Friday, April 08, 2005

"Free energy", "Free transportation"

The girlfriend of my friend PW has bookclub night once a month, and when she does, PW gets out of the apartment and rounds up the boys for beer night. Past beer nights have been in Uptown, Dinkytown, or downtown Mpls, putting them within easy biking distance. Tonights, however, was over in St Paul, just past Dale St. Walking distance for PW, who lives over there, but about 10 miles from my condo. I pondered taking the bus, then decided it was such a beautiful night that it would be wrong not to bike there.

Not wanting to crash the Cervelo in some drunken incident, I rode the Great Equalizer, but only after removing the knobbies and putting the slicks back on. I don't know that it is with these slicks, but they are a royal pain in the arse to install. That last few inches of bead just never wants to go over the rim. I think I figured out a better way to do it, but only after giving myself a nice blood blister on my thumb.

The ride over was nice - took 31st St as far as the Midtown YWCA, then hopped over to Lake, crossed Hiawatha. Parked in front of the Poodle club, I saw a fat middle aged guy sitting on a Harley, wearing a red and white elvis costume complete with big ole gold framed glasses, butterfly collar, the whole 9 yards. There was a woman on the bike who was dressed normally (well, normal for a middle-aged woman on a Harley, if you know what I mean.) Don't know what their story was.

Continued on Lake St over the Lake St bridge, down Cleveland to Summit, Summit to Dale.

At happy hour, Joe and I had a brief conversation about alternative energy, and I came up with the idea that when we talk about solar power, wind power, etc, we really need to start using the term "free energy" instead of "alternative energy", "renewable energy", "clean energy", etc. The term "clean" has been co-opted ("clean coal" being a good example) and "renewable" and isn't very catchy. Alternative almost makes it sound like there's something wrong with it.

The cost of petroleum is sky high, and society has been brainwashed into thinking with a very pro-market mentality, so the term "free energy" should really resonate with people, while also being entirely true. Solar and wind are in fact free (they cost pretty much nothing after the capital costs have been recovered) and are also free from all the foreign policy problems inherent in our petroleum based economy/society.

The same goes for transportation when it comes to walking, biking, etc. If someone asks us if we biked in to work, we could respond "Yep, I took free transportation today. How about you?" It could subconsciously yet effectively drive the point home.

The ride home was similarily gorgeous, I was riding in a tshirt and rolled up jeans, and was quite comfortable even at 11pm. Not a cloud in the sky, and oodles of stars overhead. Wonderful.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Spring has sprung

Well, Spring (by my personal definition) is finally here, as evidenced by the ice finally being out on Lake Calhoun. I think the last of it disappeared sometime last night, because on the way home from work, I think there was still ice out there, but this morning, riding the bus into work, the ice was completely gone, and there were a few seagulls out on the water. It seemed everyone on the bus was helpless against view of the open water ... you'd see people look for a few seconds, then look away, only to be drawn back to it again and again. Hard to believe that not even 2 weeks ago, I saw people out walking around on the ice in the middle of Medicine Lake up in Plymouth. Then again, I think they were fools to be out there that late in the season. I didn't see any news about 3 people falling through and drowning, so I presume they made it off the lake all right. But they're still fools.

The coming of spring is also evidenced by enormous clouds of dust being kicked up by the army of leafblowers just unleashed upon Edina. Look to the horizon - you can probably see it. They're practically blotting out the goddamn sun, I swear. There are few things that I hate, but leafblowers are are near the top of that short list. They're noisy, smelly, kick up all that dust, and belch blue smoke. Seroiusly, the amount of fossil fuels used to maintain lawns (both residential and corporate) simply boggles the mind. This includes fuel for mowers, weedwhackers, leafblowers, not to mention that most fertilizers are also petroleum.

In case anyone's interested, there's a book called "The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession" by Virginia Scott Jenkins, which goes into detail about how (early in the 20th century) the concept of the lawn was sold to the American public by a combination of the US Dept of Agriculture, the US Golf Association, and the American Garden Club. (A bit of an aside - it seems Virginia Scott Jenkins also has a book about the history of the banana in America - I haven't read it, but it actually sounds quite interesting.)

Personally, I love the yards in Minneapolis that aren't lawns at all - they're landscaped with stones, bark, flowers, gardens, etc. I'm sure they're not maintenance free, in fact, I'm sure they require a fair amount of work to keep them looking nice, but at least it's human labor - quiet, clean, and petroleum free.

Monday, April 04, 2005

If only my friggen knees would cooperate

I'm bailing out of Wildflower Triathlon :-( The race is the end of this month, and I thought I'd be ready. In fact, I'm sure I would have been ready, if only my friggen knees would have cooperated.

This is the first winter that I rode any substantial miles through the season, and this was specifically in preparation for Wildflower. (Oh, and of course because along the way I discovered that winter riding is fun!) I figured if I'd ride through the winter, I'd have a leg up when the weather got nice. What I didn't plan on is that my knees would start giving me a hard time recently. I'm not sure what the knee problems stem from. But any ride I've done longer than 40 miles lately has left me feeling like something's not quite right. I've done more snowboarding this season than I have in the past, and maybe that has something to do with it (the full weight of the board hangs from one leg - and therefore from one knee - when riding the chairlift, so maybe that's part of it?)

Not that my knees are royally fucked up or anything I'd need to be seriously ramping up my training for the next 3 weeks in preparation for Wildflower. But my knees are politely asking me to take it a little easy for a week or two. Thankfully, they're still just asking politely. Not screaming, just suggesting that pulling back a little might be wise.

So I've decided to take their advice.

There are other, less important factors playing into the decision as well...

Originally, it was going to be myself and two coworkers (Mike and Markus) flying out and racing. Markus bailed out a few weeks ago due to nagging back problems - the result of dueling with an overhead garage door. (I would have bailed if I were him too.) Markus and I have done Wildflower together twice in the past, and I haven't spent much time with him lately so I was really looking forward to this trip as a way to reconnect. But with Markus out, that incentive is gone. I get along well with the other coworker, Mike, but it just wouldn't be the same without Markus.

For a long weekend, it can be pretty expensive. By the time I would have paid for airfare, fees to fly the bike to/from the race (typically about $80 each way), plus my share of lodging, rental car, and food, that long weekend would have run nearly $1000. To go out there and have a killer race would make it totally worth it. But to go out there and have just a lackluster race, well, that's a different story.

Plus, I have a handful of other races planned for the summer, which I've already paid for, and that I really want to do well in (not well as in "I'm going to take First Place" but well as in "I really want to put forth a solid effort and improve upon my previous times".

I know I'm making the right decision, but it still kind of sucks.

If there is a Silver lining though, it's this ... I'll be able to participate in April Critical Mass. Yeah!