtual or otherwise) can accomplish an amazing amount. point of fact, the first draft of this post is being written on a Treo device.

blackberry's and other email devices enable you to clear out your inbox. you can catch up on the news, or your facebook if you are so inclined.

smartphones are universally enabled with a communications technology called bluetooth that links them up to other devices, such as a headset. another application is called "Dial Up Networking" and it allows you to connect your computer to the internet through your phone. so if you have work that can only be done on your computer you are in luck.

with increasing number of services going mobile you can use transit time effectively. now you don't have to have the data plan, but it helps.

one last thing is that you can download games on your phone and take a break from it all.

5. feed

sustenance is often consciously neglected. until you find yourself crashing. drive-ins and fast food were created for a reason. that's why there are so many quick deli counters in nyc serving up bagels. when you go mass transit you're not going to pull in to a store and grab yourself some food. chess masters plan their matches understanding that the brain needs energy too.

get use to carrying energy bars, fruit or a bagel. i prefer energy bars if you can find a brand you like. i recommend clif. and i also recommend founder Gary Erickson's book "Raising the Bar". but not for mass transit unless you need a book to read. energy bars are there when you need them. perishables like bagels and fruit can rot. an alternative is dried fruit.

if you like sandwiches, muffins or donuts WARNING they are greasy and may reek havoc on the rest of the things in your bag.

i've spoken to the food, now the drink. a simple refillable water bottle with a screw cap can meet your needs. you can even use a used water bottle. though the narrow top makes cleaning more difficult.

weather gear.

depending on where you live. bringing a collapsible rain poncho or umbrella to get to the station and back.

7. sensible shoes.

this is so obvious. the lovely new york women get it. they bring their work shoes and wear trainers, sneakers, on the subway.

rockport and patagonia make great dress shoes that are walkable. In silicon valley where it's a little more casual i prefer Merrel moccasins which almost look like dress shoes until you look.

- distraction, i love my ipod and podcasts. radio on demand.

- cab fund. things go wrong.
a back up plan is all you need.

Fountain of Youth....

The other night when I was riding home from downtown after stopping by the library to check out some DVDs for the weekend, I realized how incredibly happy and free I felt zipping down the street on my bike at night, lights a flashing. It took me a moment to realize that it was an emotional deja vu that overcame me, since I felt like I was back in college, feeling the like world had possibilities. Perhaps bicycles are a metaphor for possibility? Singer songwriter Amy Correria thinks so:

Amy Correia The Bike lyrics

I became the heiress to a red and rusted bicycle
Built like a tank from Sears Roebuck circa 1952
It had been entrusted to me by my late great uncle Pat
And I guess he didn't ride it much
Both tires on the bike were flat
Pat had died at Christmas time in 1991
He had fallen off the wagon
And he sunk into a Christmas funk
My father he had found him
Two days after he had died
Well he drank himself to death one night
In a little home he owned by the seaside
So I took the bike and I cleaned it up
My father he patched up the tires
Am I going to town or just spinning my wheels
And when I die I wonder how it feels
Hey and I'm riding around riding around on it
Hey just riding around riding around on it
Hey you know I'm riding around
riding around on it. Hey!
The funeral service was a few days later
At a place down the street from where he had lived
There wasn't a hell of a turn out
He had never married and he never had kids
The coffin lid was open
Pat was lying inside
His sister had a picture of a poodle named Pepper
She put it in his hand and then she cried
Now I'm riding around in the city
Through the smog and the summer heat
And I'm blowing through all the red lights
I guess you could say I'm feeling lucky
And the taxis and the trucks
Everybody's blowin' their horns
And I got a bicycle bell to ring
And I got a notion to sing as I'm riding along
Well I didn't even really know him at all
And I wonder can he see me
As I'm riding along
Riding along
The day that Pat was buried
The air was cold and clear
And we drove out to the cemetery
And snow flew around in the air
And a hired man from the State
He played taps on a coronet
And a flag was presented to his sister
For time in the service that Pat had spent
When he used to ride on the bike
Way back in ‘52
He was starting out a life
And the bike it was brand new
And life was laid before him like
a platter before a king
He was young and he was handsome
and the world was alive with meaning
The world was alive with meaning


source Music Song Lyrics

Nice cover here:

The delight of controlling your destiny makes you feel young.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Mass Transit Madness.....

This is a second part of a multi-part series on tips to become someone who uses Mass Transit

3. Think like a chess master.

Quiz: what are you doing when you are stuck in traffic?

Answer: nothing

Mass transit will have hiccups, just like life. So the key is to think a few moves ahead like a chess master, and to plan for it. I'm not talking about preparing for the apocolypse, but carrying a few things to pass the time while you are waiting or transiting can make the time more useful. If you are fortunate enough to have a job that is project based, instead of service based, carry a memo to be reviews, papers to be graded, etc. In fact be sure to carry one or two things you can do while waiting. I like to carry a magazine and some work reading, or some podcasts on an music player, a daytimer. or some puzzles. Since often the commute is at the end of the day and you are not the freshest, you want a task that will match your mental state. So a fun magazine to complement the dull work memo, you have to be flexible and go with your natural rhythm. Sometimes you might take a nap. People find mass transit constricting because they insist going against the flow. What they forget is that in your car in traffic you aren't moving faster either.

Another part of the chess master story, is know what part of the game you are in. If you are going to be home late at night, then plan for a taxi or a friend to give you a ride home, or you just say hey I'm doing my part and drive that day. If you most move at the end game of your day, you make different moves.

There are other things about planning ahead. One of the great things about London is that people read there, and a lot of that reading is done on the subway or train. It makes for a very literate city. move time becomes smart time.

4. Invest in a smartphone and a data plan.

This post was done before the announcement of the new 3G Apple iPhone. Much of it still applies

Our lives are increasingly electronic and digital. Today's smart phones with a keyboard (virtual or otherwise) can accomplish an amazing amount. Point of fact, the first draft of this post is being written on a Treo device (and I will be posting the original smart phone drafted version at the conclusion of this series)

Blackberries and other email devices enable you to clear out your inbox while you are on the train or bus. They also have mobile internet so you can catch up on the news, or your Facebook if you are so inclined (I've done both). I've planned parties using a handheld device even. Smartphones are really handheld computers that make phone calls, and can do almost everything a real computer can do.

With an increasing number of web sites going mobile you can use transit time effectively if you have a reasonably priced data plan. It's not mandatory to have, but it enable a lot more. For instance, smartphones are almost universally enabled with a communications technology called bluetooth that links them up to other devices, such as a headset. Another bluetooth application is called "Dial Up Networking" or DUN and it allows you to connect your computer to the internet through your phone. So if you have work that can only be done on your computer you are in luck. (Note not every smartphone will have this feature, or have it enabled. For instance the new iPhone will not).

One last thing is that you can download games on your phone and take a break from it all.

5. Feed

Sustenance is often consciously neglected, until you find yourself crashing. Drive-ins and fast food were created for a reason, the feeding of those with a need for speed. It's not any different though for people who commute by foot, that's why there are so many quick deli counters in NYC serving up bagels. When you go mass transit you're not going to pull in to a store and grab yourself some food. Chess masters plan their matches understanding that the brain needs energy too.

Get use to carrying an energy bar, fruit or a bagel. I prefer energy bars if you can find a brand you like. I recommend Clif Bar in that they are the best tasting, they have incredibly enlightened management, and use organic ingredients whenever possible. As a side bar I also recommend founder Gary Erickson's book "Raising the Bar" for an good guidebook on creating value. I prefer energy bars are since they are there when you need them. Perishables like bagels and fruit can rot. An alternative is dried fruit.

If you like sandwiches, muffins or donuts, go with what you like but WARNING they are greasy and may reek havoc on the rest of the things in your bag.

I've spoken to the food, now the drink. A simple refillable water bottle with a screw cap can meet your needs. You can even use a used water bottle. though the narrow top makes cleaning more difficult so a wide mouthed bottle is my recommendation.

More tips to follow

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Learning to Love Mass Transit

There's a lot of good intention in the world, just like there are a lot of good ideas. I occasionally work with entrepreneurs and I find what stymies people is not the idea, but how to implement the idea. A patent is worthless unless you or someone else can implement it. A good intention requires an effort to act on it. But sometimes the intention is a goal not an action, so what effort do you expend?

So for the next few posts I'll be tackling end goals, with tips and steps on how to accomplish those goals.
I'll be interspersing these suggestions with my comments on the news and eco-news. The first in the series will concern using mass transit.

1. Survey your options. The key to using mass transit is knowing what's available. Most transit sites have detailed information on their websites. Often you'll be surprised by what exists. People tend to rely on the easiest to understand, such as subway or train, but often slightly more complex alternatives can be quicker. I'm only learning more and more about the bus system around where I live.

For instance, the other day I was coming back from San Jose. Originally I thought light rail would be faster, and in fact that's what Google transit recommended. But upon further investigation taking a full local bus would be twenty minutes faster because it was direct. This was a saturday so traffic would not be a factor. The result was I decided to ride my bike all the way, but I might not in the future.

Another example, one time I was trying to get to Denver from a snowed in Atlanta (not a typo) and the storm was crippling much of the US. There were no direct flights to Denver existed so I asked the ticket agent could I go west, preferably to a hub and connect through there. I ended up via Chicago and home earlier. I think the LA and SF hubs would have got me in faster, even if I over shot. While not exactly mass transit, it goes to thinking creatively.

Getting around works because I had an understanding of the system. I really do fear that GPSes are making us stupid.

2. Invest in a Great Bag.

My plane trip transit adventure worked because I had no checked in bags. People often use their cars as lockers (I know I do) so a good bag is your new locker. It should be comfortable and light. Pass on frills as they prey on on our, "I could see using that" meme. Yeah you might use it 2098.

Think light and about your most frequent functions. Timbuk2 and Crumpler get it, making highly functional bags with a bit of attitude. I do like the look of the new Chrome bags, but jury is still out on whether the coolness offsets the utility. I also fear that as they become mass market they are getting North Faced bringing out feature laden products that detract from use rather than add to it. If you can find a made in USA Timbuk2 on Craigslist, snag it.

If you plan or need to carry a laptop. Think two things, a padded sleeve for your laptop and one pouch for AC adapter. Everything else is noise.

I mention Timbuk2 and Crumpler, but any good bag can meet your needs. If you don't need much, a "fanny pack" will do. The key is that it works with a capital "W" for you. You are likely to spend more time with this bag than your Significant Other.

A friend of mine is a yoga instructor and she carries all her apparatus in a roller backpack that she takes on the subway. It's made a difference in working.

Lastly, a nice feature is a water pouch if you spend a lot of time running from place.

3. think like a chess master

quiz: what are you doing when you are stuck in traffic.

answer: nothing

mass transit will have hiccups. just like life. be sure to carry one or two things you can do while waitng. a book, a podcast, a daytimer.

one of the great things about London is that people read there. it makes for a very literate city. move time becomes done time.

More Tips on how to Mass Transit Easier later

It's not always obvious....

A pair of wire articles on where carbon consumption happens in our daily lives. A central premise of the "Locavore" movement is that the transport of food contributes to carbon footprint more than production. Recent research by Carnegie Mellon scientist Christopher Weber reveals that eating less red meat and dairy is still the most effective way to reduce your food related footprint.

A relatively small dietary shift can accomplish about the same greenhouse gas reduction as eating locally, Weber adds. Replacing red meat and dairy with chicken, fish, or eggs for one day per week reduces emissions equal to 760 miles per year of driving. And switching to vegetables one day per week cuts the equivalent of driving 1160 miles per year.

That salad is looking healthier in more ways than one. Cattle is an incredibly grain intensive form of protein, and most of the feed grain relies on fertilizer. But you can't stop thinking about transport either, this statistic is telling:

"It's still useful to think about transport," says David Pimentel of Cornell University, an ecologist who has conducted life-cycle analyses of food's energy use. He recently calculated that if a typical American drives home with a 1 pound can of corn, 311 calories of fossil fuel energy are used to transport the 375-calorie corn in the can

One way to alleviate that count is to consider alternative means of transport to obtain your food. One of the joys of living in the city is that the many green grocers allow you to pick up your food daily, and carry it along your walk. I'm increasingly walking to my local Mercado or riding my bike to my grocery. There are even panniers that mimic the size a standard grocery bag.

No we move on from food to play. This next link may not last since it's not a permalink. A recent Australian consumer agency study found that video game consoles and plasma flat panel displays are major electricity guzzlers even when left on standby. The main offender was the power hungry Playstation 3.

"Our tests found that leaving a Playstation 3 on while not in use would cost almost... five times more than it would take to run a refrigerator for the same yearly period," said the study which was published on Choice's website

This is not surprising given the computing power of the Playstation 3, it's actually been used in clusters as supercomputers.

So what can one do to reduce the impact of our playthings.

The report advised consumers to switch off their electronic devices at the source, rather than just from the remote control, which puts them on power-consuming stand-by mode. "This saves on money, not to mention carbon emissions," it added.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Are you ready to go to BAT for the planet?

It's baseball season, but that wasn't the sport I was watching today. Instead it was Tri-madness here in the Bay area. Bookended with the Accenture Escape from Alcatraz (and yes that is the full name, it was funny to hear one of the announcers forget Accenture, and redouble to make sure it was included) in San Francisco. This is a international field event where participants swim from Alcatraz, ride around the beautiful Presidio and Golden Gate Park and finish a run and back in the Presidio. Down South, participants tested their mettle at the San Jose International Triathlon. Hats off to all the athletes that participated.

Triathlon is a gear crazy sport, the top athletes spend the gross domestic products of many small countries on their kit, mostly on their bikes. These are impressive pieces of machinery, specially designed for fast flat courses. Most every triathlete is a pretty competent bike rider. But one thing almost all rely on is an extra piece of gear. A car! Despite their fine tuned bicycling physiques, most triathletes fall into the category of recreational riders. They ride their bikes for exercise or competition. So to ride their bike they put their bike on or in an automobile Now I'm not going to just pick on triathletes, the same goes for mountain bikers as well. Heck, I've been guilty of putting my bike into my car for a training ride. It's a shame since most of them could easily bike their commute without literally breaking a sweat (though they may want to pick up a beater bike).

But to make an impact on the environment, it might make sense to exchange some of those training miles for some commuting miles. We have to start thinking of "Bikes As Transport" or BAT. Bicycling as a means for us to get around in our daily lives. Once you get up to shape, the riding isn't that difficult. If you're putting 30 - 40 mile training rides, a 10 mile bike commute isn't going to kill you. I decided to ride to San Jose to attend an extracurricular event that I normally would have driven (25 miles). Difference in time 30 minutes if you include the time it would have taken to park the car. I didn't have to pay for gas or parking and it ended up being my (albeit a little light) training ride for the weekend.

As fun as bikes are to race, I think Grant Petersen got it right way back in 1992:

In 1992 you said the following on the future on cycling:

“The best use of a bicycle is commuting, it’s not racing or competing or recreation or anything like that. Ultimately its best use is getting cars off the roads and the government is not sympathetic to that idea at all.

source: Pushbutton

Now before readers think hey your some super athlete, no I'm not. My times are very middling, so what I propose is not limited to the super-athlete.

It's summer, so you ready to step up to the plate and take a swing at BAT?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

We do stupid stuff......

It's Saturday night, and instead of being out with friends I'm resting after attending today's Green Fair Silicon Valley. The exercise I got riding to the fair was probably more green than what was there. It was basically a big sales show, and while there were legitimate green products there, I also got the sense there was a lot of greenwashing going on as well. Once you left the show floor and attended some of the seminars, there seemed to be a little more substance. Will Durst was pretty funny, and there was a lot of straight talk that reveals that the left is the most dysfunctional family around. But hey, it's our dysfunctional family.

There was one particularly depressing event that happened. At one of the booths at the show, a purveyor of bottled water was waxing how it was ok to buy their product even though it was shipped from the south pacific because they bought carbon offsets. Never mind that the water we have locally is just as good. What was really sad was the guy at the booth was trying to explain how they bought these credits and it meant they had negative carbon impact on the earth. It was painfully clear that he had no idea what he was talking about. He was trying to remember a script without understanding it. My friend who was with me was short of abusing him, and I had to remind my friend that it wasn't this guy's fault that his company was missing the larger point.

I have no idea what the guy pitching free bottles of water was thinking, but it was probably along the lines that it sucks to be working on a Saturday, he's going carbon whatevers, I don't care, I just want to get paid. So many of our jobs are just doing what the man wants, and the man says you know I can convince people that my water is better because it comes from farther away. What kills me is that the water was being featured in one of the poster childs of the green movement. Think bags.

We do so much stupid stuff.

Some Good News... has a story on the progress being made in reducing energy consumption in the Bay Area. The story also includes news that energy use nationwide is leveling as well. Just being conscientious makes a difference.

We in California have a head start because of our experiences in the beginning of the decade with rolling black outs. We also live in a more temperate place. Sadly, not everyone gets such mellow weather, so places like the Northeast require vast amounts of energy during the winter, and hot places like Phoenix require air conditioning (who came up with that name, exactly what are you conditioning in the air?) Sounds like an argument for more moderately sized houses.

Progress can be made, just like the Green Fair.

If Bay Area denizens want to meet up, I'll be there Saturday hanging around the Kepler's booth at noon. Look for a guy with a "Live Green" t-shirt in multiple languages.

Friday, June 06, 2008

"Talking about a revolution...."

The New York TImes covers the report by the International Energy Agency calling for an "Energy Revolution" Sadly reading the article, it doesn't seem so much a call for a revolution as a desperate cry for help. In it, Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said the world would “essentially require a new global energy revolution which would completely transform the way we produce and use energy.”

In it, the paper report calls for overcoming objections to building nuclear power plants (sounds like a steal from Peter to pay Paul kind of move to me) and carbon sequestration underground (umm, they're called plants). Perhaps we need not a revolution in supply, but a revolution in consumption.

In Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard noted the following:

A study by Dr. Thomas M. Power at the University of Montana states that only 10-15 percent of the money Americans spend on goods and services is necessary for survival....People spend the other 85-90% of their money for upgrade in quality

A natural place to look for easy wins is that 85-90%, how much of that is petrol and carbon related. Our notions of mobility are painfully being transformed. I'm guilty, I really have a affection for travel, and air travel is essential...because my vacation time is so limited. Other modes of transportation are available if there was time elasticity. Or more important flexibility. If my travel was on train, I could use that time to do work as well. We have an incredible ability to time shift our tasks as they are market driven, not nature driven. For instance, farmers have to go with the seasons, our fashion seasons are arbitrarily agreed upon. We just have to listen... or as Tracy Chapman says....

Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like whisper

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cultivation and Reduxion....

The San Francisco Chronicle aka has a pair of articles that work well together. The first is an article about Stanford Professor Robert Pogue Harrison (ever notice that some people just have cool middle names that work -- and they have to be distinct to work) laments in a new book "Gardens: An essay on the Human Condition" where he laments on the rise of consumerism is destroying the ethic of cultivation, something that gardens bring out in people the true source of human happiness. To quote:

"We live in a kind of frenzy of consumerism which forgets that the true source of human happiness is not in the consuming but in the cultivation, in seeing something grow, or caring for something that is not yourself. And I don't know how much we teach the young this ethic of caring for something that is not yourself. Or even caring for things such as an object or a plant. Consumption and cultivation are at war with each other.

I think RPH is onto something, but I think he misses it by focusing on gardens and cultivation. I think there is something more in the act of creation. I may not be a gardener, but I do enjoy cooking almost as much as going out to eat. The act of creation or cultivation involves an implicit knowledge that there are wrong turns involved in ones efforts and that those wrong turns are part of our experience and knowledge. Consumerism focuses on the product and neglects the importance the process. When we focus on the final product, the instantaneous satisfaction of our desire, we deny ourselves the joyful tension of anticipation. The courting is as much of the experience as the consummation. Which is a family friendly way of leading into the other article in SFGate, and that is a column titled "Stay home, read, have sex: Will insane gas prices finally pummel us into evolving? How bad will it get?" by Mike Morford.

Morford wonders about the transformation of the way we live as a result of the end of cheap oil. While he doesn't explicitly say it, will it force us back onto the process of creation instead of the act of consumption. The words of the column are great, but the plethora of links embedded in the article make it a fantastic survey of the oil crunch.

Will the environment (that's with a little e, the place we live in) force a change for the Environment (big E)? Will the death of the instant lead to reflection, humility and compassion or instead lead to frustration, violence and anger. It can go either way, it really can.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Here's a shout out to all those in the San Francisco Bay Area. This weekend on June 7 and 8, there is the Green Fair Silicon Valley where there will be seminars, speakers and exhibitors explaining and educating people how to be more green. Will Durst and Ed Begley Jr. will be speaking, for $10 it's pretty cheap and if you ride your bike they give you five dollars off. I've been the green festival in S.F. and hope that I'll be able to rearrange my schedule to check this one out.

Another conference that I would really like to go to is Towards Carfree Cities VIII in Portland, OR from June 16 - 20, 2008. They are going to be webcasting some of the seminars, so even if you can't make it, it might be worth checking out online (another way to make things carfree)

We are no longer just a novelty, it's not longer just a movement, it's a new way of living and in the future we wonder what the fuss was all about. Really we will.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The start of something big?

Monday's are usually really tough to start, I have to crawl out of bed an think about work. I do usually swim before heading off on the week, but today was an exception. As I left my driveway and hit the main road, what did I see? But four others riding their bikes to work the same time I was. You would have thought it was a suburban version of Critical Mass

Too bad the rest of the work day didn't go so well, maybe I peaked early this week. But a reminder in life is that survival means acknowledging the small victories so you can see the big ones.